After the news of Zola’s resignation this week, our party travelled to Ipswich with rather heavy hearts. Last season was a lot of fun and, while this one has been disappointing so far, there is a feeling of a story only half told for which we will never know the ending.
The team lined up with a 3-5-2 formation and the first piece of good news was that Sannino’s first game would feature Lloyd Doyley and would see the return of Angella after injury. The new gaffer also put Almunia back in goal. So the starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Angella, Doyley, Pudil, Murray, Thorne, McGugan, Cassetti, Fabbrini and Deeney. Our new manager was looking very elegant on the touchline, although I thought that the club really should have provided him with a coat to cover his smart suit in the pouring rain.
The first action of note was a McGugan free-kick at some distance from the goal, which was disappointingly soft and straight at Gerken. On 15 minutes, Cassetti beat a defender on the wing and put in a cross that was met with a headed clearance. Then Murphy tried a cross into the Watford box, but Almunia came out to punch clear. On 21 minutes, a free-kick from McGugan was cleared only as far as Angella whose shot flew well over the bar. Then McGoldrick threatened down the other end dribbling into the box and flicking the ball harmlessly past the far post. On 25 minutes, Deeney headed a Cassetti cross back to Fabbrini whose shot rebounded off the corner of the post and the crossbar. Then a shot from Cresswell was blocked by Ekstrand for the first corner of the game. The first really dangerous on target attempt came just before the half hour from
McGoldrick whose shot was tipped over by Almunia. From the corner, Murphy headed the ball to Nouble whose header went over the bar. Then McGugan played a one-two with Fabbrini, but delayed too long before shooting and was tackled. With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Murphy headed wide from a McGoldrick cross. On 39 minutes, Ipswich tried a free-kick routine which clearly needs more practice as Skuse passed to McGoldrick on the left of the box, presumably to avoid the wall but he blasted the ball over the bar. Then McGoldrick fed Cresswell who crossed into the box, but there was nobody to get on the end of it and the ball drifted wide. Just before half time, Nouble broke through the defence and unleashed a shot that Almunia parried. So we reached half-time goalless, without a single Watford shot on target. On the way back to the stand at the end of the half time break, one of the screens was showing the score as 2-0 to Watford. If only.
Early in the second half, McGugan played a through ball to Pudil who crossed for Fabbrini, but the Italian was closed down before he could shoot. Then it was Fabbrini’s turn to play a through ball to Murray whose shot was put out for a corner by Gerken. On 55 minutes, this was our first shot on target. On the hour Pudil fouled Chambers who rolled over a few times prompting shouts of “off, off, off” from the home crowd which seemed to convince the referee to show a yellow card. On 66 minutes, Fabbrini passed back to McGugan, who played a lovely through ball to Deeney, but Troy was well offside.
Then McGugan battled to keep the ball on the wing and put in a cross for Deeney to run on to, but his shot rebounded off a defender. On 70 minutes, a nothing ball into the box bounced up and hit Angella’s arm and the referee pointed to the spot. The Watford players surrounded the ref to argue their case and Ekstrand was booked for his protests. McGoldrick stepped up to take the spot kick and buried the ball in the bottom corner to shouts of “cheat” from the travelling Hornets. With 15 minutes remaining, Battocchio replaced Murray. There were shouts for a penalty at the other end as a Deeney cross appeared to be carried in the box before being cleared, but the referee didn’t give it.
With 10 minutes remaining Anya replaced Pudil. The equalizer came soon after as a cross from Cassetti was deflected into the path of Deeney, but he still did really well to reach it and prod it past Gerken. At this point some idiot child let off a smoke bomb at the top of the stand. Despite how windy it was, the stand is quite enclosed so the smoke took quite some time to dissipate. I wasn’t particularly close to it and it made me cough so I can only hope that it choked the idiot who set it off. On the pitch Forestieri replaced Fabbrini. With a couple of minutes remaining, Ipswich had a great chance to win the game as Almunia parried a shot from McGoldrick only as far as Hyams whose header crashed back off the crossbar. Then Watford had their own chance to win it as McGugan passed to Anya on the wing but he curled his shot wide of the far post. In injury time McGugan put the ball into the box but neither Deeney nor Battocchio could get on the end of it.
So, everything changes, everything stays the same. That was our fifth away draw in a row and we only had two shots on target. Sannino has only been with the club for 4 days so it will be some time before see his how his team will play. We certainly looked tighter at the back, but the return of Angella and Doyley contributed to that and our forward line still appears unconvincing. The visits of Millwall and QPR to Vicarage Road will be very interesting.
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a wonderful 2014.