Tag Archives: Jordan Rhodes

A Clean Sheet and Three Points at the Riverside

Troy leads the team out at the Riverside

Troy leads the team out at the Riverside

When the Middlesbrough game was moved to Sunday lunchtime for television, transport options were checked only to find that the first train to leave London would arrive in Middlesbrough less than half an hour before kick-off.  That would be cutting it a little too fine for my nerves, so I decided to spend the weekend in Durham.  I was delighted to find out that a couple of friends had made independent arrangements to do the same.  When news spread that we had arranged to meet up on Saturday evening for a curry, our party grew so our pre-match gathering started rather earlier than usual.

The original plan for Sunday morning had been to get a train to Middlesbrough but this was changed when transport ninja, Richard, discovered the existence of the X12 bus which provided an option that was both quicker and cheaper than the train.  As we waited for the bus, we were joined by a quartet of Durham students wearing Watford shirts, which was rather lovely.  As our journey progressed, the rain started and, when we emerged from the bus station, there was a local putting up his hood who was grumbling about the weather and commented to us, “It’s grim up North.”

Our pre-match gathering was at the notorious Doctor Brown’s.  Apparently the place is under new management, so the DJ playing the ear-splitting music and running the quiz was no longer in place.  There had even been a suggestion that it was now a gastropub, but that was certainly not in evidence and the pub was as ordinary and friendly as it had been on all previous visits.

Challenging in the Boro box

Challenging in the Boro box

On arrival at the stadium we were greeted by what must be some of the nicest stewards in the league.  On opening up my stuffed rucksack, I was asked whether I had any cans or bottles.  A perfunctory glance, a smile and “I trust you” and I was in the ground.  I then headed for the Ladies which was actually in a part of the concourse populated by the home fans, with only a metal barrier to separate the fans along with a lovely steward who was directing us in.

Team news was that Mazzarri had made two changes with Britos and Success replacing Zúñiga and Ighalo.  So the starting line-up was Gomes; Kaboul, Prödl, Britos; Amrabat, Capoue, Behrami, Holebas; Pereyra, Success with Deeney on his own up front.  A lot of Watford fans had been calling for the introduction of Success after his tremendous performances against Burnley and Bournemouth, so it would be very interesting to see whether he was as impressive over 90 minutes as he was as an impact substitute.

Holebas takes a throw in

Holebas takes a throw in

Both teams had an early chance, first the Hornets as Deeney got into the box but was stopped when the ball was taken off his feet.  Then a shot from Downing that flew well over the bar.  There was a nervous moment for the Hornets soon afterwards as Kaboul lost the ball allowing Ramirez to play a one-two with Negredo before shooting just wide of the far post.  The first booking of the game came after 20 minutes as Barragán was cautioned for a foul on Success.  The card was deserved, but I was a little perturbed that Success rolled over at least one time more than was strictly necessary.  Boro were calling for a penalty when Negredo went down in the box, but the referee waved away his appeals which looked a little fortunate for the Hornets at the time.  A minute later there was a further penalty appeal, this time for hand ball, but, again, nothing was given and the ball fell to Downing who shot wide of the near post.  At the other end there was a chance for the visitors as a Holebas free kick was met by a defensive header from Negredo which looked as though it may test Valdés in the Boro goal but flew just wide.  Soon after, Deeney met a Capoue cross with a wild volley that was well wide of the target.  I’m sure he was very grateful that the flag was already up for offside.  At the other end, the home side had a great chance to open the scoring with a shot from distance by Gibson that was just wide.  Barragán fouled Success again prompting the travelling Hornets to shout for his dismissal but, after a long lecture, he was sent on his way without a card being shown.

Deeney very happy after the strike from Holebas

Deeney very happy after the strike from Holebas

The inconsistency of Mr East’s decision making was shown rather starkly soon after as Stuani was booked for a very similar foul on Pereyra.  Between the bookings there was a volley from Negredo that was easily gathered by Gomes, the first save by either keeper.  Ramirez was then cautioned for an off the ball foul on Behrami.  So we reached half time goalless after a very dull half of football which must have been torture for the fans who had been up in the early hours of the morning to travel up from Watford.

