Tag Archives: Brentford FC

A Pre-season Double-header

A lovely present from the club

Although I tend to make the most of my Summer break from football, it is always good when pre-season comes around.  Unusually, the first games for the first team were on the pre-season tour, which I didn’t make this year due to work commitments that also prevented me from making the trips to Welling and Hemel to see the U23s.  So my first chance to see the lads was to be the trip to Stevenage.

Oddly, Watford had arranged two games in two days that both appeared on the first team page, so a lot of fans stayed away on Friday night thinking that it would be a run out for the U23s.  My attendance was also looking a little in doubt as technical difficulties meant that the 4pm meeting at work started 15 minutes late.  That and disruption on the East Coast line had me a little nervous about making it, but I arrived at King’s Cross in time for the planned train which was running on time, so I was in the pub not long after 6 enjoying my first pre-match pint of the season.

After the heatwave, most of which I have spent stuck indoors (partly through choice), there was an irony in the fact that my return to football watching coincided with a thunderstorm.  It started rather gently, so we decided to stay outside in the beer garden but were persuaded to take shelter when the forked lightning appeared.  The walk to the ground was in a downpour, but after the oppressive heat that we have had, the soaking was rather lovely.

Masina and Sema join the fray

Team news was that Gracia had picked a very strong first XI which would give us a chance to see some new faces as the starting line-up was Gomes; Navarro, Prödl, Mariappa, Masina; Hughes, Rodwell, Wilmot, Sema; Jakubiak, Deeney.  Pete and I had turned up wearing the lovely new green away kit.  Mine had arrived by special delivery the week before in a presentation box with a letter from Troy thanking me for attending all 19 away games last season.  A really lovely gesture from the club that made me feel appreciated after turning up on a Wednesday night in Stoke.  We had assumed that it would get a run out, especially when we saw the officials warming up in yellow kits, but the lads emerged from the tunnel wearing the home stripes to confound us.

 

 

Ben Wilmot

Watford started the game very brightly with Wilmot almost opening the scoring against his old club after some good work from Sema on the wing, but his shot was just wide of the target.  The Stevenage goalkeeper, Farman, then pulled off an excellent flying save to keep out a shot from Hughes.  From the resulting corner, Farman again did very well to save a header from Prödl.  Watford continued to dominate without creating much in front of goal until near the half hour mark when Jakubiak found the side netting.  Hughes was the next to threaten the Stevenage goal, but Farman pulled off another decent save and was then out to frustrate Jakubiak as he bore down on goal.  The home side didn’t test Gomes until just before half time when Nugent rose to meet a free kick with a powerful header that the Brazilian stopper did well to keep out.

So we reached half time goalless, but it had been a decent showing from the Hornets who had been unlucky to find the Stevenage keeper in top form.  At the other end of the pitch, it was pleasing to see that Gomes was being shown a lot of love by the Watford fans who had made the journey.

Congratulating Gray after scoring the winner

At half time, Gracia must have been alone in the dressing room as all the substitutes appeared to be warming up and the first half team warming down, but there were actually no changes for the Hornets at the break.

Stevenage were much the brighter team at the start of the second half and had a great chance to take the lead with a header from Revell, but Gomes did brilliantly to keep it out.  On the hour mark, Gracia made nine changes bringing Janmaat, Britos, Cathcart, Holebas, Charles, Capoue, Pereyra, Success and Gray on to join Hughes and Gomes, who would play the entire 90 minutes.  The Hornets got back on top after the substitutions and should have opened the scoring when Pereyra unleashing a lovely curling shot, but Farman was again equal to it.  Just as it seemed that the night would end goalless, Farman made his first mistake of the evening allowing Pereyra to cross for Gray to head home from close range and the Hornets left Stevenage with a slightly fortunate win.

Challenging on the goal line

It was a game of two halves.  The first half had been all Watford with some lively play that should have given us a comfortable lead, if it wasn’t for the performance of the keeper.  The second half was less convincing, but improved after the substitutions.  I liked the look of the new players although I have yet to put a name to most of them.  One bizarre aspect of the evening was the involvement of Kabasele, who took no part in the game but was doing timed sprints on the sidelines.  I swear he ran as far as some of those who actually played.

After a restful night’s sleep, I had a Saturday lunchtime trip to West London to see the Hornets play at Brentford.  In contrast to the previous evening, we found ourselves sitting in a pub garden in blazing sunshine.  Our choice of pre-match establishment wasn’t one of the four on the corners of the ground, but it was rather lovely, if very partisan, with the staff wearing Brentford shirts and flags up all around.  I wondered whether it was a good omen when one of the flags fell off the door.  Oh the straws we clutch on to as fans.

