Tag Archives: Billy Sharp

A Soggy Stalemate

Welbeck and Gray waltzing with the opposition defenders

Due to evening commitments in London last week, my commuting time was at a minimum, this meant that I hadn’t listened to the “From the Rookery End” podcast.  So, I made it my accompaniment for the train journey to Watford and wished that I hadn’t.  When even the ultra-positive Colin sounds exasperated, and that game at Wolves was enough to try the patience of a saint, you know that we are in trouble.

I arrived at the West Herts later than usual to find my sister at the bar.  She had arrived early for a chat and was somewhat put out to find that I wasn’t there yet.  We joined the usual suspects at our table before the Norfolk ‘Orns made an appearance.  They were on one of their days out, which generally means an early start on the beer and shots in the West Herts.  It has to be said that they were already very jolly when they arrived, but their early start meant that there were no pork scratchings in Glenn’s goodie bag to the consternation of all.

Pereyra preparing for a corner

On arrival at the Rookery turnstiles, I was patted down by a steward, I don’t believe that has happened before.  It was noticeable that, as there was only a female steward at that end of the turnstiles, while I was being searched, the men were streaming past unmolested, which was a source of some irritation.  On arrival in the Rookery, we found, as we had for the Swansea game, a pool of water under our seats.  We asked a steward for assistance in clearing it, his solution was to tell us we could find another seat if any were available.  We had seen one of the cleaning staff with a mop and a bucket further down the stand, so I went and asked him to assist us.  This meant that we missed joining in the “Forza” display prior to kick-off.  Even after the man with the mop had done his (much appreciated) thing, the floor was too wet to place my bag down, so I was relieved when the guy that sits next to me did not appear and I was able to use his seat for my bag.  To add insult to injury, when I tried to take a photograph for the blog, I found that my camera battery was drained.  Thankfully I had a charger with me so was able to remedy the situation and just hoped that there would be something worth photographing.

Team news was that Quique had made 4 changes with Prödl, Kabasele, Pereyra and Gray replacing Dawson, Capoue, Sarr and Deulofeu.  So, the starting line-up was Foster; Cathcart, Prödl, Kabasele; Holebas, Cleverley, Doucouré, Janmaat; Pereyra; Welbeck, Gray.

Challenging at a corner

Watford had a great chance to open the scoring in the 8th minute after a terrific run from Pereyra, he put in a low cross for Gray who managed to blast the ball into the Vicarage Road stand when it looked much easier to score.  Soon after, Pereyra won a corner that was taken short but eventually led to a cross by Janmaat that was headed over by Prödl.  There was almost a disaster of our own making at the other end as Cathcart turned a cross from Baldock towards his own goal, but Foster pulled off a smart save to stop it.  The visitors had another chance to open the scoring with a low shot from Fleck, but it was an easy save for Foster.  The Blades threatened again as McBurnie slid in trying to convert a low cross from Basham, but Foster was able to gather.  Doucouré got himself into a great position for a shot, but there was a body in the way of his effort from the edge of the box.  The Hornets had one last chance to take a lead into the break as Prödl met a cross from Cleverley with a header that dropped to Kabasele who tried to turn it in, but Henderson was able to make the save.

It had been an incredibly dull half of football, which had done nothing to improve my mood.  The half time celebrity guest was Alan Smart.  Being reminded of the awful season that he was involved in at this level didn’t help.  The high point for him was scoring the winner against Chelsea.  Unfortunately, the prospect of any similar results this season are currently looking very remote.

Janmaat takes a free kick

The second half started promisingly for the Hornets as a misplaced header dropped to Welbeck who powered downfield with Gray running alongside.  As Henderson came out to meet him, he decided to take the shot himself and it was blocked by the keeper.  From our perspective in the Rookery, passing to Gray looked like a better option but, given his earlier miss, the outcome may well have been the same.  The Hornets had a really good spell, which galvanised the crowd, but they couldn’t fashion a goal attempt worthy of note.  The visitors had the next chance as Robinson volleyed goalwards, but Foster was able to make the save.  Watford made two substitutions in quick succession.  Prödl limped off due to a hamstring injury to be replaced by Dawson, a great shame as the presence of Seb in the back three had been a positive.  Then Gray made way for Deulofeu.  In between the substitutions McBurnie was booked for a foul on Kabasele.  Soon after being cautioned he was replaced by Mousset.  Next there was a break in play due to an injury to Holebas.  José was down for a while being treated but, once back on his feet, he walked off the pitch while giving the evil eye to his assailant, who had my sympathy.