Just after half time, Negredo went down in the box again and, again, the referee was having none of it and any sympathy I had had the first time that he went down had disappeared.  Forshaw should have done a lot better with a shot following a cut back, but he hit it straight at Gomes who had an easy catch.  Success went on a great run before falling down as soon as he got into the box.  In my frustration, I was berating him for not crossing before he ran into the defender when the ball fell to Holebas who unleashed a cracking shot to put the visitors into the lead.  It seemed a bit unfair on the home side that Watford should take the lead from their first shot on target, but it was the first time in the game that either keeper had been really tested.

Challenging at a corner

Challenging at a corner

The first caution of the game for the visitors went to Amrabat for a foul on Friend.  Some poor defending on Watford’s left allowed Friend to put in a dangerous cross, but Gomes wasn’t troubled by the resulting header from Negredo.  There was a rash of substitutions with 20 minutes to go as Ayala and Traoré replaced Stuani and Barragán for the home side and Zúñiga came on for Amrabat for the visitors.  With 15 minutes to go, there was a lovely passing move down the pitch from the Hornets which finished with a powerful shot from Success which was straight at the keeper but much the best effort of the game apart from the goal.  During a break in the game for Britos to get some treatment, the home crowd started up a chant of “We’ve had some sh*t refs, you are the worst,” which garnered laughter and applause from the Watford fans.  It appeared that Watson and Ighalo were being readied for a substitution, but Britos couldn’t continue and limped off to be replaced by Kabasele.  Soon after Watson did make an appearance coming on in place of Success, who was loudly booed by the home fans for his theatrics during the game.  I would have had a modicum of sympathy had their guys not been dropping like flies throughout the game.  Although, while Isaac was much sinned against, he does go down a little too easily and dramatically, which is incredibly irritating as he would make more impact if he stayed on his feet.  Boro also made a change with Rhodes coming on for De Roon.

Holebas and Capoue lining up a free kick

Holebas and Capoue lining up a free kick

As the clock reached 90 minutes, a cross from Traoré was plucked out of the air by Gomes.  The fourth official held up the board indicating 6 minutes of added time.  The home side had one final chance half way through time added on, but it was a wild shot that flew wide and prompted the home fans to stream out in numbers.  They didn’t miss anything and the game ended with the Hornets winning thanks to the one moment of quality in the game.  After the final whistle, there was a long heated discussion between Holebas and Capoue that only finished when Deeney came over stepped between them and hugged them both.

On the way out, the lovely steward who had been the meet and greet on the way to the Ladies wished us all a safe journey home.  We repaired back to Doctor Brown’s to while away the time before our train home and discuss the game.  Given the post-match complaints from the Boro manager it was pleasing that the fan who initiated a conversation with me in the pub congratulated us on the win.  I commented that it had been a terrible game.  “It was never going to be any good, but well done.”

The main positive from the game was that we had achieved our first clean sheet of the season, although a lot of that was down to how poor Middlesbrough were in front of goal.  They had most of the possession and more goal chances but Gomes didn’t have to make a save worthy of the name.  Holebas put in a good performance crowned by a superb goal.  The performance of Success was a bit of a curate’s egg.  He was lively and causing the Middlesbrough defence some problems but seemed to run into players and lose the ball when an early cross would have been a better choice.  Poor Troy was isolated up front and didn’t see much of the ball at all.  But a win when you are not playing well isn’t to be sniffed at and our current mid table position is to be treasured.

Winning Against the Odds

Kick-off

Kick-off

After last week’s injustice on the South Coast, we returned to Vicarage Road, scene of recent goal fests.  With Angella’s red card rescinded the only change from the team that started at Bournemouth was the return of Paredes, meaning that Layun moved to a more central midfield position and Tözsér dropped to the bench.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Hoban, Angella, Cathcart, Anya, Munari, Watson, Layun, Paredes, Ighalo and Deeney.  With Abdi and Forestieri both back from injury we also had an incredibly strong bench.

In the first minute, a shot from Ighalo was blocked and rebounded to Layun who hit his shot wide of the target.  At the other end a Blackburn corner was headed goalwards by Hanley but deflected for a corner.  Anya broke forward and played a lovely through ball to Layun whose shot was turned around the post by Steele.  The resulting corner was met with a strong header from Angella, but again Steele was equal to it.

