Tag Archives: Essaid Belkalem

The U21s Start their Season at Clarence Park

Jakubiak and Ovenden waiting for a corner

Jakubiak and Ovenden waiting for a corner

The main Watford news on Saturday morning was the signing of Colombian international, Zuniga.  While I don’t tend to get too excited about new signings until I see them play, the signing of an experienced wing back could only be a good thing.  But, with the first team flying out to their pre-season training camp in Austria, Saturday’s focus was on the U21s first game at St Albans.

I met Toddy in our usual pre-match pub for a lovely lunch in the beer garden before heading for the ground.

On arrival at Clarence Park, we bumped into Jon Marks and had a good catch up.  With many of last year’s U21s having been released, I wondered what the team would look like and was not surprised to see two trialists and a number who were in the U18s last season.  The starting line-up was Trialist GK, Eleftheriou, Stevens, Belkalem, Trialist, Murray, Ovenden, Stewart, Pereira, Jakubiak and Adeyemo.  The U21s had a very disappointing season last year and there was an impression that there was quite a distance between them and the first team.  Given that Mazzarri is a proponent of 3-5-2 and the U21s were lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, the first indications were not positive that there will be more of a collaboration between the development squad and the first team this season.

Lining up to defend

Lining up to defend

The young Hornets started brightly with Jakubiak setting up his strike partner, Adeyemo, who shot over the bar.  But, on a very warm afternoon in Hertfordshire, chances were at a premium.  The best came when Murray unleashed a volley that tested the City keeper, Russell.  Towards the end of the half, Jakubiak broke into the box and forced another save from Russell, but the first-half ended goalless.  The home side had had chances of their own, but none that tested the unknown goalkeeper.

There were a number of substitutions at the start of the second half with Watford bringing on two more trialists and replacing Jakubiak and Adeyemo with Folivi and Obi.  The substitutions for St Albans were a bit of a blast from the past as they introduced former Watford youngsters Matty Whichelow and Billy Gibson.  Whichelow, who was a player that I had a soft spot for, had the best chance of the game with a cracking shot that the Watford goalkeeper had to tip over the bar.  St Albans dominated the first period of the second half as captain, Theophanous, hit a shot wide and Whichelow again drew a save from the keeper.

Belkalem bandaged after the clash of heads

Belkalem bandaged after the clash of heads

The most notable event of the half for the Hornets was a clash of heads between Belkalem and his team mate Ryan.  The youngster had jumped late for the ball, causing the clash but, as he fell to the ground with blood pouring down his face, I thought Belkalem should have made sure he was all right.  It was then that I noticed that the Algerian, who had shrugged off the challenge, was also bleeding.  The St Albans physio saw to his injury and, being made of stern stuff, he was soon bandaged up and returned to the field.  Ryan, sadly, was unable to continue and, because Watford could not make any more substitutions, they were down to 10 men.  But the Saints’ manager, Ian Allinson, made the very sporting decision to withdraw one of his players (his captain) to even things up.  In the last minutes of the game, both of the Watford strikers had chances to win the game as, first, Folivi broke through and hit a shot that was blocked by the keeper.  Then Obi received a lovely pass from Stewart before shooting straight at the keeper’s legs.

So the game finished goalless on a very hot afternoon in St Albans.  It was not a happy start to the U21 season and I was disappointed to hear that their next game would be held at the training ground and so would not be open to fans.  I really hope that the U21s are given more opportunities to play in front of supporters next season and that they are integrated further with the first team as there are some great youngsters there that deserve that opportunity.

Quique Flores Takes a Walk in Clarence Park

Arlauskis warming up

Arlauskis warming up

I was supposed to be going to the theatre on Wednesday evening, but the announcement of a pre-season friendly at Clarence Park put paid to that.  I know that there are varying schools of thought about pre-season games, with many regarding attendance as pointless, but I love them.  It is a chance to ease yourself gently back in with games whose results don’t matter, to get an early look at new signings and to catch up with your football friends.

We stationed ourselves outside the Sponsors’ Lounge and there was a different vibe from previous games at the same venue with the visit of Premier League opposition attracting a different class of visitor.  I don’t think I have ever seen glasses of white wine being drunk on the perimeter of a non-league pitch before.

