Tag Archives: Bobson Bawling

A Quiet Start in Woking

Yarn bombing in Woking Park

Explaining my passion for following Watford FC to new acquaintances does tend to make me question myself.  I had that experience this week as I told a new colleague, who lives in Woking, that I would be visiting her town for a match.  She looked puzzled.  “Do Woking have an important team?”  “They are non-league.”  The puzzled look didn’t leave her face and I had to face the fact that I would be spending my Saturday travelling to a non-league ground and that this would not be my first visit.  Last year we had the unique experience of seeing a Watford manager escorted by stewards to the team coach to protect him from the aggressive hoards hanging around (Don, Trond and I).  On Friday, it became apparent that Silva wasn’t going to take even that risk as he excused the first team and we found out that our first pre-season game would actually feature the development squad.  To be honest, I enjoy watching the youngsters and we are given very few chances these days, as most of their games are behind closed doors, so I wasn’t too disappointed.

Despite the train journey requiring two changes, it was a simple trip and the route to the ground is rather pleasant.  As I cut through the park, there was a fair taking place, so it was quite nice to emerge to a more tranquil area where the loudest thing was the wool on the trees and the bridge following some yarn bombing.  As I approached the ground, I spotted a couple of familiar backs.  Don and Trond were sitting on a bench opposite the ground enjoying their lunch in the sunshine.

Brandon Mason on the attack

On passing through the turnstiles, I asked the operator whether they were disappointed at the late decision not to bring a first team squad.  His response was that it would give them a good run out and was probably for the best, as they had recently replaced about half of their team.  Another steward that I asked was less happy at the potential drop in revenue due to the younger opposition and the fact that they had to drop the prices.  They exacted a slight revenge by charging for team sheets.  Only 20p, but it was a new one on me.

As we sat in the club bar, Trond informed me that we had made two new signings Sam Howes and Harvey Bradbury.  Further investigation indicated that these were additions to the development squad.  We soon found that we were to get our first sight of Howes, a goalkeeper, as he was announced in the starting line-up which was Howes; Eleftheriou, Rowan, Mukena, Mason; Ryan, Stewart; Pereira, Folivi, Trialist; Jakubiak.

Jakubiak congratulated on his goal

It was a gorgeous sunny day as we took our seats in the stand behind the Woking goal.  The young Hornets started brightly enough and the Woking goalkeeper, Baxter, had to drop smartly to push a shot from the trialist around the post.  At the other end, Howes pulled a shot from Carter out of the air.  The home side had an even better chance with a shot from Jones, but Howes was again equal to it.  Watford opened the scoring in the 36th minute as Mason crossed for Jakubiak who got the ball stuck under his feet but eventually managed to prod it home.  Watford were not in the lead for long as, a minute later, a ball over the top reached former Watford man, Bawling, who volleyed past Howes.  Watford had a couple of chances to regain the lead before the break.  First the trialist, who had a good game, played a through ball to Jakubiak, but Baxter was quickly out to gather.  Then Pereira unleashed a lovely shot that was saved low at the far post.  The best chance of all fell to Jakubiak who received a square ball from Folivi with the goal at his mercy but powered over.  So the first half finished level.  Watford had most of the possession but, despite some decent link-up play, made very little in the way of chances.

Young Player of last season, Pereira, on the ball

The second half started with a number of substitutions, Gartside, Sesay and Charles on for Howe, Stewart and the trialist.  For Woking one ex-Watford man (Bawling) went off and another came on as Chez Isaac made an appearance.  Jakubiak had a great chance early in the half as he went on a lovely run before having a shot cleared off the line.  The young Hornets put themselves in danger as Charles turned a ball towards his own goal, but Gartside was able to keep it out.  There were a number of further substitutions with Adejedi, Huja, Rogers, Stray and Cruz Cabera all making appearances.  The frequent changes in personnel meant that the play became rather scrappy.  Woking had the best chances to win the game.  First a cross from Philpots was headed goalwards by Saraiva, but rebounded off the bar.  Then there was a mix up in the Watford box, but the defence was able to block the initial shots and Nsimbi’s follow-up was wide of the far post.  So, as it did last year, the game finished as a 1-1 draw.  It had been a pleasant enough afternoon out and the young lads had a decent workout.  One pleasing aspect was that the older opposition did not try to bully the youngsters as can so often be the case in these matches.