Janmaat and Charles waiting for a throw-in

Pete and I thought we had left in plenty of time to get to the ground for kick-off and there wasn’t much of a queue outside, but it took an age to get through the turnstiles as, instead of just taking your tenner, they then grabbed a ticket which was scanned and the counterfoil torn off before you were permitted into the ground.  With the choice of sitting or standing, we opted for the terraces and took our place at a crush barrier behind the goal.

As was expected most of the starting XI were those that had played the last half hour at Stevenage.  So the line-up was Foster (GK); Janmaat, Kabasele, Britos, Holebas; Pereyra, Charles, Capoue (C), Sema; Success, Gray.  Foster was given a tremendous welcome by the Watford fans with chants of “Foster’s coming home.”  My main concern with the line-up was that Kabasele would be worn out after the workout that he was given on the sideline the night before.

Pete and I had persisted with wearing our green shirts so were happy to see the team were also resplendent in the emerald.  Unfortunately, it had taken so long to get through the turnstiles that we missed kick-off, but arrived on the terrace behind the goal in time to see Foster parry a free-kick from Marcondes, it dropped to Watkins who finished to give the Bees an early lead.  Watford had a chance to break back almost immediately, but Success undid the good work of his run by shooting straight at Bentley in the Brentford goal.

Pereyra takes a free kick

There was a better chance for Pereyra whose cheeky flick bounced off the top of the crossbar.  Gray then had a decent shot that just cleared the bar.  The opening goal came on 25 minutes as Pereyra tried a shot, the keeper was equal to it but Dalsgaard mishit his clearance which found the net to draw the visitors level.  Ten minutes later, the Hornets took the lead as Gray finished from the edge of the area.  I am ashamed to say that I missed the goal as the substitutes were walking in front of the away terrace and I was distracted by how blond Prödl seems to have gone this Summer!  I sensed I wasn’t the only one to miss the goal as there soon followed a chant from the kids to the right of me of “Let’s pretend that we have scored.”  The Hornets had a chance to increase their lead before half time, but this time Gray’s shot was just over the bar.

At half-time Masina replaced Holebas then, on the hour, Gracia made wholesale changes bringing Navarro, Prödl, Rodwell, Wilmot, Mariappa, Deeney and Jakubiak on to replace Janmaat, Kabasele, Britos, Charles, Capoue, Sema and Gray.  Soon after the substitutions, Success had a great chance to increase the lead for the Hornets but, as too often, a tremendous run finished with a terrible shot.  Watkins had a couple of chances to restore parity for the home side, first with a shot across goal and then with a long range shot that was caught by Foster.  The Hornets had the ball in the net on two more occasions, once from a Pereyra header, and then a shot from Deeney who got ahead of the defence before poking home, but both were adjudged to be offside, so the game finished with a narrow win for the visitors.

It had been a typical pre-season game.  A run out that gave few clues to what we can expect for the rest of the season, but it was an enjoyable enough afternoon.  Bizarrely, the atmosphere in the away end was livelier than I am used to at pre-season games, although the chanting was dominated by anti-Luton songs, being delivered by kids who, if I am any judge of ages, are too young ever to have seen Watford play them up the road.

Post-match it was back to one of the pubs on the corner to confirm that none of us was any the wiser, but the beer was good.  Some wonder why we bother with pre-season games.  Personally, I enjoy getting back in the swing of things with the chance to see the new players or the new hair cuts on the old players and to have an afternoon out with friends knowing that the result won’t make much difference to the enjoyment of the day.

 

Proper Football

Gathering for the pre-match huddle

Gathering for the pre-match huddle

I woke up on Tuesday morning with a rotten cold which meant that I spent most of the day sneezing and with my nose streaming.  I felt awful, so my plan to spend the evening on a cold terrace seemed foolish in the extreme.  The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should give this one a miss.  That thought was quickly dismissed.  Instead I dosed myself up with Sudafed and best bitter and took my rightful place on the Griffin Park terrace for the top of the table clash.

Jokanovic had made two changes from Saturday with Tözsér and Forestieri coming in for Munari and Hoban.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Anya, Angella, Cathcart, Paredes, Tözsér, Watson, Ighalo, Layun, Forestieri and Deeney in what I am reliably informed was a 4-2-3-1 formation.  I must admit that the inclusion of both Anya and Paredes in the defence gave me some cause for concern.  The Brentford line-up included former Watford youngster, Diagouraga, with Jack Bonham and the lovely Tommy Smith taking their place on the home bench.

