Tag Archives: Bristol City FC

Convincing Win Against the Robins

Ref, ref!

I arrived at the railway station on Saturday morning to find that there was a rail replacement running for the first part of the route.  Luckily I have an alternative rail link and arrived at that station just before the train left.  Decent connections on the way meant that I arrived at the West Herts half an hour before it was due to open.  Needless to say, Don was already there so we had a good chat before the doors opened and were soon sitting at ‘our’ table with a pint (mine) and a cuppa (his).  On asking whether hot food was available, we were told that it had been reggae night at The Horns the previous evening, so we were unlikely to see the man in charge of the hot food.  That has to be the best excuse I have ever heard, it certainly made me laugh.

As always before cup games, we speculated about the team selection.  Silva’s statement that he would “respect the competition” indicated that he would put out a strong team and, sure enough, the three changes announced were to bring Cleverley, Pereyra and Deeney in to replace Watson, Richarlison and Gray, so could hardly be seen as weakening the team.  It was certainly about time that Richarlison was given a rest.  So the starting line-up was Gomes; Janmaat, Wagué, Kabasele, Zeegelaar; Cleverley, Doucouré; Carrillo, Capoue, Pereyra; Deeney.  As expected, with a League Cup semi-final coming up next week, City’s manager and former Watford man, Lee Johnson, had made seven changes.  The City Twitter account this season has been accompanying their goal alerts with amusing gifs, we wondered how many of the starting XI for this game would have their own gif.

Wague congratulating Carrillo

Despite all City’s changes, I can’t say I was particularly confident about the outcome, but the game started positively for the Hornets, who had an early chance as a Janmaat cross was met by the head of Deeney at the far post, but the effort was saved by the City keeper, Steele.  The next attempt was a shot from distance from Capoue that was straight at Steele.  There was a much better chance as a low shot from Janmaat deflected to Pereyra who turned and shot from close range, but Steele was able to make the block.  After a decent, if over-lengthy, passing move Cleverley tried a shot from distance that was blocked.  From a corner, the ball found its way to Wagué whose volley was also blocked.  Watford threatened again as Carrillo played a through ball to Cleverley, who broke into the box, but Steele was out to save at his feet.  The first yellow card of the game was earned by Kabasele for a foul on Smith.  After a lovely passing move upfield, Carrillo played a cross-field pass to Pereyra but, yet again, the shot was blocked.  The opening goal came on 37 minutes as Pereyra crossed for Carrillo who got into position to shoot and beat Steele from close range.  It was into the last five minutes of the half before City had their first goal attempt of the game which was a shot from distance from Woodrow that flew wide of the far post.  So we reached half time with the Hornets enjoying a one goal lead.  It had been a half in which Watford had completely dominated possession and appeared in control.  But the Swansea game was too fresh in the memory, so I was rather concerned that we hadn’t tested Steele enough.

Deeney acknowledges Rookery after his goal

Lee Johnson made a substitution at the beginning of the second half replacing Smith with Pack.  The first chance of the second period fell to the Hornets as Pereyra played a one-two with Carrillo before unleashing a shot that cannoned off the post.  The follow-up from Capoue was blocked by the keeper.  The second goal came just before the hour mark as Cleverley reached the by-line and crossed back for Deeney to stoop and head home.  Deeney’s return to the scoresheet was received very well by the Watford faithful and it was a goal that calmed the nerves.  City had a great chance to hit back as a dangerous cross from Eliasson was delivered towards Taylor who just missed making contact.  That was his last action of the game as he was replaced by Engvall.  Watford had a great chance for a third goal as Deeney met a cross from Janmaat, but this time he nodded into the side netting.  Silva made two changes with 20 minutes to go as Carrillo and Pereyra were replaced with Holebas and Richarlison.  I was a little surprised to see the youngster come on, surely he deserves the rest.  But he was soon in action latching on to a ball from Deeney that he volleyed straight at the keeper.  The visitors had a great chance to pull one back as a cross from Eliasson was turned just wide by Engvall.  There was a great chance for the Hornets to increase their lead as Zeegelaar played the ball back to Holebas who unleashed a cracking shot from distance that Steele did well to turn wide.  From the corner, the ball fell to Wagué who volleyed over the bar.  Each side then made a substitution as Woodrow was replaced by Hinds and Doucouré made way for Watson.  Watford scored a third with five minutes to go as Capoue played a one-two with Deeney before finishing in front of the Rookery.  That goal gave particular pleasure to my niece who is a fan of the Frenchman.

