I stayed overnight at my sister’s house on Friday night. She was on puppy duty on Saturday morning, so told me that she would be leaving late for the game. I decided to take the bus into Watford as there is a stop outside their house and the bus drops off opposite Park Avenue, so perfect for the West Herts. It was a lovely journey through the Hertfordshire countryside and I was soon at the West Herts with friends and a pint in front of me.
The trip to the ground was uneventful. I had an overnight bag but, thankfully, no food or drink inside as it seems that the stewards have been clamping down on people taking flasks and hot food into the ground. It seems a really unnecessary and unpleasant move, I hope that they revisit it.
Team news was that there were two changes from the win against Blackpool with Ferreira and Martins making their full debuts in place of Troost-Ekong and Ngakia. So, the starting line-up was Bachmann; Morris, Cathcart, Sierralta, Ferreira; Choudhury, Gaspar; Sarr, Koné, Martins; Bayo.
The Hornets had the first chance of the game after 8 minutes when a chip from Sarr into the box was met by Gaspar who turned and hit a lovely volley that bounced off the outside of the post. The first chance for the visitors came from a free kick that was headed out to Barlaser whose shot was stopped by a decent save from Bachmann. On 18 minutes, the big screen showed a photo with the caption RIP Henry Evans, a young Rotherham fan who was killed in an accident last week. The whole ground rose to applaud and pay tribute, which was very moving. The visitors took the lead on 20 minutes, a shot from Fosu-Henry was well saved by Bachmann, but the ball dropped to Ferguson who found the far corner. The Hornets had a great chance for an equaliser when a free kick into the box by Martins was met by Bayo whose volley hit the bar and landed on the roof of the net. Then Martins broke forward and released Ferreira who crossed for Sarr who volleyed over the bar. At the other end, Bachmann came to punch a Rotherham corner, the ball dropped to Rathbone whose shot was high and wide. The first booking of the game went to Hjelde of Rotherham after half an hour for time-wasting. There was a lovely moment as Adeyemo came out to warm-up down the touchline and was greeted with enthusiastic applause. The Hornets threatened again when Martins played the ball out to Ferreira, but his shot was high and wide.
My attention was then drawn to the perimeter advertising which featured Lifebuoy soap. No matter, it was soon replaced with Bet 365 and I no longer felt as though I had strayed into an alternative universe. The Hornets had another good chance to draw level when Martins was fouled on the edge of the area earning a free kick in a great position. Koné stepped up to take the free kick but, disappointingly, managed to hit the wall with both the initial delivery and the follow-up. The first booking of the game for the Hornets went to Gaspar who was cautioned for a foul on Rathbone that stopped a break. Morris then went on a great run before finding Sarr in the box, there were calls for a penalty when he went down under a challenge, but the referee waved play on. There were 5 minutes of added time at the end of the half which would mostly have been for timewasting by the opposition. In time added on, Sarr was again fouled in the box but, again, the referee saw no infringement. It all got a bit tasty just before half time. Fosu-Henry was prostrate on the grass while play continued. A forward ball hit him and the flag went up for offside, much to our amusement. Bachmann came out to help him up as he was wasting time. One of his team mates then came in and squared up to Bachmann and it all got a bit unnecessary. Bachmann and Ferguson were both booked. The whistle went for half time and the referee was booed off the pitch.
At half time, Richard Johnson was talking about the week that the Academy players have had with the appearances in the FA Cup, the Youth Cup win against Everton and the league appearances including Adeyemo’s tremendous goal against Blackpool. One thing that he didn’t mention was an event that the under 15s attended on Monday at which Eve Kugler, a child Holocaust survivor, spoke of her experiences during the rise of Nazi Germany. I was lucky enough to be invited to join them. Eve kindly spent her 92nd birthday talking to the group. Her story was both chilling and very moving. It is wonderful that the club educate the youngsters in this history and encourage them to learn about different communities.
Bilić made a change at the break bringing Kamara on in place of Morris. The Hornets had a decent chance to draw level early in the second half as Sarr released Bayo who ran down the left before crossing for Gaspar who flicked the ball on to Martins whose powerful shot rebounded off the post, the ball broke to Choudhury whose shot from distance was caught by Johansson. The Hornets drew level after 52 minutes. The move started with a loose ball from Cathcart that reached Hjelde but his pass was picked up by Ferreira who went on a wonderful run before shooting across Johansson and finding the opposite corner. It was a lovely goal scored at a great time for the Hornets. I hoped that would set us up to chase the win. But the next chance fell to the visitors when Peltier played a ball over the top to Ogbene in the box, his shot was blocked by Bachmann who gathered the ball at the second attempt. On the hour mark the Hornets had a great chance to take the lead as a corner was punched and fell to Gaspar whose shot was pushed around the post by Johansson. Each side then made a change as Bramall replaced Ferguson for the visitors and Koné made way for Asprilla for the Hornets. The next chance fell to the visitors as Rathbone tried a shot from distance that cleared the bar. Bilić then made another change bringing last week’s goal hero Adeyemo on for Bayo. Last week, Bayo had left the pitch to boos as he sauntered off in a sulk when replaced. He apologised in the week and showed that he meant it by sprinting to the dugout to allow the change to take place.
The visitors had a great chance to regain the lead when Ogbene played a low cross to Fosu-Henry in the box, he had all the time in the world to pick his spot, but his shot was straight at Bachmann who smothered it. The Hornets had a chance of their own immediately after as Sarr released Adeyemo who played the ball back to Gaspar, but the shot was well over the bar. Gaspar had another great chance soon after and really should have done better when he got on the end of a cross from Kamara but, again, he couldn’t find the target and the chance went begging. Bilić then made his final change bringing Adu-Poku on for his league debut in place of Martins. The Hornets threatened again with a dangerous cross from Kamara that Johansson pushed around the post. The Hornets really should have scored the winner when Sarr broke into the box, his shot was blocked by Johansson, the ball dropped to Asprilla who snatched at the shot and sent it straight into the arms of the Rotherham keeper. The Hornets had one last chance to win the game in time added on as Ferreira put in a deep cross, but Johansson gathered, and the whistle went on a disappointing draw for the Hornets.
At the end of the game, as the players applauded the crowd, William Troost-Ekong visited each stand to wave goodbye and confirm the rumours that he was moving on. Much as he has not always been the most reliable of players, he was a good leader in the dressing room and is a player who loves Watford. He will be missed, and I wish him a lot of luck in his future career.
Back at the West Herts for the post-match analysis and the overriding feeling was of frustration and disappointment. This was the second week running that we came up against a team that were determined to waste time and had a referee who just went along with it. Some of the decisions were baffling. One of the fouls on Sarr should have led to a penalty. However, we were our own worst enemies by not making the most of the chances that we had. There were a couple of shots that hit the post, Gaspar should have got one of his chances on target and Asprilla really should have scored at the end. But the other results at the weekend mean that we remain third in the table. With the new additions and the return of some of the injured players (the 90 minutes from Choudhury was much appreciated), we should have the personnel and the talent to secure a play-off place. It would just be nice to see good performances more often than every other game. Saying that, the next few weeks will be very interesting.