Foster prepares to take a free kick

The visitors made a second substitution, replacing Robinson with Billy Sharp, who was once heralded as “the answer” by a section of Hornet fans.  Flores also made a change bringing Sarr on for Welbeck.  Deulofeu impressed as he ran to keep an impossible ball in play, advanced and crossed, but it was just too high for Doucouré and Henderson was able to make the catch.  Deulofeu created a half chance as he cut in from the left and tried a shot, but it was easy for the keeper.  As the clock struck 90 minutes, a break by Deulofeu was stopped by a foul by Lundstram, who was shown a yellow card for his trouble.  The Hornets had a great chance to snatch the three points when the free kick from Deulofeu was met by the head of Dawson, but Henderson managed to make the save.  There was one final chance for the Hornets as Doucouré was urged to shoot by the crowd, but the shot from distance was woeful and nearly hit the corner flag.  So, the game ended goalless.

As I walked back to the West Herts, I bumped into another regular.  He was very philosophical, reasoning that we’ve both been watching Watford for a long time and have seen a lot worse than this.  He was right, but the current winless streak is still a great cause for concern.

Man of the Match Kabasele calling the shots

The main positive from the afternoon was that this was the first clean sheet since February.  Our defence has been dreadfully leaky and we looked much stronger with three at the back, although this improvement at the back may have been helped by the opposition being Sheffield United.  Still, Prödl had a great game, he is much more of a commanding presence at the back than either Cathcart or Dawson.  Kabasele was immense and was named man of the match by the sponsors and thoroughly deserved it.  The strikers are still struggling, but at least they are making chances and we really should have won this game.  Sadly, I have felt that after most of the games this season, Brighton and Man City notwithstanding.  Most of the teams that we have played this season have been poor to mediocre and yet we find ourselves with only 3 points from 8 games.  The big problem with this team, as many have been saying for weeks is a lack of confidence and leadership.  Troy is badly missed and you can’t help thinking that a scrambled goal or one bouncing off someone would make a huge difference.

So we go into an international break for a much needed breather and the hope that we will soon see an upturn.  My dear friend, Don, always urges us to “Keep the Faith”.  It is becoming increasingly hard.

 

Dirty Leeds Crushed

An earlier close encounter with the lovely Johnny Mac

A previous close encounter with the lovely Johnny Mac

There was plenty to discuss pre-match what with the Mackay-Moody text messages and the rumours of unrest in the dressing room.  With all that doom and gloom, it was good to turn my thoughts to happier things such as the fact that the wonderful John McClelland was the guest in the corporate lounge.  When I entered the ground, Macca was being interviewed by Luther.  What a joy to listen to my two all-time favourite players chatting.  When they finished, I made my way around to the Lower Rous to give Don a bag that he had left in the West Herts.  As I reached the disabled area, Don was coming to greet me and pointing rather urgently behind me.  I turned and there was John McClelland looking exactly as he did in the 80s.  I immediately turned into a gibbering star struck fan.  I managed to blurt out that I’d loved watching him play and went to shake his hand and found myself being warmly hugged.  It is quite possible that my feet will never touch the ground again.

Challenging at a corner

Challenging at a corner

There were four changes from Tuesday night with Abdi and Tözsér back in the midfield and Pudil and Forestieri replacing Anya and Vydra, who had limped off at the end of the previous game.  Unsurprisingly, after his goal celebration on Tuesday, Dyer was not in the 18.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Hoban, Angella, Tamas, Pudil, Munari, Tözsér, Abdi, Paredes, Deeney and Forestieri.

We started brightly with an early corner from Adbi requiring a smart save from Silvestri.  Then Deeney tried to find Forestieri in the box, but Silvestri beat him to the ball.  Munari received a lovely pass, but dwelled too long on it so had to play the ball back to Paredes who crossed for Deeney whose header flew well over the bar.  Tözsér played a ball over the top to Deeney who played a low cross to Abdi, but he was crowded out before he could shoot.  For Leeds, a shot from Tonge was blocked by Pudil, the ball came out to Austin whose shot was wide of the far post.