Deeney, Richarlison and Cleverley congratulating Capoue

So the game finished with Watford securing a convincing 3-0 win over City.  The Hornets had been in control for the whole game, but the most pleasing thing was that they had bucked the recent trend by scoring the goals that were needed to finish the game off.  Deeney’s return had been greeted with mixed reactions on social media, but I thought he played well and provided more of a goal threat than we have seen from him (or anyone else) recently.  I also thought that Pereyra looked more comfortable than he has in some time and some of his skills are a joy to witness.

So Watford are in the draw for the fourth round on Monday.  I am hoping for an away tie at either Newport or Rochdale.  I should be so lucky.

Another Early Exit from the League Cup

Will Hughes on his debut

After the cracking performances in the first two games of the season, it was a happy band who met at the West Herts prior to this match.  Those who had been at Bournemouth were assuring those who hadn’t that the game had been as much fun as it sounded on the radio and in reports.  We also took time to teach them the new chant for Doucouré.

Team news was that Silva had made six changes from the Bournemouth game, giving Deeney and Hughes their first starts of the season.  Despite the changes, it was a very strong team with a starting XI of Gomes; Mariappa, Prödl, Kabasele, Holebas; Watson, Capoue; Amrabat, Hughes, Richarlison; Deeney.

As we approached the ground, there were long queues for the ticket office and many of the seats around us were empty at kick-off, although they soon filled up with unfamiliar, but eager, faces.

The game kicked off and the style of football transported us back to last season.  The first time that I felt inspired to make a note of the action was in the 26th minute when Deeney directed a header just wide of the target.  Deeney also had the next chance as he latched onto a ball into the box, but Flint made a saving tackle to prevent the shot.  The first goal chance for the visitors came following a corner but O’Dowda’s shot was straight at Gomes.  The Hornets had a half chance to open the scoring just before the break as Richarlison turned and shot from outside the area, but his effort was well over the bar.

Capoue celebrates his goal

The half time guest was Keith Millen who revealed that, even though he worked at Palace at the time, he thought that Harry Hornet’s dive in front of Zaha was very funny.

Silva made a substitution at the start of the second half bringing Success on for Amrabat.  The home side took the lead in the second minute of the half, before a large proportion of the crowd had returned from their visits to the concession stands.  Hughes played a one-two with Success before finding Capoue on the left from where he fired past Fielding in the City goal.  I relaxed at this point thinking that we would go on and win the game.  Honestly, what was I thinking?  I have been to enough of these games not to be so complacent.  The next action of note was Holebas receiving his first yellow card of the season for a foul on Eliasson.  On a more positive note, Capoue whipped in a lovely cross, but Deeney was unable to connect and the ball found its way to Success whose shot was straight at the keeper.  At the other end, a corner from Eliasson was met by the head of Flint, but the effort was blocked for a corner.

Richarlison in the box

Watford looked to increase the lead with a low cross from Success into the box, but Deeney was unable to connect.  On the hour mark, City equalized, as Hinds went on a run and hit a lovely shot from distance that found the bottom corner at the near post.  It was a chance out of nothing, but it was very well taken.  Watford’s first attempt to strike back came from Capoue who tried a shot from just outside the centre circle that was just wide of the target.  But, somehow, Watford managed to turn attack into defence again, as City launched another counter-attack, the cross from Kelly flew past a number of Watford defenders before reaching Reid who tucked it past Gomes to put the visitors into the lead.  Watford attempted to strike back as Richarlison met a cross from Success, but his header back came off the outside of the post.  Silva increased his striking options, bringing Gray on for Hughes.  City had a chance to increase their lead, but the shot from O’Dowda was straight at Gomes.  There was then a lovely passage of play from the Hornets as Gray exchanged passes with Deeney before trying a shot that was tipped wide by Fielding.  Silva made another change bringing Cleverley on for Capoue.  Watford continued to go for the equalizer as Richarlison met a cross from Success with a header that flew high and wide.  But things went from bad to worse for the Hornets in the final minutes as Holebas was shown a second yellow for a foul to stop a breakaway after an air kick caused him to lose possession.