Gathering for a corner

Gathering to defend a corner

As Jokanovic walked across the pitch before the game he was greeted with a chant that I have not heard before.  He was suitably appreciative, turning to applaud the fans, which was another new experience for me.

The home side had an early chance with a first minute corner that was headed over by Douglas.  Next to threaten the Watford goal was Gray, who ran on to a through ball, but was met by Gomes who came out bravely to challenge and succeeded in winning a goal kick.  At the other end, a ball over the top to Deeney led to Watford’s first attempt on goal, but Button saved the shot at the second attempt.  Gray, who was receiving dog’s abuse from the away fans for his Luton connections, broke into the Watford box where he was stopped by Angella who coolly took the ball off his feet.  Watford’s first decent chance came when a lovely passing move led to a shot from Deeney, but Button was equal to it.  At the other end, Anya rose to head a Brentford free kick clear.  The Scot was soon in attacking mode as he made a great break and crossed for Watson whose shot seemed to take a deflection before the keeper pushed it around the post.

Attack versus defence

Attack versus defence

Ighalo’s first attempt on goal was a shot from outside the box that flew wide of the near post.  Deeney should have done better when he received a pass from Forestieri in the box, but he hesitated before shooting and ended up running into a defender and wasting the chance.  Paredes did really well to battle down the wing and cross for Forestieri to head goalwards but a Brentford defender was there to block.  A cheeky backheel from Deeney set Forestieri up for another attempt which was also blocked.  With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Forestieri won a free kick.  He took it quickly, exchanged passes with Deeney and hit a shot that swerved just wide.  Bidwell was mounting a rare Brentford attack when he lost the ball to Layun, his attempt to get the ball back was a studs up lunge which left the referee no option but to show him a red card.  Ironically, the reduction in personnel inspired Brentford into their best spell since the opening of the game.  But their only meaningful goal attempt in this period came from a free-kick that was confidently gathered by Gomes with Dean challenging.

At half-time, I was treated to the sad story of the death of Tommy the cat.  His owner reminisced about our last league game at Griffin Park when a Tommy (Mooney) had scored and said that, in the cat’s honour, we needed the winning goal to come from Tommie Hoban who not only shared the late feline’s name but also the attributes of being ginger and Irish.  Okay!!

Deeney steps up to take the penalty

Deeney steps up to take the penalty

Brentford started the second half as they finished the first.  Forestieri lost out to Diagouraga in their box, the Frenchman released Gray whose shot was, thankfully, awful.  At the other end, Layun tried a shot that flew wide of the target.  From the goal kick, Brentford launched a fast break, Gray beat Angella and shot across Gomes into the roof of the net.  By way of celebration, the Brentford players all ran and surrounded Warburton.  The goal galvanized the visitors who had a chance to break back almost immediately as Douglas used his upper arm to control Watson’s cross into the box and the referee pointed to the spot.  Deeney stepped up but his penalty was too casual, Button went the right way and made an easy save.  Just before the hour, Jokanovic made his first substitution bringing Abdi on for Watson.  Ighalo found Forestieri in a great position for a shot, but the Argentine was being challenged so couldn’t get any power on it.  Anya beat a defender before hitting a cross that was saved by Button.  Anya tried another shot that was saved, the ball dropped to Ighalo whose follow-up flew wide.  Paredes exchanged passes with Layun before putting in a dangerous cross but there was no Watford player in the box to meet it.  Ighalo did really well to keep the ball on the by-line and cross for Abdi but he couldn’t control the ball which bounced off him to Button.

Proper old-school bundle

Proper old-school terrace celebration

On 68 minutes, the pressure from the visitors finally led to an equalizer.  Paredes was being given far too much space on the right which he exploited to cross for Ighalo to head home, prompting a joyous bundle on the away terrace.  Watford immediately pushed for a winner as, from a corner, Angella was knocked over, the ball fell to Deeney but Button was on hand to put the ball out for another corner.  The Brentford keeper was in action again as Ighalo exchanged passes with Forestieri before unleashing a shot that required a flying save to keep it out.  Forestieri was the next to try his luck, he did really well to wriggle clear of the defender but his shot was disappointing, flying well over the bar.  Brentford had their first goal attempt for some time as a quick break finished with a shot from Toral that Gomes blocked and then gathered at the second attempt.  Back up the other end, Forestieri played the ball back to Abdi whose shot was deflected into the side netting leading some on the other side of the goal to think we’d netted a winner.  With 12 minutes remaining, Tommy Smith replaced Pritchard to polite applause from the Watford faithful and shaking of heads around me due to concern that this would be the man to honour the dead moggy.  Tommy was immediately involved as Paredes did really well to keep an overhit pass from going out for a throw but found his reward was to be knocked over by Smith.  The former Hornet was rather harshly booked for the foul, much to the amusement of those in the away end who regaled him with a chorus of “Watford ‘til he dies.”   Tözsér played a short free-kick to Forestieri whose shot cannoned off the post.