Deeney doesn't look sure about the bloke with the bling next to him

Deeney doesn’t look sure about the bloke with the bling next to him

Our position turned to our advantage as I looked up to see our new manager approaching.  I took the opportunity to welcome him, for which he thanked me.  He was followed by the coaching staff and then the players.  I was impressed that Vydra didn’t look the least bit scared when I greeted him with “At last you are ours.”  Inside, he smiled and said, “At last.”  As the last of the players passed us, I wondered where Deeney was and then saw that he was having photos taken with fans.  He was running late behind his teammates, but still took time when he saw us ask how we were and to shake Don’s hand and give me a kiss.

Crowds had flocked to the game but, as the scheduled kick-off time drew near, many were still outside the gates so kick-off was delayed for 15 minutes.  That must be a first for a Watford pre-season game.

Quique Sanchez Flores named a very strong starting line-up:  Gomes, Pudil, Cathcart, Angella, Anya, Capoue, Watson, Ighalo, Abdi, Forestieri and Deeney.  I must admit that, since I always struggle to identify players in pre-season while writing my match reports (new hair-cuts usually do for me), I was happy that only one unfamiliar face was on show.

An early sight of Capoue on the ball

An early sight of Capoue on the ball

Prior to kick-off, as the players formed the line for the ‘respect’ handshake, they were joined by the Mayor of St Albans.  I don’t remember that happening when we played in the Football League.

Watford had an early chance as Deeney headed the ball down to Ighalo but the ball ran away from the Nigerian and the chance was gone.  Then Capoue released Pudil on the wing, he crossed for Deeney who couldn’t connect.  Forestieri played a low cross to Deeney who cut it back to Abdi, but the Professor’s shot was straight at the Saints keeper.  The first goal attempt from the home side was put out for a corner which Gomes punched in the direction of a Saints player but Forestieri was on hand to block the follow-up.  Watford resumed their attacks as Deeney passed to Forestieri, who found space for a shot but it was a bit soft, so easily saved.  An attempt by Deeney to reach an Abdi ball over the top to him in the box was stopped by a push, but there was no penalty appeal.  Deeney then shaped for a scissor kick, but a defender blocked the ball before he could connect.

Waiting for a corner

Waiting for a corner

A lovely Abdi corner should have been converted but Capoue’s header was mistimed and the ball went sailing past him.  Pudil found Forestieri who cut inside and shot into the side netting.  It had been mostly one way traffic in the first 25 minutes, but St Albans threatened as Cathcart was pushed off the ball and the cross reached Hilliard whose shot cleared the bar.  It was then Angella who lost out to Hilliard but the striker again shot over the target.  At the other end, an Abdi free kick was easily gathered by Jones.  The home side threatened again as a cross from Bishop was headed clear by Angella while Hilliard’s follow-up shot flew wide of the far post.  Watford took the lead in the 32rd minute as a cross from Anya was turned back by Pudil to Ighalo who powered the ball into the net.  We were two up very soon afterwards as Capoue played a one-two with Anya before very generously feeding Ighalo who finished.  It could have been three goals within five minutes as Deeney hit a lovely half volley that just cleared the bar.  So we went into the break two goals up after a half that was thoroughly entertaining.  The new boy certainly impressed and there was a lot of lovely passing and not tiki-taka stuff, but Bolton-esque crossfield balls.

Abdi whips in a free kick

Abdi whips in a free kick

I expected wholesale changes for the Hornets at half-time, but there were only five substitutions with Arlauskis, Prödl, Hoban, McGugan and Vydra replacing Gomes, Angella, Pudil, Watson and Ighalo.  The home side also made a number of changes.  Connor Smith soon joined the fray replacing Capoue, who had a very good first game in a Watford shirt.  Almost immediately, Deeney was bearing down on the St Albans goal but Jones came off his line and put him off so he shot over the bar.  The next change was Lloyd Dyer (no, I didn’t think I’d see him in a Watford shirt again either) replacing Forestieri.  For the home side, Ngoyi shot wide of the far post, although the whistle had already gone for a rather harsh offside decision.  On the hour Abdi shot just wide.  Another unexpected face returned as Belkalem came on for Cathcart.  Dyer played a one-two with Vydra before putting in a cross that was turned out for a corner from which Prödl’s header over the target.  Dyer was instrumental in the third Watford goal as he rounded the keeper and hit a shot which was cleared back to him so he squared for Deeney to blast home.  Watford’s next substitution saw young professional Dennon Lewis replacing Abdi.  The first time Arlauskis was called into action he impressed, blocking a close range shot and then saving the follow-up.