Holebas and Watson line up a free kick

The visitors had a decent chance of a third in the final minute of normal time, but Gomes pulled off a lovely save to stop O’Dowda.  Sadly, the visitors weren’t to be denied as Eliasson received the ball in space and beat Gomes to put the tie out of Watford’s reach.   There was time to pull a goal back in the last minute of time added on as Mariappa headed home, but it was City who went into the early morning draw in Beijing on Thursday.

The players trudged off the pitch at the end, with only Deeney and Gomes making much of an effort to acknowledge the crowd.  Tim Coombs went for the ironic approach as we left the ground to “That’s Entertainment” playing over the tannoy.  On the way back up Occupation Road, I spotted Olly Wicken being interviewed for From The Rookery End.  Tonight’s was a game that definitely won’t be featured in Hornet Heaven.

Nobody had the stomach for a post-match review, so I was alone with my thoughts.  It was a strangely lack lustre performance which lacked the energy demonstrated in our league games this season.  Maybe worse than the result was losing Holebas for the next game after two silly tackles, a real blow as we lack cover in that position.  These terrible League Cup defeats have been a regular occurrence in recent seasons, which is a great shame as it is an opportunity to entertain and impress some fans (like the young boy in the row in front of us) who do not attend games regularly.  Still, if we beat Brighton on Saturday it will be forgotten until next August when, no doubt, we will all subject ourselves to the punishment again.

Young Hornets Defeat the Baby Robins

Watford starting line-up

Watford starting line-up

Monday evening saw Watford visiting Bristol City for the second preliminary round of the Under-21 Premier League Cup.  Since it was a fairly easy journey down the M4 after work, I decided to make the trip.  The beauty of attending games like this is that you can park right outside the ground and take your pick of the seats, mine being a rather nice padded effort on the half-way line in the “premium” section.  I was paying for my seat but there was some confusion among those in front of me who had complimentary tickets, but were still asked to pay a pound to get in.  The explanation was that this was because it was an FA Cup game.  How odd.

Despite being an U21 competition, the rules state that you are allowed to field up to three overage players and an overage goalkeeper, which meant starts for Gilmartin, Cathcart and Smith.  The only academy scholar to start was Alfie Young.  The City team was a mix of U-18s and U-21s.  Watford’s starting line-up was Gilmartin, Doherty, Hoban, Cathcart, Young, Murray, Smith, Byers, Ikpeazu, Mensah and Jakubiak, which looked very strong on paper.

Mensah and Murray prepare for a free-kick

Mensah and Murray prepare for a free-kick

Watford started well.  Mensah had a shot saved in the early minutes.  He then won a corner which was taken by Murray and met by a flying header from Jakubiak which went wide of the target.  For the home side, a short corner was played to Hall on the edge of the box but he also powered his shot wide.  Morrell beat the Watford defence but shot over the bar.  Ikpeazu dribbled along the top of the box to get into shooting position but his shot was weak and easy for the City keeper.  Doherty intercepted the ball and played it out to Smith who played a chip into the box, but Ikpeazu couldn’t reach it.  The home side had a good chance to take the lead with a free-kick on the edge of the box, but Morrell’s set piece was headed wide by a Watford defender.  At the other end, Cathcart tried to release Mensah, but the through ball was just too heavy.  Jakubiak was the next to threaten, but his shot flew across the goal.