So we now look forward to the first glimpse of Silva’s team during the beer festival at Wimbledon next week.  What fun!

Bowing out of the Youth Cup

The teams emerge

The teams emerge

Another day, another match.  After our trip to Yeovil, we were back at the Vic to see the U18s take on Liverpool in the 5th round of the FA Youth Cup.  I was pleased to see that the club had again produced a programme which included player profiles and photos from the previous round.  The players also emerged from the tunnel to Z-cars, so they were exposed to the ‘big match’ experience, which I think is important.

The starting line-up for Watford was Dan Wilks, Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, Josh Doherty, George Byers, Jorell Johnson (c), Alfie Young, Kurtis Cumberbatch, Ryan Hope, Alex Jakubiak, Tom Rosenthal and Mahlondo Martin.  The Liverpool team was Ryan Fulton, Connor Randall (c), Joe Maguire, Jordan Williams, Lloyd Jones, Jordan Rossiter, Harry Wilson, Cameron Brannagan, Ryan Kent, David Trickett-Smith and Sheyi Ojo.  Prior to the game, the steward in the disabled area told us that the Liverpool team had cost £35M with one player costing £6M on his own.  I hear something similar every time we face Premier League opposition at this level and it serves to emphasize the gulf that exists between clubs even in the Academies.

Jorell Johnson clears

Jorell Johnson clears

Liverpool started the game brightly and created an early chance as Brannagan broke on the right wing and crossed for Trickett-Smith whose header was straight at Wilks.  Watford also provided an early test for the opposition keeper as, from a corner, there was a header down to Rosenthal whose shot was blocked but Jakubiak latched on to the ball skipped around the defender and unleashed a shot that Fulton had to drop smartly to push around the post.  A ball over the top for Liverpool found Kent offside in the area.  Then Rossiter shot wide from the edge of the box.  As I was sitting in the disabled area in the Lower Rous and only the Upper Rous was open, I had no idea how many fans were in attendance, but it was great to hear the 1881, complete with drum, singing their

Liverpool line up a free kick

Liverpool line up a free kick

hearts out just above me.  Liverpool won a free kick on the edge of the Watford box as Kent was tripped.  There was a lot of jostling in the wall as Trickett-Smith seemed to be doing jumping jacks in front of the Watford defenders.  In the event, the free kick was hit low and Wilks got down to save it.  In the next Liverpool attack, Johnson was on hand to head a cross from Maguire clear.  Wilson then tried a shot from the right, but Wilks was equal to it.  Watford had struggled to get out of their own half, so it was great to see Rosenthal go on a run down the left skipping around a couple of tackles but his cross was wasted as there was no Watford player in the Liverpool box.  One of the joys of being at games like this is that you can hear some of the exchanges on the pitch.  At this point we were treated to the ref telling one of the young reds, “I suggest you stand up and shut up.”  If only this were still possible with their senior colleagues, the behaviour on the pitch would be so much better.  Liverpool were soon on the attack again through Ojo who cut the ball back but it bounced off Brannagan and out of play.  For the home side a lovely cross found Cumberbatch marginally off-side.  Just before the half hour, Liverpool had the best chance of the game so far as Maguire broke into the box and cut the ball back to Brannagan whose

Alfie Young and George Byers

Alfie Young and George Byers

shot required a good save from Wilks to keep the game scoreless.  A lovely Watford move saw Byers and Rosenthal combine to play Jakubiak in, but the pass was just too far in front of the forward and Fulton got to it first.  Then Kent beat Barnum-Bobb to get in a shot that was headed clear by Johnson.  Trickett-Smith met the corner with a header that hit the side-netting to the relief of the Watford faithful.  At the other end, Rosenthal played a great ball to release Jakubiak but again Fulton came out and gathered it just on the edge of his area.  Liverpool continued to attack the Watford goal.  First Kent had a shot that curled wide.  Then Wilks spilled a cross from Ojo but Doherty was on hand to clear.  Maguire broke again and played in Kent who turned and fed Trickett-Smith whose shot dropped straight into the Wilks’ arms.  Liverpool finally made the breakthrough on 40 minutes as Randall reached the bye-line and cut the ball back to Trickett-Smith who swept it past Wilks.  The Watford defence had done well in frustrating the visitors, but the goal had been coming.  Doherty was the first player to be cautioned.  It seemed a bit harsh from my vantage point as it looked as though Randall had run into him.  The last action of the half was another low free-kick by Liverpool, but Wilks gathered it easily.

