After the cold night out in Stoke, I started feeling unwell. At first I thought it was the late night that was catching up with me, but I felt worse and worse as the week went on and spent the whole weekend curled up on the sofa. I haven’t missed a game all season and agonised about not going to the Chelsea game on Monday. But I had seen so many people laid really low with that nasty cold/flu, that I had to conclude that a night in the freezing cold was really not a good idea, so decided to stay at home and follow the game from there. Of all the games to miss, I am still devastated.
I also had a different type of match day on Saturday. My brother-in-law is a West Ham season ticket holder and my Watford supporting sister was coming to the game with me, so I had spent Friday evening at theirs and, due to dog walking duties, we ended up leaving for the game at a time when I would usually be in the pub. I was having a bit of a panic about missing kick-off, but we arrived in plenty of time to have some pre-match refreshments inside the ground while catching up with the usual suspects.
Team news was that Gracia had named the same starting XI who performed so well against Chelsea, so the starting line-up was Karnezis; Mariappa, Prödl, Holebas; Janmaat, Doucouré, Capoue, Zeegelaar; Deulofeu, Deeney, Richarlison.
Watford had the first chance of the game as the ball was laid back to Capoue whose shot was blocked for a corner. The delivery was met by the head of Mariappa, but Adrian made the save. The first chance for the home side came as Arnautovic went on a run into the box, he was tackled by a combination of Prödl and Mariappa and, with the home fans appealing for a penalty, the ball broke to Mário whose shot was saved by Karnezis. It all went quiet then until the half hour mark when Hernandez headed home from Mário’s free kick. The bubble machine was in full celebratory force before it was noticed that the linesman had flagged for offside. Watford immediately broke down the other end of the field and Capoue unleashed a shot that Adrian fumbled before gathering, much to his relief. Arnautovic should have opened the scoring with a shot from close range that Karnezis did brilliantly to block. But the Hammers took the lead a minute later as Antonio crossed for Hernandez who was left with a free header when Zeegelaar fell over. It had been coming, but it was a very soft goal to give away. So we reached half time with West Ham in a deserved lead.
Watford had the first chance of the second half when a corner was met by the head of Deeney, but he headed it down into a crowd of players and it was cleared. At the other end, a corner was headed goalwards by Kouyaté forcing Prödl to head over from under his own bar. Gracia made his first substitution on 55 minutes replacing Zeegelaar with Pereyra. Watford had a terrific chance to grab the equaliser when Deulofeu won a free kick just outside the area. He took it himself, launching a marvellous shot over the wall which Adrian did very well to keep out. Then Holebas broke forward and found Deeney in a great position in the box, but the referee blew up for a foul and the chance was gone. Another decent move from the Hornets finished with a cross from Pereyra that was easily gathered by Adrian. Hernandez looked sure to secure the three points for the Hammers when he broke into the Watford box, but Karnezis smothered the danger. Watford’s second substitution surprisingly saw Lukebakio making his debut in place of Deulofeu, who I would have kept on as he always looked as though he could cause problems. Watford had another chance to level from a corner but Prödl’s header was just over the bar. The Hammers scored their second soon after as a goalmouth scramble finished with a clearance that rebounded to Arnautovic, who crowned a superb performance with a somewhat scrappy goal.
Watford tried to strike back as Richarlison turned and shot straight at Adrian. Lukebakio was the next to try his luck with a shot from distance that flew over the target. Gracia’s final substitution saw Gray come on for Richarlison. Moyes had also made late substitutions with Mário, Arnautovic and Hernandez making way for Byram, Rice and Hugill. Watford were still trying to pull one back and had a decent chance as a cross from Holebas was met by the head of Mariappa, but the effort was blocked. The Hornets had one final chance as Gray got into a decent position, but his header was poor and the game finished with a comfortable win for the home side.
Watford had played considerably better in the second half but, while it could be said that the score was a little flattering to the hosts, some poor defending and equally poor finishing meant that it felt as though the Hornets didn’t deserve anything from the game.
The results elsewhere over the weekend now mean that Watford, in 11th place, are only 4 points off the relegation zone. It is a bizarre position to be in and it is a bit of a relief that we now have a week off to give some of the injured players a chance to recover. It has been a tough few weeks, but our squad has to be better than at least three of the other teams below us. The next few weeks will be fascinating.