Tag Archives: Garath McCleary

Oh What Fun It is to See Watford Win Away

A welcome from our hosts

A kind welcome from our hosts

My Friday night entertainment this week was Kristin Scott-Thomas in a Greek tragedy at the Old Vic, I was hoping for somewhat jollier fare at Reading, but it couldn’t be guaranteed.  Certainly the pre-match meeting place was top notch, lovely real ale in a pub with lots of nooks and crannies that has been described by a friend as a Harry Potter house.

Jokanovic made two changes from the win over Wigan.  One was forced, as Munari had a slight hamstring injury that necessitated the inclusion of Guedioura.  For the other, Pudil was preferred to Paredes, allowing him to make his 100th appearance.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Bassong, Angella, Cathcart, Pudil, Tözsér, Guedioura, Abdi, Anya, Deeney and Vydra.

There was a very lively start as a first minute cross found Murray on the right of the box, but his volley was well over the target.  Watford’s first goal attempt came soon after as Pudil headed a Guedioura cross goalwards, Federici pushed it out for a corner from which Guedioura’s shot was blocked.  Abdi was the next to threaten the Reading goal with a powerful curling shot that Federici pushed clear.  The half then became incredibly dull, the next action of note being a nothing foul on the half hour that earned Abdi a yellow card.

Angella begs for (and is shown) forgiveness as Murray falls to the ground

On this occasion Angella begs for (and is shown) forgiveness as Murray falls to the ground

There was a worrying scramble in the Watford box as Gomes parried a header from Murray, the ball came back in but was eventually cleared.  Then Gunter beat Pudil to get into the box and crossed for Blackman who headed over under a challenge from Cathcart.  On 37 minutes, Angella got into a tussle with Murray who was backing into him.  It was six of one and half a dozen of the other, so there were roars of derision from the travelling Hornets as the referee showed Angella a yellow card.  Guedioura had the first Watford chance for some considerable time when he shot over the bar.  Pudil played a lovely ball to Abdi whose cross was headed down to Deeney who tried an overhead kick that flew wide.  Reading should have taken the lead just before half time as Murray received the ball in the box but managed to fire wide of the far post.  In time added on at the end of the half, Angella was tripped on the edge of the box and his arm hit the ball as he fell.  The referee, with the help of the lino, decided that this constituted deliberate handball and was worthy of a second yellow, so Angella was given his marching orders.  It had been a dire half of football, but that decision ensured that the half time boos were directed towards the officials rather than the players.

Tozser lines up a free kick

Tozser lines up a free kick

At the start of the second half, Vydra was sacrificed for Paredes.  Watford, facing a second half playing with ten men, had to decide their approach.  They started the half by pressing the home side and in the 53rd minute, a Tözsér corner was curling in when Federici got a hand to it and pushed it clear.  At the other end, Murray got behind the Watford defence where he directed his shot wide of the far post.  A break by the home side finished with a cross from Blackman which was caught by Gomes.  Reading threatened again as a shot from McCleary was parried by Gomes, the follow-up from Gunter was turned around the post.  A low cross from McCleary went just wide of the far post as Blackman was sliding in and just failed to connect.  Watford fashioned a good move that appeared to give several chances for a strike on goal, but finished with the ball being taken off Abdi’s foot as he shaped to shoot.  For Reading, Blackman shot well over the bar.

Celebrations of Abdi's goal

Celebrations of Abdi’s goal

Watford had mounted a decent rearguard action to this point.  Then, all of a sudden, we took the lead.  Unlike the 70 minutes that had preceded it, Watford’s goal was a thing of beauty as Guedioura won a tackle in midfield and played it out to Anya on the left, he crossed back to Abdi who blasted it past Federici right in front of the Watford fans who reacted with total delirium.  The goal changed the momentum of the game.  Reading’s first yellow card was shown to Williams who was penalized for taking Paredes down as he attempted to break.  Guedioura played a ball over the top for Deeney, but it was a bit too far in front of him so Federici gathered the ball just as Deeney arrived and the players collided resulting in treatment for the Watford man.  At the other end, Gunter went down as he was challenged on the edge of the box, thankfully the referee waved penalty appeals away.  The board went up for a Watford substitution and we expected Deeney to leave the field, but instead Anya made way for Dyer.  Deeney only lasted another couple of minutes, clearly he couldn’t run the injury off, so he was replaced by Ighalo.

Red sky at night

Red sky at night

A ball into the Watford box appeared to be headed on by Paredes but, thankfully, Blackman volleyed over.   The referee added four minutes which were then extended as an off-the ball altercation between Murray and Paredes ended with the Ecuadorean poleaxed and the Reading player being shown a yellow card.  Reading’s last attempt at an equalizer was a soft header from Cooper that was comfortably caught by Gomes.  The final whistle went to loud cheers from the Watford fans.  Jokanovic was his usual, calm self, but Martinez was going mental on the sidelines.  The players came over and applauded the appreciative fans who had certainly done their part in cheering the ten men on in the second half.  In gratitude, Abdi and Pudil kindly donated their shirts to a couple of lucky fans.

Since the away stand is the opposite end of the ground from the shuttle buses back to town, it was no surprise that the bus we took was packed with Watford fans.  The youngsters on the top deck were making a lot of joyful noise and the old folk (including me) on the lower deck were just grinning like fools.  As Jingle Bells (Oh what fun it is to see Watford win away) rang out, my friend commented that he was surprised that it had not had an earlier airing, but I don’t think anyone dared tempt fate like that until the final whistle.

I wish all my readers a very happy Christmas.  See you all on Boxing Day.

