Tag Archives: Gabriel Tamas

A Lunchtime Stalemate

The teams (and mascots) emerge from the tunnel

The teams (and mascots) emerge from the tunnel

I hate lunchtime kick-offs.  I missed the Blackpool game due to work commitments on the other side of the Atlantic, but drew the line at taking the red-eye on Friday night and travelling straight to Vicarage Road.  However, even after a night’s sleep in my own bed, I was not impressed at having to leave home earlier than I do for most away games.  There is then the confusion about whether coffee, tea or beer should accompany your pre-match brunch.  I’d had a coffee on the train, so the beer won that argument.

In the absence of our hospitalized manager (get well soon, Òscar), Ruben Martinez was in charge for the day.  There were three changes from the Blackpool game with injuries to Angella and Deeney meaning that Tamas and Dyer deputized and Murray was preferred to McGugan.  So the starting line-up was Gomes, Pudil, Tamas, Ekstrand, Paredes, Murray, Tözsér, Abdi, Dyer, Vydra, Anya.  Rather surprisingly, Gomes was given the captain’s armband.

Wilson shielding the ball from Ekstrand

Wilson shielding the ball from Ekstrand

The game did not start well for the home side.  Bournemouth had chance in the first minute as the ball fell to Ritchie in the box but he shot wide of the target.  In the second minute Wilson, with the help of a hefty shove, beat Tamas to get into the box where Tamas returned the shove and conceded a penalty.  Fortunately Harte hit the spot kick wide of the target.  I can only speculate on how much those in the Rookery who were waving, trying to put him off, contributed to the miss.  Watford’s first foray forward was a ball over the top from Murray which Vydra could not control and the chance was lost.  A free-kick from Tözsér found Murray at the far post but his header was over the bar.  Watford looked in trouble as the ball bounced around our box, but Ekstrand finally cleared.  Pudil played a lovely through ball to release Dyer, he crossed for Vydra but the Czech could not connect.  Stanislas cut in from the left and hit a low shot but Gomes was down to gather easily.

Boruc gathers with Cathcart challenging

Boruc gathers with Cathcart challenging

At the other end, Tözsér played a ball over the top to Vydra who spun and knocked it goalwards, but Boruc was equal to it.  Ritchie was the next to threaten for the visitors, but his shot was well over the bar.  Just before the half hour, Tamas went down injured.  As soon as Kevin the physio reached him, he signalled for a substitute at which point some morons in the Watford crowd actually cheered.  Tamas had been having a bad day, but to cheer a nasty injury to a player beggars belief.  After a long delay for treatment, he was stretchered off and replaced by Cathcart, making his second debut for Watford.  With 10 minutes to go to half time, the ball dropped to Pudil on the edge of the area from where he shot just wide of the near post.  Dyer went on a great run before playing the ball in to Vydra, but Cook made a great saving tackle to thwart him.  Bournemouth really should have taken the lead as Francis broke into the box and chipped the ball over to Wilson whose header was flying into the net until Gomes appeared out of nowhere to make a terrific save.  As the half time whistle went, a suited and booted Troy Deeney got up from the dugout to give his opinion on the first period to Sky Sports.  We’d missed him desperately on the pitch.

Troy on TV duty when we needed him on the pitch

Troy on TV duty when we needed him on the pitch

Early in the second half, the visitors had the ball in the net as a clearance from Ekstrand reached Surman whose shot was parried by Gomes to Wilson who knocked it past the keeper, but the flag was up for offside.  Gomes had to stretch to keep out a free-kick from Harte, Ritchie’s follow-up was blocked.  Watford’s second substitution saw Forestieri replacing Dyer, who did not look happy to be leaving the field so Martinez went to the dugout to put a consoling arm around him.  Anya whipped in a cross that was headed goalwards by Vydra, Boruc caught the ball but Anya had been flagged offside anyway.  We’d just had a decent spell in the game when we went behind as Arter unleashed a brilliant shot from 25 yards into the top corner.  A Tözsér free-kick was blocked and bounced to Forestieri whose shot was also blocked.

Paredes covering Pugh

Paredes covering Pugh

Forestieri then went on a run down the right that was stopped when Cook flew into him.  For some baffling reason, Arter decided to remonstrate with Fernando and there was a spell of handbags after which Cook received a yellow card for the nasty tackle, while Tözsér and Surman were similarly punished for the follow-on.  Tözsér took a free-kick that was headed out for a corner.  The follow-up was bouncing around in the box, but no Watford player could get a decent touch to send the ball goalwards.  It was clearly open season on Forestieri as Arter took his turn to knock him flying and make his way into the referee’s book.  With 20 minutes remaining, Ighalo replaced Abdi.  Anya found Murray whose shot was blocked by Ighalo who was unable to turn and finish.  Forestieri tried a shot from distance that was well over.  Anya did well to beat two players on the left wing, his first cross was blocked, his second attempt went begging due to a lack of Watford players in the box.  We had a strong shout for a penalty as Tözsér played a ball to Anya in the box where he was felled but the referee waved play on.

Cathcart congratulated on his goal

Cathcart congratulated on his goal

Our equalizer came from an unexpected source as a headed clearance fell to Cathcart who volleyed past Boruc.  It was an excellent strike from Cathcart whose debut had been very impressive indeed.  Anya crossed for Vydra whose shot was more of a cross which was met by Forestieri flying through the air with his arm outstretched.  If you weren’t there, it is really hard to describe this move except to say that Fernando reminded me of Christopher Reeve as Superman.  He really should have avoided the yellow card due to the shear comedy value.  Anya found Pudil on the overlap but his cross was straight into the arms of Boruc.  We had a great chance to win the game as Forestieri passed to Ighalo in the box, but his shot was weak and straight at the keeper and he turned to find Fernando indicating that he should have passed it back to him.  As the clock struck 90 minutes, Elphick hauled Vydra to the ground and was booked.  The last action of the game came when the ball fell to Ekstrand who wellied it over from distance.  It had been a very disappointing afternoon with the highlight being a tremendous performance from the returning Cathcart topped off with a terrific goal.