Prodl in Action

Prodl in Action

Watford’s next chance was a McGugan free-kick which flew over the bar.  There was a further substitution as Anya was replaced by Paredes.  The home side hadn’t given up and a shot from Medlock was saved by the legs of Arlauskis.  At the other end a chance for Deeney was slightly scuffed and went straight to the keeper.  Dennon Lewis broke into the box, but his shot was saved.  The final substitution saw the last of the starters, Deeney, replaced by Byers.  Watford’s fourth came in the 87th minute as a cut back from Paredes was met with a shot from Smith that took a wicked deflection to fly over Jones in the St Albans goal.  There was one last chance for the Hornets but McGugan’s shot was saved so the visitors ran out 4 goal winners.

Those who shun pre-season games missed a treat.  It was a very good performance on a gorgeous Summer’s evening.  The new boys all looked impressive, the old boys played their part, there were four goals and I got a kiss from the Watford captain.  All in all, a very good evening.

 

Glutton for Punishment

The teams emerge

The teams emerge

The previous two away games served up very different performances, so I travelled to Charlton hoping for something more in the style of QPR than Derby.  There were five changes in personnel from Saturday with McGugan and Ekstrand injured, Cassetti suspended and Pudil and Ranegie rested.  The starting line-up was Bond, Belkalem, Hoban, Doyley, Riera, Murray, Tözsér, Battocchio, Faraoni, Anya and Deeney.  Charlton’s team included Watford Academy graduate, Sordell, and former loanee, Jackson.

 

Greeting the crowd

Greeting the crowd

The first incident of note was in the sixth minute when Faraoni pulled up injured and spent some time receiving treatment.  Watford were the first to threaten as Tözsér played a ball over the top to Deeney, but Hamer was out to challenge and won the battle on this occasion.  For the home side, Cousins cut the ball back for Harriott, but Faraoni tackled and put the ball out for a corner.  That was the Italian’s last contribution as the injury caused him to be replaced by Ranegie.  There was a scare for the Hornets as Bond appeared to have safely gathered a Jackson free-kick but then fumbled and the ball was heading for the goal when he recovered and gathered it at the second attempt.  At the other end, Ranegie knocked the ball down to Deeney whose shot was saved by Hamer.  Jackson headed a cross from Solly goalwards, but Bond kept it out.  On 22 minutes, Charlton went ahead as Harriott shot through Doyley’s legs and past Bond.  The

Defending a free kick

Defending a free kick

visitors should have equalized soon afterwards as a through ball from Battocchio was blocked and rebounded back to him, he passed to Deeney whose shot was pushed around the post by Hamer.  From Tözsér’s corner, Belkalem’s header was on target and had to be pushed onto the crossbar by the keeper.  Another corner from Tözsér was a little too deep, but was knocked down to Anya whose cross flew over the bar.  Murray was the next to try a cross, but it was caught by Hamer.  On the half hour, Battocchio played a short pass to Murray whose shot was just wide of the target.  Watford had another chance to draw level, but a lovely cross from Anya was headed back across goal by Ranegie, when he should have tested the keeper, and went out for a corner from which Hamer pushed the ball out for a throw.  In time added on at the end of the half Belkalem was booked for a foul on Wilson who went down as if he’d been punched following what appeared to be minimal contact.

Tozser lines up a free kick

Tozser lines up a free kick

So we reached half time a goal down.  In the away end, a singing section had gathered, but they had positioned themselves at one side of the stand which meant that very few of the songs were taken up elsewhere.  So, despite my attempts to join in, it was rather quiet where I was located just to the left of the goal.

