Tag Archives: Daniel Ayala

A Clean Sheet and Three Points at the Riverside

Troy leads the team out at the Riverside

Troy leads the team out at the Riverside

When the Middlesbrough game was moved to Sunday lunchtime for television, transport options were checked only to find that the first train to leave London would arrive in Middlesbrough less than half an hour before kick-off.  That would be cutting it a little too fine for my nerves, so I decided to spend the weekend in Durham.  I was delighted to find out that a couple of friends had made independent arrangements to do the same.  When news spread that we had arranged to meet up on Saturday evening for a curry, our party grew so our pre-match gathering started rather earlier than usual.

The original plan for Sunday morning had been to get a train to Middlesbrough but this was changed when transport ninja, Richard, discovered the existence of the X12 bus which provided an option that was both quicker and cheaper than the train.  As we waited for the bus, we were joined by a quartet of Durham students wearing Watford shirts, which was rather lovely.  As our journey progressed, the rain started and, when we emerged from the bus station, there was a local putting up his hood who was grumbling about the weather and commented to us, “It’s grim up North.”

Our pre-match gathering was at the notorious Doctor Brown’s.  Apparently the place is under new management, so the DJ playing the ear-splitting music and running the quiz was no longer in place.  There had even been a suggestion that it was now a gastropub, but that was certainly not in evidence and the pub was as ordinary and friendly as it had been on all previous visits.

Challenging in the Boro box

Challenging in the Boro box

On arrival at the stadium we were greeted by what must be some of the nicest stewards in the league.  On opening up my stuffed rucksack, I was asked whether I had any cans or bottles.  A perfunctory glance, a smile and “I trust you” and I was in the ground.  I then headed for the Ladies which was actually in a part of the concourse populated by the home fans, with only a metal barrier to separate the fans along with a lovely steward who was directing us in.

Team news was that Mazzarri had made two changes with Britos and Success replacing Zúñiga and Ighalo.  So the starting line-up was Gomes; Kaboul, Prödl, Britos; Amrabat, Capoue, Behrami, Holebas; Pereyra, Success with Deeney on his own up front.  A lot of Watford fans had been calling for the introduction of Success after his tremendous performances against Burnley and Bournemouth, so it would be very interesting to see whether he was as impressive over 90 minutes as he was as an impact substitute.

Holebas takes a throw in

Holebas takes a throw in

Both teams had an early chance, first the Hornets as Deeney got into the box but was stopped when the ball was taken off his feet.  Then a shot from Downing that flew well over the bar.  There was a nervous moment for the Hornets soon afterwards as Kaboul lost the ball allowing Ramirez to play a one-two with Negredo before shooting just wide of the far post.  The first booking of the game came after 20 minutes as Barragán was cautioned for a foul on Success.  The card was deserved, but I was a little perturbed that Success rolled over at least one time more than was strictly necessary.  Boro were calling for a penalty when Negredo went down in the box, but the referee waved away his appeals which looked a little fortunate for the Hornets at the time.  A minute later there was a further penalty appeal, this time for hand ball, but, again, nothing was given and the ball fell to Downing who shot wide of the near post.  At the other end there was a chance for the visitors as a Holebas free kick was met by a defensive header from Negredo which looked as though it may test Valdés in the Boro goal but flew just wide.  Soon after, Deeney met a Capoue cross with a wild volley that was well wide of the target.  I’m sure he was very grateful that the flag was already up for offside.  At the other end, the home side had a great chance to open the scoring with a shot from distance by Gibson that was just wide.  Barragán fouled Success again prompting the travelling Hornets to shout for his dismissal but, after a long lecture, he was sent on his way without a card being shown.

Deeney very happy after the strike from Holebas

Deeney very happy after the strike from Holebas

The inconsistency of Mr East’s decision making was shown rather starkly soon after as Stuani was booked for a very similar foul on Pereyra.  Between the bookings there was a volley from Negredo that was easily gathered by Gomes, the first save by either keeper.  Ramirez was then cautioned for an off the ball foul on Behrami.  So we reached half time goalless after a very dull half of football which must have been torture for the fans who had been up in the early hours of the morning to travel up from Watford.

Just after half time, Negredo went down in the box again and, again, the referee was having none of it and any sympathy I had had the first time that he went down had disappeared.  Forshaw should have done a lot better with a shot following a cut back, but he hit it straight at Gomes who had an easy catch.  Success went on a great run before falling down as soon as he got into the box.  In my frustration, I was berating him for not crossing before he ran into the defender when the ball fell to Holebas who unleashed a cracking shot to put the visitors into the lead.  It seemed a bit unfair on the home side that Watford should take the lead from their first shot on target, but it was the first time in the game that either keeper had been really tested.

