Tag Archives: Alex Mowatt

Progression to the Quarter Finals

Good luck to Watford legend, Doyley

Good luck to Watford legend, Doyley, with his new club

The West Herts was surprisingly quiet when I arrived for my pre-match refreshments.  I did wonder whether a cup game against a team that we have faced regularly meant that the crowd would be depleted, but it soon filled up.  I had the added pleasure of the company of my sister, who was a regular in the early 80s, but is now known to my Watford friends as Amelia’s Mum!

Team news was that Flores had made six changes bringing Pantilimon, Paredes, Britos, Holebas, Suárez and Abdi in for Gomes, Nyom, Prödl, Aké, Behrami and Ighalo.  So the starting line-up was Pantilimon, Holebas, Cathcart, Britos, Paredes, Watson, Suárez, Capoue, Deeney, Abdi and Amrabat.  For the visitors, Watford Academy graduate Toumani Diagouraga (Dave), for whom I’ve always had a soft spot, lined up alongside former loanee Liam Bridcutt.

Walking through the Rookery concourse, I had to stop and take a photo of the poster marking Doyley’s debut.  Much as I am happy that he has a new club, it is really hard to think of him playing for another team.

Gathering for a corner

Gathering for a corner

As always on cup days, there were a lot of strange faces in the seats around us.  Having seen the complaints on social media from Leeds fans that there were nowhere near enough tickets available for their massive fan base, I feared that we would have some opposition fans around us.  But, thankfully, yet again, all of the new faces around us were Watford fans.

Watford almost had a dream start to the game as Deeney met a Capoue cross with a header that was deflected just wide.  Then a Watson corner was headed over by Britos when he really should have hit the target.  The next chance came from a Holebas cross which Amrabat headed upwards so that it looped safely into the arms of Silvestri.  Watson’s next corner was delivered deep and headed back across the goal and wide of the far post by Britos.  The visitors won a corner which was taken by Taylor and caught by Pantilimon who didn’t have to leave the ground.  I’d heard that he was tall, but was taken aback to find out that he was a similar height to the bloke standing in the row in front at Palace last week.  There was a moment of joy as Capoue nutmegged a couple of Leeds players before passing to Abdi who found Holebas whose shot was deflected for a corner.  Then a cross came in to Capoue, who played the ball out to Abdi, whose shot was blocked.  The first booking of the game went to Bellusci who was penalized for stopping Watford taking a quick throw-in.

A half hearted goal celebration

A half hearted goal celebration

The first real attack by Leeds came through a dangerous looking break from Antenucci who played the ball to Dallas whose shot was very weak and easy for Pantilimon.  Soon after, Dallas got into another good position, but the presence of Watson ensured that his shot was wide of the far post.  The first yellow card for the home side came when Paredes pulled Taylor’s shirt.  A silly booking to pick up.  Watford threatened again as Troy battled past a couple of players before playing a through ball to Paredes whose cross was easily gathered by Silvestri.  The visitors had a late chance to take the lead in the first half with a shot from Dallas that was deflected wide.

The half time mood in the home end was one of frustration.  Watford had dominated the game and Leeds had been rather poor opposition, but all our dominance in possession had not led to Silvestri being tested.

A premature celebration caught on camera

A premature celebration caught on camera

In a similar manner to the first period, Watford had a great start to the second half.  Deeney had an early foray into the box, but his shot from a narrow angle was blocked for a corner.  Watson’s delivery was disappointing, but resulted in another corner from which the delivery was considerably better and was met by the head of Cathcart who put the ball over the bar.  Bridcutt was the next player to find his name in the referee’s book for a tackle on Capoue.  Watford continued to attack and a cross towards Cathcart at the far post was intercepted by Taylor who headed it out for a corner.  But Watford took the lead very soon afterwards as a lovely cross from Watson was turned home by Wootton who was probably concerned that Deeney was just behind him, not knowing that one of his team mates had flattened the Watford man.  Celebration of an own goal is always a bit odd for the players, but Watson received plaudits for his cross.  The home side should have been two up very soon after as Abdi went on a great run, the Leeds defence opened up in front of him, but his shot was over the bar.  A minute later, Watford thought they had scored a second as Holebas released Amrabat who crossed to Capoue who buried the ball.  I heard the whistle before the ball hit the net but many others didn’t, including my sister whose celebration was broadcast on the BBC, as she discovered when the screen shot was sent to her by one of her daughters.  Television pictures showed that Deeney was deemed to have pushed one of the defenders, but it was a soft foul and it seems much more likely that there is an unwritten rule that Capoue must not be allowed to score.