The first action of the second half was the substitution of Doyley by Angella.  I am one of Lloydy’s biggest fans but he’d had a mare.  Soon after, there was a lovely Watford move as Murray played a through ball to Battocchio who fed Deeney.  Hamer came out to save, but Troy had already been flagged offside.  Harriott threatened again with a swift break, but Hoban intercepted and won a goal kick. That was good work from the youngster.  On the hour, Watford drew level as Deeney controlled a ball from Angella, shrugged off the attentions of the defenders and hit a lovely shot into the roof of the net.

Celebrating Deeney's wonder strike

Celebrating Deeney’s wonder strike

It was a rare moment of quality that appeared to come from another game.  Riera was booked for a trip on Poyet.  Sordell had failed to make an impression against his former team and was replaced by Obika.  Deeney tried a shot from the right of the box that was over the target.  Troy had another chance as he received a through ball from Ranegie, but he couldn’t control and it rolled through to Hamer.  The home side launched a counter attack that culminated in Jackson shooting past Bond to regain the lead.  There was a frantic period in the Charlton box as Angella and Deeney exchanged passes, but a defender took the ball off the Italian’s feet to stop the threat , Anya had a shot that was blocked and then Hamer was called into action to punch away a couple of crosses.  With 15 minutes to go, Murray was replaced by Diakite, a move that was met with great excitement from the woman sitting behind me who was raving about the loanee and clearly must have seen something that I’ve missed in his previous outings.  Diakite’s first action was to give away a free kick from which the ball reached Harriott who powered a shot past Bond for Charlton’s third.  We never looked like getting back into the game after that.  Diakite had a shot blocked before Riera came in to make a clearance, Poyet ran across and appeared to bounce off him and went flying.  The referee bought the theatrics and Riera received a second yellow.  He remonstrated with the official and Deeney approached Poyet and looked as though he was going to inflict an injury commensurate with his dramatic reaction.

Murray puts in a cross

Murray puts in a cross

Less than 5 minutes later, Poyet succeeded in adding Ranegie’s name to the ref’s collection.  Then, as Angella failed to clear, Fox shot wide of the far post.  In time added on, a Hoban cross came to Anya with his back to goal.  There were some in the away end who believed he’d propelled the ball across the line, but it appeared to me that Ikechi had actually kept the ball out, possibly using his arm in the process, although I would be interested to see a replay.  The last action of the game was a shot from Anya that was straight at Hamer.  So we lost our last away game of the season and the home crowd celebrated survival, which was some consolation as I quite like Charlton.

Reading my notes back, we were competitive in the first half but, once we went a goal down, we never looked like getting back into the game.  We’ve been poor on our travels for most of the season, but those last two performances were abject and have had me questioning why I bother if the players don’t.  Still, I know that come the end of May I’ll be itching for pre-season.  I’m a glutton for punishment.

 

The Road Past Wigan Pier

Wigan Pier

Wigan Pier

The last couple of games were played on lovely Spring days and, when I left home, it was rather warm and I feared I was over-dressed.  In the event, I was nothing of the sort as the trip north took place under darkening skies and I arrived to chilly temperatures.  On previous visits to Wigan, I have taken the supporters coach, so this was a new town to visit.  Our pre-match pub was at Wigan Pier.  The ironic name and Orwellian associations meant that I was expecting a rather dreary location, so was pleasantly surprised at how attractive the area was.  Added to that, the beer was decent and the local speciality on the menu, a steak pudding, was cracking.  There was soon a lovely gathering of Hornets, of whom I was the only one that had started my journey down south.  The walk to the ground was along the canal and would have been delightful had it not been punctuated with cold showers.  I was soaked through by the time I arrived at the DW

A nervous-looking local

A nervous-looking local

Stadium.  Recent games have been preceded by airport-level searches before you were permitted to enter the ground, so when I approached a steward and asked if he wanted to search my bag, I was delighted to hear “Na, you’re all right, Love.”  That endeared me to the town even more.