Defending a corner

Defending a corner

Before the start of the second half, Jakubiak was out early for an extra warm-up.  Liverpool’s first attack of the second period saw Maguire cutting the ball back in the box, but Doherty was on hand to kick it into row Z.  Six minutes into the half, Watford made their first substitution with Kurtis Cumberbatch making way for Dennon Lewis.  The substitute was immediately involved, playing a through ball to Jakubiak who was sadly offside.  For the visitors, Wilson tried a shot from distance that Wilks gathered at the second attempt.  Then Byers released Jakubiak who beat a defender to get in a shot that was deflected for a corner.  Watford’s second substitution was Carl Stewart for Ryan Hope.  On

The defence standing strong

The defence standing strong

the hour, Wilks did well to deny Trickett-Smith, sticking a leg out to block his shot, the forward hit a follow-up that was cleared.  Trickett-Smith then turned provider, finding Wilson on the edge of the box who juggled the ball before shooting well over.  A ball from Young released Jakubiak who cut the ball back to Rosenthal but his shot was wide of the near post.  On 72 minutes, Bobson Bawling replaced Tom Rosenthal.  Liverpool’s first substitution saw Ryan Kent replaced by Jerome Sinclair.  With 10 minutes to go, Liverpool scored a second as Trickett-Smith found Randall on the right, he cut the ball back to Wilson who shot past Wilks in the Watford goal.  The game became a bit scrappy as the players tired.  Young stopped Ojo escaping by pulling him over and was lucky to escape a caution.  Barnum-Bobb did earn a booking for taking Maguire down.  Liverpool’s final substitution was Trickett-Smith for Pedro Chirivella.   In the last five minutes of normal time, Rossiter made a late, high tackle on George Byers which earned him a deserved booking. 

Preparing to defend a free-kick

Preparing to defend a free-kick

After treatment, Byers tried to limp off while supported on both sides but couldn’t put any weight on his right foot so another coach came on to help carry him off.  It looked a nasty injury so I was happy to hear today that he was just badly bruised.  Having already used all of our substitutes, we finished the game with 10 men.  In the last minute of normal time Brannagan outpaced the Watford defence, although he looked offside to me, and, with Johnson closing in, he shot over the bar.  The lino indicated a corner, but I didn’t think the defender got a touch.  There were 4 minutes of time added on.  Wilson released Sinclair who was denied by Wilks diving at his feet, but the ball broke and Sinclair poked it goalwards but, thankfully, it rolled wide.  Wilks was the hero again as he stuck out a leg to block another shot from Sinclair.  The final action of the game saw Rossiter poke the ball wide from distance.

Dan Wilks

Dan Wilks

Sadly, this ended the U18s involvement in the youth cup.  Liverpool had dominated the game and were worthy winners, but the Watford lads had played well and worked their socks off and should be very proud of their efforts.  Watford captain, Jorell Johnson, looked gutted at the end, but the lads received enthusiastic applause and encouragement from the 1923 in attendance who will have gone home impressed with the next generation of Watford players.

Watching the U21s in Llanelli

Welcome to Llanelli

Welcome to Llanelli

A couple of weeks ago, when I booked my train tickets for the trip to Llanelli, travelling to support our U21s in the cup had seemed like a fun idea.  Yesterday, as I explained to colleagues why I was taking today off, I questioned my sanity.  My arrival in Llanelli didn’t do anything to lift my mood.  Having passed the grandeur of the Liberty Stadium on the train, the area outside Llanelli station looked positively second rate and the walk up and down hills through housing estates made me wonder where I was going to end up.  However, when I finally reached Stebonheath Park, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s a lovely little ground.  I was also happy to see the Watford team coach as confirmation that I was in the right place. As I entered the ground, I saw three other fans

The stand at Stebonheath Park

The stand at Stebonheath Park

walking around the perimeter.  When I caught up with them, I was delighted to see that that one was Robin, a friend from WML, who introduced me to Steve, another WML stalwart, and his friend, Jane, who is a Swansea fan.  As Bernard Mensah is a friend of Robin’s family, I asked if the youngster would be missing out due to his appearance on Saturday and was pleased to be told that he would be playing.  Another pleasant discovery was that the seats in the stand were yellow and red, surely a good omen.