Uche Ikpeazu

Uche Ikpeazu

The home side took the lead on 18 minutes as the Hornets failed to clear a low cross which travelled the width of the box to reach Wynter who knocked it past Gilmartin much to the disappointment of the half dozen Watford fans in attendance.  A cross by Horgan was put out for a corner by Cathcart.  Young lofted a ball into the box but it was gathered by Richards with Ikpeazu closing in.  Morrell tried a curling shot but it was straight at Gilmartin.  Ikpeazu managed to break through the City defence, but mis-controlled allowing Richards to gather.  A free kick from Mensah was hit straight into the keeper’s arms.  Watford had a very good spell of possession but chances were at a premium as every forward run was met by a resolute defender.  On 39 minutes, Watford equalized with a lovely shot from Mensah that he curled just under the crossbar.  The goal was particularly appreciated by Bernard’s girlfriend and her pal who were sitting in front of me.  City could have hit back almost immediately as a dangerous ball was played through to Horgan, Gilmartin came to meet him leaving the goal exposed but, fortunately, the shot drifted wide.  In the dying minutes of the half, Murray played a pass out to Mensah who curled a cross into the box, but it was just too far in front of Ikpeazu for him to shoot.  At the other end the ball fell to Hall in space in the box, but his volley was ambitious and well off target.  The last action of the half was a Watford free-kick in a dangerous position, but Murray’s delivery was disappointing, flying well over the bar.

Byers, Smith and Gilmartin defending a corner

Byers, Smith and Gilmartin defending a corner

Mensah had started the second half limping after being clattered a few times in the first period, so he was soon replaced by Dennon Lewis.  City threatened as Hall crossed and Burns and Horgan leapt to head the ball but it eluded them both.  Doherty played Ikpeazu in, he did really well to beat the defender, but his shot was easy for the keeper.  At the other end, Hall had a shot deflected wide by Cathcart.  From the corner, Vyner headed over the bar.  For the visitors, Connor Smith played a clever back heel to Jakubiak, but the youngster’s shot was saved.  On 70 minutes Cathcart was replaced by Charlie Rowan.  Jakubiak really should have put the visitors in front as he beat the keeper, but the ball bobbled so he found himself with his back to the open goal and tried a back heel that agonizingly rolled wide of the far post.  At the other end, a powerful shot from Morrell flew wide of the near post.  Ikpeazu, who was playing his first game since a long injury lay-off had grown into the game and did well to skip into the box evading a couple of challenges but his shot was blocked by a defender.

A defensive wall

A defensive wall

Ikpeazu then played a through ball to Jakubiak, but the City keeper narrowed the angle so he shot just wide of the target.  In a rare second half attack for the home side, Horgan played the ball through to Hall but Gilmartin was out to block and the flag was up anyway.  Horgan threatened again with a shot that was just wide.  Ikpeazu was crowded out as he went for goal when he probably should have passed to Lewis who was in space.  An injury to Last forced City to make a substitution with Mafuta the replacement.  Watford continued to press for the winner but a Murray free-kick eluded Ikpeazu.  Then Lewis played a cross that was missed by everyone in the box.  City also had a late chance with a corner that was headed over the bar.  The final action of normal time was another Murray free-kick that Ikpeazu failed to connect with.

The goal celebration following the penalty was a blur

The goal celebration following the penalty was a blur

The home side dominated the opening exchanges of extra time as Horgan found Fry who was closed down before he could shoot.  Gilmartin pulled off an excellent save to a shot from distance by Mafuta.  For the Hornets, Ikpeazu broke into the box, beat a defender but overplayed the ball and it rolled through to the keeper.  Substitute Ronan got on the end of a corner but hit his shot wide.  Watford’s final substitution saw Folivi replacing Jakubiak.  Burns was blocked by Doherty on the edge of the box earning the Watford man a yellow card.  Then Gilmartin had to drop to save a low shot from Horgan.  City had a great chance to take the lead early in the second period of extra time as a shot from Morrell cannoned back off the crossbar, the follow-up from Horgan was saved.  But it was Watford who went in front soon after as Ikpeazu was bundled over in the box.  He stepped up to take the penalty himself sending the City keeper the wrong way to break the deadlock.

Connor Smith

Connor Smith

The home side could have broken back almost immediately as Mafuta hit a belter of a shot that Gilmartin did well to keep out.  City made a late substitution replacing Fry with Mattis.  Batten was booked for a foul on Folivi as the Watford man attempted to break.  Watford set up a defensive rearguard for the final minutes, but City were hopeful of taking the game to penalties as Burns went down in the box but the referee was no more convinced than I was of the merits of the penalty shout and the visitors emerged as winners.

We’d made heavy weather of it having the lion’s share of possession without making it count.  Hoban had an impressive game in the centre of defence notable for his encouragement of the younger players.  Mensah’s goal was a peach and Ikpeazu grew from a slow start to really take hold of the game once Mensah went off and he deserved his goal for his perseverance.  All in all, a good evening’s entertainment.

