I woke up on Tuesday morning with a rotten cold which meant that I spent most of the day sneezing and with my nose streaming. I felt awful, so my plan to spend the evening on a cold terrace seemed foolish in the extreme. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should give this one a miss. That thought was quickly dismissed. Instead I dosed myself up with Sudafed and best bitter and took my rightful place on the Griffin Park terrace for the top of the table clash.
Jokanovic had made two changes from Saturday with Tözsér and Forestieri coming in for Munari and Hoban. The starting line-up was Gomes, Anya, Angella, Cathcart, Paredes, Tözsér, Watson, Ighalo, Layun, Forestieri and Deeney in what I am reliably informed was a 4-2-3-1 formation. I must admit that the inclusion of both Anya and Paredes in the defence gave me some cause for concern. The Brentford line-up included former Watford youngster, Diagouraga, with Jack Bonham and the lovely Tommy Smith taking their place on the home bench.
As Jokanovic walked across the pitch before the game he was greeted with a chant that I have not heard before. He was suitably appreciative, turning to applaud the fans, which was another new experience for me.
The home side had an early chance with a first minute corner that was headed over by Douglas. Next to threaten the Watford goal was Gray, who ran on to a through ball, but was met by Gomes who came out bravely to challenge and succeeded in winning a goal kick. At the other end, a ball over the top to Deeney led to Watford’s first attempt on goal, but Button saved the shot at the second attempt. Gray, who was receiving dog’s abuse from the away fans for his Luton connections, broke into the Watford box where he was stopped by Angella who coolly took the ball off his feet. Watford’s first decent chance came when a lovely passing move led to a shot from Deeney, but Button was equal to it. At the other end, Anya rose to head a Brentford free kick clear. The Scot was soon in attacking mode as he made a great break and crossed for Watson whose shot seemed to take a deflection before the keeper pushed it around the post.
Ighalo’s first attempt on goal was a shot from outside the box that flew wide of the near post. Deeney should have done better when he received a pass from Forestieri in the box, but he hesitated before shooting and ended up running into a defender and wasting the chance. Paredes did really well to battle down the wing and cross for Forestieri to head goalwards but a Brentford defender was there to block. A cheeky backheel from Deeney set Forestieri up for another attempt which was also blocked. With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Forestieri won a free kick. He took it quickly, exchanged passes with Deeney and hit a shot that swerved just wide. Bidwell was mounting a rare Brentford attack when he lost the ball to Layun, his attempt to get the ball back was a studs up lunge which left the referee no option but to show him a red card. Ironically, the reduction in personnel inspired Brentford into their best spell since the opening of the game. But their only meaningful goal attempt in this period came from a free-kick that was confidently gathered by Gomes with Dean challenging.
At half-time, I was treated to the sad story of the death of Tommy the cat. His owner reminisced about our last league game at Griffin Park when a Tommy (Mooney) had scored and said that, in the cat’s honour, we needed the winning goal to come from Tommie Hoban who not only shared the late feline’s name but also the attributes of being ginger and Irish. Okay!!
Brentford started the second half as they finished the first. Forestieri lost out to Diagouraga in their box, the Frenchman released Gray whose shot was, thankfully, awful. At the other end, Layun tried a shot that flew wide of the target. From the goal kick, Brentford launched a fast break, Gray beat Angella and shot across Gomes into the roof of the net. By way of celebration, the Brentford players all ran and surrounded Warburton. The goal galvanized the visitors who had a chance to break back almost immediately as Douglas used his upper arm to control Watson’s cross into the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Deeney stepped up but his penalty was too casual, Button went the right way and made an easy save. Just before the hour, Jokanovic made his first substitution bringing Abdi on for Watson. Ighalo found Forestieri in a great position for a shot, but the Argentine was being challenged so couldn’t get any power on it. Anya beat a defender before hitting a cross that was saved by Button. Anya tried another shot that was saved, the ball dropped to Ighalo whose follow-up flew wide. Paredes exchanged passes with Layun before putting in a dangerous cross but there was no Watford player in the box to meet it. Ighalo did really well to keep the ball on the by-line and cross for Abdi but he couldn’t control the ball which bounced off him to Button.
On 68 minutes, the pressure from the visitors finally led to an equalizer. Paredes was being given far too much space on the right which he exploited to cross for Ighalo to head home, prompting a joyous bundle on the away terrace. Watford immediately pushed for a winner as, from a corner, Angella was knocked over, the ball fell to Deeney but Button was on hand to put the ball out for another corner. The Brentford keeper was in action again as Ighalo exchanged passes with Forestieri before unleashing a shot that required a flying save to keep it out. Forestieri was the next to try his luck, he did really well to wriggle clear of the defender but his shot was disappointing, flying well over the bar. Brentford had their first goal attempt for some time as a quick break finished with a shot from Toral that Gomes blocked and then gathered at the second attempt. Back up the other end, Forestieri played the ball back to Abdi whose shot was deflected into the side netting leading some on the other side of the goal to think we’d netted a winner. With 12 minutes remaining, Tommy Smith replaced Pritchard to polite applause from the Watford faithful and shaking of heads around me due to concern that this would be the man to honour the dead moggy. Tommy was immediately involved as Paredes did really well to keep an overhit pass from going out for a throw but found his reward was to be knocked over by Smith. The former Hornet was rather harshly booked for the foul, much to the amusement of those in the away end who regaled him with a chorus of “Watford ‘til he dies.” Tözsér played a short free-kick to Forestieri whose shot cannoned off the post.
With eight minutes remaining Deeney was replaced by Vydra. The Czech had an early chance as he ran on to a pass into the box from Layun, but Button was first to the ball. We were into time added on when a Vydra cross was blocked, it appeared to have gone out for a corner but a Brentford defender kept it in only to pass to Layun who returned the ball to Vydra, whose cross was volleyed home by Ighalo. I have to say that being short and in the middle of the crowd behind the goal, I didn’t see Ighalo’s contribution, but it didn’t stop me joining in the sort of goal celebration that can only happen on a packed terrace. We tried to run the clock down by replacing Anya with Hoban for the last minute of time added on. Brentford appeared to have a final chance to get back on level terms, when the ball went out for a corner but the flag was up, much to our delight, and Watford came away with all three points. At the end of the game, Deeney threw the boots that had missed the penalty into the crowd.
Football doesn’t get better than this. A cracking game of football at a proper old-fashioned ground with the crowd almost on the pitch and goals celebrated with terrace bundles. While the Brentford sending off will have influenced the outcome, Watford were great value for their win, dominating the game with some lovely play at times. Please, Slavisa, now that we’ve got a song for you, can we have this Watford in our remaining games? I’d be ever so grateful!