When the team was announced, it was a young group without the permitted overage player.  I believe the oldest in the squad was 19.  The line-up, 1 to 11, was Wilks, Barnum-Bobb, Doherty, Byers, O’Nien (c), Kyprianou, Cumberbatch, Hope, Ikpeazu, Mensah and Martin.  Tom Rosenthal was on the bench, so we were joined in the crowd by Rocket Ronnie.

Pre-match greetings

Pre-match greetings

We had an early scare as Cumberbatch gave the ball away, Bray interchanged passes with Lucas but fortunately his shot went into the side netting.  Soon after, Swansea threatened again as Meade went on a run down the wing where he was stopped by a foul from Doherty.  He took a low free kick, which was diverted over the bar by Ikpeazu.  Then Swansea launched another good break, Sheehan put in a decent cross, but Jones headed it back across goal when it looked easier to score.  On 15 minutes, Watford’s youngsters had their first attack of note as Ikpeazu robbed Shephard, but his cross was cut out.  Swansea were immediately on the offensive as a cross from Donnelly was knocked wide by Bray.  Then Sheehan played a through ball to Bray who found Donnelly in front of goal.

Defending a set piece

Defending a set piece

He looked certain to score, but just tapped the ball towards goal and Wilks gathered safely.  Donnelly turned provider as he fed Jones, but his shot was gathered easily by Wilks.  On 24 minutes, Martin went on a run down the wing and found himself boxed in close to the bye-line with two defenders on him.  Somehow he managed to flick the ball into the box, it reached Ikpeazu, who had his back to goal and was unable to get into a shooting position.  Then Martin lost out to Bray in midfield, he advanced and whipped in a dangerous looking cross which was cut out by O’Nien.  Just before the half hour, a through ball was played to Donnelly running into the box, but Wilks dived at his feet to

Waiting for a goal kick

Waiting for a goal kick

gather the ball before he could shoot.  Soon after, a chance fell to Loveridge who shot just over the bar.  With 8 minutes to half time, Byers gave the ball away to Donnelly, Kyprianou pushed him over to stop the attack and was booked for his trouble.  Jones put the resulting free kick wide of the target.  We had our best chance of the half as the clock reached 45 minutes.  Ikpeazu was through on goal, but was being pulled back, which put him off and his shot went harmlessly into the side netting. So, we reached half-time goalless.  Swansea had had most of the play and the majority of the chances, but our defence had done well, particularly Wilks.  During the interval, we met Alan Cozzi in the tea bar, who confidently predicted a draw with us nicking it on penalties.

Hope on the attack

Hope on the attack

At the start of the second half, Swansea were immediately on the attack and a dangerous cross was headed off the line.  On 50 minutes, O’Nien just failed to cut out a ball to Donnelly whose shot was brilliantly kept out by Wilks.  Then Sheehan broke into the box, but Barnum-Bobb did a great job in dispossessing him and averting the danger.  Next Mensah was on the attack with a run down the left wing, but his shot was across the area and did not test Davies in the Swansea goal.  Watford were having a decent spell of possession and the next attack was a lovely passing move that culminated in a shot from Ikpeazu straight at the keeper.  Loveridge for Swansea then had a shot from distance that went over the bar.  The next incident that went in my notebook was a Swansea player being penalized for a foul on Ikpeazu.  This may not seem worthy of note but, for those that

O'Nien sharing a joke with Mensah

O’Nien sharing a joke with Mensah

haven’t seen Ikpeazu play, he’s a big gangly lad and referees seem to pull him up unfairly, particularly in 50-50 situations.  I think this was the first time I’d seen him win a free-kick.  Just before the hour, a Swansea corner was headed up by Doherty and Wilks had to punch it over.  Soon after, we won a free kick wide on the right, Doherty shot for goal and Davies had to stretch to keep it out.  On 65 minutes, Swansea should have been ahead.  First a shot was cleared off the line by Ikpeazu.  In the follow-up, Donnelly was fouled and the ref pointed to the spot.  Loveridge stepped up to take the penalty.  He hit it to Wilks’s right, but the young keeper dived and kept it out.  The resultant corner was poor and Watford launched a promising counter attack, but a pass through to Martin was short and the chance was gone.  On 69 minutes, Swansea had another corner that was met with a point blank header from Donnelly, but Wilks stood tall and blocked the chance.  Soon after, Ikpeazu was replaced by Rosenthal.  Young Tom’s first contribution of note was to break forward and be taken down by Lucas, who was booked.  On 78 minutes, a quick Swansea attack finished with Donnelly hitting an audacious chip goalwards catching Wilks off his

