My Watford family suffered a very sad loss this week, so the pre-match gathering was rather subdued. But as we reminisced about happier times spent with someone who was always the life and soul of a party, there was laughter and glasses were raised to toast a life well lived.
With all the injuries that Watford have suffered recently, there were questions as to who would start and it was no surprise to hear that Doucouré would make his first league start of the season in place of Behrami and that three youngsters had been named on the bench. There were three other changes to the team with Cathcart in for the suspended Britos, Deeney returning in place of Janmaat and Zúñiga preferred to Ighalo. By the time the warm up had finished, an injury to Zúñiga meant that Ighalo was restored to the team and Folivi had been added to the substitutes. The starting line-up was Gomes; Kaboul, Prödl, Cathcart; Amrabat, Doucouré, Capoue, Guedioura, Holebas; Deeney and Ighalo.
The first chance of the game fell to Son whose shot from outside the box was saved by Gomes. There were claims for a penalty as a shot from Erikson hit Capoue’s arm in the Watford box, but it had been a close range strike and was definitely ball to hand. The first twenty minutes were pretty even and we looked to be in for a quiet afternoon, then the visitors began to get the upper hand. The first chance fell to former Watford loanee, Rose, who shot well over the bar. Eriksen was the next to threaten with a shot from wide on the right that flew over the bar. The visitors came closer to scoring as Guedioura gave the ball away to Son who fed Dele whose shot rebounded off the crossbar. But it was only a brief stay of execution as Spurs took the lead with the next move as Trippier fed Kane who finished from a tight angle. The visitors were two up soon after with the same two players combining, this time Kane volleyed home from close range. Spurs had another great chance from a free kick, but Son’s shot was just wide. The third goal came just before half time as Kaboul gave the ball away to Dele who finished past Gomes. The half time whistle was greeted with boos from the home fans. I didn’t join in, but couldn’t help sharing the sentiment. The first 20 minutes had been fairly even, but once Spurs had scored, Watford had been dreadful.
The second half started disastrously as Kane crossed for Dele who finished with no defence in sight. At this point two of the guys in front of us left, I doubt they were the only ones. They actually missed a decent Watford move as Doucouré played a lovely square ball to Deeney, but he was tackled before he could shoot. Kane found Dele again, but this time the shot was wide of the target. There was another decent chance for the Hornets to pull one back as Deeney played the ball back to Ighalo, but the Nigerian shot wide of the target. Just after the hour, Dele was replaced by Winks to a sigh of relief from me at least. Soon after, Ighalo was tripped in the box, but the referee waved play on. Watford’s first substitution saw Brandon Mason come on to make his debut in place of Holebas. At the same time Davies replaced Rose for Tottenham. The Watford youngster got a great reception and his first action in the game was to put in a nice challenge on Son in the box, coming away with the ball (a rarity on this afternoon). The next Watford substitution came as Amrabat limped off to be replaced by Sinclair. Gomes was called into action as he stopped a shot from Son. There were two final substitutions as Kabasele came on for Capoue and Janssen replaced Kane for the visitors.
Late on, Watford had two decent chances to reduce the deficit. First a Guedioura free kick was headed back by Kaboul but Lloris claimed the ball. There had been so little to applaud from the Hornets that this effort was cheered as if it had gone in. A cross from Deeney was dropped by Lloris under a challenge from Sinclair, the ball was cleared before it trickled into the net, but the whistle had gone for a foul anyway. Finally there was a great break from Deeney which finished with a decent cross but, sadly, Ighalo wasn’t close enough to connect in the box. In between these decent moves there was a goalmouth scramble in the Spurs box, I couldn’t tell whether the ball crossed the line, but the referee’s device indicated that it had and the goal was credited to Kaboul. It was a horrible scrappy effort that summed up the performance of the home side.
When the final whistle went the home stands were virtually empty. I stayed to the end, but can’t blame anyone who left. It was a cold, wet afternoon and that has to be the most abject performance I have seen in a long time. None of our party hung around in the West Herts for a post mortem, so I set off on the journey home alone with my thoughts. I usually try to find something good to say about the game, and I had plenty of time to come up with something, but I am really struggling with this one. I have no problem with being beaten by a good team, but Spurs didn’t have to play well to beat us on this afternoon. They were gifted goals by a team that looked totally uninterested. The one bright spot was the appearance of Mason, who put in a decent shift when he came on. The rest were utterly dreadful and, due to this game being moved for television, I have the joyful prospect of a day off work for a trip to Stoke to come this week. I am not relishing that at all.