On the way out of the ground, I bumped into a lovely family that I know whose children had been mascots for the day.  The children were beaming as their Mum told me how well they’d been looked after, particularly by Ikechi Anya who had gone above and beyond in looking after his charge.  After a disappointing afternoon, that put a huge smile on my face.

A Tremendous Performance Both On and Off the Pitch

Pre match huddle

Pre match huddle

There was a certain amount of trepidation going in to this fixture.  I was still seething about the non-performance in the cup on Tuesday.  Actually I was still seething about the horror of the final game of last season when we played the same team and our players were already on holiday.  This history was of particular concern as my niece, Amelia, who has been coming to games on and off for years was accompanying me.  I am still haunted by her distress at the end of the last play-off final, so I was hoping that the lads would give her something to smile about.

When the team news came in, there were two changes from the win over Leeds with Anya coming in for Paredes and Ekstrand coming straight back after serving his three match suspension, which seemed very harsh on Hoban who had been excellent.  So the starting line-up was Gomes, Angella, Ekstrand, Tamas, Pudil, Abdi, Tözsér, Munari, Anya, Deeney and Forestieri.  I noted the presence of a Sinnott on the Huddersfield bench, who did turn out to be the son of former Watford player Lee.  The news during the week of Troy Deeney’s new contract had been a delightful surprise as I had resigned myself to his departure.  Needless to say, he was given a tremendous reception and, in turn, showed his appreciation to the crowd who sang his name.

Defending a corne4

Defending a corner

The first action of note was on the sideline as Angella challenged Coady who went sliding off the pitch and collided with Beppe Sannino in his technical area (for once) sending him flying.  There were no histrionics from the gaffer who was immediately back on his feet and it was nice to see that his well-being was checked by both Coady and the Terriers boss, Lillis.  The first attempt on goal came from the visitors as Harry Bunn cut inside Angella but shot high and wide.  Then Vaughan put a header over the bar.  Forestieri had the ball in the net having broken forward while avoiding the attentions of Wallace, but the linesman was flagging.  Fernando was not deterred as he went on a great run, evading a couple of tackles before being taken down on the edge of the box, the ball broke to Deeney who played it out to Anya running in from the right, but his shot was wide of the far post.  Deeney had a great chance to take the lead as he connected with a Tözsér free-kick, but he directed the header just over the bar.  At the other end, a corner was punched clear by Gomes.

Deeney congratulated on his goal

Deeney congratulated on his goal

On 15 minutes, we were ahead as Tözsér played a fabulous through ball to Deeney who sprinted clear and shot past Smithies.  What a perfect way to celebrate his new contract.  Five minutes later, Troy muscled Coady out of the way and bore down on goal again, but this time his shot was into the side netting.  Pudil tried to catch the Huddersfield defence out with a quick throw to Forestieri whose shot was deflected for a corner.  It wasn’t all Watford, though, as Majewski tried a shot that Gomes dropped to push clear.  Then Tamas lost the ball to Majewski leading to a goalmouth scramble as first Butterfield’s shot was blocked, then Coady’s attempt was parried by Gomes, the ball finally dropped to Vaughan who beat the keeper, so it was a relief to see the linesman’s flag raised.  On the half hour, Deeney headed a ball back to Forestieri who tried a shot from distance that was easily gathered by Smithies.  Butterfield tried another shot that Gomes was down to gather.  Scannell snuck in behind Pudil and put in a low cross that flew across the goalmouth but no Huddersfield player was there to get the vital touch, so it was cleared.  Munari was the first Watford player to be booked as he knocked Lynch to the ground.  We had another great chance as Pudil found Deeney in the middle and we were waiting for the net to bulge in front of us, but Troy’s shot was just wide.  Tamas played a long ball to Pudil who crossed to Forestieri who played the ball over to Anya whose snap shot was caught by Smithies.  Just before half time, Tamas played a lovely cross into the box for Forestieri who came flying at it and headed just over.  Then Anya found Deeney who also shot over.  Munari had pulled up a few minutes earlier, so it was sad to see him limping off to be replaced by Andrews.

It had been a lively and enjoyable first half.  Huddersfield had their chances, but Watford had played some lovely football and really should have been further ahead.  I have to say that watching Deeney and Forestieri playing together in that half, in the knowledge that this was not the last time I would see Troy in a Watford shirt, had been an absolute joy.

Abdi congratulated on his first goal

Abdi congratulated on his first goal

The second half started horribly for the Hornets as there was a mix up between Tamas and Gomes over a ball into the box, it broke to Bunn who buried it past Gomes and, for some inexplicable reason, decided to celebrate in front of the Rookery.  Soon after, Dixon tried a speculative shot from distance that was well over the target.  We were ahead again in the 53rd minute as the ball broke to Abdi in the box and he powered it past Smithies.  Huddersfield continued to threaten.  Gomes dropped to gather a shot from Majewski.  Then a Scannell cross appeared to be heading for the goal when Tözsér lifted a foot to flick it wide.  Tamas was booked for what looked like a soft tackle on Bunn, who had spent a lot of the game on the ground.  Vaughan got his head to a cross from Scannell, but Gomes pushed it wide.  Unfortunately, from the resulting corner, Wallace had a free header to restore parity.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, within a couple of minutes we were down to 10 men as Tamas made an unnecessary tackle on the sideline which earned him a second yellow card.  There was no danger in the position, so the tackle seemed utterly pointless.  I am a fan of Tamas, but he had a mare during this game.