Silencing the Robins

The teams emerge

The teams emerge

Having left work a little later than was good for my blood pressure as I sat in traffic, I was very surprised on my arrival at the West Herts to find that none of my usual pre-match companions was present.  I went directly to the ground and took my usual seat in the Rookery to find that I was sitting in an acre of space.  I tried not to take these events to heart.  The Rookery did fill up as kick-off approached, but most of those who took the seats around me were unfamiliar faces.  The uninspiring performance in the game at Ashton Gate as well as the prospect of a win potentially treating us to another trip to Eastlands had meant that I was not relishing the prospect of this game.  Clearly this sentiment was widespread among my fellow season ticket holders.

Team news was that Sannino had made seven changes from Saturday.  However, none of the changes was radical and the bench was very experienced, unlike in the original fixture.  The news that gladdened the hearts of every Hornet was that Almen Abdi was named among the substitutes.  After the toss, we changed ends which provoked some disquiet among the superstitious around me.

Watford on the attack

Watford on the attack

The visitors launched an attack in the first minute, Emmanuel-Thomas finding Baldock with a through ball but the shot was straight at Bond.  McGugan had Watford’s first chance, dribbling along the top of the box to get a sight of goal but his shot was also straight at the keeper.  Then a through ball to Deeney was cut out and rebounded to Forestieri who was tackled and took a tumble but the referee waved play on.  At the other end, Moloney broke into the Watford box, but the attentions of a defender put him off and he shot wide of the far post.  Watford broke forward again as McGugan’s back heel reached Deeney, but he was closed down and his shot was blocked.  Baldock should have done better with a Flint header into the box, but his header looped over the bar.  Bond had to be smart

Defending a corner

Defending a corner

soon after as he came to punch a cross from Bryan.  Watford then threatened as Forestieri went on a rampaging run and crossed for McGugan who hit it first time and the ball flew high and wide.  Anya was the next to launch an attack, but his cross was blocked and ricocheted off him for a goal kick while he finished up on the grass behind the goal line.  It didn’t look good, especially when the St John’s Ambulance guys started wheeling the stretcher in his direction, but they were soon doing an impression of the vultures in Bedknobs and Broomsticks as they trudged back disappointed and Anya rejoined the fray.  On 20 minutes, Battocchio dinked a ball over to Forestieri who put a low cross into the box, McGugan dummied, fooling everyone including his own team mates, so the chance went begging.  Soon after, Anya skipped into the box but his shot was blocked.  Then Deeney

Goal!!

Goal!!

headed a McGugan corner past the far post.  It was another McGugan corner that led to the opening goal as the ball was headed out to Faraoni whose shot appeared to bounce off two or three City players before going in to the net.  It wasn’t pretty, but they all count.  Forestieri’s attempt to double the lead soon after resulted in a disappointing shot from the edge of the box that was well over the crossbar.  Into the last five minutes of the half, Emmanuel-Thomas shot from the edge of the area, but his shot was well held by Bond.  Then Anya found Forestieri whose shot was deflected wide.  In the final attack before the break, a lovely City move saw Reid feed Elliott and then get on the end of his cross but shoot agonizingly over.  We were slightly fortunate to be ahead at half-time.

McGugan lines up a free kick

McGugan lines up a free kick

City started the second half brightly as Pack hit a dangerous shot that Bond tipped around the post.  Angella then took advantage of his position on the right of the back three to go on a tremendous forward run and hit a shot that curled just wide of the near post.  Then Faraoni got on the end of a cross from Anya but sent it over the bar.  There were loud calls for a penalty for Bristol City as Osborne played a through ball to Baldock whose low cross bounced off Hall as he went to ground.  The City man turned and appealed passionately that it had hit the defender’s hand, but the officials were about as convinced as those in the Rookery who had a clear view of the incident.  There was a more convincing penalty appeal down the other end as Forestieri appeared to have been thrown to the ground by Flint, but the referee waved appeals away.  Watford doubled their lead soon after as Deeney tried to battle through the City defence, but lost the ball which fell to