Challenging at a corner

Challenging at a corner

The first caution of the game for the visitors went to Amrabat for a foul on Friend.  Some poor defending on Watford’s left allowed Friend to put in a dangerous cross, but Gomes wasn’t troubled by the resulting header from Negredo.  There was a rash of substitutions with 20 minutes to go as Ayala and Traoré replaced Stuani and Barragán for the home side and Zúñiga came on for Amrabat for the visitors.  With 15 minutes to go, there was a lovely passing move down the pitch from the Hornets which finished with a powerful shot from Success which was straight at the keeper but much the best effort of the game apart from the goal.  During a break in the game for Britos to get some treatment, the home crowd started up a chant of “We’ve had some sh*t refs, you are the worst,” which garnered laughter and applause from the Watford fans.  It appeared that Watson and Ighalo were being readied for a substitution, but Britos couldn’t continue and limped off to be replaced by Kabasele.  Soon after Watson did make an appearance coming on in place of Success, who was loudly booed by the home fans for his theatrics during the game.  I would have had a modicum of sympathy had their guys not been dropping like flies throughout the game.  Although, while Isaac was much sinned against, he does go down a little too easily and dramatically, which is incredibly irritating as he would make more impact if he stayed on his feet.  Boro also made a change with Rhodes coming on for De Roon.

Holebas and Capoue lining up a free kick

Holebas and Capoue lining up a free kick

As the clock reached 90 minutes, a cross from Traoré was plucked out of the air by Gomes.  The fourth official held up the board indicating 6 minutes of added time.  The home side had one final chance half way through time added on, but it was a wild shot that flew wide and prompted the home fans to stream out in numbers.  They didn’t miss anything and the game ended with the Hornets winning thanks to the one moment of quality in the game.  After the final whistle, there was a long heated discussion between Holebas and Capoue that only finished when Deeney came over stepped between them and hugged them both.

On the way out, the lovely steward who had been the meet and greet on the way to the Ladies wished us all a safe journey home.  We repaired back to Doctor Brown’s to while away the time before our train home and discuss the game.  Given the post-match complaints from the Boro manager it was pleasing that the fan who initiated a conversation with me in the pub congratulated us on the win.  I commented that it had been a terrible game.  “It was never going to be any good, but well done.”

The main positive from the game was that we had achieved our first clean sheet of the season, although a lot of that was down to how poor Middlesbrough were in front of goal.  They had most of the possession and more goal chances but Gomes didn’t have to make a save worthy of the name.  Holebas put in a good performance crowned by a superb goal.  The performance of Success was a bit of a curate’s egg.  He was lively and causing the Middlesbrough defence some problems but seemed to run into players and lose the ball when an early cross would have been a better choice.  Poor Troy was isolated up front and didn’t see much of the ball at all.  But a win when you are not playing well isn’t to be sniffed at and our current mid table position is to be treasured.

A Deserved Draw on Teesside

A "parmo"

A “parmo”

It’s a long old trip up to Middlesbrough but, despite setting out to travel on my own, I soon found myself in the company of fellow Hornets on the journey north so it passed very quickly.  The pre-match pub of choice was Dr Browns, which may not have the best selection of beers but, after a dodgy first visit, over the years I’ve become quite a fan of the DJ.  Where else would you hear T Rex, Slade and Sweet blasting out and have the realization that, while I can barely remember what I did yesterday, I still know all the words to the glam rock hits of the 70s.  He also runs a spot quiz with questions for both home and away fans with “fantastic prizes” (a free pint).  Not the most sophisticated entertainment, but a lovely pre –match welcome to the town.  One of our party had also been eagerly looking forward to reacquainting himself with the parmo.  A whole week’s worth of calories in one meal.  It has to be seen to be believed.

There was a late change in goal with Bond coming in for Gomes who was injured in the warm up.  The only other change from Tuesday was Anya coming in for the injured Adbi, so the starting line-up was Bond, Pudil, Bassong, Ekstrand, Paredes, Munari, Anya, Tözsér, Forestieri, Vydra and Ighalo.

