It was a little chilly on Saturday, but pleasant enough to have our pre-match pints standing outside the pub in Borough Market watching the world go by. The cider was rather lovely and the food stalls there are a delight, which is just what you need before making the short trip to the depths of South Bermondsey.
The pre-admission bag search was carried out by a woman who, in her quest to find bottles, repeatedly asked me if I was carrying deodorant. I tried not to interpret this as a pointed comment on my personal hygiene.
In common with all games this weekend, there was a minute’s silence at 15:06 to remember the 96 who died at Hillsborough. As someone who was at a football match on 15th April 1989, standing on a terrace at Swindon, the horror of what happened that day will never leave me. Over the intervening 25 years, that horror has been married to increasing levels of anger at the way that the victims and their families have been treated. I hope that the new inquests will finally give the families some closure.
As we awaited the kick-off, a chant of “Cristian Battocchio” went up behind me and sure enough there was the young midfielder looking for a seat in the away stand. I’m pleased to say that he was walking without crutches and had no trouble walking up and down the steps as he chose his vantage point.
The home side had an early chance on goal as Edwards tried a shot from distance that flew over the bar. Edwards was also involved in the next incident of note, as he tried to escape from Riera and was cynically taken down, earning the Spaniard a booking. Watford’s first goal attempt was a shot from McGugan that was wide of the target. Angella had a great chance from a McGugan corner but headed just wide. Deeney released McGugan, but the defender got the better of him and set up a counter attack that finished with Martin shooting just wide of the
near post. On 16 minutes, Watford went ahead as Deeney cut the ball back to McGugan who buried it past Forde. McGugan could have increased the lead soon after with a lovely shot that curled just wide. On 25 minutes, he tried another shot from distance that also curled just wide of the target. Millwall’s Martin was booked for a rant at the referee after a throw was given against him when he headed the ball out. I can only think that he believed that Abdi had got a touch to it. The home side had a great chance to equalize as Malone unleashed a powerful shot that Almunia did well to block. On the half hour, Almunia came for a corner by Martin, his punch fell to Woolford but his shot was blocked. Then Millwall had
another decent chance as Garvan got on the end of a cross from Maierhofer but again the shot was saved by Almunia. Tözsér was penalized for a high tackle on Williams which the Millwall players thought was inside the box, but the referee indicated otherwise. The free-kick came to nothing. Then Angella intervened to divert a shot from Martin for a corner. Deeney and McGugan combined, but Troy’s shot was straight at Forde. Just before half-time, with Anya on the ground injured, Millwall launched an attack that seemed to go on forever but ended when Woolford shot straight at Almunia, who kicked the ball out to allow Anya to receive treatment. That was Ikechi’s last involvement as he limped off to be replaced by Forestieri.
At half time, Morison replaced Garvan. Early in the second half, Almunia and Hoban both went up for a cross with Maierhofer challenging and Hoban went down injured. It was a worrying sight but, thankfully, after a period of treatment he was fit to continue. Millwall had a great chance to equalize as Maierhofer met a free kick with a header that was just over the bar. Then a nice move from Watford as a throw-in from Faraoni allowed Abdi to get behind the defence and cross, but Deeney’s header was over the bar. On the hour, Jackson replaced Martin for the home side. Millwall were level soon after as, from a corner, the ball dropped to Morison who shot across Almunia into the opposite corner. It has to be said that the equalizer had been coming and, all of a sudden, there was a wall of noise in the
Den. For the visitors Pudil replaced Riera, who had been disappointing. On 69 minutes, Watford launched their first real attack of the half as Abdi found Forestieri whose shot was blocked and rebounded back to Abdi whose shot was also blocked. We were on the attack again immediately as Pudil advanced and crossed for McGugan, but Forde was down to save his shot. Maierhofer was replaced by Easter for the home side. There was a clash of heads between Angella and Beevers which resulted in the Italian returning with a heavily bandaged head. As the first high ball came his way after his treatment, I wondered if he’d hesitate, but not our Gabriele. He seemed even more determined to get his head to every ball that came anywhere near him, as if to test out his new headgear. Millwall substitute Jackson attempted to break the deadlock, but his shot was high and wide. Murray replaced McGugan
for the final few minutes. Millwall really should have taken the lead as a great shot from Dunne required an equally good save from Almunia to keep it out. But it was the visitors who, totally undeservedly, took the lead as a swift counter attack finished with Pudil cutting the ball back to Abdi whose shot took a deflection before flying past Forde. Millwall went for the equalizer but Almunia denied Woolford. Watford couldn’t hold on. Deep into injury time, a Millwall corner bounced around the Watford box before dropping to Woolford whose shot should have been held by Almunia, but bounced out of his arms and into the goal.
There was a lot of frustration among the travelling ‘Orns at the end of the game. But, annoying as it was to concede so late again, the hosts were fully deserving of at least a point as we had been dreadful in the second half. Equally, no blame should be attached to Almunia who, despite his lapse, had pulled off some great saves to keep us in the game.
Hopefully, people will finally stop talking about promotion and what ifs. We have not been strong or consistent enough this season to gain promotion and I certainly don’t want to see another unprepared Watford team losing week in week out in the Premier League. Next season will be very interesting. If we can keep this team together with a couple of quality additions, I’d like to think that we could do what Leicester have done this season. But that is a big ‘if’. Next Summer will be very interesting.