My Journey to the game was rather more eventful than I was expecting as an incident further up the line meant that my train into London stopped at Feltham. As there were buses heading to Hatton Cross, that seemed the best bet and a bus and four different tube trains later I arrived in Watford. It is a testament to how early I leave for games that I was still in the West Herts by 12:30.
Talk before the game was mostly about the Fans’ Forum that had taken place during the week. It had been a superb event. It started with a presentation by Spencer Field, Global Strategy and Partnerships Director(!), about the efforts they were making to bring Watford to a global audience, one of which will entail a change to the badge. This was greeted with some dismay although I assume those that thought it was a good idea remained quiet. Certainly there were no questions about it later in the evening. Then the players were up, in the persons of Daryl Janmaat and Ben Foster who were good value, although Ben was certainly the star of the show. He is a very funny man and clearly loves Watford. He waxed lyrical about the football that we have been playing (comparing and contrasting to playing for Tony Pulis) and revealed that his favourite player is Deulofeu, who he hates facing in training. He also thinks Dahlberg will be a star. The last section of the evening featured Javi Gracia and Scott Duxbury. Scott was able to announce that Peñaranda now has a work permit and that Javi was about to sign a new contract. Javi was as lovely as he seems in his interviews. It was all very positive and reminded me why I love being a Watford fan.
On the way along Vicarage Road to the game, I stopped off to buy a copy of the Watford Treasury from Olly Wicken, who had written an exclusive episode of Hornet Heaven for the supplement. A wonderful addition to a publication that was already full of fascinating stuff. Well worth a fiver of anyone’s money.
As I took my seat in the Rookery, I couldn’t help noticing how many people with season tickets were asking the stewards the way to their seats. That didn’t happen when we played Huddersfield. Thankfully, there were few strangers around us and those that were there were wearing Watford scarves.
Team news was that Gracia had made three changes from the Southampton game bringing Deeney, Masina and Capoue in for Success, Chalobah and Holebas. So the starting line-up was Foster; Femenía, Mariappa, Cathcart, Masina; Hughes, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra; Deulofeu and Deeney.
Prior to kick-off there was a superb set of banners in the away end protesting Scudamore’s golden handshake. Well done to the Liverpool fans for that.
Watford started the game brilliantly and I was on my feet celebrating in the second minute as Deulofeu finished past Alisson. Sadly, the celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag. The Spaniard had another chance soon after, but this time the ball was cleared before he could shoot. On 18 minutes, Watford won a corner. As I had my camera focussed on the box waiting for the ball in, I missed the short corner, which was greeted with groans from those around me as they bemoaned a wasted opportunity. Liverpool’s first real chance came soon after, but Foster got his fingertips to Shaqiri’s cross preventing it from reaching Salah. The Egyptian threatened again as he ran onto a forward ball, but Ben Foster played sweeper coming out to intercept and launch the ball back upfield. A dangerous free-kick from Shaqiri deserved more than a mishit from Wijnaldum allowing Foster to make an easy save. Then a mistake allowed Firmino to break into the Watford box but Foster came to the rescue again, dropping to make the save. At the other end, the Hornets had a chance to take the lead as a lovely shot from Pereyra was turned wide by Alisson. Then Mané threatened on the break, but was stopped by a great tackle from Cathcart. The Liverpool man had another chance with an overhead kick that Foster pushed wide. The resulting corner was met by the head of Salah but, again, Foster was equal to it and the half time whistle went with the game goalless.
It had been a decent half with few chances. Apart from the first 15 minutes, Liverpool had all of the possession, but a decent defensive display and some brave keeping from Foster had stopped them making the breakthrough.
The first attack of the second half came from the visitors as Mané’s shot hit the near post, but the flag was up anyway. Watford had a strong appeal for a penalty when Hughes was tripped in the box, but the referee was not interested. The first substitution was made just before the hour mark as Deulofeu was replaced by Success and, as has become his habit, showed his dismay when he reached the dugout. The first booking of the game came as Henderson was cautioned for puling Success to the ground as he tried to escape. A Watford attack was stopped by a rather bizarre offside decision against Deeney. The visitors immediately broke down the other end and Mané crossed for Salah whose shot appeared to go through Foster. A great shame after the keeper’s great work so far on the afternoon. Watford tried to break back but a cross from Femenía was headed clear by van Dijk before it reached Deeney. Then a cross into the Liverpool box was cleared only as far as Capoue whose shot cleared the bar.
Each side made a substitution as Shaqiri made way for Milner for the visitors, and Gray replaced Hughes for the Hornets. If the first goal looked a bit scrappy, the second was excellent as Alexander-Arnold curled a free kick over the wall and into the top corner. Liverpool played the last 8 minutes with 10 men as Henderson, who had just been warned after protesting a decision, decided to pull Capoue back. It was a stupid foul and well worthy of the second yellow. Success had a chance to pull one back for the Hornets with a shot across goal that only needed a touch, but nobody was there. The second change for the visitors saw Fabinho replacing Salah. The Hornets had a wonderful chance to reduce the deficit as a lovely passing move took the ball to Pereyra whose curling shot was just wide of the target. The third Liverpool goal was just cruel. Foster did really well to stop a shot from Mané, but Firmino was on hand to nod in the rebound. So the game finished as a 3-0 defeat for the Hornets.
So a disappointing afternoon all in all. The first half display had been impressive as the defence kept Liverpool at bay. The penalty that wasn’t given would have put a different perspective on the game, but Liverpool are a good side and were not to be denied, although it has to be said that the scoreline flattered them greatly. As we say every time we play one of the top clubs, this one was a free hit and I was happy that we gave them a decent game. After a couple of recent thrashings on our travels to Anfield, this was a very different performance and Liverpool really didn’t look that impressive, which can only be due to Watford playing well. It is still a testament to the quality of our team that a defeat to one of the top two clubs in the country is viewed as a disappointment.