Watson takes a free kick

Watson takes a free kick

The first substitution was made by the visitors as Mowatt replaced Dallas.  Another Watford corner resulted in another Cathcart header over the bar.  Leeds had their best chance of the game so far on 65 minutes as Bridcutt unleashed a stinging shot that was easily caught by Pantilimon.  At the other end, Deeney broke into the box but, with only the keeper to beat, the angle was narrowed so he passed to Capoue who was tripped, but the referee waved penalty appeals away.  Flores made his first substitution on 67 minutes replacing Amrabat with Ighalo.  The Nigerian was immediately involved as he broke forward but he slipped before he could shoot and the chance was lost.  Yet again Deeney battled into the box, but this time he was deemed to have fouled the defender and a free kick was given to the opposition.  Quique’s second substitution saw Guedioura coming on for Abdi.  The impressive Holebas went on a great run which finished with a poor shot that was easy for Silvestri.  There was a break in the game as the perennially unpleasant Steve Evans kicked off about something.  Flores wasn’t going to be drawn and retreated graciously.  I think he was right in thinking that a Quique hug wouldn’t have helped the situation, and it would have been wasted on Evans.  Guedioura played a lovely cross for Ighalo but the Nigerian was held off the ball so couldn’t connect.  Then Deeney broke forward before finding Capoue who reverted to his usual accuracy in front of goal blasting well over and leaving me with my head in my hands.

Costel Pantilimon

Costel Pantilimon

There was a rare attack from the visitors as Wootton broke forward before finding Doukara who hit the ball over the bar.  Anya came on for Capoue just before the fourth official indicated an additional five minutes.  In his first action, Ikechi went on a great run and crossed for Ighalo whose touch was poor so the chance went begging.  There was one last chance for the Hornets to make the game safe as Ighalo was brought down on the edge of the box.  Deeney played the free kick short to Watson whose shot was low and into the wall.  There was one final chance for the visitors as a cross was punched by Pantilimon to Doukara whose shot was blocked before the final whistle went to signal a Watford win.  The young lad sitting behind me had become quite philosophical towards the end as he reasoned that, if Leeds did get an equalizer, we would win the replay.  I wasn’t quite so calm about this outcome as I really didn’t fancy a midweek trip to Leeds in a couple of weeks.

As we left the ground through the GT stand, there were Police horses at the hospital side of the ground and a large crowd of Leeds fans blocking the road and making snide comments about how miserable we looked.  Having had a number of unpleasant experiences at Elland Road dating back to the late 80s, I would not have dared to have come out celebrating and was very happy to escape up Harwoods Road and back among the Watford fans making their way home.

There were a number of people who expressed their disappointment at the narrow win, but it appeared to me to be an efficient win against a team that never really threatened.  So we are in the quarter finals, but won’t know our opponents until a couple of days before the game when Arsenal and Hull play their replay.  The prospect of facing Arsenal in the quarter finals will always evoke memories of 1987, the non-penalty, Luther scoring the third goal and GT ducking under a rain of coins which, unlike Chris Brunt’s experience, came from the opposition.  Whatever happens from now on, being in 9th position in the table and the quarter-final of the FA Cup is pretty impressive.

Whites-wash

Yesterday was a very sad day for me as I handed the Supporter of the Season shield back to the club ready to be engraved with the name of this year’s winner.  I have to admit that I had it sitting on my desk at work all day, just to eke out the final moments with it in my possession.

The teams emerge

The teams emerge

Team news was that Beppe had made four changes from Saturday’s team, the most significant of which was Abdi’s first start since August.  The announcement of Almen’s involvement was greeted with loud cheers from the Vicarage Road crowd.  The starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Cassetti, Angella, Riera, Tözsér, Abdi, Murray, Faraoni, Anya and Deeney.  The Leeds line-up included the evil Poleon, whose actions last season in causing Bond’s injury cast a pall over the last game of the season.  But, as always, it was lovely to see Watford legend Nigel Gibbs back at Vicarage Road, even if it pains me to see him with that crest on his chest.

