After the frustrating draw against West Ham last Saturday evening, we were back to Vicarage Road for a three o’clock kick-off. The pre-match gathering of City Orns and Norfolk Horns was as convivial and entertaining as would be expected.
As we walked down Vicarage Road, a group of Southampton fans behind us started chanting. With some visiting teams, this would have felt quite aggressive and intimidating, but from Southampton it was quite endearing.
Team news was that Mazzarri had made two changes from the West Ham game replacing the injured Janmaat and Zárate with Prödl and Okaka. So the starting line-up was Gomes; Kaboul, Prödl, Britos, Holebas; Cleverley, Behrami, Capoue; Niang; Deeney and Okaka.
For the second week running Watford took the lead within the first five minutes, this time through open play as, from a Kaboul throw-in, Deeney headed the ball down to Okaka who returned it for the Watford captain to volley home. This was Troy’s 105th goal in a Watford shirt which brought him level with Cliff Holton at 4th in the all-time goal scoring charts. A great achievement.
I am sure that I wasn’t the only person in the stadium who hoped that we wouldn’t repeat our mistake of the previous week when we sat back and defended our lead for most of the game. The next chance fell Southampton’s way as Ward-Prowse tried a shot that was pushed clear by Gomes. Southampton’s new star, Gabbiadini, had his first chance of the game as he latched on to a through ball and hit a shot that was easy for Gomes. The visitors came closer to drawing level with a shot from distance by Redmond that flew just wide of the target. At the other end Watford had a chance to increase the lead as a corner from Holebas was headed just wide by Okaka. The next to threaten was Capoue who went on a run before cutting inside and trying a shot from distance that was just wide of the near post. Southampton’s equalizer came in the 27th minute and resulted from a defensive mistake as a clearance from Britos went straight to Tadić who shot into the far corner. Watford tried to hit back from a throw as Prödl headed the ball on to Kaboul whose shot was blocked. Watford’s first booking came in very bizarre circumstances as Okaka was blatantly pulled back by Stephens. No action was taken for the foul, but the Italian was booked for his complaints. Southampton took the lead in time added on at the end of the first half. The goal came out of nothing as a good passing move finished with Tadić playing the ball back to Redmond who found the far corner. The half time whistle went to boos from some in the Rookery.
At half time there was a brief interview with Marcus Gayle who will always be Wonder Woman to me. Also, as it was Disabled Access Day at Vicarage Road, there was an interview with a young man called George who was a passionate advocate of increasing disabled access everywhere. His speech asking for support in ensuring that disabled fans are given equal access to facilities was met with unusually enthusiastic applause from a half time crowd that is usually otherwise occupied. There was also a contribution from David Butler, the chair of the WFC Enables supporters group, who encouraged any interested fans to get involved (http://www.wfcenables.co.uk/home).
The first chance of the second half came as Niang played a long ball to Deeney who headed it down to Okaka, but Yoshida made a decisive tackle, taking the ball off his feet and putting it out for a throw. Southampton had a couple of decent chances to increase their lead. First, from a corner, the ball was cleared to Tadić whose terrific shot was tipped over by Gomes. Then a Tadić free kick was prodded goalwards by Yoshida but Gomes again made a decent save to keep it out. At the other end, a looping ball fell to Niang who didn’t have time to control it, so his volley flew a mile over the bar.
Mazzarri’s first substitution was to replace Capoue with Success, who was down needing treatment almost immediately but, thankfully, was able to continue. In the 72nd minute, the applause for GT rang out and, if I am not mistaken, the Southampton goalkeeper, Forster, joined in, which was rather lovely. The Hornets launched a promising move as Cleverley won the ball in midfield before passing it out to Okaka whose shot was blocked. Then a dangerous cross into the Southampton box flew over a couple of heads before dropping to Deeney at the back post. My scream of “Come on, Troy” must have put him off as he shot into the side netting. The equalizer came with 11 minutes remaining as Success put in a low cross for Okaka who powered home. Watford should have taken the lead a couple of minutes later as Okaka broke forward with Behrami alongside him, from our vantage point behind the goal he appeared to have space to shoot but delayed and was tackled by Stephens, the Saints immediately broke down the other end where Boufal’s shot should have been easy for Gomes, but he dropped the ball to the feet of Gabbiadini who poked the ball past Gomes. So frustrating! That was the last action of the game for the Italian talisman as he was replaced by Shane Long.
To add insult to injury for the home side, the visitors scored a fourth goal two minutes later as Redmond broke forward and belted a lovely shot past Gomes. At this point, many in the Rookery had seen enough and there was a mass exodus. Needless to say, I stayed. The referee had been irritatingly fussy about blowing up for even the most innocuous challenges so, when Britos sent an opponent flying into the advertising hoardings, I feared that he would see red, but Mr Moss did not see any offence and waved play on. Baffling! Watford’s second substitution saw Doucouré coming on for Okaka. Southampton looked certain to complete Watford’s humiliation with a fifth goal, but Boufal wasted his chance putting the shot into the side netting. Surprisingly it was Watford who scored the last goal of the game in the final minute as a Niang cross was hit home by Doucouré to rather muted celebrations from the home fans who had stayed to the end of the game.
The scoreline could fool you into thinking that this was a seven goal thriller. Sadly, it was nothing of the sort as the entertainment had come in bursts. It was another frustrating game from the Hornets who are a good side that are only playing in fits and starts. Southampton are a decent team, they were very well organized and capable of attacking at pace, which was where all of their goals came from. Watford started and finished brightly, but there was a long period in the middle of the game when they seemed to disappear, which seems to be becoming a pattern. As was the case last week, we were revitalized when Success came on. I can’t help but hope that he regains full fitness very soon as I would very much like to see what he can do when given a whole 90 minutes. So we go in to another enforced break with a trip to Selhurst Park to look forward to. Oh the glamour of the Premier League!