Waiting for the ball to drop

Waiting for the ball to drop

Ighalo did really well to muscle Hanley off the ball before playing a square pass to Watson whose shot was just over the bar.  As the 20th minute approached, there was a yellow card for each side as Spearing was penalized for taking Deeney out and Paredes was booked for giving Conway similar treatment.  From Blackburn’s free-kick, the ball reached Rhodes in the Watford box, but his shot was high and wide.  Blackburn had another decent chance from a free-kick soon after but Brown’s header flew just past the top corner.   Cathcart was the next player to go into Mr Madley’s book.  The referee was blowing up for some very soft fouls against both teams and this looked like a harsh booking.  Anya tried for some time to get into a position to cross, the Blackburn defence was harrying him, but he kept dropping back to relaunch his attack.  When he finally got his cross in, it dropped to Deeney who paused before shooting and so his attempt was blocked.  Deeney then played a one-two with Ighalo, but was stopped by a great saving tackle in the box.

A stout defence

A stout defence

A Layun corner was cleared as far as Angella who headed down to Anya whose shot was well wide of the near post.  In time added on at the end of the first half, Munari was booked for a foul on Rhodes.  Marshall’s free-kick required a good save from Gomes to ensure that the game was goalless at half time.  It had been a disappointing half of football.  Watford had had some decent possession, but weren’t doing themselves a lot of favours with some dreadful misplaced passes.  But credit to Blackburn who were ensuring that the home team had little time on the ball and, when they were in possession, were closed down and harried into making mistakes.

An attacking corner

An attacking corner

Blackburn had the first chance of the second half, as Rhodes headed a Marshall cross wide.  At the other end, Ighalo was fouled on the edge of the box.  It seemed a perfect position for Layun to try a shot but, instead, Watson played a short ball to Layun who was closed down before he could cross and the chance was gone.  That routine may have looked great on the training ground, but it looked appalling at Vicarage Road.  On the hour, Jokanovic made an attacking substitution taking Hoban off to make way for Vydra.  The Czech’s first shot was easily gathered by Steele who appeared to take it behind for a corner.  At the other end, Gomes had to drop to gather a shot from Conway.  Blackburn threatened again as Gestede headed the ball down to Rhodes whose shot looked likely to break the deadlock until Gomes got across to tip it wide.  Watford failed to clear the corner which fell to Conway whose shot was brilliantly saved by Gomes.  With 17 minutes remaining, it was great to see the return of Abdi as he came on to replace Watson.  Blackburn had another attempt on goal as Conway played the ball back to Cairney who shot over from distance.  Gomes saved the home side again as a Conway free-kick was met with another great save.

14 - Celebrating the miracle goalIn a rare Watford attack, Vydra exchanged passes with Deeney and tried a shot that was blocked, it fell to Paredes who played it out to Deeney whose shot was put out for a corner.  Watford then took an unexpected lead as Layun’s set piece was played on by Angella to Ighalo whose shot found the net by way of Steele’s hand and the post.  The celebration of this miracle included a very long prayer from the goalscorer.  Blackburn tried to hit back and there was a moment of drama as Gomes punched a cross then chased the ball out of the box to welly it over the SEJ stand to loud cheers from the Watford faithful.  Watford appeared to have increased their lead in the final moments as Vydra and Ighalo broke forward and the Czech won a corner from which a cross was headed home by a defender as Ighalo challenged, but the goal was ruled out for offside presumably as Ighalo was deemed to be interfering with play.  There were huge cheers at the final whistle.  It had been a difficult game and the win was hardly deserved, but Blackburn had been such unpleasant opponents that I felt no guilt.  It was no surprise that Gomes won the man of the match award and he was given a tremendous ovation as he did his lap of the pitch applauding the crowd at the end.

If we learnt anything from this game it was that the team has finally injected some steel into their game and we can win when the opposition comes to stop us playing.  That bodes very well for the rest of the season.