Celebrations of the first goal featuring three dear friends

Celebrations of the first goal featuring three dear friends

We were a goal up after 20 minutes when Forestieri passed to Deeney who flicked the ball to Munari in the box, the Italian went down under a challenge, but the ball ran through to Forestieri whose initial shot was blocked but his follow-up header beat Silvestri.  I finally witnessed the Gomes goal celebration as he joyfully leapt in front of the Rookery.  Heartwarming.  Leeds got the ball in a dangerous position, but Antenucci’s shot was high and wide.  On the half hour, Deeney passed to Forestieri whose shot through a crowd of players was easily gathered by Silvestri.  Leeds equalized soon after as an innocuous-looking ball in from Sharp was diverted past Gomes by the foot of Tamas, when he really didn’t need to intervene.  It was a very disappointing equalizer that was totally undeserved for the visitors who had yet to have a shot on target.  I was pleased to see Gomes offering commiserations to Tamas.  At the other end, Deeney fed Paredes whose shot was deflected over for a corner from which Abdi’s delivery was headed over by the unmarked Hoban.  Just before half-time, Pudil broke forward but his shot was gathered by Silvestri.  Then Sharp played for a foul and succeeded in getting Tözsér booked.

Harry undertaking the ALS/MND ice-bucket challenge

Harry undertaking the ALS/MND ice-bucket challenge

I was a hell of a lot happier at half-time than I had been on Tuesday and not just because of the close encounter with John McClelland.  While it was annoying that Leeds were level without having had a shot on target, we had played very well and were definitely the better side.  Half-time entertainment included Harry Hornet accepting Miles Jacobson’s ALS/MND ice-bucket challenge and being given his soaking on the sidelines.  What was he thinking?  He could have caught his death of cold.

We started the second half brightly as Forestieri curled a shot just past the far top corner.  At the other end, Murphy’s free-kick was headed over by Pearce.  Then Abdi found Deeney who was hacked down just outside the box.  Tözsér stepped up to take the free kick, but the delivery was awful, flying well over the bar.  Sannino’s first substitution of the afternoon saw Anya coming on for Paredes.

Deeney steps up to take the penalty

Deeney steps up to take the penalty

We took the lead again just before the hour as Forestieri beat Bellusci to a dropping ball in the box and was taken down by the defender.  The referee had no choice but to point to the spot and dismiss Bellusci.  Deeney stepped up and hit the ball straight down the middle while Silvestri dived to his right.  Soon after, there was a break for treatment as a Deeney shot was blocked by Pearce’s head knocking the defender to the ground.  Pudil latched onto a cross-field ball from Tözsér but his shot went wide of the near post.  Watford’s third goal was a thing of beauty as Munari passed to Forestieri who skipped past numerous defenders in the box before unleashing a shot that bounced in off the post.

Congratulations for Forestieri's wonderful second

Congratulations for Forestieri’s wonderful second

Forestieri and Deeney were working really well together as, first Fernando fed Troy whose shot from the right was blocked, then it was Deeney’s turn to find Forestieri whose shot appeared to be going in, but flew just wide.  That was Fernando’s last action of the game as he was replaced by Ighalo.  For Leeds, the evil Dominic Poleon came on as a substitute and was roundly booed by the Hornets faithful.  Watford had a chance to increase their lead as Munari connected with a corner from Tözsér, but his header was wide of the target.  Tözsér then played a lovely crossfield ball to Pudil, who crossed back for Ighalo who was challenged and couldn’t find room for a shot.  Abdi made way for Andrews who was involved immediately as a corner was cleared to him but his shot was well wide.  Murphy was the next to find his way into the referee’s book after a foul on Pudil.

Tozser congratulated for a superb strike

Tozser congratulated for a superb strike

In the 90th minute, Austin was booked for a foul on Deeney.  In the crowd, people were preparing to go home as Tözsér stepped up to take the free-kick, which was so far out that there appeared to be no danger.  But Tözsér thought otherwise, as he stepped up and hit the ball straight into the bottom corner with no Leeds player appearing to move.  As way of celebration, he ran straight over to his family in the Lower GT.  In injury time, Deeney was breaking upfield when the whistle went.  At first I thought it was signalling the end of the game, but the referee went over to where Pudil was lying on the ground and, after talking to the linesman, sent Byram off, apparently for a head butt.  The final whistle went soon after.  It had been a superb performance by the Hornets, restricting the visitors so much that their only shot on target was from Watford’s Tamas.  There was a nice touch from Harry Hornet at the end, as the players celebrated he got on his knees and polished Tözsér’s right boot.