Andrews congratulated by his team mates

Andrews congratulated by his team mates

There was also a booking for the visitors as Wallace saw yellow for taking Abdi down.  Almen took the free-kick himself, it was on-target but Smithies pushed it out for a corner.  Abdi took the corner which curled deep and was headed in by Andrews to restore a slightly surprising lead for the Hornets.  At the other end, the ball fell to Majewski but his shot was blocked.  Majewski then had another shot that crept wide with Vaughan closing in.  Huddersfield really should have drawn level as a cross reached Vaughan in front of the goal, but he cleared the ball instead of sending it goalwards.  During this period of Huddersfield pressure, every time the ball came into our box, I could feel Amelia flinch.  I was desperately hoping that we didn’t disappoint her again.  Each side made a substitution with Vaughan making way for Wells and Hoban coming on for Anya to shore up the defence in the absence of Tamas.  Huddersfield threatened again as a cross came in with Scannell sneaking in at the back post, but Pudil was there to put him off and he knocked the ball into the side netting.

Abdi takes a free kick

Abdi takes a free kick

The final substitutions saw Hammill and Stead replacing Bunn and Dixon for the visitors with Paredes replacing Forestieri for the home side.  Wells tried a shot from the middle of the box, which was caught by Gomes who was in action again almost immediately, dropping to stop a shot from Hammill.  Then a ball came in to the Watford box with Pudil and Gomes both challenging for it and Pudil seemed to step on Gomes.  They both went down and it didn’t look good, but the upshot was that Gomes had cramp which took a while to treat but he was able to continue.  Huddersfield continued to press for a third equalizer as Bunn tried a shot from distance that was well over the bar.  At this point something remarkable happened.  There had been some encouraging chants coming from the Rookery, but I saw Tözsér gesture for us to raise the volume and the next thing I knew, the whole of the Rookery were on their feet singing and clapping.  The same was true of the family stand.  Then I turned to my left and saw something I have rarely seen before, the whole of the GT stand singing and clapping.  As my attention returned to the pitch, I saw Gomes parrying a shot, Hammill followed up but Gomes was equal to it.  There were six minutes of injury time and the Vicarage Road faithful kept up the chanting for the team.

Ekstrand congratulates Abdi

Ekstrand congratulates Abdi

Then Tözsér played a ball across to Abdi who advanced into the box and curled the ball around defender and keeper and into the net.  At 4-2 in injury time, that had to be the winner.  Cue a properly mental celebration.  With the singing that had preceded the goal, I felt like I had earned an assist.  But I nearly had heart failure when I saw my sister pointing.  I looked at the lino whose flag was down and then realized that she was indicating the Gomes celebration, which was as mental as ours.  What a relief!

At the final whistle, there was a joyful celebration.  When Tamas was dismissed just after the visitors had equalized, it looked like our afternoon was over, but this had been a tremendous performance both on the pitch and in the stands.  One that we could all be proud of.  There was a nice touch at the end of the game from Deeney who threw his boots into the 1881.

Tozser clears

Tozser clears

I am still struggling to understand what went on yesterday.  On a normal Saturday at Vicarage Road, you will see a good number of people leaving to ‘beat the traffic’ even when we are drawing and pushing for a winner.  In this game, we were already ahead and, while Huddersfield were pushing for an equalizer, this was only the 5th game of the season, so the result was hardly make or break.  Despite that, this became one of those times when the players and fans become one team and the joy at the end of the game is something to be treasured.  The best part of the afternoon for me was that Amelia went home happy.  But this now makes her a lucky mascot so she will be invited back very soon.

While I’ve been writing this report, the news of Beppe Sannino’s departure has broken.  In my few encounters with Beppe, I found him a very engaging man, but I hadn’t always been a fan of the way his teams played.  There were a lot of dreadful performances last season and the last encounter with Huddersfield was certainly one in which you felt that the players had no respect for the manager.  That was also my impression at the end of season dinner.  When Beppe took the stage to make his speech, there was little warmth or respect emanating from the tables of players who were just next to us.  I was amazed that he was still in charge at the start of the season.  The fact that he has now left suggests that the Pozzos have found his replacement.  Someone described the contrast of the Zola and Sannino reigns as being from a holiday camp to a boot camp.  I hope that the new manager is somewhere in the middle.  We have a huge amount of talent in this team, with some organization and discipline we could be unbeatable.

 

Little Strength Shown by the Depth

Jonathan Bond

Jonathan Bond

Discussion before the match centred on memories of dire games at this stage of the competition, the Accrington Stanley tedium taking centre stage.  When there is little expectation of great entertainment, I tend to turn up “just in case”.  As expected, there were nine changes from Saturday, but the strength of our squad meant that it was still a pretty formidable team.  There had been speculation as to whether, following his indiscretion last week, Dyer would be picked.  He was.  The starting line-up was Bond, Doyley (c), Tamas, Hoban, Anya, McGugan, Andrews, Murray, Dyer, Ighalo and Vydra.

The walk from the West Herts to the ground in the half hour before kick-off was through eerily empty streets.  But, inside the ground, the seats around us were well populated with a high proportion of kids and neutrals.

Doncaster gave a warning of what was to come in the second minute as Bennett found Tyson on the right whose shot flew just past the far post.  At the other end, Vydra cut inside but his shot was blocked.  Doncaster had another decent chance as Coppinger fired just wide.