We came in to this game having not won away since early October while Wigan’s mid-week draw with Yeovil was the first time that they hadn’t won in a home league game this year.  Team news was that Belkalem would replace Doyley.  Oh, Beppe, Beppe, Beppe, what were you thinking?  The starting line-up was Almunia, Angella, Cassetti, Belkalem, Pudil, McGugan, Tözsér, Battocchio, Faraoni, Anya and Deeney.  Wigan’s line-up included Watford Academy graduate Rob Kiernan.

 

The defence lines up

The defence lines up

The first chance on goal came from the home side with a lovely ball from Jordi Gómez to Beausejour who only had the keeper to beat, but Almunia blocked the shot.  The Chilean threatened again with a cross that needed a hand from Almunia to keep it out.  The corner was met with a header by Ramis that was blocked on the line and rebounded out off the inside of the post.  Waghorn then tried a shot from distance, but it was straight at Almunia.  On 18 minutes, Watford had their first meaningful attack but Anya’s shot flew well wide of the target.  He pleaded with the referee that it had taken a deflection, but a goal kick was given.  Ikechi was the next to threaten as he received a long pass from Deeney, advanced towards goal but shot well over.  McClean then played a dangerous cross in the direction of Waghorn, but Almunia was first to the ball.  At the other end, McGugan tried

Watford on the attack

Watford on the attack

a shot from distance that flew well wide.  Then a through ball from Beausejour found McClean in front of goal, somehow he managed to miss the target but the linesman was flagging anyway.  McClean then broke into the box and Almunia did really well to block the shot.  At the other end, McGugan tried a shot that took a slight deflection off a defender which slowed it down so it was easily gathered by Al Habsi.  Then McClean cut the ball back to Waghorn in the Watford box, but he was stopped by a brilliant tackle.  McClean was tormenting the Watford defence.  This time he attacked from the left, fortunately his shot was in to the side netting.  On 35 minutes, Watford took a totally undeserved lead with our first decent shot on goal.  Angella played a gorgeous ball to

Celebrating McGugan's strike

Celebrating McGugan’s strike

McGugan who shot past Al Habsi into the far corner.  We weren’t ahead for long as Beausejour found himself one-on-one with Almunia, the Spaniard parried the initial shot, but was beaten by the follow-up header.  McClean nearly struck soon after as he skipped through the defence and shot past the near post.  Just before half-time, Angella was penalized for a foul on Perch, he was completely distraught and I was rather amused to see Perch trying to placate him.  In time added on, Al Habsi dropped the ball but McGugan couldn’t capitalize, although a foul on the keeper was given anyway.

Almunia gathers

Almunia gathers

The second half started with a shower of icy rain that made a rather lovely musical accompaniment to the game.  The home side were ahead ten minutes into the half as Waghorn got the ball in the box, it appeared to be caught under his feet but he managed to turn and shoot past Almunia.  Almost straight from kick-off, Tözsér was booked for an innocuous looking tackle.  Waghorn was the next to make his way into the referee’s book after a foul on Faraoni.  On the hour, Waghorn was replaced by Jack Collison making his Wigan debut after joining on loan from West Ham.  Beausejour then found Jordi Gómez whose shot from distance was well over the bar.  Anya latched on to a throw-in and advanced on goal, but was closed down before he could shoot.  With 20 minutes remaining, McClean, who had been a menace all afternoon, was replaced by Powell.  Beausejour threatened again with a volley that flew wide of the far post.  Watford’s first substitution saw

These foreign managers all look the same to me :-)

These foreign managers all look the same to me 🙂

Belkalem make way for Ekstrand.  Deeney tried a shot that was blocked and came back to him, but he was closed down before he could get a second shot in.  Then Angella played another great forward ball, this time to Pudil who ran into the box and was tackled, the ball fell to Anya who shot wide of the target.  Wigan made their final substitution as Rogne replaced Kiernan.  At this point, the rain became quite biblical, but the music that it played in our stand was gorgeous.  A corner from Tözsér was met with a powerful defensive header from Boyce.  With 10 minutes remaining, Diakite replaced McGugan.  His first act in the game was to earn a yellow card for a foul on Jordi Gómez.  This provoked a chant of “send him back to QPR” from some of the travelling crowd.  Based on

