I left home ridiculously early to get into London for the train to Leicester. After experiencing over-running engineering works and a closed tube line, I was glad that I did as my plan of a leisurely coffee did not come to fruition. The delays did, however, give me plenty of time to read the chapter about *that goal* in Tales from the Vicarage 4, and a cracking chapter it is too. After a short train journey north and a walk in the drizzle, we found our pre-match meeting place locked up. Since there were a couple of others hanging around we waited and five minutes later the doors were opened and we bagged a prime spot in a large corner with a number of tables to accommodate what was likely to be a large group. The décor was very interesting, the walls being decorated with framed sets of stamps with a space theme, including Star Wars, Star Trek and proper space travel. There was even a space suit in the opposite corner.
A number of us had been to the At Our Place event in the week, so happily updated the others on the sterling performances from delightful Quique, from whom I demanded and received the promised hug, hilarious and straight-forward Troy Deeney, reassuring Scott Duxbury and Luke Dowling, who is having a ball.
One of the blackboards in the pub welcomed the Bochum 1848 Blue Army alongside a list of their Oktoberfest beers and, sure enough, we were soon joined by a group of blue shirted fans speaking German. When the time was right, they went into the ‘square’ outside the pub for their photo opportunity that, following German tradition, included pyrotechnics.
As we left to walk to the ground, the rain had stopped and the sun had come out. This appeared to be a welcome development until we got inside the ground and realized that we would have to spend the first half shielding our eyes if we were to see anything. Photography was almost impossible. There were the usual ceremonies for Remembrance Day, with the added oddity of the match ball being delivered by a helicopter. The home fans held up cards which created a poppy, which was displayed as the Last Post sounded and there was a Watford FC Remembers banner on the side of the pitch in front of the travelling fans. Sadly neither were positioned such that I could get a decent photo.
Team news was that Flores had kept faith with the team that defeated Stoke and West Ham, so the starting line-up was Gomes, Aké, Cathcart, Britos, Nyom, Watson, Capoue, Anya, Deeney, Abdi and Ighalo. The Leicester starting line-up included former Watford loanee, Danny Drinkwater, and Jamie Vardy, who was aiming to score in the ninth game in a row.
The first on-target shot of the game came from the visitors as Anya cut the ball back to Capoue whose shot was smothered by Schmeichel. The Watford fans soon started baiting their counterparts with “Did you cry when Deeney scored?” to which the response was “Did you cry at Wembley?” Oddly I think my answers to those questions would be yes and no. Does that make me a Leicester fan? In Watford’s next attack Cathcart played a ball forward for Anya but Schmeichel was first to it. At the other end, Gomes had his first involvement getting down to stop a shot from Albrighton which, from behind the goal, appeared to be going wide. Gomes was soon in action again, pulling off a terrific save to keep out Huth’s glancing header from an Albrighton free-kick, he wasn’t to know that the flag was already up for offside. Most of those in the away stand believed that we had taken the lead in the 20th minute as Deeney played the ball to Ighalo whose shot appeared to hit the net, but actually rebounded out off the inside of the post. I am reliably informed that Schmeichel did well to save a follow-up volley from Abdi, but I didn’t see it as I was jumping up and down celebrating the ‘goal’. Capoue was the next to try his luck with a shot from distance that flew well wide. The home side threatened as Gomes got a hand to a cross from Fuchs, the ball eventually reached Albrighton but Gomes was equal to his shot. A decent passing move from the Hornets finished with a cross from Abdi that went begging. Goal machine Jamie Vardy had his first chance in the 37th minute, but his shot was weak and easy for Gomes. In Watford’s next attack a cross from Ighalo was headed clear by Morgan before it reached Deeney. So we reached half-time goalless, it had been a pretty even half with Ighalo’s shot the closest to breaking the deadlock.
There was an early second half scare for the Hornets as Mahrez robbed Abdi and played the ball through to Albrighton who advanced to shoot, but it was an easy catch for Gomes. Leicester took the lead on 51 minutes and it was a dreadful mistake from Gomes, who should have dealt with Kanté’s shot easily, but it squirmed away from him and into the net. I hate it when goals like that are scored, it just seems unfair. It was made worse as I had to listen to the lad behind me going on and on about how unacceptable such a mistake was, so I was glad when an older head in his group reminded him how brilliant Gomes has been for us this season. Watford tried to strike back as Ighalo exchanged passes with Abdi before putting in a cross that was gathered by Schmeichel. Just before the hour, Capoue played a back heel to Nyom whose shot was high and wide. Watford nearly shot themselves in the foot again as Capoue played a hospital ball that Vardy latched on to but he was stopped from threatening the goal by a great tackle from Britos. On 64 minutes, Ighalo lost the ball deep in the Leicester half and, instead of fighting back as he usually does, played for a free-kick. It wasn’t given and the Leicester break finished with Vardy being taken down by Gomes just inside the area. The referee pointed to the spot and showed Gomes a yellow card. Vardy hit the penalty down the middle and scored for his ninth successive game, which really hadn’t looked on the cards given his ineffectual performance on the day.
With 20 minutes to go, Flores made his first substitution replacing Capoue with Paredes. The Ecuadorian made an impact soon after as he was sent tumbling in the box. Deeney stepped up and, despite the prediction of Cassandra standing behind me, buried the penalty. Troy didn’t waste time celebrating, instead he picked up the ball and ran back to the centre circle. Flores immediately made a second substitution bringing Diamanti on for Nyom and dropping Anya into the full back position. Leicester tried to regain their two goal margin as Mahrez dribbled into the box, but Gomes saved his shot. At this point, the Watford crowd woke up and the whining behind me was drowned out by singing. There was even a spot of bouncing which only served to demonstrate that the crisp bowl (or whatever it is called now) is a bit rickety. The Rookery doesn’t move under my feet when we bounce. The last chance of the game came 10 minutes from the end as Paredes appeared to be tripped, but he’d managed to pass to Deeney whose shot from outside the area was caught by Schmeichel.
So, we were defeated, which was disappointing as we deserved a point from the game. Leicester have had a great start to the season, but the only difference between the teams was that their misplaced passes rebounded to their own players more often than ours did. Gomes earned massive respect from the travelling fans by coming straight over to us, pointing to himself and mouthing “It was me.” As he turned to leave the pitch, he was serenaded with “Heurelho Gomes Baby” which pleased me greatly and hopefully gave him some comfort. Everyone there knew what he has contributed so far this season and that, despite his mistakes in this game, his account is still very much in the black.
Some consolation for the result came with the knowledge that we would go into the next international break in 11th position with a points total that is equidistant between the Champions League places and the relegation zone. When you look at it that way there can be no complaints.