The train strike planned for Saturday had been called off, but the timetable was still disrupted. No matter as there was a train to the Junction arriving at 11:50, so that was great timing. When I arrived at the West Herts, one of the guys on the gate was in a tremendous mood insisting, despite the grey sky, that the sun was shining. His heart was in Jamaica and he said that the game would be played there. We could only dream, but he brought a smile to my face on a cold November day.
I was the first of my group to arrive so I bought a drink and settled down to wait for the others. It was not long before Graham arrived, so I wasn’t lonely for long. There was soon a full quorum and Glenn arrived with scratchings, so all was right with the world.
On arrival at Occupation Road there was a large Police presence. Apparently they decided this was necessary due to the trouble that had broken out there before the Luton game. It seemed rather heavy handed as those scenes were not going to be repeated for the visit of Coventry.
Team news was that there were two changes from the Cardiff game as Gaspar made way for Choudhury, who was back from suspension, and Davis replaced Bayo. So, the starting line-up was Bachmann; Kamara, Sierralta, Troost-Ekong, Gosling; Kayembe, Choudhury; Sarr, João Pedro, Sema; Davis.
The Hornets started well and were dominating possession without creating any chances of note. The first chance of the game fell to the visitors as Palmer released Gyökeres whose shot flew wide of the near post. This was a taste of things to come. There was some give and go before Davis played the ball out to Sarr whose shot was very poor and missed the target. Then Sierralta met a Sema corner with a header that flew wide of the target. At the other end Sheaf tried a shot from distance that was well over the bar. Then a misplaced pass from Troost-Ekong was picked up by Burroughs, he released Gyökeres who went on a great run before unleashing a shot that was pushed wide by Bachmann. The visitors threatened again from a corner, the ball fell to Hamer who played it back to Panzo whose shot cleared the bar and was brilliantly handled by the steward behind the goal.
The Hornets looked to have taken the lead on 20 minutes, it was a brilliant move as João Pedro played a lovely ball to Sarr who crossed for Davis who shot past Wilson in the Coventry goal, but our celebrations were cut short when the referee awarded a free kick to the visitors for a foul in the build-up. The Hornets had a wonderful chance to take the lead from a Sema free-kick that was heading in until Wilson flew across to make the save. Then Davis and Sarr combined to break forward, Davis crossed for Sarr but the shot was woeful and wide of the target. Gyökeres threatened again breaking into the box before Sierralta put a foot in to make the tackle. The Hornets had one last chance to take the lead before half time when Sarr got on the end of a cross from Gosling, his header was way off target and the ball fell to Davis who was not expecting it, so made rather an awkward connection sending the ball out for a goal kick.
So the half ended goalless. The Hornets had dominated play without creating any real chances and the visitors were looking very dangerous on the break.
At half time, tribute was paid to Cliff Vassiliou who was a very familiar face at Vicarage Road before his passing earlier this year. He would also often be seen at reserve and youth games with his best friend, Tom Walley. They also remembered Paul Stallard, a lifelong fan who had given 25 years of service to the club.
The first chance of the second half went to the visitors, with a shot from distance from Hamer that flew wide of the target. At the other end, the Hornets had a great chance to take the lead when Sarr broke forward and crossed for Sema whose effort flew wide of the near post. But it was the visitors who took the lead five minutes into the second half, Allen broke down the right and crossed for Gyökeres who was in acres of space when he hit his shot past Bachmann. The Hornets had a great chance to break back almost immediately as Sema battled past a defender and crossed for Sarr whose header was heading just wide but, from our vantage point behind the goal, it looked certain to be turned in by Davis at the back post, sadly he just missed making contact. The Hornets had another decent chance to draw level when Sierralta met a free kick from Sema with a header that hit the bar.
On 64 minutes Bilić made a double substitution bringing Gaspar and Asprilla on for Gosling and João Pedro. The Hornets should have drawn level when Asprilla played a lovely ball to Kamara who broke into the box and crossed for Sarr who only needed the ball to bounce off him but managed to put it over the bar leaving those in the Rookery with their heads in their hands. Coventry then made a double substitution with Palmer and Eccles making way for O’Hare and Bidwell. Sierralta was then booked for pulling Gyökeres back, so will miss the Reading game. Bilić made another change bringing Bayo on for Sema. Choudhury was then booked for a very robust tackle which stopped the advance of Gyökeres. There were 15 minutes remaining and it was all getting rather scrappy. Each side made late substitutions. Kane and Walker replaced Burroughs and Allen for the visitors and Davis made way for Hungbo for Watford. The Hornets threatened as Sarr played the ball back to Kayembe but his shot from distance cleared the bar. With a minute of normal time remaining, the Hornets had a great chance to draw level as Hungbo broke into the box and hit a lovely shot, but Wilson got a hand to it and pushed it wide. The Hornets had one last chance in time added on when, following a corner, the ball came out to Asprilla, but his shot was high and wide. Finally, in the last minute of the game, the Coventry keeper, Wilson, was booked for timewasting. He had been repeatedly warned and the booking came about half an hour later than it should have done. The final whistle went and the Hornets were defeated for the first time in four games.
The main emotion at the end of the game was disappointment. Watford had dominated possession, but were back to being very wasteful with the chances that they created, although the Coventry defence have to take a lot of credit for that. There were a few comments that the team ran out of ideas as the game went on. That certainly seemed to be the case, but I just wished that they had continued what they were doing as one of those chances would surely fall for them. But maybe they ran out of energy along with ideas.
We gathered back at the West Herts for post-match drinks and I had a lovely catch-up with Richard who then joined me for the journey back to London on the Met Line. We had not taken into account that there were fireworks in Cassiobury Park, so there were crowds heading that way and the station was heaving with new arrivals. But we were soon on our way and the journey home was uneventful.
The games are coming thick and fast with the visit of Reading on Tuesday. Let’s hope that we can get back to winning ways.