When I saw my niece on Friday night, I found that she had completely forgotten that we had a game on Saturday (she was thrilled when she was told) and, when she asked who we were playing, her Dad (a Hammer) told her it was Leyton Orient. I pointed out that our friends from East London had an appointment in the league, so we were actually playing a French side.
The walk to the West Herts for our first game in August always puts a spring in my step. When I arrived, it was lovely to see a gathering of familiar faces plus a special guest appearance of “Tim from Norway” who had secured his seat due to the kindness of someone on WML. There is always that comforting feeling of being home again.
On arrival at the ground, I headed for the Hornet Shop, which was crowded, but I managed to buy the new shirt (it is growing on me). The frontage for the new shop on the corner looks impressive and should ease congestion such that I may even, on occasion, go in there on the day of a first team league game.
It was rather strange to be entering the turnstiles of the SEJ stand. In contrast to the £3 that was being charged for programmes at Loftus Road last week, we entered the ground to find people handing out free programmes. There wasn’t much in the way of content, but it was a nice touch and included an introduction to the new signings. When the starting line-up was announced, I was a bit surprised to see that, again, it was the old faces included. The starting XI was Gomes, Cathcart, Prödl, Britos, Anya, Watson, Guedioura, Capoue, Holebas, Deeney and Ighalo. Again we started with a 3-5-2 formation. The lads emerged from the tunnel into bright sunlight and, as he took his place in the dugout, our new head coach, Mazzarri, waved to the fans and was warmly applauded.
The game started brightly enough for the Hornets who had a couple of early chances without testing the Lorient goalkeeper. First Deeney headed the ball down for Capoue who unleashed a shot that flew over the bar. Then Capoue played in Ighalo whose shot was blocked by Touré. Off the pitch, Harry Hornet was spotted trying to get the empty Rookery and GT stands singing. It loses a lot in translation, but it was very funny.
Just before the half hour mark, there was a drinks break for the players. I must admit that, with the sun beating down on us in the stand, I was rather envious as we could have done with one ourselves. As play resumed, Cathcart was replaced by Success and the formation changed to 4-3-3 with Anya and Holebas dropping into the defence and Success joining Deeney and Ighalo up front. After the restart, the visitors had their best chance of the game so far, as Moukandjo latched on to a through ball and hit a shot that required a good save from Gomes. Success had his first sight of goal as he cut in from the left but shot straight at Lecomte. The French side should have broken the deadlock with a cracking shot from Cafú but he directed it straight at Gomes who blocked with his hands. By this point, the danger from the sun had led to neighbours in the stand sharing sun cream. Factor 50 was liberally applied. On the pitch, Capoue had another shot from outside the area, this one was on target, but was easily saved. Watford’s breakthrough came in time added on at the end of the half as Holebas tried to break into the box and ran into a defender. I thought he played for the penalty, but the referee pointed to the spot. Deeney stepped up and blasted the shot into the top corner and we went into the break with the Hornets a goal up.
At half time much of the crowd headed for the concourse to get out of the sun. Those of us who stayed in the stand were treated to a lovely and very welcome cooling breeze.
Watford had a decent chance to increase the lead early in the second half as Success went on a run down the left and put in a lovely cross which, sadly, evaded all of the players in the box. But the Hornets were two up soon after as Capoue played a gorgeous through ball to Ighalo who only had the keeper to beat. I was a bit concerned that Odion had a bit too much time to think about his shot, but he finished brilliantly with a chip over the keeper. The visitors pulled one back soon after from a free kick. As they lined up to take it, there was a comment from behind me that “if this goes in, it’ll be a good goal.” He wasn’t wrong, the apparent taker ran over the ball allowing Touré to arrow a shot past Gomes. It was an excellent strike that was applauded by everyone in the ground. Lorient equalized on 69 minutes as Mesloud played a ball over the Watford defence for Philippoteaux to run on to and prod past Gomes. Late in the game, Vydra was introduced to replace Deeney to rapturous applause from the Watford fans. The Hornets had a late chance to win the game with a cracking shot from Doucouré that was saved by Lecomte, but pre-season was to finish with honours even.
It had been an enjoyable game, without setting the World alight. Success had the best game that I had seen from him, probably due to the fact that he was playing upfront rather than in the midfield. The guys sitting next to me were impressed and commented that he should start, but they were shouted down by a youngster in front who angrily told them that Success should be brought on to change the game. An interesting perspective, but I agree with the first opinion. It was also good to see Ighalo score. He is a player that feeds off confidence, so that lovely goal can’t have done him any harm. Special mention must also go to Emma Saunders who did a tremendous job with names of the Lorient team and substitutes.
The season starts next week at Southampton. It will be very interesting to see whether Mazzarri starts with a 3-5-2 or the 4-3-3 that looked more promising in this game. We have a very hard start, so I can only hope that Watford fans will be patient and get behind the team. If they don’t, the next few weeks will be very trying indeed.