Honours Even at Ewood Park

The teams take to the pitch at Ewood Park

The teams take to the pitch at Ewood Park

We don’t have a good record at Blackburn in the few games that we have played there in recent years, the most recent win being the 4-3 during the petrol crisis in 2000.  So I have never seen us win at Ewood Park, although it is still an away day that I enjoy.  Despite seemingly constant traffic on the way up, we made good time and were soon holed up in the pre-match pub waiting for the rest of the North-West Horns to arrive.  The first pint was rather lovely, but the pub ran out of beer from the hand-pump very early much to the annoyance of some of our party.  But the beer still flowed as our number swelled and the pre-match gathering was fun as always.

With Garcia now out of hospital but in the director’s box, it was Ruben Martinez in the dugout again.  There were four changes from the Bournemouth game with Angella, Cathcart, Munari and Ighalo coming in for Tamaz Ekstrand, Abdi and Dyer.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Pudil, Cathcart, Angella, Paredes, Murray, Munari, Tözsér, Anya, Vydra and Ighalo.  Watford old boy Lee Williamson lined up for the opposition.

Preparing for a corner

Preparing for a corner

We had a great chance to take the lead in the first minute of the game as Anya cut the ball back to Ighalo, but he shot well wide when he should have hit the target.  Rhodes was the first to threaten for the home side as he chipped the ball goalwards, but Gomes gathered easily.  Baptiste tried a low shot from the right which Gomes dropped to save.  A lovely through ball reached Rhodes who was advancing into the box, but Paredes got in his way and the ball found its way back to Gomes.  Tözsér found Murray who advanced down the left before passing to Ighalo who took a couple of touches before finding the space to shoot, Steele was down quickly to block the shot.  A short corner was dummied by Vydra and ran through to Tözsér whose shot was blocked.  At the other end, Cairney cut in and shot goalwards but Gomes was behind it.  Cairney threatened again as he received a pass from Gestede but shot over the bar.

Vydra congratulated by his team mates

Vydra congratulated by his team mates

Watford made the breakthrough after half an hour as Cathcart released Vydra, who seemed to pause expecting an offside flag, which gave the defender time to get back, but he recovered and shot past Steele to put the Hornets ahead against the run of play.  Munari broke down the wing and exchanged passes with Anya whose shot was blocked.  In the 39th minute, Rovers came close to equalizing but the shot from Gestede was fractionally wide.  Instead it was Watford who increased the lead as Tözsér curled a free kick which bounced in off the post.  Rhodes and Gomes both tried to reach a cross from Baptiste, but the Spaniard was first to the ball punching it to safety.  The last chance of the half was an overhead kick from Rhodes that cleared the bar.  The half-time whistle went with Watford two goals to the good, although it has to be said that the scoreline flattered us a bit.

The celebrations for Tozser's free kick

The celebrations for Tozser’s free kick

At the start of the second half, Rovers made a change replacing Baptiste with erstwhile Watford target Craig Conway.  A number of fans had yet to return to their seats after the interval when Blackburn pulled one back as Gestede got his head to a deep cross into the box to propel a powerful header past Gomes.  Rovers threatened again soon after, Paredes could only knock a ball into the box sideways to Gestede but, fortunately for the visitors, he shot wide.  Rhodes received the ball in the box turned and shot but he also missed the target.  At the other end, Ighalo fed Murray who curled a shot into Steele’s arms.  Then Vydra played the ball out to Murray who passed it back when he was probably in a better position to shoot, albeit from distance.  There were loud protests from the Blackburn faithful as Pudil put the ball out for a corner, I couldn’t see from the opposite end but they clearly felt that a hand had been used.  From the subsequent corner, Marshall headed wide.