Gibbsy and Sannino exhibiting their national characteristics

Gibbsy and Sannino exhibiting their national characteristics

Watford started brightly and, in the third minute, Anya released Abdi on the left, he crossed for Faraoni whose shot was blocked.  Anya then received a pass from Deeney on the edge of the box, but was taken out by a sliding tackle.  We were a goal up after 8 minutes as Abdi played a lovely ball to Anya on the left wing, he advanced and crossed and there was Abdi to head the ball past Butland.  It was a lovely goal, made all the more enjoyable by the identity of the goalscorer.  It is great to have Almen back.  For the next twenty minutes, Leeds had a lot of possession but were not allowed to do anything with it.  Then Marco Cassetti executed a high tackle on Tonge and found his way into the referee’s book just in time to earn himself a suspension for his tenth caution of the season.  Just before the half hour, Deeney played a lovely through ball to Anya, but the Scot got the ball caught under his feet and the defence got back to thwart him.  Then McCormack saw Almunia off his line and launched an audacious shot from the halfway line that had the Watford keeper back-pedalling to get

Celebrating Anya's Goal

Celebrating Anya’s Goal

behind it.  We went two goals up as Anya played a short pass to the overlapping Riera, his low cross reached Murray who played it short to Faraoni whose cross back to the far post was met with a header from Anya that flew past Butland.  Watford attacked again as Deeney released Murray who advanced before playing a through ball to Faraoni but his shot was put out for a corner.  At half time, there was satisfaction that we were comfortably two goals ahead.  Leeds had had a lot of possession, but our defence had restricted their shooting opportunities so that the only shot that Almunia had to deal with was a punt from the half-way line.

Challenges in the penalty area

Challenges in the penalty area

Leeds were immediately on the attack at the start of the second half as Riera lost out to Poleon who played a through ball to Hunt whose shot was wide of the near post and bounced behind the goal.  Deeney played a ball over to Anya but he was tripped by Wootton, who was booked.  Then Murray played a lovely ball to Deeney in the box, but Butland came out to block.  The clearance eventually reached Tözsér who, with shouts of “shoooot” ringing in his ears, curled a shot just wide of the target.  Then Riera intercepted the ball, it reached Deeney who tried to release Anya, but the pass was too far in front of him.  At the other end, a low shot from the substitute, Stewart, was straight at Almunia.  On the hour mark, Faraoni put the ball out to allow McCormack to receive treatment and was rewarded with a kick from Hunt, who was lucky to escape with a yellow card.  Hunt was involved in the next attack but his header from a free kick was straight at

Deeney is under there somewhere

Deeney is under there somewhere

Almunia.  Watford’s third goal was a testament to the persistence of two men.  First Abdi intercepted and then battled a defender to keep the ball, he passed to Deeney who went past a couple of defenders in the box, while never appearing to have control of the ball, before hitting a shot from an acute angle that hit the roof of the net.  By way of celebration, he leapt into the Rookery and was engulfed in the celebrating crowd.  When he emerged he was given a yellow card.  Then Anya beat a defender and cut the ball back to Deeney who tried to find his strike partner with a through ball, but Butland was first to it.  Poleon tried a shot at Almunia, which was parried, and, when he lined up to shoot from the rebound, he was tackled and Watford launched a counter attack which finished with Anya playing a square ball to Deeney who looked certain to score but Butland stood tall

Waiting for the ball to drop

Waiting for the ball to drop

and blocked his shot.  At the other end, Warnock tried a shot that was well over the bar.  In the last ten minutes, both sides made substitutions as White replaced McCormack for Leeds and McGugan and Pudil came on for Abdi and Riera.  McGugan’s first action was to latch on to a throw-in and hit a cross that was blocked by Pearce with no little pain for the defender.  Leeds then put themselves into trouble as a corner bounced off the back of Tonge’s thigh and needed an intervention from Butland to prevent them from going further behind.  Merkel replaced Murray for the last couple of minutes of the game, but there was no subsequent action of note.

Applauding the crowd

Applauding the crowd

At the final whistle, there was a feeling of job done by the home team against an opposition that had had a lot of possession but were very poor.  But, sometimes, you have to give credit to a team in that situation.  I was impressed with the performance as, despite their possession, the Leeds players were allowed no time on the ball to create anything and never really threatened Almunia.  A feature after the final whistle of recent games has been the rage that Angella demonstrates when we underachieve, so it was nice to see him celebrating with his team mates rather than them running from his fury.

After the players had been applauded off the pitch, Cristian Battocchio made his way on crutches along the front of the Rookery and was greeted with warm applause and the faithful chanting his name.  Despite his injury, he was smiling broadly as he acknowledged the crowd.

