Tag Archives: David Davis

Top of the Table

Flag in the Lower GT

Flag in the Lower GT

The nerves started on Friday night when Norwich played Middlesbrough.  If truth be told, a draw would have been the best result, but a Boro win was a decent second option.  However, the result of that game was irrelevant if we didn’t win on Saturday.

I have a recurring nightmare in which I am desperately trying to get to a match and events conspire to stop me.  The most recent variant of this had me on a train with a load of yobs who had caused delays, and it was clear that I wasn’t going to get to the stadium for kick-off.  Thankfully I woke up, remembered that I was driving to the game and was at the West Herts by 12:45.  Given the pre-match nerves it was hard to enjoy the gathering, although an unexpected appearance by Toddy was a welcome and delightful distraction.

The spectacle in the Rookery

The spectacle in the Rookery

When I reached Occupation Road, Doreen in the Bill Mainwood hut had sold out of programmes, but I was determined not to see this as a bad omen.  Positive thinking was the order of the day.  That was certainly the ethos of the 1881 who had ensured that the flags were out in force in the Rookery and, throughout the home areas, it was great to see the sea of yellow.

As on Wednesday there were four changes with Hoban, Paredes, Layun and Vydra replacing Connolly, Anya, Motta and Ighalo.  So the starting line-up was Gomes, Hoban, Cathcart, Angella, Paredes, Layun, Watson, Guedioura, Abdi, Vydra and Deeney.  Former Watford youngster Rob Kiernan started for the visitors and the legend that is Robbo was on their bench.

Waiting for the ball to drop

Waiting for the ball to drop

My hope for the game was much the same as on Wednesday.  Let us score early and often.  We started very brightly with an exchange of passes between Vydra and Guedioura finishing in a shot from Matej that was blocked.  Watson found Deeney on the right but Troy’s cross was too long and there was nobody to get on the end of it.  It had been all Watford until the 10th minute when Shinnie surged into the box, but Paredes was there to nick the ball off his feet before he could shoot.  Watford continued to dominate without mustering a shot on goal worthy of the name and in the 18th minute Birmingham had a free kick on the corner of the box which was headed clear by Hoban.  Watford broke forward through Guedioura who fed Deeney, his shot was blocked and the ball fell to Vydra whose shot appeared to hit the roof of the net.  There were wild celebrations in the Rookery until we realized that the ball had actually rebounded off the crossbar.  Vydra was straight back on the attack but this time his shot was wide of the far post.  Then Vydra battled into the box and passed to Abdi who moved the ball on to Guedioura whose shot was blocked.  The Algerian had the next goal attempt but his shot from distance was easily caught by Randolph.  Just before the half hour Watford had a great chance to take the lead as Vydra found Abdi who advanced into the box but his shot was deflected wide of the far post.  Deeney was the next to threaten the Birmingham goal as he latched on to a lovely ball from Guedioura but Randolph was down to block his shot.  The visitors threatened briefly with a shot from Donaldson that was straight at Gomes.  It was then Deeney’s turn to hit a shot that was easily caught.  Deeney’s next shot bounced off a defender for a corner.  As we approached the 44th minute, a shot from Gray was deflected wide by Angella.  Gomes rose to catch the corner as the applause rang out for Nic Cruwys, and it was very gratifying at that point to see the Birmingham fans joining in.

So at half time we were drawing, Bournemouth were a goal down to Sheffield Wednesday and we were reflecting that we had had all the possession, were playing some lovely football, but there was no end product.  However, more of the same and we would surely make the breakthrough.

Inspired substitution

Inspired substitution

Early in the second half, a forward run by Vydra was stopped when he was pushed over on the edge of the area, but the referee gave nothing.  The first goal chance of the second period fell to the visitors as Donaldson beat Angella and unleashed a shot which Gomes parried.  Jokanovic decided to make an early double substitution replacing Layun and Vydra with Anya and Ighalo.  It turned out to be an inspired move as Deeney passed to Anya on the overlap and his cross was met with a scissor kick volley by Cathcart to put Watford into the lead.  The celebrations in the stands were massive.  After the goal the Rookery had a bounce and it was lovely to see fellow bouncers in the SEJ stand, but I was amazed to see some in the Upper GT.  Unprecedented behaviour that will surely lead to season tickets being rescinded.  The first caution of the game went to Birmingham’s Grounds for a foul on Deeney.  Watford had a great chance to increase their lead as Angella came running in to connect with an Abdi free kick.