Dyer all smiles after scoring

Dyer all smiles after scoring

The visitors should have been ahead when Tyson connected with a free-kick, but he headed the ball down and it flew just wide.  Doncaster took the lead in the 12th minute as Tamas needlessly fouled Bennett in the box.  Tyson stepped up to take the penalty firing it straight down the middle with Bond diving to his right.  Watford fans in the Rookery thought we had equalized almost immediately as a shot from Lewis McGugan cannoned off the crossbar at the Vicarage Road end before bouncing down and out.  Sean Murray’s follow-up was blocked.  This was better from the home side as Ighalo robbed Coppinger of the ball and went on a run before passing to McGugan whose shot flew wide.  Watford drew level after half an hour when Dyer broke forward and buried the ball past Steer.  His celebration this week involved running away from the bench with his hand over his mouth.  Tyson had an opportunity to regain the lead, but his shot was straight at Bond.  Vydra and Dyer exchanged passes but the return ball was too heavy and the chance was gone.  Just before half-time, Coppinger tried a shot that was well wide of the far post.  It had been a half of few chances.

Waiting for the ball to drop

Waiting for the ball to drop

Five minutes into the second period, Bennett shot over the bar from outside the area.  A minute later Doncaster retook the lead as a lovely passing move was finished with Wakefield turning a cut-back from Furman past Bond.  Wabara nearly provided Watford with an unlikely equalizer as he mis-hit the ball goalwards and had to recover to clear off the line.  Bennett threatened again with a shot from distance that was just wide of the far post.  Bennett’s next shot was from a free-kick which Bond parried before gathering.  Vydra won a free-kick on the edge of the box, but McGugan hit it straight into the wall and then skyed the follow-up.  With 20 minutes remaining, Pudil replaced Doyley, who handed the captain’s armband to Tamas, and McGugan made way for Munari.  The ever dangerous Bennett should have put the game beyond Watford’s reach with a shot from distance that was tipped over the bar by Bond.  At the other end, Vydra did well to retain the ball, riding a couple of tackles, but his final shot was way off target and into the Rookery.  Sannino made his last change at this point replacing Murray with Fabbrini.

Andrews and McGugan lining up a free-kick

Andrews and McGugan lining up a free-kick

On 75 minutes, Doncaster appeared to have scored a third as Keegan’s shot beat Bond, but the linesman flagged for an offside.  De Val was booked for persistent fouling after taking Vydra down.  Munari failed to connect with Fabbrini’s free-kick, the follow-up was blocked, the ball was played back into the area and Dyer shot over.  With 5 minutes remaining, Pudil took a free-kick into the box which flew over the head of the leaping Hoban.  In time added on, Tyson was booked for time-wasting after blocking Bond’s attempts to take a free kick.  You have to wonder why he bothered as Watford really hadn’t looked like scoring for some time.

The final whistle went to boos from the Rookery.  The home side were very poor on the night, although that should not detract from a very decent performance by the visitors.  Sannino had picked a strong side, but there was little sign of those players fighting to be first choice, which was unforgivable.  The game can be summed up by the fact that I could only find a pocket notebook in which to record the incidents in the game and I failed to cover more than a page and a half.  I think I will put a link to this report on my calendar for next August to remind me to find something else to do during the early rounds of the cup.

 

Dirty Leeds Crushed

An earlier close encounter with the lovely Johnny Mac

A previous close encounter with the lovely Johnny Mac

There was plenty to discuss pre-match what with the Mackay-Moody text messages and the rumours of unrest in the dressing room.  With all that doom and gloom, it was good to turn my thoughts to happier things such as the fact that the wonderful John McClelland was the guest in the corporate lounge.  When I entered the ground, Macca was being interviewed by Luther.  What a joy to listen to my two all-time favourite players chatting.  When they finished, I made my way around to the Lower Rous to give Don a bag that he had left in the West Herts.  As I reached the disabled area, Don was coming to greet me and pointing rather urgently behind me.  I turned and there was John McClelland looking exactly as he did in the 80s.  I immediately turned into a gibbering star struck fan.  I managed to blurt out that I’d loved watching him play and went to shake his hand and found myself being warmly hugged.  It is quite possible that my feet will never touch the ground again.

Challenging at a corner

Challenging at a corner

There were four changes from Tuesday night with Abdi and Tözsér back in the midfield and Pudil and Forestieri replacing Anya and Vydra, who had limped off at the end of the previous game.  Unsurprisingly, after his goal celebration on Tuesday, Dyer was not in the 18.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Hoban, Angella, Tamas, Pudil, Munari, Tözsér, Abdi, Paredes, Deeney and Forestieri.

We started brightly with an early corner from Adbi requiring a smart save from Silvestri.  Then Deeney tried to find Forestieri in the box, but Silvestri beat him to the ball.  Munari received a lovely pass, but dwelled too long on it so had to play the ball back to Paredes who crossed for Deeney whose header flew well over the bar.  Tözsér played a ball over the top to Deeney who played a low cross to Abdi, but he was crowded out before he could shoot.  For Leeds, a shot from Tonge was blocked by Pudil, the ball came out to Austin whose shot was wide of the far post.

