After the unpleasantness of the midweek trip to Doncaster, it was lovely to return to Vicarage Road on a gorgeous Spring day. It was also great to see the progress of the new East Stand. Signs are that it will be an impressive addition to the ground. Team news was the return of Almunia after illness with McGugan and Faraoni coming in for Merkel and Ranegie.
Watford started well and had a decent chance in the second minute, but Deeney’s shot from the right of the area flew over the bar. We were a goal up in the fifth minute as a Pudil cross was met with a horrible miskicked clearance that fell to Battocchio who curled a beautiful shot into the top corner. It was one of those strikes that make you wish you had been sitting behind it. But even from the opposite end of the ground it was a joy to behold. Barnsley tried to strike back immediately as a free kick from Kennedy was met with a header from Nyatanga that flew over the bar. We had another great chance as a cross from Pudil reached Faraoni in the middle of the area, but his shot was stopped by Steele at point-blank range. Next Battocchio was tackled in the middle of the pitch and, as he lay on the ground, Deeney picked up the ball, played a short pass to
Anya who found Faraoni, but his shot from a very tight angle was blocked. A minute later, we doubled our lead as Pudil intercepted a pass and advanced upfield, he found McGugan in the box who knocked the ball to Anya who cut it back to Deeney who, with his back to goal, had time to turn and shoot past Steele. We had another chance soon after as McGugan found Anya on the left but his shot was just over and he had been flagged offside anyway. At the other end, Dawson broke free of the Watford defence and found Lawrence at the near post, but he stabbed the ball wide from a couple of inches out. Then McGugan made an interception and went on a run down the middle of the pitch, but was eventually closed down. On 35 minutes, Pudil was shown a yellow card for a foul on Frimpong. Soon after, Barnsley failed to clear a Pudil cross, it fell to Deeney who tried an overhead kick that was easily gathered by Steele. So we reached half time two goals to the good but with next to nothing having happened in the previous half hour.
At the start of the second half, Angella played McGugan in, but his shot was straight at Steele. Barnsley launched a rare attack as Kennedy advanced and put in a cross. Lawrence came flying in at the far post but got nowhere near connecting with the cross. Mellis was penalized for a foul on Tozser, he reacted by slamming the ball down and earned a yellow card for his petulance. On the hour, Barnsley made two substitutions as O’Grady and Noble-Lazarus replaced Lawrence and Frimpong. Tozser played Anya in then ran into the box to meet the cross, but his header flew wide when it looked easier to hit the target. McGugan’s return from injury was over after 63 minutes as he was replaced
by Merkel. The substitute was in action almost immediately as he clipped a shot goalwards and, with Deeney closing in, Steele came out to gather. Barnsley launched a counter-attack which finished with Jennings trying a shot from distance that was well over the bar. Anya got himself into a dangerous position but, instead of shooting, hit a poor low cross. He made up for it soon after as he went on a run down the left, cut the ball back from the byeline, it took a slight deflection before reaching Merkel who buried it past Steele for Watford’s third goal of the afternoon. As the temperature dropped in the stands, attention was drawn to the touchline where Sannino had dispensed of his jacket and was rolling up his sleeves for the rest of the game. This attitude was in stark contrast to the
torpor on the pitch. With seven minutes remaining, Lucas Neill made his Watford debut replacing Doyley. Barnsley had a great chance for a consolation goal as a long ball fell to Proschwitz on the edge of the area, he tried to chip Almunia, but his shot came back off the crossbar and Pudil’s challenge prevented him from hitting a follow-up shot. From the corner, Mvoto headed wide. Pudil made way for O’Nien to make his debut for the last couple of minutes of the game. He made his mark immediately with a foul on Kennedy. The last chance of the game fell to the visitors, but Almunia dropped to gather Proschwitz’s shot from a narrow angle.
After the final whistle, a number of the players went over to the Lower Rous and Tözsér and Angella were there for ages signing autographs. The post-match discussions were mostly about how dull the game had been. We had won it in the first 15 minutes and, despite a slight Barnsley fightback in the second half, they had been poor opposition and we were coasting for most of the rest of the game. But it is churlish to complain about a 3-0 home win, especially as that is our fifth in the row. O’Nien’s brief cameo was an absolute delight. He has impressed in the youth games that I have seen this season and looks like a great prospect. He was clearly thrilled to get on and was tormenting the poor Barnsley defenders, running around fighting for everything.
Next up is a trip to Wigan, which won’t be easy with their current form. We haven’t won away since October, and I missed the trip to Huddersfield, so it would be a real treat for those that travel away to see a win. But, when all is said and done, this season is over for us, so let’s just relax and enjoy the remaining games.