Jokanovic takes another win in his stride

Jokanovic takes another win in his stride

With eight minutes remaining Deeney was replaced by Vydra.  The Czech had an early chance as he ran on to a pass into the box from Layun, but Button was first to the ball.  We were into time added on when a Vydra cross was blocked, it appeared to have gone out for a corner but a Brentford defender kept it in only to pass to Layun who returned the ball to Vydra, whose cross was volleyed home by Ighalo.  I have to say that being short and in the middle of the crowd behind the goal, I didn’t see Ighalo’s contribution, but it didn’t stop me joining in the sort of goal celebration that can only happen on a packed terrace.  We tried to run the clock down by replacing Anya with Hoban for the last minute of time added on.  Brentford appeared to have a final chance to get back on level terms, when the ball went out for a corner but the flag was up, much to our delight, and Watford came away with all three points.  At the end of the game, Deeney threw the boots that had missed the penalty into the crowd.

Football doesn’t get better than this.  A cracking game of football at a proper old-fashioned ground with the crowd almost on the pitch and goals celebrated with terrace bundles.  While the Brentford sending off will have influenced the outcome, Watford were great value for their win, dominating the game with some lovely play at times.  Please, Slavisa, now that we’ve got a song for you, can we have this Watford in our remaining games?  I’d be ever so grateful!

Another Week, Another Manager

New gaffer McKinlay in the dugout

New gaffer McKinlay in the dugout

Another week, another manager.  I’d hardly had time to learn which way the accent went on Garcia’s first name when he was gone to be replaced by Billy McKinlay.  The circumstances of his departure were rather sad so I can only wish him a happy and healthy future.  I must admit that a Scottish Head Coach was not what I expected from the Pozzos.  This feels like another era.  Billy’s first line-up was eagerly anticipated and, having styled him as a no-nonsense Scot, Fabbrini’s was not a name I expected to appear.  But he was in for Murray with Dyer and Ekstrand replacing Anya and the injured Angella.  So the starting line-up was Gomes, Pudil, Cathcart, Ekstrand, Paredes, Munari, Tözsér, Dyer, Vydra, Fabbrini and Ighalo in a 4-2-3-1 formation.  Okayyyy!  Toumani Diagouraga (affectionately known as Dave) started for the visitors and Mark Warburton, ex-Academy coach, was in the opposition dugout.

Positioning themselves for a corner

Positioning themselves for a corner

It was a lively start for the home side with Fabbrini skipping over a couple of tackles and playing a one-two with Vydra before being closed down.  The Italian had also earned warm applause from the crowd for tracking back early doors.  Vydra did well to retain the ball following a challenge and get a cross in but Douglas got between Munari and the ball so Button was able to gather safely.  Vydra exchanged passes with Dyer before evading a tackle and hitting a shot that was deflected into the side netting.  From the corner, Munari headed the ball on to Ighalo whose shot was also deflected wide.  Another corner was cleared to Paredes who played it back in to Tözsér whose cross-shot was saved.  Then Dyer found Ighalo who saw yet another shot deflected wide.  After a quick counterattack, former Watford youngster, Diagouraga, had Brentford’s first goal attempt of the game but his shot was wide of the target.  Watford should have made the breakthrough as Dyer played a short corner to Tözsér who returned the pass for Dyer to cross towards Ighalo whose header rebounded off the crossbar.

Ighalo steps up to take the penalty

Ighalo steps up to take the penalty

Paredes controlled the ball on the right then nutmegged a defender, a move that deserved a better outcome than his cross flying into an empty box.  Pudil was booked for running into McCormack.  It looked a harsh yellow, especially as the Brentford players were going down very easily as a tactic to disrupt our play.  Off the field, Harry Hornet was hoovering just in front of the Lower GT stand.  I kid you not.  Our habit of falling asleep at set pieces continued as Judge lofted a free-kick to the far post where Douglas connected but Gomes saved comfortably.  Vydra and Paredes exchanged passes, the Ecuadorian hit a cross, but Button claimed the ball.  Jota broke and unleashed a shot which Gomes had to stretch to tip over.  Then Judge tried his luck with a shot from distance that flew well wide of the far post.

