Tag Archives: John Swift

The Youngsters Shine Against the Royals

So good to see Chalobah back from injury

I was rather pleased when the draw for the second round of the League Cup gave us a trip to Reading as it is almost a home game for me.  Even more so when the game was scheduled for Wednesday evening as I was already planning to work from home due to a dental check-up in Maidenhead in the afternoon.  I always have a chat about football with my dentist, who is really an Arsenal fan but used to be a Reading Season Ticket holder who gave up going because the team were hopeless.  We chatted about the game and he warned that they may cause us problems.  I assured him that, given our recent history in this cup, I was taking nothing for granted.  Once he gave me the all clear, I was on my way to Reading where I was in the pre-match pub far too early, although not as early as the chap in the Watford shirt who was already sitting in the corner.  I bought myself a lovely real cider and then found a little booth to hide away in and wait for the rest of my party who arrived in due course.

On arrival at the ground, the bag search was being undertaken by a woman whose main concern seemed to be to find some goodies that could be shared with her.  It always makes the day a bit nicer when the stewards have a sense of humour.  As our pre-match pub is excellent for beer but doesn’t serve food, I had a chicken balti pie inside the ground that I have to say was very good indeed.  While waiting for kick-off, Sweet Caroline was played which apparently is a Reading favourite but made me a little homesick for Fenway Park.

Prodl lines up a free kick

Team news was that Gracia had made 11 changes with debuts for Navarro, Masina, Wilmot and Quina and the return of Chalobah, so the starting line-up was Gomes; Navarro, Mariappa, Prödl, Masina; Femenía, Chalobah, Wilmot, Quina, Sema; Success.  I have to say that looked like a pretty decent team.  Reading had also made 8 changes, but the main Watford connection with the opposition was in the dug out in the person of Sir Nigel Gibbs.

The first chance of the game came from a Navarro free kick from distance that was an easy save for Walker in the Reading goal.  Early in the game there was a switch in formation to three at the back with Wilmot in the middle and Navarro and Masina playing as wing backs.  Watford’s next chance also came from a free kick from Chalobah that just cleared the bar.  From a corner, Femenía played the ball back into the box where it was parried and fell to Mariappa whose shot was blocked before Wilmot tried a cheeky back heel that was cleared.  Young Wilmot was having an impressive start and he was soon in action at the other end of the pitch cutting out a dangerous ball into the box.  The first chance for the home side came in the 23rd minute as Watford failed to clear a cross into their box allowing McNulty to volley over the bar.  Then Watford launched a great break, Success got to the byline and put in a low cross, but nobody was there to take advantage.  Soon after, a corner from Sema reached Femenía who played it in to Success whose shot missed the target.  He wasn’t to make the same mistake a minute later as Masina played the ball back to him, he took one touch and then finished past Walker.  Reading had a chance to break back from a free kick which was launched over the wall, but Gomes dropped to make an easy catch.  So Watford reached half time a goal to the good and looking uncharacteristically comfortable.

Celebrating Quina’s magnificent strike

Reading made a change at the break bringing Sims on for Swift.  The second half started with a decent chance for the Hornets.  After a fast break, Navarro crossed for Success who headed just over the bar.  Soon after, the Watford striker had another chance to increase the lead, this time from a Masina cross, but he nodded wide.  The travelling Hornets were in good voice and a lovely bit of skill from Quina was greeted with an appreciative chorus of “sexy football”.  There was a decent chance to get a second as Chalobah played a lovely ball for Femenía to run on to, but the shot was blocked by the Reading keeper.  The second Watford goal was a thing of beauty, the ball was cleared to Quina outside the box, he advanced a couple of steps and then took the advice of the bloke standing behind me who was yelling ‘hit it’ and powered a rocket into the top corner.  It was quite a strike. There were changes for both sides soon after as Baldock and former Watford youngster Yiadom came on for O’Shea and Richards for the home side.  For the Hornets, Sema made way for Okaka.  The Watford substitute had an immediate chance to get on the score sheet as he got on the end of a looping cross from Femenía, but his glancing header was wide of the target.  There was a rare chance for the home side as a ball dropped to Kelly inside the box, but he hit it over the bar.  Quina’s enjoyable debut came to an end as he was replaced by Doucouré.  He looked shattered as he left to field to an ovation from the travelling Hornets.  Watford were still pushing to extend their lead as a shot from Navarro was pushed over the bar.  At the other end McNulty lobbed Gomes, but Mariappa was back to clear the ball.  Reading threatened again with a decent shot from distance from Méïté, but Gomes was down to make the save.  Watford’s final change saw Hughes come on for Chalobah, it was so great to see him back in action and managing almost 90 minutes.  Reading had one last chance to reduce the deficit from a free kick, but the shot was easily caught by Gomes.

Gomes back in goal

So, in the end, it was a convincing and comfortable win for the Hornets.  The second string put in a very good performance which gives a pleasing indication of the strength of the squad.  Of the new guys, Wilmot was the most impressive, looking very assured in the middle of the back three.  The other youngster, Quina, made some lovely touches and his goal was a worldie.  These two look to have very promising futures.  It was also a delight to see Chalobah back on the pitch and putting in a great shift for almost the entire 90 minutes.  He was beaming as he responded to the chants of “Chalobah, my lord” after the final whistle.

Also, fair play to the 2514 fans who travelled to the game.  It is not a long journey but, given our recent record in this competition, they would have travelled more in hope than expectation, so thoroughly deserved that win.

We have Spurs next in both the league and the cup.  I don’t expect anything from either game, but if this team continues to perform as they have so far this season, we are in for a rather enjoyable 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.