Rosenthal and Mensah

Rosenthal and Mensah

line.  Fortunately for us, the ball bounced wide.  Then Donnelly broke again but Wilks pulled off a great save to deny him.  On 81 minutes, Bray was replaced by Gorre.  Swansea’s last chance of normal time fell to Loveridge whose cross was easily gathered by Wilks.  Watford pressed for a winner in the last couple of minutes.  First a shot from distance by Hope was kept out by Davies.  Then, the final action of the game when Mensah went on a dangerous run, but his cross was cut out.

Huddle before extra time

Huddle before extra time

Extra time in the Bristol Rovers game had been a worry as the lads all looked out on their feet.  Today, they looked a lot fresher and eager for the extra period, while I congratulated myself on remembering to book a late train home.  In the second minute of extra time, Gorre tried a shot from distance that went well wide.  Then Mensah went on a run and dinked past two players before Shephard took him down and earned a yellow card.  On 102 minutes, Watford hearts were in their mouths as a dangerous ball into our box was almost turned into his own net by O’Nien.  Soon after, the dangerous Donnelly sent a glancing header wide.  Mensah had taken a knock in the first half of extra time and looked likely to be replaced at the break.  He started the second period, but was soon replaced by Bawling, who was named on the teamsheet as Alfred.  Surely Bobson Bawling isn’t actually an Alfred!  O’Nien was then booked for kicking Jones as he ran past.  The only attempt on goal in the second period of extra time was a cross from Sheehan that Donnelly nodded wide.  There was a final substitution as Joseph Jones replaced Meade, but the tie was to finish goalless and go to penalties.

Watford took the first penalty as our captain, Luke O’Nien, stepped up but skyed his kick (0-0).  It was heartbreaking for the lad, who had performed brilliantly during the game.

Blurred celebrations

Blurred celebrations

Gorre took Swansea’s first spot kick, putting it to Wilks’s right as the young keeper went the wrong way (1-0).  Doherty was up next and his shot went in off the crossbar with one of the Swansea crew by pitchside jokingly asking for goalline technology to prove that it had crossed the line (1-1).  Alfei stepped up next and put his penalty to the keeper’s left, just past Wilks’s stretching arm (2-1).  Hope hit a very cool penalty straight down the middle (2-2).  Donnelly hit his penalty to the right of the keeper with Wilks going the wrong way (3-2).  Martin hit a lovely penalty high to Davies’s left (3-3).  Then, with Robin shouting at Dan to go to his right, Loveridge hit a penalty to the keeper’s left and Wilks dropped to save it (3-3).  Byers hit a lovely penalty to the keeper’s left with Davies going the wrong way and we were ahead with only one spot kick remaining (3-4).  Lucas stepped up to take the penalty and the Watford contingent was delighted to see it end up behind the goal.  On the balance of play, that was cruel for the Swansea boys, but the defensive heroics, particularly by the wonderful Dan Wilks, meant the Watford youngsters were through to the final 16.

At the end of the game, we applauded the lads off, although they were soon back out for a warm down.  Bernard Mensah came over to talk to Robin, so I was introduced and the lad gave me a hug and thanked me for coming to support them.  As we walked around the pitch to leave the ground, we were chatting about what an enjoyable game it had been when we saw the Watford players all running in our direction.  I was confused as the tunnel was the other way, then I realized that they were coming over to us and each of them, along with David Hughes and the other coaches, shook our hands and thanked us for being there.  Luke O’Nien apologized for missing the penalty, but said he would step up and take another if necessary, a good leader as well as a great little player.  The lads were all beaming and so was I.

Early this morning, I wondered why I was taking a day off work to travel to Wales for this game.  After an enjoyable afternoon, with good company, watching a competitive game in a lovely little ground and seeing the reaction of the boys at the end, I have to say it was a day well spent.