Before the game was the official renaming of the Graham Taylor stand so we made sure that we were in our seats in plenty of time. Players and coaching staff from both of GT’s spells at the club had been invited to join in the celebrations and they were introduced one by one. Tom Walley, Steve Harrison, Dennis Booth, Ian Bolton, Steve Terry, Steve Sherwood, Neil Price, Iwan Roberts, Tony Coton, Richard Johnson, Alec Chamberlain, Tommy Mooney, Nigel Gibbs and Luther Blissett. So many happy memories meant that each of them was cheered on to the pitch. Needless to say Steve Harrison was greeted with roars of laughter as he came on doing his Norman Wisdom walk. The legends formed a guard of honour for GT to walk through which he did to a chorus of “There’s only one Graham Taylor.”
He was then presented with a salver by Stuart Timperley. Unfortunately I missed what happened next as the 1881 chose the moment that GT took centre stage to place a huge flag over the centre of the Rookery so that nobody in that section could see what was going on. It meant that the climax of the presentation was greeted with a lot of very irritated people asking what the hell was going on. It put a dampener on the occasion. When we finally emerged into the light again, it was lovely to see messages on the big screen from some who could not be there including Kenny Jackett, Sean Dyche, Malky Mackay and John Barnes.
Jokanovic made six changes from the Derby game. The starting line-up was Gomes, Bassong, Ekstrand, Angella, Anya, Munari, Tözsér, Abdi, Paredes, Deeney and Vydra. It was certainly good to see Abdi and Angella back in the team.
Watford made a very bright start as Tözsér’s shot through a crowd of players was stopped by Marshall and Deeney’s follow-up was cleared off the line. At the other end Pilkington headed a Noone cross wide of the target. Deeney played a through ball to Vydra whose shot was blocked by Marshall. Cardiff were inexplicably ahead after 12 minutes as a cross from Pilkington flew into the box, Gomes came out to challenge Jones who managed to head the ball goalwards, before both players collapsed to the ground. The header was drifting wide but Le Fondre saved the ball from going out and was able to tap it in to an empty goal. Le Fondre took so long to finish that I thought there had been a whistle for a foul, but the striker was just taking the piss out of the fans in the Rookery. That didn’t help my foul mood at all. Anya exchanged passes with Vydra but could not latch onto the return which was marshalled out by the defender.
A ball into the Watford box bounced to Le Fondre but he shot over the target. Vydra really should have done better when Deeney played a gorgeous ball to him but he took several attempts to control and get into scoring position and eventually the chance was lost. Vydra then did well to keep the ball under a challenge and played a cross field pass to Anya whose shot was well off target. On the half hour, a lovely move finished with Abdi playing in Vydra but Connolly challenged, blocking the shot which flew over the bar. Another great passing move finished with Angella shooting wide. At the other end, Le Fondre left Ekstrand on the ground but shot wide of the near post. For the home side Deeney cut the ball back to Paredes who was running into the box with a defender in attendance but the ball rolled through to the keeper. Paredes then played a cross field ball to Angella whose shot was way off target. On the stroke of half time, Paredes lost the ball to Le Fondre, it was Gomes to the rescue parrying Le Fondre’s shot and saving the follow-up from Jones, but the flag had been raised for offside.
At half-time we were ruing wasted chances against a poor Cardiff side. It was very similar to the first half of the U21 game in midweek so I was hoping for a similar turnaround.
Watford started the second half on the attack as Deeney played a short pass to Munari whose shot was smothered by Marshall. Deeney played provider again playing a through ball to Vydra but Marshall was first to the ball. Deeney then headed a ball down to Anya who was running in but shot into the side netting. Watford had another wonderful chance to take the lead ten minutes into the half when Abdi met a cross from Anya with a terrific header which Marshall parried, Munari’s follow-up was blocked and, finally, Vydra’s shot was caught by Marshall. Then Anya cut the ball back to Vydra who shot over the bar. Anya’s next cut back was for Deeney whose shot was deflected wide. Fans in the Rookery thought that we had equalized as a shot from Vydra hit the inside of the post but it rebounded out and Paredes was unable to follow up. On the hour, Anya fizzed in a high cross, but it was flying too fast for Deeney to connect with a header. Jokanovic made a double substitution as Adbi made way for Guedioura and Forestieri replaced Paredes, whose withdrawal was greeted with loud cheers from the home fans. While I wouldn’t normally approve of such behaviour, he had had a nightmare so I was pleased to see the change.
It was the 67th minute before Cardiff mustered their first shot of the second half as Pilkington broke forward and unleashed a shot, Gomes pulled off a good save. An attempted break by Vydra was stopped by Le Fondre who was booked for the foul. At this point the guy who sits next to me turned and remarked, “If this was a boxing match the referee would have stopped it.” An accurate assessment that underlined the frustration that Watford were still losing the game. A couple of Watford shots were blocked before the ball broke to Angella who shot wide of the near post. Another rare attack from the visitors as Le Fondre crossed for Jones whose shot was cleared off the line by Guedioura. At the other end Tözsér had the ball in space, he maybe should have played a pass for Vydra to run on to but opted for a shot from distance that was over the target. Then a cross to the far post by Anya reached Forestieri whose header was straight at Marshall.
Forestieri exchanged passes with Vydra before shooting just wide. Vydra then turned provider playing a square ball to Tözsér who shot over. There was another booking for the visitors as Noone was penalized for grabbing Vydra around the neck in order to impede him. On 90 minutes Deeney knocked the ball down to Angella whose scissor kick was blocked. There was five minutes of added time but all Watford could muster in that period was a side-foot from Bassong that was easily caught by Marshall.
So, another week, another frustrating defeat. This one was much harder to take than the loss to Derby as Cardiff did not play well, we completely dominated but could not find the net. But I remain optimistic about our prospects this season. We are creating a lot of chances, we just need to start finishing them again.