Jonathan Bond making an unexpected start

Jonathan Bond making an unexpected start

After the last two games, expectations were for another good performance, but the early chances in the game fell to the home side.  First Tomlin’s shot was blocked by Pudil.  Then a cross from Adomah was chested down by Kike to Bamford whose shot was blocked by Tözsér.  On 16 minutes, Kike looked to capitalize on a ball into the box but Ekstrand curled his leg in and cleared, although he needn’t have bothered as the Spaniard was offside.  Friend beat Paredes on the wing, although he appeared to use a hand to control the ball, and put in a cross that Bassong headed clear.  The ball eventually went out for a corner that fell to Adomah on the edge of the box where he hit it well over the bar.  Paredes failed to clear a ball into the box so Friend was able to cross for Bamford whose shot was blocked by Bond.  Friend nutmegged Paredes, but Bond saved the shot.  Friend was able to get in another cross soon after but Kike got under it and headed it over.

Tozser on the ball

Tozser on the ball

On the half hour, Watford launched their first attack since the opening minutes of the game as Vydra received a pass from Forestieri but Konstantopoulos dropped to save the shot.  A forward run by Anya was stopped when he was knocked flying by Ayala who received a yellow card for his trouble.  The next card was shown to Forestieri who saw the ball flying over his head on the way out for a throw-in, so decided to reach up and handle the ball.  A completely unnecessary card to pick up.  Vydra broke forward and appeared to have released Forestieri, but the flag was up for offside.  Kike threatened again but his header from a Fredericks cross was over the bar.  Forestieri got the ball on the edge of the Boro box and manoeuvred into a position to shoot but his attempt was wide of the near post.  On the stroke of half time, Forestieri passed to Anya, who ran along the bye-line and hit a shot that was parried by the keeper.  The half time whistle was a bit of a relief, we had rallied a bit in the last few minutes, but Boro had had most of the possession in the half without creating too many chances.  Uncharacteristically, Paredes was having a nightmare.

Deeney congratulated on his goal

Deeney congratulated on his goal

In the first minute of the second half, Bamford took Pudil out and saw yellow.  The home side sent out a warning as Pudil failed to clear a cross and Fredericks shot just wide of the far past.  On 48 minutes, Boro took the lead as the defenders again failed to clear a cross from Bamford, the ball fell to Kike who knocked it past Bond.  It was disappointing, but it had been coming.  The home side could have been two up almost immediately, but Bond was equal to Bamford’s shot.  Whitehead was booked for a foul on Forestieri.  Vydra had a great chance to equalize as Konstantopoulos punched a cross down to him but he shot over the bar.  Deeney’s name was chanted as he could be seen getting ready to come on to replace Forestieri.  Tözsér played the ball out to Paredes, whose cross was straight at the keeper, which was disappointing as Vydra was running in and a better delivery could have paid dividends.  On the hour Watford drew level as Anya put in a low cross from the left that Deeney drilled past the keeper, much to the delight of the travelling Hornets.  Soon after, Ighalo made way for Andrews.  The departing player was given a good send off by the fans so acknowledged us and shook the referee’s hand on his way off.  What a polite young man.  We had a great chance to take the lead as Deeney played a fantastic long ball to Anya whose cross was met by Andrews whose shot was deflected for a corner.

Anya calling for a ball from Vydra

Anya calling for a ball from Vydra

From a Tözsér free kick, Ekstrand headed the ball against the post.  Watford were now in the ascendancy and the next chance came as Munari flicked a cross from Paredes on to Vydra whose scissor kick was blocked.  Boro threatened on the counter as Fredericks crossed for Kike whose shot looked as though it was on target but, thankfully, flew past the far post.  Bamford, who had tormented us was replaced by Reach.  Deeney played a ball back to Vydra in the box who moved it on to Paredes who volleyed wide.  A shot that made me smile as it was a terrific effort from a player who had had a bad day.  Tözsér tried a shot from distance that was deflected wide.  From the corner, the ball was played back to Andrews who shot well over the target.  Watford had dominated since the Boro goal, but the home side still posed a threat as a shot from the edge of the box by Tomlin was deflected wide.  That was his last action of the game as he was replaced by Vossen.  A low free-kick by Tözsér was on target but Konstantopoulos turned it around the post.  The final whistle went with both sides earning a deserved point.

Harry Hornet being interviewed by the Police

Harry Hornet being interviewed by the Police

While this game was not as entertaining as Tuesday’s, it was very pleasing to see Jokanovic make changes that had a positive effect on the game.  Troy had looked very rusty when he came on against Forest, but that was far from the case today and some of the interplay between him and Vydra was a delight.  Equally, Anya had a poor first half, but was very impressive on the attack in the second period.  Kudos must also go to Jonathan Bond, who wasn’t expecting to play but put in a solid performance.  Post-match discussions with Boro fans both on the train and on Twitter turned into a bit of a love-in.  Both teams were impressive and will be challenging for promotion.  This season may be one of the most competitive in the Championship and I am loving it.