Don and Johnno

Don and Johnno

On the way out of the ground, I went to meet Don Fraser in the Lower Rous.  During the game, he had been joined by Richard Johnson, a corporate guest for the game, who chose to watch from the disabled platform rather than the posh seats in the Upper Rous.  As we left through the lounge, I greeted Johnno, although I wasn’t sure that he could hear me after 90 minutes of listening to Don barracking the referee.  As we left through the hospitality entrance, there was a bloke surrounded by a crowd of people having photographs taken with him.  I assumed he was a retired footballer and that I would kick myself when I found out who he was.  Then I read the report of the game on the BBC website and saw a photograph of Massimo Cellino and the penny dropped.  Although why on earth anyone would want to have their picture taken with him completely baffles me.

Six Goals at Elland Road

A kind welcome

A kind welcome

This was an expensive week for the travelling Hornets with two away games up North.  After an encouraging performance against Burnley midweek, I travelled with a better spirit but, knowing that Leeds have been on a decent run, my expectations were not high.  Our pre-match pub in Leeds is a good ‘un.  The cider was lovely, the pie was tasty and the company was excellent.  The top deck of the shuttle bus to the ground was inhabited by a group of Leeds fans who were loud and obnoxious, so I was glad to reach Elland Road to escape the racket.  As we entered the stadium, we were greeted by posters thanking us for traveling 179 miles to attend the game.  Rather a nice touch, I thought.

Team news was that Pudil and Anya were in for Cassetti and Murray.  If I hadn’t seen his midweek post on Twitter, I would have struggled to recognize Anya as he has shaved off his Afro.  A big mistake to my mind, I hope he grows it back very soon.

A minute's silence for Mandela or Bremner!

A minute’s silence for Mandela or Bremner!

Before kick-off, the minute’s applause for Nelson Mandela was announced.  Much as I am a admirer of the great man, I questioned the wisdom of such a gesture at a sporting occasion in the UK.  Clearly, the Leeds hierarchy had similar questions, so they announced that it was also to mark the anniversary of the passing of Billy Bremner, which meant that the applause was accompanied with chants of Bremner’s name which rather defeated the object.

The starting line-up was Bond, Faraoni, Nosworthy, Ekstrand, Pudil, Bellerin, Battocchio, Thorne, McGugan, Anya and Deeney.  There were no Watford alumni in the Leeds line-up, but it cannot be forgotten that one of Watford’s favourite sons, Nigel Gibbs, was on the Leeds bench.

A new-look Anya

A new-look Anya

Leeds started brightly, and in the second minute, Smith headed a cross from McCormack straight at Bond. The next Leeds attack was a free-kick by McCormack into the box which was headed over by Zaliukas.  Then Bellerin intercepted the ball in midfield, his pass was deflected back to Battocchio who crossed for the young loanee to head the ball wide of the far post.  Then a low through ball reached Austin whose shot was parried by Bond to Murphy whose follow-up flew wide.  Watford were immediately on a counter attack as Faraoni put a ball through to Anya, who ran into the box but his shot was parried.  On 11 minutes Watford took a rather surprising lead. McGugan exchanged passes with Bellerin, tried a cross which bounced back to him off a defender so he played a languid through ball which Deeney tucked between Kenny and the near post.  It

Leeds line up a free kick

Leeds line up a free kick

had been so long since we last scored that I half convinced myself that the ball had hit the side netting, so my celebration was a bit hesitant, but finally got going once I realized that we had actually scored!  We had the next decent chance on 23 minutes when a McGugan through ball reached Anya, but Kenny narrowed the angle and Ikechi’s shot was just past the far post.  Leeds then threatened with a dangerous cross from Austin, which looked as though it may have snuck in if Bond hadn’t caught it at the near post.  Then McCormack latched on to a pass into the box.  Bond ran out and dived at his feet to make a great save, so it seemed unfair that the ref pulled play back for a free kick as he’d previously played advantage that the home side had not been able to capitalise on.  McCormack took the free kick, which bounced off the wall for a corner.  Then McGugan played a lovely defensive move as a Leeds player, whose number I didn’t note, ran into the box.  I was concerned that he would draw a penalty, but McGugan coolly shepherded the ball out for a goal kick.  Then a dangerous ball came in towards Smith in the box, but Nosworthy stuck out a foot to deflect it for a corner.  From the corner, there were loud shouts for a penalty from the Leeds fans as Smith went down in the box, but the ref made the right decision.  On 29 minutes, a shot from McCormack bounced off Ekstrand and rebounded to