Another Home Defeat

Pre game handshakes

Pre game handshakes

After a poor display at Bristol last week, I wasn’t really looking forward to this game. However hearing my dentist, a Reading season ticket holder, tell me in the week that he was thinking of giving up going to the Mad Stad as they were so awful gave me some encouragement.  Also,the addition of Merkel to the squad and the return of Bellerin and Pudil meant that we weren’t trying to fit square pegs into round holes.  The starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Angella, Doyley, Pudil, McGugan, Merkel, Murray, Bellerin, Fabbrini and Deeney.

New boy Alexander Merkel

New boy Alexander Merkel

Reading gave us a fright in the first minute as McCleary whipped in a cross that Almunia had to come and palm out.  At the other end Murray played a through ball to Deeney, a defender got a touch which only helped it into Troy’s path but the lino was flagging for offside.  Watford went a goal down in the fourth minute.  Bellerin headed a cross from Obita out for a corner.  Obita took the corner himself and Gorkss rose to head the ball past Almunia.  The next two chances came from players who seem to inspire similar reactions in the Watford crowd.  First McGugan hit a shot from distance that went past the far post.

Ekstrand on the ball

Ekstrand on the ball

Then McAnuff intercepted a pass from Merkel, went on a run and shot across goal with the ball again going just past the far post.  On 17 minutes, Watford won a free-kick which was delayed as Adam Le Fondre repeatedly stood over the ball while critiquing the make-up of their wall.  He was eventually booked for time wasting.  McGugan took the free kick which flew up off the wall and was easily caught by McCarthy.  On 19 minutes, Deeney was beaten to a cross from Bellerin but the ball was cleared only as far as Merkel whose shot was straight at McCarthy.  Reading continued to threaten as a free-kick from McAnuff was met with a powerful header by Pogrebnyak that went over the bar.  On 37 minutes, Merkel fed Bellerin whose cross was headed wide by Angella.  Then Fabbrini passed to McGugan who shot across the goal.  A minute later McGugan and Fabbrini combined to get the ball to Pudil who also hit a ball across the six yard box but there was no Watford player to connect with it.  Just before half-time Merkel was booked for a foul on Pogrebynak.  The free-kick was taken by Obita and Pogrebynak headed it over.  It had been a disappointing half for Watford fans.

Second half kick-off

Second half kick-off

Five minutes into the second half, Deeney got on the end of a cross by Bellerin but headed it straight at McCarthy.  Bellerin then went on another run, but McCarthy was first to his cross.  Le Fondre was the next to threaten, hitting a knock down from Pogrebynak well over the target.  Ten minutes into the half, Forestieri replaced Bellerin, the formation changed to a 4-3-3 and the game became a lot brighter for the home fans.  Akpan received the first yellow card of the second half after clipping McGugan’s heels.  It seemed a bit harsh.  The resulting free-kick was headed out by Gorkss.  McAnuff was the next to enter the referee’s book as he took Fabbrini down when the Italian tried to break forward.  On the hour mark, Forestieri tried a shot from distance that went way over the bar.

Waiting for Almunia to launch the ball

Waiting for Almunia to launch the ball

Next McGugan back-heeled the ball to Forestieri whose low cross reached Pudil on the other side of the box, he turned it back in to Deeney whose close range shot was tipped over by McCarthy.  Then a Fabbrini through ball reached Deeney who crossed to Forestieri who should have scored, but got under the ball and his shot flew over the target.  McGugan then tried a shot from distance that flew wide of the far post.  Next a Fabbrini shot was blocked, the ball fell to Doyley who ignored the Rookery’s pleas to shoot instead cutting the ball back to Deeney who shot over the bar.  Then a ball from McGugan towards the near post was turned into the side netting by Angella.  On 72 minutes, Battocchio replaced Murray.  Soon after, Forestieri broke forward and tried to play Deeney in but McCleary put the ball out for a corner.  As the corner was taken, Deeney’s shirt was being pulled to the extent that it was half way up his back, but the referee gave nothing.

McGugan takes a free-kick

McGugan takes a free-kick

Then, from a Pudil throw-in, Forestieri  unleashed a wicked shot but McCarthy was equal to it.  At this point Doyley made way for Faraoni.  Soon after, we were fortunate not to concede a second as a dangerous cross from McCleary was headed wide by Pobrebnyak.  At this point Blackman replaced Akpan.  The referee was quick to show his card again as Forestieri tried to run into the box, was blocked by two defenders and fell down but was adjudged to have dived and was very harshly booked for his “offence”.  Reading made two further changes with Cummings and Taylor replacing Obita and McCleary.  Taylor was immediately involved, putting in a cross for Pogrebnyak who headed over.  Then Merkel fed Forestieri, who had plenty of time to control the ball and shoot but, infuriatingly, decided to go for the spectacular option instead and volleyed well over.  In time added on, Faraoni tried a shot from a narrow angle which went wide of the far post.  Then Merkel went in for an idiotic sliding tackle on Blackman in the middle of the pitch and was shown a straight red.  A number of Watford fans applauded him off.  I’m sorry, but that level of stupidity does not deserve applause no matter how good the performance that preceded it.  Blackman then took his revenge on Angella with a very similar tackle, but was only shown a yellow.  The final card of the game, the third in time added on, went to Pudil who protested when the referee blew the final whistle without allowing us to take a corner.

Full time

Full time

It had been another frustrating afternoon for the Hornets.  The second half was a vast improvement on the first, but we are far too wasteful in front of goal and there seems to be no real understanding between the players.  Having seen the way the U-18s interacted and worked as a team the night before, it was disappointing to see that their senior colleagues could not do likewise.