Tag Archives: Joey Barton

The Second Good Win in a Week

Order of service for Graham Taylor's funeral

Order of service for Graham Taylor’s funeral

The week running up to this match had been an emotional rollercoaster for fans of the Hornets.  The dreadful cup defeat to Millwall had been followed by a magnificent win at Arsenal.  But both events were overshadowed on Wednesday as we said goodbye to Graham Taylor.  The family were very gracious in allowing the funeral to be broadcast to those who gathered outside the church.  The service was very sad but also uplifting.  His children and grandchildren all spoke beautifully about the family man that they knew.  I thought the club and the council did them proud with the little details.  The One Bell, which is boarded up had been decorated with pictures and quotes from GT.  There was also a gorgeous order of service that was handed to those outside, allowing us to join in with the hymns, which included “Abide with Me”.  A scanned copy of the order of service is available at http://www.wfc.net/files/GT/GT_Order_of_Service.pdf.

On Saturday we were back at Vicarage Road for the visit of Burnley.  Those who had been at the mid-week game were waxing lyrical about the performance, but there was a niggling feeling that this Watford team tends to raise its game for the big clubs and that Burnley, despite their failure to win on the road this season, were just the sort of team to cause us problems.

Team news was that Mazzarri made two changes from the team that won at the Emirates with Britos and Janmaat replaced by Holebas and Zárate, both of whom were returning from suspension, which seemed a little bizarre given that this was the Argentine’s debut.  So the starting line-up was Gomes; Cathcart, Kaboul, Prödl, Holebas; Behrami; Niang, Cleverley, Capoue, Zárate; Deeney.  The 4-1-4-1 formation that had served us well in the previous game making another appearance.

Deeney and Niang celebrate the first goal

Deeney and Niang celebrate the first goal

The notable action in the first few minutes of the game was all related to cards.  First, Niang was booked after flying into a tackle on Ward.  A minute later, Hendricks was shown a straight red card for a nasty foul on Holebas.  Playing against 10 men isn’t always easy, especially when the team is as well organized as Burnley, so it was a relief when Watford took the lead in the tenth minute as a lovely cross from Niang was headed home by Deeney from close range.  With Troy now having scored three goals in the last four games, it seems hard to believe that such a long period elapsed between his 99th and 100th goals.  There was another booking soon after as Holebas was penalised for a high foot as he challenged Barton.  Watford had a great chance for a second goal as Niang exchanged passes with Deeney before unleashing a shot that Heaton tipped over.  Then, from a throw, Zárate hit a lovely shot from the edge of the area that Heaton managed to catch.  Burnley’s first on-target shot came just before the half hour as Lowton tried his luck, but it was an easy catch for Gomes.  The Watford keeper was called into action again soon after tipping over a free kick that Barton hit from the edge of the area.  Niang threatened again, going on a lovely run before taking a shot from the edge of the box that was blocked, the ball rebounded back to him and his second shot was comfortably saved by Heaton.  Watford had another decent chance as Cleverley passed the ball out to Zárate on the wing, he burst into the box before shooting just wide of the far post.  Then Holebas took a short corner, exchanging passes with Zárate before crossing for Capoue whose shot was blocked by the face of Barnes.  As we reached time added on at the end of the half, I was beginning to worry that we had wasted too many chances, then Holebas whipped in a lovely cross that Niang met with a superb header and the Hornets went in to the break two goals to the good.

Celebrating Niang's goal

Celebrating Niang’s goal

The second half started with the Hornets on top.  A lovely early move finished with a cross from Holebas, but no Watford player was on hand to finish.  There was a better chance soon after as a cross from Capoue was just a fraction too far in front of Deeney for him to apply the finishing touch.  At the other end, a Burnley corner was headed goalwards by Keane, but Gomes dropped to push it around the post.  Sean Dyche was the first to make a substitution, replacing Gray with new signing, Brady.  Mazzarri’s first change was to bring Doucouré on for Behrami.  I was much more comfortable with that change on this occasion than I had been midweek.  Watford continued to threaten the Burnley goal as Capoue received a cut back from Holebas, but his shot was saved.  Burnley threatened briefly as Barnes had the ball in the Watford box but Cleverley just took it off his feet.  The Hornets created another excellent chance as Niang crossed for Deeney whose shot was blocked on the line.  As we reached the 72nd minute, the Watford crowd got to their feet to applaud and sing Graham Taylor’s name.  It was very pleasing to see that both those in the Director’s box and a good portion of the visiting crowd joined in.  Burnley had a rare shot with a powerful strike from Arfield, which was blocked by Gomes.  That was the last act for the Burnley man as he was replaced by Westwood.