Anya on the attack

Anya on the attack

what little I have seen, I am no fan of Diakite, but how does abusing your own players help when the team is fighting to get back in the game?  I despair of some of our fans.  We had a great chance to equalize soon after as Anya found himself in the box with just Al Habsi to beat, but he shot wide when he maybe should have done better although he was complaining of being held back.  Wigan then threatened but Fortuné’s shot was into the side netting.  In the Wigan box, Battocchio played a ball back to Tözsér whose shot was blocked.  The home side launched a counter-attack and there was Battocchio back in defence where he intercepted the ball as Powell tried to play Fortuné in.  With two minutes remaining, Ekstrand received his inevitable yellow card, although this one was very harsh as he’d merely tripped Jordi Gómez.  In time added on, Deeney played a low cross towards Battocchio that was cleared, Cassetti picked it up and found Deeney whose shot was blocked but the flag was already up.  The last chance of the game fell to McArthur whose shot was wide of the far post.

Ekstrand clears

Ekstrand clears

It was another disappointing away day for the Hornets.  The team worked hard, but there were too many misplaced passes and Wigan seemed to be first to every loose ball.  We lost the game in midfield, where we couldn’t gain a foothold.  Wigan are a decent team, although nothing special, but we didn’t really trouble them and the score flattered us a bit.  Still, as always, it was a good day out.  I loved my visit to Wigan so am a bit conflicted when I say that I hope they win the third promotion spot as they are a very likeable club.  We only have a short break before facing another team from Lancashire.  Our away performance against Blackburn was truly horrible, so I’m hoping that we revert to our marvellous home form on Tuesday.

Tangerine Dream

Progress of the new East Stand

Progress of the new East Stand

After the sheer boredom of our last two matches, there wasn’t a great appetite for this one and I had the cynicism of a beleaguered employer as the sick notes started coming in from our usual companions.  Blackpool’s horrendous recent record stacked up neatly against Bolton and Yeovil’s in the ‘we really should win this, but ….’ stakes.  All the positive talk pre-game surrounded the progress on the East Stand which had been witnessed by those of us who went to the Quiz Night in the week.  After weeks when the only visible change was the position of the digger there was suddenly a structure in place which caused such joy among the home faithful that it even had its own chant during the game.

Team news was that Battocchio was in for Merkel and Ranegie would replace Park up front to make his home debut.  So the starting line-up was Almunia, Angella, Cassetti, Doyley, Pudil, Tözsér, Murray, Battocchio, Anya, Ranegie and Deeney.

Ranegie congratulated on his first goal

Ranegie congratulated on his first goal

Watford had a great chance to take the lead on 11 minutes as Doyley played a long ball to Deeney who controlled and then shot just wide of the far post.  We weren’t to be denied for long, though.  Anya won a corner.  Tözsér’s delivery was beautifully placed in the middle of the area where it was met with a header from Ranegie that beat Gilks to put the Hornets a goal up.  Soon after, the Hornets threatened again as Pudil stole the ball and ran into the box to get into shooting position, but he seemed to keep running and just shot straight ahead, so the ball flew well wide of the goal.  Then Tözsér found Anya on the right, he broke into the box shrugging off the attentions of a defender who was trying to pull him over, but his cross was straight at Gilks in the Blackpool goal.  The first chance for the visitors came on 21 minutes as Fuller took a shot from just outside the area that was just

Deeney celebrating

Deeney celebrating

over the bar.  On 35 minutes, we were two up as Pudil passed back to Deeney just outside the area, and he buried the ball past Gilks.  Watford continued to attack as Deeney and Ranegie exchanged passes but Troy was crowded out before he could shoot.  Two goal leads have been problematic for us this season, so it was a relief when we scored a third soon after.  MacKenzie, under pressure from Ranegie, played a horrible ball out of defence straight at Battocchio who played a through ball to the Swede who, one-on-one with Gilks, slotted the ball past the keeper for his second goal of the game.  Just before the end of normal time in the first half, we had another free-kick that Tözsér took quickly, taking

Ranegie congratulated on his second

Ranegie congratulated on his second

everyone by surprise, but he put his delivery well over the bar.  In time added on at the end of the half, Angella took Fuller down on the edge of the box.  Dobbie’s free-kick was low and through the wall but wide of the target.