Celebrations of the first goal featuring three dear friends

Celebrations of the first goal featuring three dear friends

We were a goal up after 20 minutes when Forestieri passed to Deeney who flicked the ball to Munari in the box, the Italian went down under a challenge, but the ball ran through to Forestieri whose initial shot was blocked but his follow-up header beat Silvestri.  I finally witnessed the Gomes goal celebration as he joyfully leapt in front of the Rookery.  Heartwarming.  Leeds got the ball in a dangerous position, but Antenucci’s shot was high and wide.  On the half hour, Deeney passed to Forestieri whose shot through a crowd of players was easily gathered by Silvestri.  Leeds equalized soon after as an innocuous-looking ball in from Sharp was diverted past Gomes by the foot of Tamas, when he really didn’t need to intervene.  It was a very disappointing equalizer that was totally undeserved for the visitors who had yet to have a shot on target.  I was pleased to see Gomes offering commiserations to Tamas.  At the other end, Deeney fed Paredes whose shot was deflected over for a corner from which Abdi’s delivery was headed over by the unmarked Hoban.  Just before half-time, Pudil broke forward but his shot was gathered by Silvestri.  Then Sharp played for a foul and succeeded in getting Tözsér booked.

Harry undertaking the ALS/MND ice-bucket challenge

Harry undertaking the ALS/MND ice-bucket challenge

I was a hell of a lot happier at half-time than I had been on Tuesday and not just because of the close encounter with John McClelland.  While it was annoying that Leeds were level without having had a shot on target, we had played very well and were definitely the better side.  Half-time entertainment included Harry Hornet accepting Miles Jacobson’s ALS/MND ice-bucket challenge and being given his soaking on the sidelines.  What was he thinking?  He could have caught his death of cold.

We started the second half brightly as Forestieri curled a shot just past the far top corner.  At the other end, Murphy’s free-kick was headed over by Pearce.  Then Abdi found Deeney who was hacked down just outside the box.  Tözsér stepped up to take the free kick, but the delivery was awful, flying well over the bar.  Sannino’s first substitution of the afternoon saw Anya coming on for Paredes.

Deeney steps up to take the penalty

Deeney steps up to take the penalty

We took the lead again just before the hour as Forestieri beat Bellusci to a dropping ball in the box and was taken down by the defender.  The referee had no choice but to point to the spot and dismiss Bellusci.  Deeney stepped up and hit the ball straight down the middle while Silvestri dived to his right.  Soon after, there was a break for treatment as a Deeney shot was blocked by Pearce’s head knocking the defender to the ground.  Pudil latched onto a cross-field ball from Tözsér but his shot went wide of the near post.  Watford’s third goal was a thing of beauty as Munari passed to Forestieri who skipped past numerous defenders in the box before unleashing a shot that bounced in off the post.

Congratulations for Forestieri's wonderful second

Congratulations for Forestieri’s wonderful second

Forestieri and Deeney were working really well together as, first Fernando fed Troy whose shot from the right was blocked, then it was Deeney’s turn to find Forestieri whose shot appeared to be going in, but flew just wide.  That was Fernando’s last action of the game as he was replaced by Ighalo.  For Leeds, the evil Dominic Poleon came on as a substitute and was roundly booed by the Hornets faithful.  Watford had a chance to increase their lead as Munari connected with a corner from Tözsér, but his header was wide of the target.  Tözsér then played a lovely crossfield ball to Pudil, who crossed back for Ighalo who was challenged and couldn’t find room for a shot.  Abdi made way for Andrews who was involved immediately as a corner was cleared to him but his shot was well wide.  Murphy was the next to find his way into the referee’s book after a foul on Pudil.

Tozser congratulated for a superb strike

Tozser congratulated for a superb strike

In the 90th minute, Austin was booked for a foul on Deeney.  In the crowd, people were preparing to go home as Tözsér stepped up to take the free-kick, which was so far out that there appeared to be no danger.  But Tözsér thought otherwise, as he stepped up and hit the ball straight into the bottom corner with no Leeds player appearing to move.  As way of celebration, he ran straight over to his family in the Lower GT.  In injury time, Deeney was breaking upfield when the whistle went.  At first I thought it was signalling the end of the game, but the referee went over to where Pudil was lying on the ground and, after talking to the linesman, sent Byram off, apparently for a head butt.  The final whistle went soon after.  It had been a superb performance by the Hornets, restricting the visitors so much that their only shot on target was from Watford’s Tamas.  There was a nice touch from Harry Hornet at the end, as the players celebrated he got on his knees and polished Tözsér’s right boot.

The reports of unrest among the squad in the week had been unsettling, so it was a relief that any unhappiness stayed in the dressing room and the lads put on a great display for the home crowd.  This is a talented, exciting squad.  If our displays away from home start to match the quality of those at Vicarage Road, we are in for a wonderful season.

New York, New York

The New York Stadium

The New York Stadium

I had never been to Rotherham, so this midweek trip to South Yorkshire to visit a new ground was hotly anticipated.  However, when I researched places to stay, there didn’t seem to be anywhere in the vicinity of the ground or the station, so I decided on a hotel in Sheffield, which had the added benefit of pre-match drinks at my favourite away pub.  There was some concern that our libations might be interrupted by the arrival of hoards from Millwall, who were playing at Hillsborough, but we escaped with no sign of the Lions.

A lovely Aran cardi worn by the opposition

A lovely Aran cardi worn by the opposition

After the short drive to Rotherham, we parked up next to the ground for the princely sum of £2.  The New York stadium looked impressive from the outside, although I was disappointed to find that there was no scoreboard.  On hearing the team news, there was much discussion of the wholesale changes with concern expressed at the omission of both Abdi and Tözsér, plus all of our dead-ball specialists.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Hoban, Angella, Tamas, Paredes, Fabbrini, Munari, Andrews, Anya, Deeney and Vydra.  The teams emerged to “New York, New York”, but the pre-match cider and the position of the seat in front of me meant that, for the good of my health, high-kicking was kept to a minimum.

