Tag Archives: Dean Whitehead

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.

 

Two Home Wins in a Week

Challenging for a cross

Challenging for a cross

When planning my journey to Saturday’s game, I had spent some time on railway websites working out which of my possible routes was the least disrupted by flooding.  The storms on Friday evening meant that I also had to give some last minute thought to trees on the line in Hertfordshire.  I set off more in hope than in expectation but, apart from spending rather longer than desirable standing on stations waiting for delayed departures, the journey was quite painless and I was in the West Herts at a respectable time.  Pre-match, more than one person asked incredulously whether my colleagues had really enjoyed the Birmingham game.  The response that they knew nothing about football seemed a satisfactory explanation.  The main team news was that Bond was in for Almunia who had picked up a calf strain, and Diakite was to make his full debut.  The starting line-up was Bond, Angella, Cassetti, Doyley, Pudil, Diakite, Tözsér, Murray, Faraoni, Forestieri and Deeney.  The Middlesbrough line-up included former Watford player of the season, Danny Graham, as well as Nathaniel Chalobah who impressed for us on loan last season.

In common with all matches this weekend, Vicarage Road was to have a pre-match appreciation of the life of the great Tom Finney who died this week.  No sooner had Richard Short started his introduction than the fans throughout the ground broke into spontaneous, affectionate applause, which was rather lovely.

Doyley executes an arabesque

Doyley executes an arabesque

It was the sixteenth minute before anything happened on the pitch that seemed worthy of jotting down.  To be honest, Adomah’s shot wasn’t that thrilling and Bond was down to save easily, but I was fearing at that stage that I would get to half time with a blank page in my notebook.  Watford’s first goal attempt came as Pudil passed to Forestieri whose shot was deflected for a corner.  Next a defensive header fell to Murray on the edge of the box, but his shot flew over the bar.  For the visitors, Adomah played a through ball to Graham in the box, but the former Watford man shot wide of the far post.  Forestieri picked the ball up from Faraoni and passed across the field to Pudil whose shot was well off target.  Then a free-kick from Tözsér was gathered at the far post by Shay

Tozser takes a free kick

Tozser takes a free kick

Given.  At the other end, a Ledesma shot from distance was nowhere near the target.  There followed a yellow card for each side.  First, Gibson was penalized for a trip on Deeney.  Then Leadbitter tried to escape from Cassetti and was taken down for his audacity.  The wronged man took the free kick himself, it was met with a header from Woodgate that beat Bond but, to the relief of the home supporters, was ruled out for offside.  A Murray shot was gathered by Given with Deeney closing in on him.  Finally, a moment of skill as a break from Graham was stopped by a brilliant tackle from Cassetti, but the Italian followed this up with a horrible shanked pass which was much more in keeping with the game so far.  Then Deeney jumped to meet a Faraoni cross that was a bit too high so he couldn’t get much power in his header which looped into Given’s hands.  The last ‘goal attempt’ of the half, came from a Tözsér free-kick which was headed wide of the far post by Forestieri.  The half-time whistle was a blessed relief after a truly dire half of football summed up by a comment from the guy who sits next to me that he’d never get that 45 minutes of his life back.

Shay Given

Shay Given

The start of the second half saw the return of Tommie Hoban after a more than a year out following Achilles surgery.  Lloyd Doyley made way, which was a bit surprising as Cassetti was on a card and Angella had taken some knocks but, unbeknownst to me, Lloyd had picked up an injury.  The visitors also made a substitution with Carayol replacing Ledesma.  Given the lack of entertainment in the first half, it was some consolation that the second half would feature the lovely Shay Given in the goal at the Rookery end.  There was no sense of finding his feet for young Hoban after his long layoff, as his first action was a robust tackle on the other substitute, Carayol.  A minute later, Forestieri was tripped in the

Troy's penalty

Troy’s penalty

box by Gibson.  The referee immediately pointed to the spot.  Troy Deeney stepped up and placed the penalty straight down the middle as Given dived to his right and the Hornets were unexpectedly a goal up.  Five minutes into the half, Watford were down to ten men as Diakite inexplicably launched into a two-footed tackle on Whitehead.  This was greeted with “I told you,” by Trevor who sits in front of me and is also a season ticket holder at QPR.  He’d commented when Diakite came on as a sub against Brighton that he doesn’t usually spend long on the pitch.  Middlesbrough almost took advantage immediately but Graham’s shot was deflected just wide.  Luckily for Watford, a moment of madness by Gibson

Stopping Carayol

Stopping Carayol

ensured that both teams played most of the second half with 10 men.  Bond had gathered the ball from a corner and was about to launch it upfield, when Gibson tried to kick the ball out of his hands and was, deservedly, given a second yellow for his stupidity.  Soon after, there was a bit of handbags between Chalobah and Forestieri that earned both men a yellow card and ensured that Nathaniel was jeered every time he touched the ball for the rest of the game.  As the second period reached the halfway stage, Anya replaced Faraoni.  Ikechi was involved immediately crossing for Deeney who, under challenge, headed straight at Given.  An injury then necessitated another substitution as Forestieri was replaced by Battocchio.  Middlesbrough threatened as an innocuous looking shot from Carayol took two attempts from Bond to control.  The visitors then replaced Varga with Main.  The introduction of Anya had injected a bit of pace into the game and a quick break had Given back pedalling, but he was able to narrow the angle so Anya’s shot was just wide of the far post.  Graham then got on the end of a cross from Whitehead but it was

Anya versus Friend

Anya versus Friend

easily caught by Bond.  It was end to end stuff as Anya played a lovely through ball to Deeney, but Given was out to dive at his feet and save.  He launched the ball upfield where it reached Friend whose shot was blocked.  Danny Graham had another chance from the edge of the box but again it was well wide.  Into the last 10 minutes, Kamara replaced Woodgate.  With four minutes remaining Deeney advanced down the left and pulled the ball back to Tözsér on the edge of the box but his shot was weak and did not test Given.  This move summed up the game for me.  It appeared to be in slow motion and seemed that neither Deeney nor Tözsér really wanted to bother the Boro keeper

Bond takes a free-kick

Bond takes a free-kick

with a shot.  A cross into the Watford box was punched by Bond as far as Adomah whose shot was blocked.  Deeney then found Murray on the left, who pushed the challenging Chalobah out of the way before shooting straight at Given, but the whistle had already gone for the foul.  There were five minutes of added time in which all the chances fell to the visitors.  First a cross from Carayol flew well wide.  The same player put in another cross that was headed back across goal to Graham whose header was caught by Bond.  Finally, Carayol went for goal himself but his shot was just wide and Watford had another 1-0 win.

So two home games in a week have yielded six points, but very little entertainment.  I’m all for winning ugly on occasion, but when it becomes a habit it is not a lot of fun to watch.  Next up is a trip to the West Country to stand on a terrace at a new ground, always something to look forward to.  Here’s hoping that the weather doesn’t intervene this time.