Jostling for the ball at a corner

Jostling for the ball at a corner

The crowd in the Ronnie Clayton stand were getting increasingly angry at the time that Gomes was taking for his goal kicks, the referee agreed with them and showed the keeper a yellow card.  Murray played the ball out to Anya on the wing, but his cross was over the heads of all in the box.  Munari released Vydra who played it out to Ighalo who was pushed off the ball far too easily.  At the other end, Rhodes got the ball on the edge of the box but Paredes made a great tackle to avert the danger.  Vydra was booked for knocking Duffy flying after the Blackburn player had already played the ball.  It was an odd challenge that can only have been born of frustration.  Rovers then made their second substitution replacing Williamson with Tunnicliffe.  Pudil played a low cross towards Ighalo who failed to connect although he was offside anyway.  A shot from Gestede was knocked out for a corner by Gomes with a Blackburn player challenging for the header.  A cross from Paredes was slightly too high for Ighalo to get a decent contact.  On 68 minutes, Dyer replaced Ighalo who had had an awful game being shrugged off the ball far too easily.  Dyer’s first act was to play a through ball to Vydra just before being taken down.  The referee blew up for the free-kick when it looked sensible to play advantage, Vydra lashed the ball into the net in frustration.

Gestede holding Cathcart at bay

Gestede holding Cathcart at bay

Cairney was the next player to see yellow as he handled the ball when he was on the ground.  Vydra had a great chance to increase the lead as he latched on to a header from Hanley but he passed instead of shooting and the chance was gone.  An overhead kick from Gestede was blocked by Angella and went out for a corner with the home fans howling that he’d handled.  Gestede threatened again with a shot from the corner of the box that was well wide.  Rovers equalized on 77 minutes as Tunnicliffe headed a cross from Marshall into an empty net.  It was no more than they deserved.  Soon after, Murray made way for Forestieri.  Tözsér played a dangerous ball into the box but Munari couldn’t get a touch to it.  Watford nerves were jangling as Duffy unleashed a shot from distance that was just wide of the target.  At the other end, a corner from Tözsér was met with a glancing header from Munari which flew just wide.

Angella on the ball

Angella on the ball

Rhodes went down very easily on the edge of the Watford box following a challenge from Angella.  Cairney’s free-kick rebounded off the corner of the post and crossbar, the follow-up from Gestede was saved by Gomes who was then fouled by Rhodes who knocked the ball into the net but the referee blew up for the foul.  With a couple of minutes remaining, Ekstrand replaced Anya for the Hornets.  The Swede was tested immediately being beaten by Rhodes whose close range shot was saved by Gomes.  In injury time Forestieri went down dramatically clutching his face after what looked like a nothing challenge.  I was yelling for him to get up, so felt a bit guilty when I saw a photo of his swollen eye on Twitter.  Angella then spent some time off the pitch with an injury and was booked when he came back on, presumably because he hadn’t received the referee’s blessing.  The final whistle was greeted with anger in the Watford crowd that we’d thrown away a two goal lead.  But, on the balance of play, that lead had flattered us and, after hanging on in the second half, a draw felt like a decent result.

Six Goals but Not a Thriller

The construction of the East Stand is progressing

The construction of the East Stand is progressing

Pre-match gatherings before midweek home games are always a rather subdued affair as those of us who neither live nor work in Watford have rushed to get there after work.  So it was a pleasure to be joined by Rod and his son, Luke, who were on holiday from New Zealand and had Toddy on hand to ensure that they experienced the best that the UK has to offer.

Team news was that Beppe had made 4 changes from Saturday with Ekstrand, Hoban, Murray and Merkel in for Belkalem, Faraoni, Battocchio and McGugan.  The changes sounded a bit odd until we realised that Ekstrand and Hoban would go into the back three

Pre-match huddle

Pre-match huddle

with Cassetti taking up Faraoni’s position as right wing-back.  The starting line-up was Almunia, Angella, Ekstrand, Hoban, Pudil, Merkel, Tözsér, Murray, Cassetti, Anya and Deeney.  Lee Williamson started for the visitors and was given a decent reception by the home crowd.  In fact it was a warmer welcome than he had in some games when he played for us.  But more on that theme later.