Rotherham threatened in the first minute as Revell tried a shot from distance that flew well wide of the far post.  Soon after, Parades gave the ball away to Taylor who found Pringle whose shot was weak and straight at Gomes.

Vydra lines up a free-kick

Vydra lines up a free-kick

On 11 minutes, Fabbrini was taken down just outside the box.  Vydra’s free-kick was woeful and flew well over the bar.  At the other end, Revell got on the end of a cross, but hit it wide of the target.  Watford had a shout for a penalty as a high ball into the box reached Deeney who went down under a challenge from Collin, but the referee waved play on.  Just before the half hour, we saw the first decent chance of the game which fell to Rotherham’s Pringle whose curling shot was pushed around the post by Gomes.  Pringle took the resulting corner which was headed over the bar by Morgan.  Hoban played a good ball to Deeney who headed it on to Anya, but his looping shot was easily gathered by Collin.  Taylor tried a shot from the edge of the area, but it was well over the target.  Taylor threatened again as he went on a run into the box but his shot was blocked by Angella.  On the stroke of half time, a shot from Frecklington flew wide of the far post.  In time added on, Anya hit a shot into the side netting.  It had been a poor first half, with Pringle’s shot the only one to test either of the keepers.

Morgan booked for a foul on Deeney

Morgan booked for a foul on Deeney

In the first minute of the second half, Morgan received a pass from Pringle but his shot was well over the bar.  Vydra found Andrews who turned and shot, it was blocked and fell to Munari whose follow-up shot was also blocked.  At this point, the travelling Hornets expressed their displeasure with the personnel currently on the pitch by chanting the names of Abdi and Forestieri.  Just before the hour, there was a card for each side as Morgan was booked for a foul on Deeney and Andrews saw yellow for taking Green down just before Vydra was replaced by Ighalo.  Watford’s first decent attack came soon after as Deeney broke forward, passed to Anya on the left who played a low cross into the box which Ighalo hit past Collin, but the linesman was flagging for offside.  The next chance fell to Munari, but his shot from distance was well over the bar.  Sannino’s next change was to bring Dyer on for Fabbrini.

Dyer on his way to 'celebrate' his goal

Dyer on his way to ‘celebrate’ his goal

On 70 minutes, we lost possession from a throw-in, Tidser was powering forward when Tamas brought him down and was shown a yellow card.  From our vantage point, the foul appeared to have been in the area, but the free-kick was taken from outside the box and Taylor hit it well over the bar.  We finally made a breakthrough with our first decent shot on target as Ighalo’s initial attempt was saved, the ball dropped to Dyer who buried it past Collin.  The goal celebration was somewhat surprising as Dyer didn’t stop to receive the congratulations of his team mates, but went running back up the pitch, apparently to berate the manager.  At this point, the travelling fans were feeling more kindly towards Sannino and started chanting his name.  Rotherham tried to hit back immediately with a shot from Swift that was just over the bar.  Hoban played a lovely ball over the top to Ighalo who went down in the box, when he should have stayed on his feet and tried the shot as he was never going to win a penalty.

Munari and Hoban both congratulated for the second goal

Munari and Hoban both congratulated for the second goal

With 10 minutes remaining, Tözsér replaced Anya.  Troy tried a shot from the half way line that flew over the bar.  Then Smallwood took Dyer down and ran off with his hands raised, gesturing his innocence, but turned around to see the referee brandishing a yellow card.  From the resulting free-kick, Deeney’s shot was parried by Collin before being cleared.  Our second goal was a rare moment of quality as Tommie Hoban ran to the byeline before playing a lovely low cross to Munari who buried it from close range.  In time added on, Taylor tried a shot from the left which was well over the bar.  The final whistle went to loud cheers from the travelling Hornets.  It has to be said that 2-0 flattered us.  It had been a disappointing performance saved by a couple of moments of quality.  It was also worrying to see Vydra limping badly as he came over to applaud the fans.

Back to the car and we were on the road in no time, with plenty of time for a nightcap before heading back to the hotel.  The game had been low on entertainment, but the company was great which is what makes these midweek trips worthwhile.

Off to a Winning Start

Luther and Gifton

Luther and Gifton

Having seen my first pre-season game on 5th July, it feels like I’ve already seen a lot of football, so the dawning of the first day of the season seemed less exciting than it should have been.  Works on the line around Watford Junction meant that the journey took longer than usual but, on boarding the slow train to Watford at Queens Park, I met the lovely John of Ossett who accompanied me on the rest of my trip.  As the West Herts starting filling up with familiar faces, it was lovely to see Curtis from Denver.  He’d not managed to see a game last season so as far as he was concerned Vydra had never left.  I did warn him that, if we won, he would be our lucky charm and wouldn’t be allowed to go home.

First huddle of the new season

First huddle of the new season

I must admit that I wasn’t convinced when I heard the starting line-up.  I was surprised that Dyer wasn’t starting and it seemed risky to start Paredes when he hadn’t participated in pre-season.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Angella, Ekstrand, Tamas, Pudil, McGugan, Tözsér, Adbi, Parades, Deeney and Vydra.  Usually, the first game of the season sees a lot of people still on holiday so the crowd can be a bit sparse.  This was certainly not the case on Saturday as there wasn’t a spare seat to be found in our section.  There was a change in the pre-match personnel as Richard Short and Tim Coombs made way for Luther Blissett and Lee Partridge.  I’ve seen Luther working in the lounge in the past and it certainly adds an interesting element having a legend interviewing returning players.  On Saturday we were treated to Luther wandering up the pitch chatting to Gifton Noel-Williams, a real joy.