Celebrating Cathcart's wonder goal

Celebrating Cathcart’s wonder goal

Gabriele ended up in the net but, sadly, his header cleared the bar.  Then Anya ran down the left wing and cut into the box but his shot was wide of the near post.  Goalscorer Cathcart was the next to see yellow as he hacked Gray down on the wing.  Deeney benefited from a ball rebounding off the referee, he found Guedioura who fed Anya whose shot was blocked, although it would have gone wide anyway.  Deeney then tried a shot from distance that was deflected wide.  Angella had another great goal attempt from an Abdi corner, this time his header was on target and had to be cleared off the line.  Guedioura broke into the Birmingham box, but his shot was blocked for a corner.  Deeney ran onto a through ball and his shot hit the angle of the crossbar and post but the flag was up for offside.  Anya was taken down on the side of the penalty area.  The free kick was from an acute angle and pushed clear by Randolph.  At the other end, a Birmingham free-kick was headed wide by Kiernan.  Jokanovic made a final change late bringing Tözsér on for Abdi.  Into time added on, the Watford crowd were singing their hearts out, encouraging their team on to the win.

Attacking a corner

Attacking a corner

At the final whistle there were tremendous celebrations, but they were slightly tinged with disappointment at the news filtering through that Bournemouth had come from behind to win.  All the same, as the team did their tour of the stands to thank the crowd, the Rookery was still packed with fans waving flags and chanting.  Promotion was now in our own hands.  When the players had all left the pitch we made our way into the concourse.  As we waited for my brother-in-law, the TV was showing the Sky Sports reporter at the Goldsands giving what I assumed was the round-up of the game.  Then Nigel appeared and informed us that Sheffield Wednesday had won a penalty and the picture on the screen took on a different significance.  There was a group of fans celebrating behind the reporter and I could have sworn that their shirts were red but then the word ‘goal’ appeared on the screen and the celebration in the Rookery concourse was probably more mental than that at the game itself.  There was an agonizing wait for the final whistle but, at last, the final score was confirmed sparking another manic celebration in the concourse.

As we made our way up Occupation Road, the sun shining down was nothing like as bright as the huge smiles of the Watford faithful.  It is all in our hands now.  Two wins and we go up as champions.

In a pre-match interview, Troy Deeney was asked about pressure, “You could be struggling to pay your bills or playing a game of football.  To win one game of football.  That’s not pressure, that is enjoyment.”  Well said that man.  Two more wins and he’ll be a title-winning captain.  I just hope my nerves can take it.

A Miserable Night in Birmingham

The scoreboard prior to kick-off

The scoreboard prior to kick-off

As the train made its way to the midlands I received an e-mail from a colleague telling me to enjoy my holiday.  Looking at the rain streaking the window I replied that my enjoyment of the time off was completely in the hands of the Watford players.  Since my message to my usual travelling companions to see who wanted tickets for this fixture had elicited only negative responses, the football was the only thing I had to look forward to that evening.

Jokanovic had two changes forced on him due to injuries to Bassong and Munari and added three more for good measure so the starting line-up was Gomes, Doyley, Ekstrand, Hoban, Paredes, Anya, Tözsér, McGugan, Ighalo, Forestieri and Deeney.  This provoked much wailing among fans and doom-laden references to the game at Bristol City when Zola made wholesale changes.  On the positive side, it meant that Lloyd Doyley made his 400th start for Watford, what a tremendous servant he has been.  Birmingham’s captain was former Watford favourite Paul Robinson.  It still hurts to remember giving him away for peanuts.

The pre-match huddle

The pre-match huddle

As soon as I heard that Birmingham had won only once in their last 25 home games, my heart sank.  They had a new manager in Gary Rowett, who was introduced to great fanfare.  With the Watford fans chanting “We are top of the league,” and goading the home fans about their recent 8-0 defeat this was one of those nights where I feared that pride would come before a fall.

Donaldson threatened the Watford goal in the first minute but Tommie Hoban was on hand to make a saving tackle.  The respite was brief as the home side took the lead in the second minute as McGugan lost the ball on the sideline while trying to play out of defence, Gleeson crossed for Donaldson whose shot was deflected past Gomes by Ekstrand.  Forestieri tried to hit back immediately with an ambitious shot that was well over the bar.  But Watford drew level on seven minutes.