McGugan receives the congratulations of his team mates

McGugan receives the congratulations of his team mates

McGugan who made no mistake in shooting past Parish.  There was a good break by McGugan soon after but he maybe should have played Anya in a bit earlier as the Scot had a narrower angle to shoot from and his shot was deflected into the side netting.  From the corner, Faraoni’s cross was punched clear by Parish.  As Watford continued to threaten the City goal, Deeney got the ball in space, but his shot was deflected wide.  Battocchio then received the ball on the edge of the area, the shouts of ‘shooot’ from the Rookery must have gone to his head as he hit the ball straight at Parish.  Then Faraoni found McGugan whose shot was just wide of the target.  With 15 minutes remaining, all attention was focused on the sidelines as the Hornet faithful were treated to the sight of Almen Abdi stripped and ready to come on.  It was a while before the ball went out of play and I have

Abdi waiting to come on

Abdi waiting to come on

never heard such loud cheers for a throw-in.  McGugan was the man who made way.  There was something delightful about seeing Abdi on the field again.  He was immediately in the middle of everything, barking orders and organizing his team mates.  How we have missed him.  His first few touches were greeted with enthusiastic cheers from the crowd and then an ironic boo as he horribly misplaced a pass.  But it wasn’t all about Abdi as Deeney went on a run and shot straight at Parish.  City had been quiet in this period of the game but, when Bryan tried to break, he was stopped by a sliding tackle from Angella that earned the Italian a yellow card.  With 10 minutes to go, Abdi latched on to a ball and passed to Battocchio who found Forestieri in the box but his shot was dreadful and

Battocchio dispossessed

Battocchio dispossessed

well wide of the near post.  The frustration began to show in the visitors as Wagstaff was booked for kicking the ball away.  With five minutes remaining Pudil replaced Anya.  The last action of note was a bit of a scramble in the Watford box, but Bond was able to poke the ball clear and maintain the clean sheet.

The final whistle went to cheers from the home crowd.  The performance was considerably better than that at Ashton Gate and, while the Robins had their chances, Bond was never really tested and Watford looked increasingly in control as the game went on.  After going ahead, we never really looked like losing.  Hall had a great game in the centre of defence, with the change in formation allowing the always impressive Angella a chance to break forward.  It was wonderful to see Abdi back, his mere presence on the pitch seems to induce a calm.  Let’s hope that he is a fixture in the team again very soon.  Despite my lack of appetite for another trip to either the Etihad or Ewood Park, that win cheered me up no end and should give us some momentum for the upcoming games.

Yet Another Trip to Bristol in the Cup

The teams come on to the pitch

The teams come on to the pitch

For the second time in four days I set off in the rain to drive westwards wondering if there was to be a game at the end of it.  The postponement on New Year’s Day was very frustrating.  Particularly because the flooded roads on the way in to Yeovil had made the decision inevitable and there was a sneaking feeling that, without the promise of Sky money, the game would have been called off earlier and saved us a wasted journey.  On Saturday, I had arranged to visit friends after the game, so a postponement wouldn’t have been as much of a disappointment.  I had been tasked with choosing the pre-match pub and stumbled on one a short walk from where I was staying, which turned out to be a little gem.  Real ale, excellent pies served with delicious minty mushy peas and very friendly bar staff.  In fact, the pub was so delightful that we nearly forgot to leave for the game.  In retrospect that would have been a good decision.

Prior to the match, we had speculated on who would fill in at left wing back in the absence of Anya, Pudil and Bellerin.  The answer was Battocchio, an interesting and slightly worrying choice.  I was disappointed to hear that Doyley had been relegated to the bench, so the starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Angella, Nosworthy, Battocchio, McGugan, Iriney, Murray, Cassetti, Fabbrini and Deeney.