Vydra congratulating Ighalo

Vydra congratulating Ighalo

Vydra played a great ball to Ighalo in the box, but it was on his wrong foot so he took a couple of touches and was then knocked over by Tarkowski.  It looked a bit soft and the referee paused but eventually pointed to the spot.  To the surprise of everyone in the Rookery, Ighalo stepped up to take the penalty himself, hitting it straight down the middle where it was saved by Button but Ighalo was alert and knocked the follow-up over the keeper much to the relief of the Watford faithful.  As the players returned to the centre circle for the restart, Tarkowski and others expressed their displeasure at what they must have perceived to be a dive, which was a bit rich given their collective inability to stay on their feet when any Watford player was in the vicinity.  The referee came to calm the situation and showed both Ighalo and Tarkowski the yellow card.  In time added on at the end of the first half, Gray slashed a shot well wide of the target.  His blushes were spared by the offside flag.  So we reached half time happy to be a goal to the good, if a bit disappointed that the complete dominance of the first twenty minutes had not yielded more.

Paredes attacking the ball

Paredes attacking the ball

Brentford had the first chance of the second half as a cross from Bidwell flashed across the Watford goal but Gray couldn’t connect and it was he, rather than the ball, that ended up in the net.  Vydra found Fabbrini who hesitated before playing the ball so lost out to Judge who he then fouled and so found himself in the referee’s book.  Jota got himself into a great position, but hit his shot into the ground and it bounced wide of the far post.  Then Gray beat the defence, but his shot was straight at Gomes.  The visitors were level on 57 minutes as Judge played the ball out to Douglas who slotted it past Gomes.  It was too easy and very disappointing, but no more than Brentford deserved for their dominance in this period.  McKinlay made a change immediately, replacing Fabbrini with Anya.  Gray broke forward again, but his cross went begging.  Then Judge tried another shot which flashed wide.  The first 20 minutes of the second half had been all Brentford so it was encouraging to see Vydra break forward, he found Anya who advanced, but Bidwell intervened and the ball went out for a corner.

Vydra receives congratulations for a stunning strike

Vydra receives congratulations for a stunning strike

On 70 minutes, Watford took the lead again with another beauty from Vydra.  The ball was bouncing in and around the Brentford box when it came out to the Czech who hit a pile-driver past Button into the net.  It was one of those rare occasions when I am glad that the goal was at the opposite end of the pitch as I fear I would have ducked if I’d seen that ball flying at me with power that looked fit to burst the net.  The home side brightened up at this point and could have increased the lead further as a poor clearance reached Anya who crossed for Ighalo, his shot was blocked and rolled to Vydra whose first touch was poor so he just helped the ball on to Button.  Brentford tried to strike back as Odubajo broke into the box but he shot over the bar.  With a quarter of an hour remaining, Abdi replaced Ighalo.  Gomes threw the ball out to Dyer who ran the length of the pitch, but his cross was behind Anya.  Brentford made another substitution as Diagouraga made way for Proschwitz.  Abdi played a through ball aimed for Vydra but it was a little too heavy and rolled through to Button.  Anya played a one-two with Vydra before his shot was deflected wide.  After more great work from Vydra, Dyer found Anya but his cross was straight at the keeper.

Tozser organizing

Tozser organizing

The fourth official indicated four minutes of added time with the Rookery roaring their team on.  Early in the added period, Paredes was booked for time wasting as he strolled over to take a throw-in.  Then Gray beat Pudil on the wing and was dragged down by the Czech who accepted his second yellow and was applauded off by the Rookery for taking one for the team.  Vydra then made way for Hoban, to shore up the defence, while Pritchard waited to take the set piece.  The free kick was met with a header from Bidwell that was just pushed over by Gomes.  The Brentford keeper, Button, had come up for the free-kick so could then be seen dribbling the ball around our box before he had to belt back upfield as Anya was breaking  and crossed for Dyer whose shot from distance was blocked.  Brentford cleared but Anya picked the ball up and advanced again, this time crossing for Munari who couldn’t control his header which went across the goal.  The final whistle went to cheers from the home fans who had been thoroughly entertained.  I’m not sure that we learned too much from that game, given the injuries, but the highlight for me was seeing Vydra back doing what he does well, scoring cracking goals, but also getting involved making chances for others.  That bodes very well for the rest of the season.