Zarate waits for a corner

Zarate waits for a corner

There was a flurry of activity in the Watford box following a corner as a shot from Barnes was cleared off the line, the ball reached Barton on the edge of the area, his shot was also blocked and the ball went out for a corner.  When I saw Prödl arguing with the referee, I thought that he was disputing the corner.  Then the awful realization dawned that a penalty had been awarded and Prödl had been shown the yellow card for handball.  Barnes stepped up to take the spot kick and, on this occasion, the Gomes psychology did not work and the shot went in off the post.  It was very frustrating as, despite a flurry of activity, Burnley really hadn’t looked like scoring, but Watford would have to keep it tight for the remaining 12 minutes.  Mazzarri made a second substitution as Niang, who had put in another terrific performance, made way for Success.  But the next chance fell to the visitors as Brady broke forward and unleashed a shot that was straight at Gomes.  There were two late substitutions as Vokes replaced Boyd for the visitors and Janmaat came on for Zárate.  In time added on, the Watford players seemed determined to push the self-destruct button.  First Gomes decided to dribble after receiving a back pass instead of wellying upfield, and was almost caught out.  Then Cathcart gave the ball away to Barnes on the edge of the box and Gomes had to make a smart save to stop the shot.  The keeper was so furious with his defender that he had to be held back by Prödl.

Zarate and Deeney wait for a throw-in

Zarate and Deeney wait for a throw-in

So it was a relief to see Watford on the attack in the final minute, Success crossed and Deeney powered the ball home to secure the win.  Or so we thought.  I was in mid-celebration when I turned back to the pitch to see a Burnley player flying upfield and it became apparent that the goal had been disallowed and the points were still up for grabs.  Thankfully a late free kick for the visitors came to nothing and the Hornets achieved their second win in a week.  The manner of the win had been rather frustrating as, after looking really comfortable for most of the game, we really shouldn’t have been holding on at the end.

But what a difference a week makes.  After the abject performance in the cup against Millwall and some very disappointing showings over the past few weeks, most of us were looking nervously down the table.  Two wins in a week and we are back in the top half and looking forward to the rest of the season.  The club have done some terrific business in the transfer window.  It was very sad to see both Ighalo and Guedioura go, they were terrific servants to the club.  But the return of Cleverley and the addition of Niang and Zárate seems to have strengthened the squad considerably.  Zarate did well on his first showing.  Niang was superb, scoring one goal and creating the other, and he already seems to have built up an understanding with Deeney.  Cleverley was named man of the match and deservedly so.  The smiles are now back on the faces of Watford fans as we seem to be over our slump and can look forward to the rest of the season with some optimism.

Behind Enemy Lines

Taking the field at Loftus Road

Taking the field at Loftus Road

I must admit that I love going to Loftus Road, but it smacked of over enthusiasm to arrive in Shepherds Bush before the pubs opened.  The lush hanging around waiting for admission was denied entry to our hostelry of choice by a bouncer demanding to see a QPR season ticket.  Thankfully, the next place that I tried hadn’t quite organized themselves, so I breezed in and found a table only to see each of my companions denied entry.  Twice I ran to the door to plead them to let my friends join me.  The lady was immediately admitted, the “old fella” took a bit more persuasion, but we were ultimately successful and the beer and the lunch were well worth the hassle.  While supping our pints, our attention was drawn to Police riot vans parked on the Green which heralded a group of Watford fans being escorted to the ground.  Quite why that was necessary, I have no idea.  But it was rather incongruous to see a bunch of Watford youths giving it large to a group of their fellow fans who were enjoying another pint before strolling in the sunshine to the away entrance.

Pre-match huddle

Pre-match huddle

There were two changes from the team that beat Ipswich on Saturday as Hoban made way for Cassetti, who was returning from suspension, and Pudil replaced Faraoni meaning that Riera swapped wings.  So the starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Cassetti, Angella, Pudil, McGugan, Tözsér, Abdi, Riera, Ranegie and Deeney.

We started the game very brightly with a McGugan shot from distance and a Deeney volley both of which flew over the bar.  Then Ranegie got on the end of a cross from McGugan but a defender’s challenge ensured he shot over.  Deeney latched onto a backheader from Dunne and Green had to be smart to push his shot wide.  QPR’s first attempt was a soft shot from Austin that was straight at Almunia.  Then Abdi intercepted the ball and passed to Deeney who broke forward, but the defence closed ranks before he could shoot, so he passed back to McGugan who shot way over.

