Adeyemo Stars on the GT Matchday

The Rookery scarf display for GT prior to kick-off

Mike had been invited to the Community Trust hospitality table on Saturday and extended that invitation, so it was to be a day with the prawn sandwich brigade.  But we started the afternoon with a pint in the West Herts for the first time in over a month.  Happily, my family all appeared just before we left, so there were hugs all around.  On the way to the ground, we passed the Junior Hornets fan zone just under the mural of GT.  A lovely addition to matchday for the youngsters. 

On arrival at the ground, I dropped my coat in the Elton John Suite and then headed for a meeting with the Premier League Equality & Inclusion Assessor who was conducting a matchday visit.  The club currently has the highest level of accreditation on EDI from the Premier League.  On relegation, the club could have decided no longer to put resources into this as it is not a requirement in the Championship.  Pleasingly, they are continuing the good work and all of the fan groups in attendance at the meeting were full of praise for the efforts of the club to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all.

Waiting for a corner

Then it was back to the Elton John Suite for lunch.  The guests in the lounge were the Tommys Mooney and Smith who talked about Graham Taylor and Gianluca Vialli.  Mooney said that he had worn a suit that day in honour of the great man and spoke of his admiration for him.  He had been shown the door by Vialli, but had played against him and came to know him a bit through his friendship with Ray Wilkins when they were at Aston Villa together.  Tommy Smith spoke of the opportunities that Vialli had given him and the work that he had put in to improving the young striker’s game.  When they had finished their interview and were working the room, they both came over to say hello to us.  I had a hug from Mooney, who had to make a quick getaway, “I am on commentary in 8 minutes and, as you know, I was never fast.”  I spoke to Tommy Smith about the youth cup game on Monday, he had been impressed with the performance.  I also mentioned the interview that Olly Wicken had done with his family, some of which is on the From the Rookery End podcast.  He said that he was quite emotional as they told their story.  I was certainly emotional listening to it.  If you haven’t heard it yet, I would highly recommend a listen.  They are a lovely family.

New man, Martins, on the ball

Team news was that there were four changes from the last league game at Norwich with Troost-Ekong in for Kabasele, the welcome return of Choudhury in place of the injured Bacuna, Koné making his home debut in place of Kalu and Bayo in for Davis.  So, the starting line-up was Bachmann; Cathcart, Sierralta, Troost-Ekong; Morris, Choudhury, Gaspar, Koné, Ngakia; Sarr, Bayo.  New signings Martins and Ferreira were both on the bench as were Grieves and Adeyemo who had impressed at Reading last weekend and in the youth cup game on Monday.

It was the Graham Taylor matchday, with the 6th anniversary of his passing falling this week.  As we took our seats in the Upper GT stand, his favourite song, Buddy Holly’s “Raining in my Heart” was playing over the tannoy.  As the players came out, scarves were raised throughout the stadium in honour of the great man.  It was a magnificent sight.  Tribute was also paid to Gianluca Vialli with a minute’s applause that was impeccably observed in all corners of the ground.

Adeyemo and Grieves celebrate in disbelief

 The Hornets had the first chance of the game when Sarr found Ngakia just outside the box, but his effort was deflected over the bar.  Gaspar took the resultant corner, Maxwell got a hand to his delivery and the ball dropped to Sarr whose shot came back off the crossbar.  At the other end, Blackpool won a corner and Bowler’s delivery was on target, but Bachmann was behind it and made the save.  There was then a very quiet spell with no attacks of note.  The next incident that made my notebook was Sarr sulking on the turf when he didn’t get a free kick (you think he would know how the Championship works by now).  The visiting Blackpool fans serenaded him with a chorus of “soft Southern b*st*rd” and it was hard to disagree with the sentiment.  Once he had recovered from his sulk, he was back in action.  Cathcart put a ball over the top into the box, Bayo headed it down for Sarr who appeared to be held back as he tried to reach it, but nothing was given.  The next chance fell to the new man as Bayo flicked the ball on to Koné, who hit a first time shot, but it was a weak effort that was easily gathered by the keeper.  If he had taken an extra touch, he would have had a better chance to score.  The Hornets then launched a lovely move as Koné released Sarr, whose cross for Bayo was cut out by a defender.  The Hornets threatened again as Koné played the ball out to Morris who crossed for Sarr, but the header was weak and easily dealt with by Maxwell.  The first booking of the game went to Gaspar for a foul on Rogers, which was harsh given some of the fouls that the Blackpool players were getting away with.  The whistle went for half time and the referee was booed off the pitch.  We retired to the Elton John Suite for a welcome coffee.