Celebrations following Forestieri's equalizer

Celebrations following Forestieri’s equalizer

Doyley got the ball in an advanced position where he was greeted with shouts of “shoooot”, he exchanged passed with McGugan then cut the ball back for Forestieri whose initial shot was blocked by Randolph, but he made no mistake with the follow-up.  Ighalo passed across to Deeney who played it back to McGugan but his shot was put out for a corner.  At the other end, Caddis crossed for Cotterill who wellied the ball well over the target.  Just before the half hour, Caddis put in another dangerous cross but Shinnie’s header was horrible as he directed the ball straight in front of him when the goal was some distance to his right.  Anya made a forward run and cut the ball back for Forestieri who had to stretch for the shot which was blocked.  Robbo was the next to threaten the Watford goal, but his header was cleared by Ekstrand.  Birmingham should have taken the lead with a great free-kick from Cotterill which required a flying save from Gomes to keep it out.  At the other end Randolph had to pull off a similar save to repel a belting shot from Deeney.  A shot from Cotterill was cleared and Watford launched a counter attack that finished with a cross from Ighalo which flew past the onrushing Forestieri.  Then a cross from Paredes was deflected to Randolph by one of his defenders.  In the final minute of the half, Gomes was on hand to push a shot from Gleeson clear.

Lining up to defend a corner

Lining up to defend a corner

At the start of the second half, Ighalo did well to keep the ball when tackled and eventually found space to shoot but his shot was over the target.  The first yellow card of the game went to Davis who hacked Anya down rather needlessly as the whistle had already gone.  Forestieri found McGugan who played a ball over the top into the box but it was too far in front of Deeney.  Ighalo played a square ball to McGugan whose curling shot was easily caught by Randolph.  A dangerous shot by Donaldson was cleared by Hoban, there followed a sustained Birmingham attack where the Watford defence could not clear but the home side eventually did us a favour by putting the ball out for a goal kick.  At this point the home fans found their voice and it has to be said that they make an impressive sound when they get going.  The first substitution came in the 58th minute as Ighalo made way for Andrews who was tasked with shoring up the midfield.

Tozser readies himself for a disappointing free-kick

Tozser readies himself for a disappointing free-kick

A ball into the Watford box was headed back to Gleeson who wellied it wide.  Hopes rose in the away end as Tözsér stepped up to take a free-kick on the edge of the box, but it was woeful, clearing the bar by some distance.  My nerves were on edge as a deflected shot appeared to be drifting towards our goal, Doyley cleared but the flag was up anyway.  At last a moment of quality with a lovely passing move along the length of the pitch, a defender slipped allowing Andrews to get a cross in but it was put out for a corner.  Then Deeney broke free and played Anya in but he couldn’t muster a shot.  McGugan and Deeney exchanged passes before Lewis tried an early shot that was well wide of the near post.  Then Deeney chested the ball down to Andrews but he lifted his shot over the bar.  The home side made their first substitution replacing Arthur with Gray.  There were cheers from the travelling Horns as Vydra was spotted getting ready to come on.  His name had been chanted in the away end for about 10 minutes before the change.  He replaced Forestieri with 15 minutes remaining.  Anya looked as though he’d run the ball out of play on the sideline, but was allowed to continue, broke into the box executed some ridiculous step-overs and then ran the ball out of play behind the goal line.  Just awful.

Anya and McGugan checking the position of their wall

Anya and McGugan checking the position of their wall

The home side’s second substitution saw Thomas replace Shinnie.  Andrews was booked for a robust tackle on Caddis.  Cotterill took the resulting free-kick, hitting another dreadful shot that was well off target.  In the 84th minute, the home side took the lead as a cross from Cotterill was met with a powerful header from Donaldson that flew past Gomes.  Watford could have no complaints.  Watford tried to strike back as Deeney played a through ball to Anya but the Scot was offside.  Anya exchanged passes with Vydra whose shot was blocked, the ball rebounded to Andrews but got stuck under his feet as he was challenged and the ball was cleared.  Watford’s second booking went to Deeney who was penalized for a foul on Morrison.  Robbo rose to head a cross from Anya clear, the follow-up shot from the Scot was saved by Randolph and the home side took all three points.

At the final whistle, the players started to trudge off but Gomes could be seen calling Paredes back to applaud the travelling fans.  I couldn’t bring myself to applaud them back.  But when Robbo ran up the field as one of the last to leave, I and others around me couldn’t help but acknowledge his efforts and he responded in kind to the Watford fans who had been so sporting.

It had been a miserable performance on a cold evening.  Birmingham hadn’t been great, although I was relieved that Cotterill had been so wasteful with the chances that fell to him as it could have been much worse.  So the unbeaten run is at an end, but I’m still looking forward to the trip to Ipswich on Saturday where I’m hoping for better things.  The phrase “glutton for punishment” comes to mind.