Dunne launches a clearance

Dunne launches a clearance

McGugan played a lovely cross towards Ranegie, but he couldn’t get a touch on it.  Another cross, this time from Angella, appeared to have reached Deeney, but Onuoha took it off his feet.  Just before the half hour, Austin was tripped and tumbled in the box, appealing for a penalty, as the ball was cleared to Simpson who tried a shot from distance that was easily gathered by Almunia.  Watford launched a counter attack but McGugan’s shot took a deflection and was easy for Green to deal with.  Everyone in the away stand was screaming at Ekstrand to pass to Pudil, who had a free run, but he delayed which allowed the defence to get back to block Pudil’s shot.  Watford had dominated the half, but QPR nearly made the breakthrough on the stroke of half time as Carroll curled a free-kick goalwards but, fortunately, Almunia was equal to it.

Almunia on the ball

Almunia on the ball

Half time entertainment was an interview with Phil Parkes, who I’ve always rather liked, made all the more entertaining as it was conducted while he tried to dodge being showered by the sprinklers.  I was also intrigued to see advertisements for the QPR stadium tours that were available in English and Korean.  Given the impossibility of sitting during the game, half time was also an opportunity to rest tired legs ready for the second half.

The only change at the start of the second period was the removal of Angella’s head bandage.  It had been moving around his head during the first half, so he clearly decided he was better off without it.  We had an early chance as Ranegie knocked Angella’s cross back to

Deeney congratulating Ranegie

Deeney congratulating Ranegie

Abdi but his shot hit the bloke in front of me in the upper tier.  Ranegie then sent a cross towards Deeney but Barton headed it for a corner.  The Frenchman was sporting a rather bizarre top knot so, while waiting for the corner to be taken, he was regaled with “Your hair’s embarrassing.”  He turned to the crowd and asked whether we were referring to him or Onuoha, whose hair was immaculate.  Tözsér took a quick free kick that was met with a powerful volley from Deeney that Green did really well to keep out.  A minute later we were ahead as Deeney nodded an Ekstrand cross down to Ranegie who swept it past Green.  There was a fairly mental celebration in the stand, which was in danger of tipping some of us into the lower tier.  Watford continued to push as Angella battled to keep the ball in on the sideline, passed to Riera who found Abdi whose shot flew wide of the target.  Ranegie was booked as Onuoha bounced off him.  McGugan tried to

Angella and Doyle tussle

Angella and Doyle tussle

release Ranegie, but the Swede was flagged offside.  Then Abdi was booked for a soft foul on Morrison.  From the free kick, Barton shot over the bar.  On the hour McGugan was replaced by Battocchio and was applauded off by Cassetti and Tözsér, which was a nice touch.  Battocchio’s first contribution was a lovely pass to Pudil whose shot was caught by Green.  From a corner, Morrison evaded a couple of tackles before shooting straight at Almunia.  Austin connected with a Barton corner, but his header was blocked and the follow-up was punched clear by Almunia.  At this stage I noted worriedly that we were sitting deep and inviting them to attack us, which would only become more risky as Zamora and Hoilett replaced Doyle and Simpson.  The next chance for the home side fell to Austin whose terrific shot was well saved by Almunia.  With quarter of an hour to go, QPR were level as Barton took a free-kick just outside the area which he hit through the ragged end of our wall

Attacking a corner

Attacking a corner

into the opposite corner.  Watford tried to strike back immediately as a shot from Deeney was parried by Green, the ball reached Abdi whose shot was headed off the line by Onuoha.  Austin then broke free of the defence but shot wide of the far post.  Ranegie played a through ball to Deeney who shot just wide of the far post, but the flag was already up for offside.  Austin broke into the Watford box, but Almunia dropped to save.  Austin was then booked for a very late tackle on Riera.  In the final minute of normal time, with Watford having failed to make the most of a couple of corners, QPR broke forward, there was a bit of goalmouth pinball, Watford failed to clear the ball and it fell to Austin who curled a shot past Almunia to win the game for the hosts.

I must admit that I left the ground furious that we’d sat back and let them get back into the game.  My notes don’t back up that version of events, but it was certainly the case that we had prevented QPR getting a sniff of goal for over an hour and, while the winner came after we’d committed forward for a corner, they had a number of chances in the last 25 minutes.  Still, on the plus side, we had played some lovely football and looked the better team on the day.  It is just a shame that we don’t capitalize on our periods of dominance.  If we did, it would have been us confirming a play-off place instead of languishing in mid-table.

