It has been a gorgeous week weather wise and, for once, I was only carrying a small bag, so I decided to leave my scarf at home. Then I stepped out of my front door and felt the Autumn nip in the air, so went straight back indoors to collect it. While on the train, I received a text from Toddy informing me that there was a beer festival at the pre-match pub of choice, so this rather lovely venue was enhanced with some great ciders. My only disappointment was that I was not able to get a view of the antique urinals that were the talk of the males in the bar! It was only a short walk to the ground and, on arrival, we mistakenly took the long way around to get to the away end. Luckily this had the benefit of allowing us to walk past the wall of fame outside the ground and spot the picture of Luther. A thing of beauty.
Team news was that Jurado was injured, so Anya slotted into his position and Aké started as full back. So the starting line-up was Gomes, Aké, Cathcart, Prödl, Nyom, Watson, Capoue, Anya, Deeney, Abdi, Ighalo. Pre-match the thoughts were of a couple of recent frustrating encounters memorable for two incorrect dismissals of Angella and some gamesmanship from the Cherries which left a sour taste in the mouth.
Bournemouth started the better of the two teams and were soon threatening the Watford goal. Gomes comfortably caught an early cross from King, but then Murray was allowed a free header that he directed over the bar when he really should have got it on target. A free kick from the right was easily gathered by Gomes before Cathcart got his body in the way to block a shot from King.
For the first 20 minutes, it was all Bournemouth, who were attacking at will while we were penned back in our own half. In Watford’s first foray forward, a Nyom cross found Ighalo with his back to goal, he juggled the ball around until he was facing the right way, but was closed down before he could shoot. A blocked shot from Capoue rebounded to King who sprinted upfield where he was stopped by a superb tackle by Cathcart. Pugh was the next to threaten the Watford goal, but Gomes dropped to make an easy save. The Bournemouth goal had been coming, but the manner of it was irritating in the extreme. A cross came in from Ritchie, Murray rose to meet it and head past Gomes while Prödl, who appeared to be in a position to at least attempt to cut it out, stood and watched. In contrast to last week when the Palace goal was met with a wall of encouraging noise from the Watford fans, there was an icy silence in the away stand. However, the next attack of note did come from the visitors as Deeney played a one-two with Ighalo but, instead of shooting, he appeared to just pass the ball to a Bournemouth defender.
The frustration was building in the away stand and there were boos as Capoue played the ball back to Prödl in our half. There was some handbags as Murray went down dramatically after a coming together with Capoue which prompted a chorus of “Same old Bournemouth, always cheating.” The home fans countered with “Championes” although, to be fair to them, it had taken them 40 minutes to crow. Soon after, the same two players met again and, on this occasion, Capoue went flying and Murray was booked. Watford scored a totally undeserved equalizer on the stroke of half time as Boruc received a back pass and, for some unfathomable reason, passed it to Ighalo who rounded him and slotted home. It was a truly ridiculous goal which meant that, despite the dreadful performance of the Hornets in the first half, they left the pitch to cheers at the break.
The home side were first out of the dressing room at the start of the second half and there were loud cheers from the travelling Hornets for Boruc as he took his place in goal. The Hornets retook the field having made no changes in personnel and my heart sank.
The first incident of the half was a lovely tackle from Aké which, because Ritchie went down hard, earned him a talking to from the referee. As Michael Oliver lectured the youngster, Troy Deeney was standing by his side shaking his head. Five minutes into the half Murray was allowed another free header, but this time Gomes gathered. Ighalo received the ball on the left of the Bournemouth box, feinted a couple of times before dribbling past the defender, but his shot was turned behind for a corner. From the set piece the ball dropped to Watson whose shot rebounded off the crossbar and came out to Abdi on the left who shot well wide of the far post. I don’t know what Flores did at half time, because there were no changes in personnel, but whether it was a rocket or an arm around the collective shoulders it worked as, suddenly, Watford were playing with confidence, snapping into tackles, closing the Bournemouth players down and generally competing in a way that they hadn’t earlier on. During the first half, the fans around us had moaned incessantly (for good reason), but nine minutes into the second period the travelling Hornets were so encouraged that they started bouncing.
On 55 minutes, the Bournemouth fans had planned a minute’s applause for Mick Cunningham, a former club photographer and programme editor who recently passed away. As his photo was displayed on the big screen, those in the home stands rose to applaud and were joined by enthusiastic applause from the Watford fans. While this was happening, Anya went storming through the middle, played the ball out to Ighalo who crossed back for Anya but he could only head wide. Deeney and Ighalo exchanged passes, but the ball was taken off Troy’s feet before he could shoot. An Abdi free kick was headed out only as far as Ben Watson whose shot was blocked. Then Abdi released Anya, who was one on one with the keeper, but Boruc managed to block the shot and put it out for a corner. Murray then broke forward but, seeing the Watford defence marshalled in front of him, could only attempt a shot from distance that was straight at Gomes. Watford’s first substitution saw Ibarbo replacing Nyom. Abdi found Ighalo who tumbled on the edge of the box, but nothing was given. The Nigerian was then in action at the other end as he charged down Ritchie’s shot following a short free kick. Back on duty in attack, his next shot was poor and wide of the target.
An injury meant that Anya had to be substituted, he was replaced by Paredes. The hosts threatened as Francis was allowed to break forward and cross for Murray whose header was just wide of the target. They had an even better chance soon after as the ball fell to Cook on the edge of the box where he launched an audacious overhead kick that was heading for the top corner until Gomes pulled off a superb save. It appeared that Heurelho’s heroics were to be for nothing as the inevitable Bournemouth penalty was awarded. The first player to tumble in the box had his appeal waved away by Michael Oliver and, when Capoue and Smith came together I was confident that the free kick would go our way, but the referee pointed to the spot. Murray stepped up to take it but there were to be more heroics from Gomes as he saved the penalty before Cathcart cleared the rebound. The resulting corner was punched clear by Gomes, Gosling’s follow-up flew wide and the travelling Hornets could breathe again. As Watford also pushed for a winner, Ighalo played the ball back to Abdi, but his shot was blocked.
In the last minute of normal time, O’Kane cut inside and shot goalwards but it was an easy stop for Gomes. Watford’s last chance for a winner was a free-kick from distance from which Abdi decided to go for goal but hit it wide of the target. Guedioura came on in the last minute of time added on to replace Abdi. The game finished with honours even and the name of Heurelho Gomes ringing out in the away stand.
It was a classic game of two halves. We had been completely woeful in the first period, Bournemouth having most of the possession and any time that Watford did pass the ball forward, it was swept up by the Bournemouth defence. In the second half, we were snapping in to tackles and not allowing the opposition to have any time on the ball while our balls upfield were finding their men with Ighalo and Deeney finally having some success in holding the ball up. Bournemouth won’t have won any more friends among the Watford faithful as they lived up to their reputation for theatrics. But a draw was a fair result and I was more than happy to leave with a point.
All the way home I found myself suddenly bursting into song, alternating “Heurelho Gomes baby” with “Lo, lo, lo,lo Quique Sanchez Flores.” Great stuff.