Leeds United captain fantastic drew sting out of Hornets as promotion quest first began
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But getting back into the Premier League was the aim when the two clubs were reunited 12 years ago, captain Richard Naylor bagging the only goal in August 2010 to put the Whites sixth as part of a season that almost took them up again.
The Whites had ended three seasons in the doldrums of League One in the previous campaign by being promoted as runners-up behind Norwich City under boss Simon Grayson.
Watford, meanwhile, were in their fourth season back in English football’s second tier, having been relegated after just one season back in the big time in 2007.
The Hornets made the play-offs in the following campaign in their bid to bounce straight back – only to be walloped 6-1 by Hull City in the semi-finals – and 13th and 16th-placed finishes followed over the next two seasons.
The 2010-11 campaign marked a second season in charge for Malky Mackay, who had been appointed as successor to Brendan Rodgers back in November 2008.
Under Mackay, Watford’s 2010-11 season began with a 3-2 win at the previous term’s League One winners Norwich before draws against Coventry City and Hull City.
A home date against Leeds was next and Grayson’s side continued their strong start to life back in the second tier as Naylor struck early to net the winner in a personal landmark game.
The defender was making his 450th career appearance and lined up alongside Neil Collins, Paul Connolly and Federico Bessone in the back four, ahead of Kasper Schmeichel in goal.
Neil Kilkenny, Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson and Lloyd Sam filled the midfield behind Sanchez Watt and Luciano Becchio.
On a very strong bench, Shane Higgs, Alex Bruce, Max Gradel, Adam Clayton, Andy Hughes, Davide Somma and Ross McCormack made up the substitutes.
United’s season had began with a 2-1 defeat at home to Derby County, but Grayson’s side bounced back with a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest and then a 3-1 triumph at home to Millwall, either side of EFL Cup clashes against Lincoln City and Leicester
Watford were missing Danny Graham, who had already netted four goals so far that season, Troy Deeney taking his place upfront.
But the Hornets could never recover from Naylor’s strike in the sixth minute which proved the only goal of the game.
The decisive strike came after Watford failed to properly clear a Kilkenny corner, Leeds only denied a goal from the initial set-piece as Hornets keeper Scott Loach tipped Becchio’s header over the bar.
Mackay’s side then cleared their lines from Kilkenny’s second delivery, but Leeds worked the ball back to the midfielder, who sent in another inviting cross from the left flank.
The ball was headed back across goal by Deeney but in the direction of Becchio, whose own attempt to find the opposite corner of the net was seized upon by Naylor for the easiest of close-range finishes.
In an unspectacular game, that was that, Watford’s best chance falling to captain John Eustace, who walloped his attempt over the bar.
Leeds lost Bessone to injury but Hughes came on to help United to a clean sheet and a second win of the new campaign.
After four games played, the victory took Grayson’s side up to sixth – yet the season ended in heartache as Leeds missed out on a play-offs place by just one position and three points.
Watford only ended up 14th, but the Hornets went up four seasons later under Slavisa Jokanovic... followed up by Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites in 2020 in the campaign which saw the Hornets go back down.
Watford then bounced straight back last term, all leading to today’s crucial showdown at Vicarage Road.