I hate lunchtime kick-offs. I missed the Blackpool game due to work commitments on the other side of the Atlantic, but drew the line at taking the red-eye on Friday night and travelling straight to Vicarage Road. However, even after a night’s sleep in my own bed, I was not impressed at having to leave home earlier than I do for most away games. There is then the confusion about whether coffee, tea or beer should accompany your pre-match brunch. I’d had a coffee on the train, so the beer won that argument.
In the absence of our hospitalized manager (get well soon, Òscar), Ruben Martinez was in charge for the day. There were three changes from the Blackpool game with injuries to Angella and Deeney meaning that Tamas and Dyer deputized and Murray was preferred to McGugan. So the starting line-up was Gomes, Pudil, Tamas, Ekstrand, Paredes, Murray, Tözsér, Abdi, Dyer, Vydra, Anya. Rather surprisingly, Gomes was given the captain’s armband.
The game did not start well for the home side. Bournemouth had chance in the first minute as the ball fell to Ritchie in the box but he shot wide of the target. In the second minute Wilson, with the help of a hefty shove, beat Tamas to get into the box where Tamas returned the shove and conceded a penalty. Fortunately Harte hit the spot kick wide of the target. I can only speculate on how much those in the Rookery who were waving, trying to put him off, contributed to the miss. Watford’s first foray forward was a ball over the top from Murray which Vydra could not control and the chance was lost. A free-kick from Tözsér found Murray at the far post but his header was over the bar. Watford looked in trouble as the ball bounced around our box, but Ekstrand finally cleared. Pudil played a lovely through ball to release Dyer, he crossed for Vydra but the Czech could not connect. Stanislas cut in from the left and hit a low shot but Gomes was down to gather easily.
At the other end, Tözsér played a ball over the top to Vydra who spun and knocked it goalwards, but Boruc was equal to it. Ritchie was the next to threaten for the visitors, but his shot was well over the bar. Just before the half hour, Tamas went down injured. As soon as Kevin the physio reached him, he signalled for a substitute at which point some morons in the Watford crowd actually cheered. Tamas had been having a bad day, but to cheer a nasty injury to a player beggars belief. After a long delay for treatment, he was stretchered off and replaced by Cathcart, making his second debut for Watford. With 10 minutes to go to half time, the ball dropped to Pudil on the edge of the area from where he shot just wide of the near post. Dyer went on a great run before playing the ball in to Vydra, but Cook made a great saving tackle to thwart him. Bournemouth really should have taken the lead as Francis broke into the box and chipped the ball over to Wilson whose header was flying into the net until Gomes appeared out of nowhere to make a terrific save. As the half time whistle went, a suited and booted Troy Deeney got up from the dugout to give his opinion on the first period to Sky Sports. We’d missed him desperately on the pitch.
Early in the second half, the visitors had the ball in the net as a clearance from Ekstrand reached Surman whose shot was parried by Gomes to Wilson who knocked it past the keeper, but the flag was up for offside. Gomes had to stretch to keep out a free-kick from Harte, Ritchie’s follow-up was blocked. Watford’s second substitution saw Forestieri replacing Dyer, who did not look happy to be leaving the field so Martinez went to the dugout to put a consoling arm around him. Anya whipped in a cross that was headed goalwards by Vydra, Boruc caught the ball but Anya had been flagged offside anyway. We’d just had a decent spell in the game when we went behind as Arter unleashed a brilliant shot from 25 yards into the top corner. A Tözsér free-kick was blocked and bounced to Forestieri whose shot was also blocked.
Forestieri then went on a run down the right that was stopped when Cook flew into him. For some baffling reason, Arter decided to remonstrate with Fernando and there was a spell of handbags after which Cook received a yellow card for the nasty tackle, while Tözsér and Surman were similarly punished for the follow-on. Tözsér took a free-kick that was headed out for a corner. The follow-up was bouncing around in the box, but no Watford player could get a decent touch to send the ball goalwards. It was clearly open season on Forestieri as Arter took his turn to knock him flying and make his way into the referee’s book. With 20 minutes remaining, Ighalo replaced Abdi. Anya found Murray whose shot was blocked by Ighalo who was unable to turn and finish. Forestieri tried a shot from distance that was well over. Anya did well to beat two players on the left wing, his first cross was blocked, his second attempt went begging due to a lack of Watford players in the box. We had a strong shout for a penalty as Tözsér played a ball to Anya in the box where he was felled but the referee waved play on.
Our equalizer came from an unexpected source as a headed clearance fell to Cathcart who volleyed past Boruc. It was an excellent strike from Cathcart whose debut had been very impressive indeed. Anya crossed for Vydra whose shot was more of a cross which was met by Forestieri flying through the air with his arm outstretched. If you weren’t there, it is really hard to describe this move except to say that Fernando reminded me of Christopher Reeve as Superman. He really should have avoided the yellow card due to the shear comedy value. Anya found Pudil on the overlap but his cross was straight into the arms of Boruc. We had a great chance to win the game as Forestieri passed to Ighalo in the box, but his shot was weak and straight at the keeper and he turned to find Fernando indicating that he should have passed it back to him. As the clock struck 90 minutes, Elphick hauled Vydra to the ground and was booked. The last action of the game came when the ball fell to Ekstrand who wellied it over from distance. It had been a very disappointing afternoon with the highlight being a tremendous performance from the returning Cathcart topped off with a terrific goal.
On the way out of the ground, I bumped into a lovely family that I know whose children had been mascots for the day. The children were beaming as their Mum told me how well they’d been looked after, particularly by Ikechi Anya who had gone above and beyond in looking after his charge. After a disappointing afternoon, that put a huge smile on my face.