Celebrations after the second goal

Celebrations after the second goal

Smith, whose follow-up shot was just wide of the far post.  On 37 minutes, Smith latched onto a ball in the Watford box, Bond pulled off a fantastic save, but must have been frustrated again to see that his efforts were unnecessary as the forward had been flagged offside.  On 43 minutes, Nosworthy seemed to think he had all the time in the world to control a ball in our box, Pugh came up behind him and threw himself over Nyron trying to win a penalty.  Fortunately the referee was having none of it and all he won was a yellow card, but Nosworthy had taken a huge risk.  As the clock reached 45 minutes, Mowatt took a free kick from a dangerous position to the right of the Watford box.  Bond came out to punch the ball clear and it reached Bellerin, who ran the length of the pitch then squared for Battocchio, who took a couple of touches and seemed to have lost his chance, but found space between two defenders to fire the ball past Kenny.  This time I celebrated immediately and chants of “We want six,” rang out from the travelling Hornets. In injury time, McGugan took a shot that went straight into Kenny’s arms.  As the half-time whistle went, Anya was on the ball running up the left wing and he kept on going, not wanting to stop!

It had been a cracking half.  We were slightly fortunate to take a two goal lead in at the break and well aware that there was still a long way to go in the game.

A defensive header from Ekstrand

A defensive header from Ekstrand

Leeds came out like a rocket at the start of the second half.  Within a minute of kick-off, a Bellerin pass up the wing was intercepted and the counterattack finished with a header from Smith tipped over the bar by Bond.  From Mowatt’s corner, it was Smith again, but this time he headed over the bar while climbing on Thorne.  Leeds’ first goal came in the 49th minute and had an element of fortune as a clearance hit Thorne and dropped to Pugh who beat Nosworthy and slipped the ball past Bond at the near post.  The Watford heads didn’t drop as Faraoni audaciously nutmegged a Leeds defender to get into the box, but his cross was blocked. However, ten minutes into the half, Leeds were level as Peltier robbed Anya as he tried to dribble the ball across the middle of the park, he passed to McCormack on the wing who crossed for Smith to power a header past Bond.  Straight from the restart, Battocchio freed Bellerin, but he couldn’t quite reach the return pass in the box and the chance was cleared.  Leeds carried on threatening the Watford goal.

Gibbsy on the wrong bench

Gibbsy on the wrong bench

First Austin broke in to the box and Bond stood tall to block his close range shot.  Then, from a corner, Mowatt’s shot came crashing back off the crossbar.  There was some relief for Bond as Watford launched a counter attack with Anya finding McGugan whose shot from distance was pushed wide by Kenny.  Soon after, Smith shot straight at Bond.  Then a Thorne ball over the top reached Deeney, who shot wide but had been in an offside position anyway.

On 65 minutes Murray replaced McGugan, seven minutes later Faraoni made way for Cassetti.  Soon after, Cassetti failed to challenge Smith whose header reached McCormack who turned the ball into the net, but his celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.

Faraoni down the wing

Faraoni down the wing

However, Leeds were to take the lead a couple of minutes later as McCormack got on the end of a pass from Murphy, outran Nosworthy and shot past Bond.  Watford almost hit back immediately as Battocchio shot from inside the box and Kenny had to drop smartly to gather the ball.  With 10 minutes remaining, Murray jinked into the Leeds box and curled a shot just wide of the far post.  On 85 minutes, while Forestieri was on the sidelines waiting to come on, Anya went on a run down the wing and crossed for Thorne whose shot was parried by Kenny, but Deeney was on hand to pick up the loose ball and grab the equalizer.  With a couple of minutes to go, Mowatt played a through ball to

An attacking throw-in

An attacking throw-in

Smith whose shot was over the bar, but he was flagged offside anyway.  After the equalizer, Forestieri had returned to the bench and the final Watford substitution was Hall replacing Battoccio.  In injury time, Anya and Bellerin combined on a counter attack, and the young Spaniard won a corner which came to nothing as Ekstrand was booked for a foul on Zaliukas.  But it was the Swede who could have won the game for the Hornets as Deeney received a pass from Cassetti and squared the ball but Zaliukas was on hand to make a great tackle and prevent Ekstrand from shooting.

Applauding the crowd

Applauding the crowd

At the final whistle, there was a lot of shirt swapping on the field and rapture from the stands.  It had been a thrilling game of football and I think all the fans were happy to leave with a point.  Watford had played some lovely stuff, but gave the ball away a little too much by getting caught in possession and our defence was vulnerable in the second half when Nosworthy tired, but it is churlish to criticize after such a thoroughly entertaining afternoon.  It has to be said that Anya’s pace made a difference and some of his interplay with Bellerin was excellent.

How the mood has changed in the past week with two terrific points from difficult away games.  Hopefully, this will make Monday’s fans’ forum a more positive occasion and we can take this spirit back to Vicarage Road for the visit of Wednesday.  It is fun being a Watford fan again.