The reports of unrest among the squad in the week had been unsettling, so it was a relief that any unhappiness stayed in the dressing room and the lads put on a great display for the home crowd.  This is a talented, exciting squad.  If our displays away from home start to match the quality of those at Vicarage Road, we are in for a wonderful season.

A Nasty Night in Doncaster

Doncaster Minster

Doncaster Minster

When I arrived in Doncaster, it was a beautiful Spring afternoon.  My pathetic sense of direction meant that I took a bit of a detour on the way to the hotel.  Parts of the town centre were quite attractive, but the overall impression was of a depressed place with nothing going for it.  Except, perhaps, a one-legged man playing a recorder who lifted my spirits, so I threw a few bob into his collecting tin.  As I walked past the designated pre-match pub, there was a bloke slumped on the ground with two police officers trying to help him as he ranted and launched his wallet into the middle of the road.  Thankfully, the coast was clear when I returned and our pre-match gathering was delightful despite the pub running out of our chosen beverage on more than one occasion.

Pre-match huddle

Pre-match huddle

Team news was that Bond was in goal, replacing Almunia, who was ill, and Merkel was in for Murray who has a groin strain.  So the starting line-up was Bond, Angella, Cassetti, Doyley, Pudil, Merkel, Tözsér, Battocchio, Anya, Ranegie and Deeney.  I was a bit disappointed not to see Forestieri make a start, but he had a place on the bench.  As the teams emerged for kick-off, it was noted that we were wearing yellow shorts.  Somehow these didn’t look as unpleasant as they have on previous outings.

Pudil challenging

Pudil challenging

Watford were the first to threaten as a cross from Anya was headed back across goal towards Deeney who couldn’t quite get on the end of it.  Then Tözsér and Merkel combined to find Ranegie whose shot came back off the defender.  Merkel then played a one-two with Deeney before unleashing a shot that Johnstone did well to keep out.  In the 18th minute, there was a tackle on Ranegie.  As the referee walked over, I assumed that he was about to penalize the Doncaster player, but chants of ‘off, off, off’ from the home crowd indicated otherwise.  The Swede had kicked out and was immediately shown a red card.  He had been a hero in the Blackpool game, so this was more than

Surrounding the ref

Surrounding the ref

frustrating.  The remaining 10 players tried manfully.  Troy received the ball in midfield and launched a speculative shot that was easy for the keeper.  Then a scare in the Watford box as an attempted clearance by Angella flew straight up into the air, Bond flapped at it but didn’t make a decent contact, fortunately the ball was eventually cleared.  The respite was brief as Doncaster took the lead in the next move.  Coppinger put in a cross that was met by Brown, who was allowed a free header that flew past Bond into the goal in front of us.  We wobbled a bit after the goal.  Cotterill went on a run and hit a shot that swerved away from the goal.  Angella was booked for a high foul on Brown, who lay down as if he was mortally injured until the card came out.  Doncaster threatened again, but Bond pulled off a good save from a free-kick and then got a hand to

Tozser and Merkel line up a free kick

Tozser and Merkel line up a free kick

the corner to keep it out.  Watford then had a chance as a Tözsér free-kick was repelled as far as Angella whose shot was blocked.  Then a lovely Watford move finished with a ball to Doyley in an attacking position where he did really well to win a corner.  Tözsér’s delivery was met with a header from Angella that was just wide of the near post with the Italian complaining that he was being held.  Then the home side conceded a goal kick right in front of the linesman who, instead, indicated a corner.  I’m not usually one to get on the back of officials, but at that point it felt like it was 10 versus 14 on the pitch.  This feeling was intensified just before half time.  Deeney challenged the keeper following a poor back pass, pushed the ball past him and was goal side when the keeper threw him to the ground.  As we waited for the penalty and red card, the referee did nothing.  Absolutely baffling.  At half-time, the fury of the travelling Hornets was equally apportioned to Ranegie and the ref. 