Deeney receives his team mates' congratulations

Deeney receives his team mates’ congratulations

The fans in the Rookery were on their feet in the first minute as Deeney unleashed a shot, but we soon sat down again when we realised that it had hit the net from behind.  Deeney then found Pudil on the left, but his shot was wide of the far post.  After the dreadful performances at the end of last season, it was good to see a bit of fight and team work and I noted an early incident in which Vydra was back in defence fighting for the ball, which made me very happy.  Bolton threatened a break but Tamas was on hand to stop them.  Parades then tried to escape, but was sent flying.  “Welcome to England,” said my neighbour.  On 17th minutes, we were a goal up as a Bolton attack was snuffed out and we played a succession of short passes to bring the ball out of defence before Angella went on a run then lofted a pass to Deeney who buried the ball past Lonergan.  The Rookery went mental.  I was too busy watching the goalscorer but my sister turned with a beaming smile and informed me that Gomes’s celebration was pretty mental too.

Heurelho Gomes

Heurelho Gomes

Bolton tried to hit back immediately but Gomes came for the ball, gathered it comfortably and, as Medo was in his way, flattened the Bolton player for good measure.  No messing.  I loved it.  A cross from Paredes fell to Pudil whose chip was wide of the target.  A chant of “sexy football” started up.  That always worries me as it is often a precursor to a fall, so my heart sank when Neil Danns broke into the box but Tamas took the ball off him and was then pushed over for his trouble, so won a free kick and the danger passed.  We were two goals to the good soon after as Vydra received a lovely ball over the top from Tözsér, cut back from the bye-line, he nearly went down as he skipped past the defender, but recovered and fired the ball past Lonergan.  I am told when asked why he hadn’t gone down under the challenge he replied that if he’d done that Troy would have taken the penalty so he decided to take the chance himself.

The returning Vydra and new boy Paredes

The returning Vydra and new boy Paredes

We were on fire at this point.  Paredes played a ball over the top to Vydra, he passed back to Abdi who fired over the bar.  On the half hour, Medo had a shot for Bolton that flew over the bar.  That was their first goal attempt of the game.  With 10 minutes of the half remaining, Bolton had a free kick in a dangerous position, but the header from Mills bounced into Gomes’s arms.  There was a bit of handbags just before half time when Medo wouldn’t give the ball back after being rather harshly penalized for a foul.  We had one more chance in the half as Abdi tried a low shot that was straight at Lonergan.

Noel-Williams senior and junior

Noel-Williams senior and junior

So, the home crowd were very happy indeed at half time.  We’d seen two excellent goals, some lovely football and we’d barely given Bolton a sniff of the ball.  I am also pleased to report that my concerns at the inclusion of Paredes had been groundless as he had put in a thrilling first half performance.  Drawing the 50-50 tickets at half-time were Gifton and Dejon Noel-Williams.  With junior currently in our academy, we can only hope that he has his father’s talent and becomes a star of the future.

At the start of the second half, Feeney replaced Pratley for the visitors.  Within 30 seconds, Parades had a terrific chance to get a third and I was already jumping for joy when the ball cannoned back off the crossbar.  Bolton then won their first corner to loud, ironic cheers from their fans.  Spearing had a shot deflected wide and the resulting corner was easily gathered by Gomes.

Angella wants the ball

Angella wants the ball

For the home side, Paredes found Vydra who was tackled, but fought back and regained possession before playing the ball back to Abdi whose shot was deflected for a corner.  Abdi threatened again, playing a one-two with McGugan before taking a shot that Lonergan saved.  Gomes was really tested for the first time just before the hour as he pushed Feeney’s shot from distance around the post when it was heading for the top corner.  Bolton’s second substitution saw Moxey replaced by Dervite.  Bolton had had a decent spell, so it was good to see Deeney in shooting position again but he fired the ball straight at Lonergan.  At the other end, Lee tried to lob Gomes, but the keeper got his fingertips to it and tipped it over the bar.  With 20 minutes to go, Beckford replaced Danns for Bolton and Sannino’s first substitution saw Munari make his debut in place of McGugan.  Vydra went on a run and tried to play Deeney in, but his pass was just behind his team mate and the chance was gone.  Substitute Beckford was the next to threaten, but he shot in to the side netting.

Forestieri congratulated for a goal within seconds of coming on

Forestieri congratulated for a goal within seconds of coming on

At this point Vydra left the field to ecstatic applause and was replaced by Forestieri.  Fernando was barely on the pitch before he latched on to a ball over the top from Angella and slotted it past Lonergan.  I’d been a little nervous that Bolton would get back into the game, so that goal settled my nerves.  Bolton again tried an immediate response with a point-blank header from Lee that was pushed out by Gomes.  From the corner, Dervite’s header flew over the bar.  Sannino’s final substitution saw Dyer coming on for Pudil.  Forestieri had another great chance but his enthusiasm got the better of him.  He looked like a little puppy as he went scampering after the ball and then tripped over his own feet.

Deeney and Vydra in striking position

Deeney and Vydra in striking position

Dyer and Deeney exchanged passes then Troy shot well over the bar when he probably should have passed to Dyer.  The last two chances of the game fell to Bolton, but neither troubled Gomes, as first a misplaced header fell to Lee who shot over the crossbar.  Then a soft shot from Davies drifted wide of the near post.

The final whistle went to great applause from the home fans.  We had been masterful in the first half and, even if Bolton got back into it a bit in the second, it was a convincing win.  Even better than that, we had quality all over the pitch.  It was a joy to witness.  The horror show that was the end of last season is now a distant memory.  I’m really trying not to be over-optimistic, but I can’t help feeling that this could be a very exciting season indeed.