There were lots of happy faces in the Rookery at half-time.  I went for a chat with a friend of mine who said he’d been hoping for 4-0 before the game.  That sort of brave optimism deserved a decent performance in the second period.

A Tozser corner

A Tozser corner

Before kick-off in the second half, the Blackpool players got into a huddle.  Whatever it was that they discussed, it didn’t help.  They also made two substitutions with Basham and Bishop (yes, really!) replacing Haroun and Keogh.  Basham’s first contribution, almost straight from kick-off, was to live up to his name taking Pudil down and earning a yellow card.  Blackpool had a free-kick soon after that was lofted straight to Almunia.  From the Spaniard’s clearance, Deeney headed the ball down for Anya but Gilks came out and was first to the ball.  Then Battocchio played a ball forward to Deeney, who skipped past two defenders before being dispossessed by the third.  Blackpool then threatened with a shot from Fuller that Almunia parried.  It was Fuller on the attack again soon after as he got on the end of a corner from Dobbie, but his header just rippled the side

Doyley on the ball

Doyley on the ball

netting.  Ten minutes into the half, Ranegie broke into the Blackpool box and was pulled over, but the referee waved away appeals for a penalty.  On 58 minutes, Anya put a corner over for Ranegie but his header was deflected onto the top of the goal.  Anya’s next corner was met by Angella, but Gilks was equal to the header.  On the hour, it was the visitors who threatened from a corner but Broadfoot headed Dobbie’s delivery wide of the target.  Then Dobbie got the ball just outside the box, turned and shot but it was easy for Almunia.  MacKenzie’s header from a Dobbie corner also failed to trouble Almunia

Deeney congratulated on his second goal

Deeney congratulated on his second goal

flying high and wide.  Watford had been quiet since half-time but, on 70 minutes, Tözsér put a ball over to Deeney who outran Broadfoot to get in a shot that Gilks just got a hand to and kept out.  In the next move, Battocchio played a neat ball to Deeney who lofted the ball over Gilks for his second and Watford’s fourth.  There was a rash of substitutes soon after as Pudil and Angella were replaced by Faraoni and Belkalem for the Hornets and Goodwillie replaced Dobbie for the visitors.  Bishop got on the end of a cross from Foley, but put it over the bar.  Belkalem’s first action of the game was to pick up a booking for a foul on Fuller.  Blackpool substitute, Goodwillie, tried a shot from distance but it was well over Almunia’s bar.  Watford’s final substitution of the game came with nine minutes remaining as Merkel replaced Murray.  He was involved in the next chance of the game as Deeney and Ranegie exchanged passes, the ball fell to Merkel but he shot wide of

Defending a set piece

Defending a set piece

the target.  Just before full time, Tözsér tried a shot that was wide of the target.  Then Battocchio played Ranegie in, but MacKenzie prevented him having a shot.  The last action of the game was on the touchline as the crowd chanted “Beppe give us a wave.”  As we commented that he would have no idea what we were saying, he turned to the bench and when he turned back, the Rookery was greeted with a two handed wave that would have graced an Olympic podium.  I wished I’d had a bunch of flowers to throw to him.  If the smile on my face wasn’t wide enough after what I’d witnessed on the pitch, that guaranteed that I went home beaming.  I was also rather gratified when the Blackpool keeper, Gilks, applauded the Watford crowd at the end of the game.  A very sporting gesture indeed.

Belkalem in action

Belkalem in action

After the misery of recent weeks, this was a real treat.  It has to be acknowledged that Blackpool were truly dreadful, but that shouldn’t stop me from taking great positives from the game.  Tözsér continues to impress, his set pieces are a joy.  But the highlight for me was the performance of Ranegie, who had been disappointing in his first couple of appearances, so it was great to see him stamp his authority on the game.  He was constantly fighting for the ball and getting into great positions, but the best aspect for me was his interplay with Deeney.  The two of them seem to have built up an understanding that bodes very well for the rest of the season.

Due to Charlton’s continued involvement in the cup, we have a Saturday off next week so our midweek trip to Doncaster is the next opportunity to see the team and I’m rather looking forward to it.