Merkel's free kick cannons off the bar

Merkel’s free kick cannons off the bar

At the start of the second half, Johnstone came out to take up his position in the goal at the end of the ground occupied by the away fans.  Usual practice among Watford fans is to applaud the goalie on arrival, but Johnstone was greeted with shouts of “cheat”.  Early in the half Duffy went down like he had been shot after a challenge from Cassetti who was booked more for the apparent outcome than the challenge itself.  A couple of minutes later Tözsér was about to take a shot as his heel was clipped.  A free-kick was given but, despite this appearing to be denial of a goalscoring opportunity, there was no card.  Merkel took the free-kick, which cannoned back off the crossbar then fell to Deeney who hit it over the bar.  Another lovely move had Cassetti, Tözsér and Anya

Defending a corner

Defending a corner

combining to feed Pudil whose low cross was easily gathered by Johnstone.  Then Coppinger went on a run for Doncaster, but was stopped by a brilliant tackle from Pudil.  Just before the hour was up, Merkel, who’d had a great second half, was replaced by Forestieri.  Tözsér was the next player to find his way into the referee’s book presumably for protesting the award of a free-kick to Doncaster.  Forestieri made an immediate impression, beating a couple of players before finding Battocchio on the edge of the box and then running in to receive the cross but a defender got his head to it first.  For Doncaster, Cotterill tried a shot from the edge of the area that was well over the crossbar.  At this point, attention was distracted from the pitch to action in the stand.  A group of burly men with “Crowd Safety” on their jackets, who made me feel anything but safe, had already

Celebrating the goal

Celebrating the goal

taken one trip up the steps beside me.  On their second trip they returned dragging (and I mean dragging) a young fellow out apparently for banging on the metal wall at the back of the stand.  There had been no trouble in the stand at all but, suddenly, there was aggression and anger all provoked by heavy-handed stewards.  Thankfully, there was soon something to distract us on the pitch.  Our equalizer was a thing of beauty.  Pudil made a brilliant tackle in our area to thwart Billy Sharp, we launched a counter attack that finished with Forestieri aiming a lovely chip into the path of Anya who hit it at an angle past Johnstone.  Ikechi’s celebration was short as he ran back to retrieve the ball and get on with the game.  Straight from kick-off, Doncaster tried to restore their lead as a shot

Forestieri waiting for a free kick

Forestieri waiting for a free kick

from Sharp hit the net, but fortunately for us it was the outside of the net.  Forestieri broke forward again and was cynically fouled by Keegan, who was booked for his trouble.  Forestieri then found Deeney in the area, but McCullough was on hand to put in a tackle.  With 15 minutes to go there was a real let off for the visitors as there was a bit of a scramble in the box but no Doncaster player could apply the finishing touch.  The home side should have regained the lead in the next move as Duffy’s low cross beat Bond and reached Brown who had an empty net to aim at but managed to put the ball wide.  Then Doyley was robbed and Wellens hit a lovely shot that was brilliantly saved by Bond.  Keegan was the next to try for the winner but his shot was cleared off the line by Deeney.  Bond then

Battocchio picking up the ball

Battocchio picking up the ball

pulled off another brilliant save to deny Duffy from a free kick.  Cotterill then shot through a crowded box, but Bond was behind it and gathered safely.  Cotterill threatened again as he went on a run and shot wide of the far post.  With a couple of minutes of normal time remaining, Battocchio was replaced by Faraoni.  Pudil tried to advance down the left, was fouled, got the ball back and was then hacked down by Coppinger who was booked.  Doncaster had thrown everything at the tiring 10 men of Watford since we’d scored the equalizer.  They finally made the breakthrough in time added on when Bond parried a shot from Duffy into the path of Sharp who made no mistake.  Tempers boiled over as Pudil was fouled and there was a bit of handbags for which Wellens was booked.  Faraoni was booked soon after, maybe for the same action but at this point the ref was handing cards out like sweets.  Watford had one last chance to win a point from the free-kick but Angella did not make a good connection with Tözsér’s delivery and the ball flew over the bar.

Angella giving his shirt away

Angella giving his shirt away

The players were clearly devastated at the final whistle.  They had given everything in that second half and earned the appreciation of the travelling fans who were loud and proud in supporting them.  Pudil and Angella came over to give their shirts to kids in the crowd.  Pudil was not so kind to the advertising hoarding.

There was a nasty atmosphere outside the ground, so I removed my scarf immediately.  As we reached the car park where my friends had parked we saw a group of Doncaster yobs running out having attacked some young Watford fans and then smashed the windscreen of their car.  As the Watford lads went back to their damaged car, the local yobs strolled away with the big stewards who had been so active in the away end conspicuous by their absence.  A nasty end to a horrible evening, which left me wishing relegation on Doncaster so I never have to go back.