Adeyemo, Martins and Koné celebrate Sarr’s penalty

Bilić made two substitutions at half time bringing new boys Martins and Ferreira on for Ngakia and Troost-Ekong.  There was a great early chance for the Hornets, Morris found Sarr in the box, he pulled the ball back for Bayo whose shot was blocked by the keeper’s leg.  At the other end Hamilton broke into the Watford box but was stopped by a terrific tackle from Ferreira.  The Hornets had another chance to open the scoring when Sarr played the ball out to Martins who advanced before playing a square ball to Bayo in the box, he touched it back to Koné whose shot was saved by Maxwell.  There was a rare attack for the visitors on the hour as Bowler beat a couple of defenders before playing the ball back to Rogers, but he mis-controlled and the ball just bounced off him and out for a goal kick.  The Hornets earned another booking as Ferreira was cautioned for a trip on Hamilton.  Again, it did not appear to be a foul worthy of a yellow card.  With just over 20 minutes remaining, Bilić made two more changes bringing Asprilla and Adeyemo on for Choudhury and Bayo.  Adeyemo made an immediate impact.  Asprilla played the ball out to Martins on the wing, he hit a shot that was parried by Maxwell, it dropped to Adeyemo who got himself into position and finished past Maxwell to send the whole of Vicarage Road wild with celebration.  As if a goal from a 17 year-old making his league debut wasn’t pleasing enough, he scored it in the 72nd minute on the GT matchday.  I am sure that the great man was celebrating with the rest of us. 

The Rookery in the 72nd minute paying tribute to GT after witnessing a goal

The visitors then made a couple of substitutions as Yates and Williams replaced Rogers and Ekpiteta.  Blackpool looked to hit back as Hamilton broke forward before playing the ball back to Yates whose shot was blocked by Cathcart.  Then Martins found Sarr in the box, he appeared to be tripped, but the referee was unmoved.  At the other end, Bowler crossed for Yates whose flick header was easily caught by Bachmann.  The Hornets looked to increase their lead as a corner from Martins was cleared as far as Asprilla but the shot flew well over the bar.  The visitors then made another change bringing Lyons on for Connolly.  The Hornets then won a penalty.  Koné played a ball over the top to Martins, the keeper came out and clattered into him and the referee pointed to the spot.  Sarr stepped up to take the spot kick.  He did a stuttering run up and then sent the keeper the wrong way to guarantee the three points for the Hornets.  There was six minutes of added time, during which the visitors made one final change bringing Lavery on for Bowler.  The substitute had a chance to pull one back for the visitors as Lyons pulled the ball back to him, but he shot over the target.  There was just time for the FA Youth Cup goal hero, Jack Grieves, to come on to make his league debut as he replaced Sarr before the final whistle went on a very pleasing win for the Hornets.

Following on from the trip to Norwich, this was another enjoyable game.  The first half had been a bit short on goal chances, but the introduction of Martins changed that.  He was a constant menace and appears to be a very good addition.  Sarr was man of the match, which I didn’t think was deserved, but he did have his best game for some time.  The defence were solid.  I turned to Jacque at one point and said, “I love Cathcart.”  He rarely garners praise probably because he is so reliable.  Calm and effective, he was brilliant.  Ferreira also had a good game, I am looking forward to seeing more of him.  Morris continued his good work and impresses more with each match.  But the star of the afternoon was young Tobi Adeyemo.  It was only when we got back into the lounge and saw his celebration that we realised quite how overwhelmed he was when he realised what he had done.  His celebration with Jack Grieves, who was warming up, brought a tear to my eye.

That was the most enjoyable day we have had at Vicarage Road for some time and the three points have taken us up to 3rd in the table.  With the new additions and the encouraging performances from the youngsters, maybe it is time to start thinking seriously about promotion.

But as we left the ground, it was time to pay tribute to GT.  It was lovely to see that someone had given his statue yellow and red roses to hold.  He is greatly missed.  So it was gratifying that his matchday produced a performance that he would have loved.  Thank you, GT.

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