Blackburn almost scored in the first minute but Almunia leapt to get a hand to a speculative shot from Kane.  At the other end, Angella met a corner from Anya with a header that flew wide.  The first goal came in the third

Cassetti after scoring the first goal (I was so thrilled I forgot to get my camera out)

Cassetti after scoring the first goal (I was so thrilled I forgot to get my camera out)

minute and from an unexpected source as a throw-in from Anya was flicked on by Merkel to Cassetti who knocked the ball past Robinson.  It was a goal that brought a smile to all our faces as much for the goalscorer as the goal.  The visitors almost struck back immediately as Gestede was one-on-one with Almunia, but the keeper stood strong to make the save.  Gestede had another chance soon after with a header from a corner that flew over the bar.  At the other end Murray tried a shot from distance that was just wide of the far post.  Then Tözsér played a ball over the top to Deeney, who beat the defender but shot into the side netting.  Rovers equalized on 27 minutes, Almunia came to punch a free-kick clear but it fell to Dunn who shot into the opposite corner.  Rovers could have taken the lead as Gestede met a long throw from Spurr with a header that he glanced just wide of the target.  Just before half time, Almunia was first to a cross into the box so Gestede came in hard and knocked him flying.  Rhodes picked up the loose ball and put it in the net, but it was long after the referee had blown up for the foul.  In time added on Kilgallon met a corner from Conway with a header but Almunia was equal to it.

 

Defending a corner

Defending a corner

As Robinson came out to take his place in the goal at the Rookery end at the start of the second half, it was really nice to see him applauding the home crowd before we greeted him.  The teams were all in position before the officials appeared and he endeared himself even further by chivvying along the lino who was checking his net.  We thought we’d regained the lead soon after the start of the second half as Pudil played a one-two with Anya who passed the ball back to Deeney who buried it past Robinson.  Our celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.  My brother-in-law, who was listening to the lovely Jon Marks, informed us that it was Anya had been flagged offside but that Jon had seen a replay, courtesy of the Blackburn analyst, which showed that he was nothing of the sort.  Deeney then turned provider with a pass to Anya who shot wide of the far post.

A Cassetti throw-in

A Cassetti throw-in

Deeney had the ball in the box again but was challenged and the ball broke to Cassetti who juggled it before finding Murray whose shot was deflected.  Then Pudil and Tözsér exchanged passes before crossing for Deeney who was crowded out before he could shoot.  Battocchio replaced Murray after an hour.  On 64 minutes, we were a goal down as Hoban lost the ball to Dunn in the box, he played it into the path of Conway who slotted past Almunia.  We were not behind for long as Kane handled Anya’s cross and the referee pointed to the spot.  Deeney made no mistake hitting the ball to Robinson’s right as the keeper went the wrong way.  McGugan replaced Hoban and then boos from the Rookery greeted Diakité as he prepared to come on for Merkel.  The loanee had received the

Celebration of Battocchio's goal

Celebration of Battocchio’s goal

same treatment at Wigan.  It really baffles me why a section of our fans would rather abuse their own player than support the team.  As it so happened, he had his best showing so far in a Watford shirt and, although he was involved in a yellow card incident, he was the victim having been fouled by Evans.  The visitors threatened as Rhodes tried his luck with a shot from the right which Almunia claimed.  Then Kane was booked for a foul on McGugan.  Watford’s third goal came with a couple of minutes to go and was a joy to behold as Anya released Battocchio, who had a lot of ground to cover before he reached the edge of the box and unleashed a shot that flew past Robinson into the goal at the Rookery end.  By way of celebration, he was buried under a crowd of players plus a certain mascot.

On the attack

On the attack

We wondered where the referee found 6 minutes to add on and, half way through the additional period, the visitors equalized as a Gestede header hit the inside of Almunia’s right-hand post and bounced across the goal into the net on the opposite side.  The frustration in the stands was equalled on the pitch at the final whistle as Deeney aimed a kick at a goalpost.  But Angella went one better.  He was furious and took it out on Pudil aiming a verbal volley that left the Czech defender standing in the middle of the penalty area appearing to tell his team mates that he wasn’t going back into the dressing room until Gabriele had calmed down.

For the second home game in a row, there were complaints about the entertainment value from a game in which we’d scored three goals.  The consensus was that it was the most boring 6 goal “thriller” that we’d ever seen.  It is an odd time as most of the people that I know like the manager and most of the players but there is something missing on the pitch.  We have watched much worse football than this and cheered the teams on, but maybe the gorgeous football that we saw for much of last season has spoiled us.  At this point the season is over for us so we can relax in the upcoming games, the next of which is probably my favourite away day of the season.