 

Honours Even Against our Italian Brothers

First pre-match huddle of the season at Vicarage Road

First pre-match huddle of the season at Vicarage Road

Saturday saw the long-awaited visit of Udinese to Vicarage Road.  But, before that, was the joy of our first pre-match gathering of the new season.  Time to catch up on what people had been doing during the Summer and to speculate on the season to come.  Then it was off to Vicarage Road to see what changes had occurred since our last visit (most of which were additions to the new stand and the squad).

When the starting line-up came through, it appeared a bit odd, mainly because Beppe had abandoned the 4-3-3 that we’ve seen for most of the pre-season to revert to 3-5-2.  But also because some of the standout players in pre-season so far were left on the bench.  We started with Gomes, Angella, Tamas, Ekstrand, Pudil, McGugan, Andrews, Abdi, Anya, Deeney and Vydra.  Udinese’s team featured Watford old boy, Albert Riera, as well as Di Natale, much to the excitement of the Vicarage Road crowd.  It has to be said that, given the popularity of the new away shirt, it was very difficult to distinguish the Watford fans in the crowd from those from Udinese.

Gomes gathers the ball

Gomes gathers the ball

The first attempt on goal from either side was a weak shot from Fernandes that drifted over the bar.  A free-kick soon after was easily gathered by Gomes.  We had to wait until the 18th minute for Watford’s first attack of note as McGugan fed Vydra who played a through ball to Anya but the Scot’s first touch was too heavy and Brkic gathered safely.  The visitors threatened as a shot from Fernandes rebounded off the crossbar and Di Natale’s follow-up was gathered by Gomes.  On 23 minutes, Udinese went ahead as Widmer nodded a cross past Gomes.  I was a little surprised by the warmth of the applause that this elicited from the Watford fans.  The ironic chants of “sign him up” were less surprising.

Udinese on the attack

Udinese on the attack

We had a chance to hit back almost immediately as Vydra won a free-kick, but McGugan floated it into the arms of Brkic.  On the half hour, Adbi found Deeney who turned and shot but the ball looped into the keeper’s arms.  Di Natale looked to break into the box but Ekstrand was on hand to stop him.  At the other end, the ball was taken off Vydra’s feet on the edge of the box.  A defensive header from Deeney in our box reached McGugan who played a through ball to Anya to set up a counter attack, but the ball was too far in front of him and the chance lost.  In the dying minutes of the half, McGugan played a ball across the box to Pudil who cut back to Deeney whose shot was blocked.  On the stroke of half-time, Tamas gave the ball away to Fernandes but, thankfully, his shot was caught by Gomes so we went into the break just one goal down.  It has to be said that the first half had been rather lack lustre.

Defending a corner

Defending a corner

There were no personnel changes at half-time and we started the second half brightly as Anya went on a run down the right and pulled the ball back for the strikers but it rolled behind both Deeney and Vydra, so was left to Pudil to run in and unleash a shot that was deflected over.  The subsequent corner was punched clear by Brkic.  At the other end, Di Natale tried a shot but it was well off target.  A corner from McGugan was cleared with Angella challenging, it reached Ekstrand who wellied his shot over.  We should have equalized on 50 minutes as Deeney knocked the ball down to McGugan whose shot flew just wide.  A stinging shot from distance from Muriel was parried by Gomes.

McGugan congratulated on his goal

McGugan congratulated on his goal

On 58 minutes, Watford equalized.  Vydra was taken down and McGugan stepped up to take the free kick and curled it perfectly into the top corner.  That was his last involvement, as he was replaced by Battocchio, while Dyer and Ighalo came on for Anya and Vydra.  The subs were involved almost immediately as Battocchio found Deeney who passed across to Ighalo whose shot sadly hit the side netting.  At this point, Riera was replaced by Silva and left the field to very warm applause from the Watford faithful.  Deeney also left the field to be replaced by Ranegie.  Muriel went down injured and was replaced by Thereau.  At the same time Udinese swapped keepers with Scuffet coming on for Brkic.  At this point there was a delay in proceedings as Muriel was still down injured, but the ref finally stepped in and dragged him from the pitch by his arm to the sidelines where he was “looked after” by Harry Hornet.  I almost felt sorry for the guy.

Ighalo on the ball

Ighalo on the ball

Fernandes curled a shot from distance just wide of the near post.  Watford went behind again as Ranegie lost out to Allan who played a through ball to the substitute, Thereau, who fired a shot across Gomes into the far corner.  With 15 minutes remaining, Hoban and Fabbrini replaced Tamas and Abdi.  The next piece of skill was in the home dugout as a ball flew in and was controlled and returned to the field by Forestieri, who gloried in the cheers from the crowd.  Watford drew level again as Fabbrini went on a run down the left and crossed for Pudil whose header looked as though it was on target but Ranegie nodded it on, just in case, with Scuffet appealing for offside.

The architects of the second equalizer

The architects of the second equalizer

That was Pudil’s last contribution as he was replaced by Doyley.  We had a great chance to win the game as Scuffet came out to meet Ranegie who dinked the ball past the keeper and crossed back for Ighalo, but the Nigerian was unable to reach the ball and, with the goal begging, the chance was lost.

It had been a more enjoyable second half and a draw was a decent result against our Italian brothers.  But I left Vicarage Road with little idea of what our starting line-up or formation will be next week.  However, on a positive note, well done to the club for the pricing of this game, my ticket was £3 in contrast to the £14 asked for the Coventry game at Boreham Wood.  This encouraged a crowd of 11,085 into Vicarage Road, a very impressive attendance at a pre-season friendly.  Now bring on the Bolton.