A Good Point Against Rangers

Pre-match huddle

Pre-match huddle

Despite the tremendous performance and result against Millwall on Boxing Day, the visit of QPR would be a completely different prospect and I approached the game with some trepidation.  The derby nature of this match was indicated by the increased Police presence at the Junction and the huge Met Police van in Shady Lane, which I assume had brought the horses to town.  Pre-match we heard rumours of trouble in the town centre pubs and I was told that there were QPR youngsters chanting in the Rookery concourse but, fortunately, I didn’t witness any trouble either inside or outside the ground.

Team news was of injuries to Anya and Forestieri, so the starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Angella, Doyley, Bellerin, McGugan, Thorne, Murray, Cassetti, Fabbrini and Deeney.

Fabbrini receives a pass

Fabbrini receives a pass

It was the visitors who had the first shot on goal, in the 6th minute, although I use that term loosely as Kranjcar’s attempt almost hit me as it flew into the Rookery.  The Croatian was responsible for the next two shots that I noted: a curler that was easily gathered by Almunia and then another that went wide of the far post.  Watford’s first goal attempt came on 21 minutes as the ball broke to Fabbrini who fed McGugan, but his shot was wayward and didn’t come near to troubling Green.  Then a cross from Cassetti was chested goalwards by Deeney, but was easily caught by Green.  At the other end Hoilett put in a cross which flew over the heads of all gathered in the Watford box.  Soon after, the ball was given away to Kranjcar, but his shot was wide of the target.  Then Fabbrini attempted a

McGugan lines up a free-kick

McGugan lines up a free-kick

run into the QPR box but was met with a robust, but fair, tackle.  Just before the half hour came Watford’s best move of the game so far as Bellerin passed to Deeney who exchanged passes with Murray as they advanced towards the QPR goal.  Murray shot from just outside the box but Green was able to gather the ball safely.  Then there was danger at the other end as Thorne gave the ball away to Hoilett who exchanged passes with Kranjcar who found space to shoot between two Watford defenders, but his shot was just wide.  Next Phillips skipped through the defence but shot wide of the near post.  On 38 minutes, Angella was booked for knocking Kranjcar over in the centre circle.  With five minutes remaining, Carroll delivered a dangerous cross into the box which Almunia parried, the ball bounced about dangerously in the resulting melee and was cleared after which Almunia required treatment.  There was one final goal chance in time added on as Phillips played a low cross in from the right towards Hoilett, but Doyley was on hand to stop the shot, the ball reached Carroll on the left, who crossed it in again, but Hoilett could not connect and we reached half-time goalless.  It hadn’t been pretty, but both teams were defending effectively.

Angella on the ball

Angella on the ball

At the start of the second half, Thorne released McGugan, who was battling the attentions of two defenders as he shot from distance way over the bar.  Almunia was called into action to punch a shot from Phillips clear.  On 51 minutes, Deeney and Fabbrini exchanged passes, the Italian shot goalwards but Green was down to gather the ball.  On 58 minutes, there was a great move down the pitch ending with Deeney putting a through ball to Cassetti who hit a cross off Assou-Ekotto to win a corner.  Angella connected with McGugan’s corner, but his header was over the bar.  On the hour, Phillips was booked for a foul on Fabbrini.  It was good to see the referee take some action at last as he had let a lot go, including some ridiculously blatant pushes.  Barton was then booked as he took Thorne down, although from the other end of the ground it appeared that Thorne

Acuna's appeals fall on deaf ears

Acuna’s appeals fall on deaf ears

fell over him and that booking looked rather harsh, even if it was Barton.  With 20 minutes to go, Johnson replaced Carroll.  On his first foray into the box, he was accompanied by Angella and Doyley who gave him no space to cross or shoot so the ball went out for a goal kick.  Benayoun was then replaced by O’Neil.  Johnson was on the attack again soon after as he ran on to a through ball from Kranjcar, but he was flagged offside.  More substitutions followed as Acuna replaced Fabbrini and Hoilett made way for Traore.  Soon after, McGugan attempted an audacious back heel, but Deeney wasn’t expecting it and stopped his run so the chance was gone.  Then Murray unleashed a long range shot that took a deflection, but Green was behind it.  Acuna was then booked for what appeared to be

Jostling for position at a corner

Jostling for position at a corner

a tame foul.  A spell of attack and counter-attack finished with a back header by Phillips that was well wide of the target.  Then Johnson met a cross from Phillips with a header that flew wide, but the linesman had his flag raised anyway.  With 4 minutes remaining, Battocchio replaced Murray.  In time added on, a free-kick by Barton was deflected into the side netting.  The resultant corner was punched clear by Almunia.  The final action was a cross from Deeney on the run which flew well wide.

It has to be said that this game did not deliver much in the way of entertainment, but it was a very pleasing point and I came away immensely impressed by our defensive efforts against a team that will likely win automatic promotion this season.