Sunday lunchtime games always feel a bit odd. I usually spend most of Saturday worrying that I have somehow misunderstood the fixture list and am missing the game. So it is always a relief to arrive at the West Herts early doors and see a host of Hornet fans. Prior to the game I indulged in the breakfast of champions, a pint and a ‘bumper breakfast baguette’, which went down a treat. The addition of black pudding was what sold it to me, it set me up for the day. It was a little odd to be watching the build-up to the game on the television, but every appearance of Quique, Troy and Odion was greeted with cheers. It was also lovely to see Johnny Barnes back at Vicarage Road.
Team news was that the team was unchanged from the Sunderland game so the starting line-up was Gomes, Aké, Cathcart, Britos, Nyom, Watson, Capoue, Jurado, Deeney, Abdi and Ighalo.
As requested by the 1881, we were in our seats in plenty of time for kick off and, as the teams came out to Z-cars, those of us in the Rookery held up our foils which, I discovered later, showed an Ighalo celebration. At the front of the stand, some of the 1881 were holding a banner thanking the Pozzos. A really lovely touch. From our perspective in the Rookery, it was also good to see the flags waving in the SEJ stand. We are usually behind them so it was a pleasure to see how good they look.
Watford had the best possible start to the game as Aké forced a corner, Bogdan dropped Watson’s delivery and Nathan was on hand to turn the ball in to the net. Cue mad celebrations and a bit of celebratory bouncing. Watford continued in a positive vein and Škrtel had to throw his body in the way to stop a cross from Deeney. Liverpool’s first forward foray ended with a cut back into the box that was cleared by Capoue. The resulting corner was headed clear by Ighalo. I always enjoy seeing forward players helping out in defence. Coutinho had Liverpool’s first shot on target, but it was an easy catch for Gomes. After our early goal, I had commented that I hoped we wouldn’t be hanging on for the next 87 minutes, so I was very grateful, after a quarter of an hour, when Deeney played a ball over the top for Ighalo who battled past Škrtel and scored with a shot that went in off the far post. At this point, there was a joyful rendition of “Jürgen, Jürgen, what’s the score?” Liverpool’s first attempt to strike back came from a corner by Coutinho that went straight to Gomes. At the other end, an Abdi back-heel reached Capoue whose shot was blocked. There was a great chance for a third Watford goal as Deeney played the ball over to Ighalo, his initial shot was blocked and then Bogdan blocked Jurado’s shot at the far post.
A Liverpool break was stopped by a biting tackle from Aké. With 5 minutes remaining in the half, Klopp was forced to make a substitution bringing Origi on for the injured Škrtel. The frustration of the visitors was clearly demonstrated when Henderson was flagged offside and reacted with a prolonged show of petulance. In the last minute of the half, Abdi and Deeney exchanged passes but the cross was put out for a corner.
So we reached the break two goals up after a wonderfully controlled performance that thoroughly justified the lead.
At half time, Robbo was on the field to draw the 50-50 tickets. It was great to see him back and he was greeted with a tremendous reception.
When Ádám Bogdán took his place in the goal at the Rookery end before the start of the second half, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the lad as he arrived to great cheers after his contribution to our first goal.
The visitors started the second half very brightly and had an early chance as Henderson played the ball over to Moreno in space, but Gomes narrowed the angle so the shot was into the side netting. Origi fought off the attentions of Britos to get in a shot, but Gomes was down to save. At this point. The Liverpool fans could be heard for the first time all afternoon. At the other end, Watson released Nyom whose cross went out for a corner off the chest of Henderson. A Liverpool break was stopped as Nyom closed the player down and prevented the cross. Then Deeney tried a dink into the box for Ighalo, but there were three Liverpool players on him to stop him shooting. Ighalo broke into the box again and tried a shot from a narrow angle, it was blocked and broke to Jurado who tried to poke the ball in but, somehow, it was kept out. On the hour mark, a dangerous Henderson cross was headed wide by Lallana. Then Jurado played a lovely through ball for Ighalo whose shot was saved by Bogdan. It took until the 66th minute for Liverpool to really test Gomes and the Watford keeper was equal to the shot from Henderson, tipping it over the bar. Then Troy won the ball on the wing and advanced, but his cross was blocked. We almost shot ourselves in the foot as a terrible clearance went straight to Can, but Gomes was on hand to push the shot clear. Klopp made a double substitution as Ibe and Benteke replaced Lallana and Firmino.
Watford threatened again as Capoue played the ball out to Ighalo but he had to run wide of the goal and his cross was over Jurado’s head and went begging. Flores made his first substitution bringing Anya on for Jurado, who had another decent game. The next attack by the visiotrs finished with a shot from Henderson that was blocked. The only card of the game went to Britos who was booked for rather an innocuous challenge. The visitors had a great chance to pull a goal back as Henderson hit a dangerous free-kick, but it was headed well wide by Benteke. Flores made his second substitution replacing Abdi with Behrami. At this point, my sister told me that she’d checked her heart rate and found it was 134 bpm. Ighalo kindly calmed us all down as he won the ball, played it to Deeney, who found Behrami who crossed for the Nigerian to head home and seal the win. Once I had stopped screaming, I started bouncing and was amused as I looked around the ground to see the Lower GT, the SEJ stand and, unbelievably, the Upper GT all bouncing. The Upper GT?? Seriously, where were the stewards? Flores made a final change bringing Guedioura on for Igahlo who went off to a standing ovation. The game finished with the Rookery singing ‘We’re all going on a European tour.’
The final whistle sparked huge celebrations. We were all looking at each other, not quite believing what we had just witnessed. Not only had we beaten Liverpool 3-0, but it had been such a convincing performance that the margin could have been higher. Suddenly I found there were tears in my eyes. My niece, Amelia, was laughing at me, but it was she who had prompted the tears. I have always felt really lucky that I watched Watford playing in the first division in the 80s when we went out every week expecting to get a result. The thought that the youngsters following Watford now, such as Amelia, would never experience what we did has saddened me. But this afternoon, it felt like 1982 all over again.
Back to the West Herts where the smiles were so wide, that I don’t know how some of them got through the door. But the reflections were on a great win against a Liverpool team that was very poor or, at least, that we made to look very poor. Every Watford player deserved plaudits, they all did their jobs and worked their socks off. No Liverpool player who got the ball was given time to work with it. The visitors were comprehensively beaten.
We go into Christmas, a point off the Champions League places and 13 points off the relegation zone after a string of performances that mean that we need fear nobody. These truly are the good old days.
To all you lovely people who read my reports, I wish you a very happy Christmas and a wonderful 2016.