Having missed the Bournemouth game, it was over a month since I had been to Vicarage Road, so I was very happy to be going back. Don was just getting out of his car as I reached the West Herts and we were the only two waiting for the doors to open although a few other regulars joined us before the clock struck 12. Our pre-match drinks were all the better as we discussed the win over Wolves, although none of us were particularly confident for today’s game. Huddersfield would have to get a win at some point and we could all remember the previous year’s abject defeat.
The team news was rather pleasing as Gracia named an unchanged team allowing those who had come in and put in such a great performance at Wolves to keep their places. So the starting line-up was Foster; Femenía, Cathcart, Mariappa, Masina; Hughes, Doucouré, Deulofeu, Capoue, Pereyra; Success. Huddersfield were captained by erstwhile Watford hero, Jonathan Hogg. Another Watford hero also returned as former chief executive, Julian Winter, hosted a Q&A for the visiting fans at The Flag pub before the game. I was very tempted to gatecrash.
As this was to be the last game before Remembrance Sunday, the players were wearing poppies on their shirts and a minute’s silence was held before the game that was perfectly observed.
The game started positively for the visitors and the first chance fell to Durm whose shot at the near post was turned wide by Cathcart for a corner, which was cleared. Soon after, Mooy tried a shot from distance through legs that was saved by Foster. The visitors threatened again as Mbenza cut the ball back to Pritchard but the shot was just over the bar. Watford’s first chance came as the ball reached Success following a lovely passing move, he crossed for Pereyra, but a defender made the interception before it reached the Watford man. The Hornets opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a goal that was a thing of beauty. Pereyra received the ball on the left and just started to dribble through a throng of Huddersfield players, it seemed only a matter of time before one of them tackled him, but the ball was soon in the back of the net prompting mental celebrations that were tinged with disbelief at what we had just witnessed. After 19 minutes the Hornets were two goals to the good as Deulofeu got the ball on the right, he only had to beat two players before shooting from an acute angle past the keeper and into the net. It was another terrific goal. How on earth will we choose the goal of the season in May? Fair play to Huddersfield, they didn’t give up and could have got back in the game almost immediately as a shot from distance from Löwe was pushed on to the crossbar by Foster.
Then a lovely pass from Success gave Deulofeu the chance to increase the lead, he skipped into the box again, but this time shot wide of the near post. At the other end, Pritchard played the ball across the box to Mooy whose low shot was easy for Foster to save. The first booking of the game went to Huddersfield’s Billing for a foul on Success. Billing almost turned hero soon after with a terrific shot from distance that Foster did brilliantly to tip over the bar. The resultant corner was headed wide by Depoitre. Watford could have had a third before half time as Success ran into the Huddersfield box, a last minute tackle sent the ball goalwards, but Lössl was able to clear off the line.
There was a rather bizarre sequence during the break as a fan was invited to interview Tommy Mooney, asked a bland question about his favourite goal before grabbing the ball that Mooney was holding and dribbling towards the goal. He was tackled by a couple of ‘stewards’ one of whom proceeded to put on a display of ball skills. This baffling event was sponsored by the company that has their name on our shoulders and introduced as the first in a series. Despite the decent skills demonstrated by the ‘steward’, I do hope not. The interviews with visiting Watford legends are so much more interesting. After the strange interruption, attention returned to Mooney who reckoned that the first half was the best that he had seen from a Watford side. Assuming that he wasn’t at Wolves last week, it was no exaggeration.
Watford started the second half well with Deulofeu finding Success whose shot was saved by Lössl. The same two players combined again a minute later, this time it was the Spaniard who had sight of goal, but a combination of keeper and defender put him off and he shot just wide. Soon after Success found Deulofeu again, this time he shot over under pressure from a defender. Deulofeu and Pereyra then combined to feed Hughes, but the shot was straight at Lössl. It wasn’t all Watford though as Mbenza tried a shot from wide on the left which was saved by Foster. Just after the hour mark, there was a rash of substitutions as Mounie and Sobhi replaced Depoitre and Mbenza for the visitors and Deulofeu made way for Sema. The Watford man appeared to be furious when he reached the dug-out. Watford’s first booking went to Masina for a nasty foul on Löwe. Wagner made his final substitution as Billing made way for Bacuna. Watford’s third goal came with 10 minutes remaining as a free kick was taken short and chipped by Capoue to Femenía who crossed low to Success in the middle of the box where he made no mistake with his finish. It was a move that came straight from the training ground and it certainly calmed my nerves as it had surely sealed the points for the Hornets. The goal scorer’s work was done for the day and he made way for Gray. Soon after, Cathcart sustained a knock and was replaced by Kabasele. In time added on, Watford had a couple of chances to increase their lead. Doucouré made a great forward run, but his cut back flew behind the advancing forwards. Then Pereyra tried a shot from a tight angle that was pushed over the bar by Lössl. The final chance fell to Sema, who went on a brilliant run, beating a couple of players, but his finish was disappointing and the shot flew wide of the target. So the final whistle went on a very pleasing 3-0 win for the Hornets.
Back in the West Herts and Richard received a message from a Huddersfield supporting friend of his noting that the third goal had been good! We could only assume irony was involved. There were smiles all round as it had been a very good day at the office. Despite Huddersfield’s chances and some heroics from Ben Foster, it felt like a comfortable win for the Hornets. There was certainly some gorgeous football on show, with some sublime passing. That and three very decent goals meant that the Watford fans had been royally entertained.
The joy was tempered somewhat by the worrying news of Glenn Hoddle’s collapse. Then, when I returned home, I heard of the Leicester owner’s helicopter crashing and the death of a Brighton fan after their game. The Leicester owners have been such a boon to both the club and the town, when something so awful happens, all football fans share the pain. My thoughts are with the family and friends of all affected this weekend.