Almunia keeping warm

Almunia keeping warm

The game was played with a pink ball, which was one of the brighter aspects of the afternoon.  We started well enough and, in the second minute, McGugan broke into the box but shot wide.  City were on the attack on 7 minutes with a dangerous ball into the box, Almunia was nudged out of the way as he came to collect it, the ball went out of play and the free kick was delayed as the Bristol City fans in the Wedlock stand refused to give the ball back.  On 8 minutes, Fabbrini lost the ball in the middle of the pitch, Baldock went on a run and shot from distance but Almunia dropped to gather.  The Watford keeper was in action again soon after, plucking a cross from Bryan out of the air.  On the quarter hour, Fabbrini went on a great run down the wing and broke into the box where he went down under a challenge.  Given that Diego’s tumble was greeted with groans from the travelling ‘Orns, it was no surprise when the referee waved play on.  Battocchio tried a shot from the edge of the area, but Parish was equal to it.  City were soon on the counter-attack, but Reid’s shot was also from distance and was wide of the target.  At the break in play, the ref had words with Fabbrini.  On 20 minutes, Emmanuel-Thomas shot wide of the far post.  Then McGugan got the ball in the area ran across the box to get into a better shooting position but skewed his shot disappointingly over the bar.  Bristol threatened again as a cross was headed on to Bryan whose shot required a decent save from Almunia who pushed it around the post.  The corner fell to Elliott who shot over the bar.  Down the other end

Bryan clearing the ball

Bryan clearing the ball

McGugan hit a lovely shot towards the top corner and Parish had to leap to tip it over.  On 34 minutes McGugan hit a free kick from a long way out which flew wide of the near post.  Then a run and cross from Bryan had both Emmanuel-Thomas and Wagstaff coming to meet it, they got in each other’s way and the header was wide.  With five minutes to half time, Battocchio required a bit of  juggling to control the ball and give it to Fabbrini who advanced into the box and squared to McGugan whose shot was blocked.  From the resultant corner, the ball fell to Battocchio whose cross was met by a header from Angella that hit the top of the crossbar.  In time added on, a free-kick from Reid was headed wide by Osborne.

 

McGugan on the attack

McGugan on the attack

At half-time, our wing-back situation became even stranger as Cassetti was replaced by Smith who is neither a winger nor a back.  I thought moving Murray out may have been a better bet, with Smith playing in the middle, until I had a flashback to the game at Ashton Gate last season when Sean took Cassetti’s place and had a complete nightmare.  Bristol City made the running at the start of the second half as Emmanuel-Thomas played a through ball to Baldock whose shot was easily saved by Almunia.   Soon after, Almunia was in action again as Elliott got on the end of a corner but his header was straight at the Watford keeper.   Then a move started with a ball to Deeney that should have allowed him to break free, but instead we saw a sequence involving several awful misplaced passes by Watford players which finished with Emmanuel-Thomas shooting wide.  The only other notable events in the first 25 minutes of the half were a McGugan free-kick that he put over the bar and a tannoy announcement requesting that Watford’s Italian coach driver make himself known to the stewards.  I am still trying to work out if that was a coded message. 

Fabbrini on the attack

Fabbrini on the attack

Just after 70 minutes, Watford finally made their first attack of the half as Fabbrini played a through ball to McGugan who fell over in the box.  Then Fabbrini broke again and fed Deeney whose shot was saved by Parish.  Next a free-kick for the home team was headed back from the far post by Elliott to Osborne who headed it over the bar.  Fabbrini was on the attack again but this time his cross was headed wide by Burns. Then McGugan broke into the box but his shot was deflected for a corner.  On 83 minutes, we appeared to have won the game as Smith squared the ball to Murray.  I saw the Watford youngster shoot, but my view of the goal was blocked by the crowd in front of me standing up so I was a little late to join in the celebrations as the ball went in to the bottom

Goal celebrations in the Wedlock Stand

Goal celebrations in the Wedlock Stand

corner.  I had just remarked that we didn’t really deserve the lead when we no longer had it, as Emmanuel-Thomas scored at the other end, Burns having beaten Battocchio to set him up.  We tried to regain the lead as Fabbrini broke and played a ball for Deeney, but the defender was quicker to it and the chance was gone.  In the last minute of normal time, a shot from distance came in that was pushed over by Almunia, who was also required to come and punch clear from the corner.  The home side had one final chance to win the game as Osborne met a free-kick with a header, but Almunia was equal to it.  On the final whistle, my first thought was annoyance that I would have to endure that a second time.  It was not an enjoyable game.  I hope that some of the absentees are fit for Saturday or it could be a very difficult afternoon indeed.