Tag Archives: Lee Peltier

Three Worldies in the Rain

Rita and Pagey with the play-off trophy

On Wednesday evening was the 20 year (almost) reunion for the squad that won the play-off final in 1999.  I have been to a number of wonderful evenings following the club, but this one was exceptional.  All of the players had come back for the evening, including some (Bazeley, Hazan, Gudmundsson) that had come from overseas.  The overwhelming impression from the players was a deep affection among the whole group and they seemed genuinely happy to be with each other again.  The way that all of them spoke about Watford as a club was heart-warming, even those who were only here for a short time had left with very happy memories.  There were also some heartfelt tributes to Graham Taylor, which must have been lovely for Rita, Karen and the other family members who were present.  There were also entertaining interviews with Andrew French (who was the media officer at the time) and Ciaran Cosgrove (pink shirt man) who is totally bonkers.  The culmination of the interviews and reminiscences was Robert Page and Rita Taylor on the stage lifting the play-off trophy.  At that point I am not sure there was a dry eye in the house.

In Javi and Gino we trust

On to the weekend and my pre-match routine on Saturday differed from the usual as, after meeting in the West Herts, we headed for the ground and the Elton John Suite as Mike had been offered hospitality courtesy of the Community Trust.  It was a chilly day with driving rain for most of the afternoon, so the comfort of an executive box was very welcome indeed.  We shared the table with Derrick Williams who is employed by the Trust as well as being the brains and driving force behind Kit Aid, so it was lovely to meet him and learn about his various roles and their contributions to the local (and not so local) community.

Team news was that Gracia had made one change bringing Deulofeu in for Success.  So the starting line-up was Foster; Femenía, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Sema, Doucouré, Quina, Pereyra; Deeney and Deulofeu.  There was also the very welcome return of Tom Cleverley to the bench.  A lovely early Christmas present for the Watford faithful.

Before kick-off, it was lovely to see banners unfurling in the Rookery celebrating Gino and Javi.  I am normally under these, so it was lovely to actually see them for once.

Celebrating Deulofeu’s goal

Despite our relative league positions, this was going to be a tricky game as Cardiff had had a recent upturn in form and Watford, despite some terrific performances, had not won since October.  But the Hornets started the game well and had a very early chance as Deulofeu played a one-two with Doucouré before curling a shot just wide of the target.  Watford took the lead in the 16th minute as Deulofeu got the ball just outside the box, then went on a mazy dribble, it looked as though he would run into trouble but, instead, he breezed past a couple of defenders before slotting the ball past Etheridge in the Cardiff goal.  It was a terrific goal and served to calm the nerves among the home fans.  The Hornets had a chance to increase their lead soon after as Pereyra exchanged passes with Deeney, but his final touch was too heavy and Etheridge was out to gather.  Cardiff threatened for the first time as Arter played a low ball across the goal, but the chance went begging.  The visitors had a better chance to draw level when Gunnarsson’s long throw reached Paterson in the box, but his header was wide of the target.  The Hornets continued to attack and some lovely passing between Deulofeu and Pereyra culminated in a shot from the Argentine that was deflected for a corner.  After a period in which Watford had been passing the ball around for fun, Cardiff finally won a goal kick and, as Etheridge readied to take it, there was an ironic chant of “We’ve got the ball” from the away end.

Domingos Quina

When an injury to a Cardiff player led to a break in the game, I was amused to see Ben Foster take the opportunity to towel himself down, although with the rain lashing down it would only have been a momentary respite.  Deulofeu and Pereyra combined again but this time the shot was saved by Etheridge.  Then Quina, who had been lively in midfield, had his first sight of goal but his shot from distance was wide of the target.  Late in the half, Pereyra won a rather soft free kick.  He took it himself and it was a wonderful strike that appeared to be heading for the top corner, but Etheridge made another excellent save to keep it out.  So we reached half time with a narrow lead for the Hornets, which was a bit frustrating given the amount of possession that we had had.  But credit must go to Etheridge in the Cardiff goal as, without his efforts, the game would already have been out of sight for the visitors.

Our seats at the back of the Upper GT meant that we were protected from the torrential rain, but there had been a cold wind blowing during the first half, so I was very happy to be able to escape into the box for half time refreshments.  The hot drinks and cheese and biscuits went down very well indeed, but I kept an eye on the pitch to ensure that I was back in the stand for start of the second half (I almost made it).

Celebrating the strike from Holebas

The visitors made a substitution at the break bringing Mendez-Laing on for Murphy.  The Hornets started the second half as they had finished the first with a shot from Pereyra that was stopped by another excellent save by Etheridge.  But the Hornets were not to be denied for long as Deulofeu laid the ball off to Holebas who curled a gorgeous shot into the top corner.  It was a magnificent strike and it is always nice to see a happy Holebas.  Watford had a chance for a third as Sema dribbled along the edge of the box but he shot wide of the target.  Just before the hour mark, Cardiff made a second substitution bringing Peltier on for Bennett, who had picked up an injury.  Cardiff had a rare shot on goal with an effort from the edge of the area by Camarasa that flew just wide.  The Hornets’ third goal was another cracker, Sema played the ball back to Quina who curled a beauty past Etheridge, leading to a joyous celebration as he ran over and hugged the substitutes on the touchline.  The chances continued as Deulofeu found Holebas who stuck his foot out and diverted the ball towards the top corner, but yet again Etheridge made a save.  Hoilett had a great chance to pull one back for the visitors, but his header cleared the bar.  Watford made their first substitution of the day with 15 minutes to go, bringing Success on for Sema.  The substitute was immediately involved in a one-two with Deulofeu whose shot was disappointing, especially as he really should have passed to Doucouré who was in an acre of space in the box.

Holebas prepares to take a corner

The visitors made their final change of the afternoon replacing Gunnarsson with Reid.  Just when we thought this would be a comfortable afternoon for the Hornets, Hoilett hit a beautiful curling shot from outside the area to the top corner.  So no clean sheet, but it was to get worse almost immediately as another ball into the Watford box led to a goalmouth scramble.  There appeared to be two players in an offside position when Foster blocked a shot from Bamba, so we were waiting for the whistle to go, but the ball rebounded to Reid who scored to put the visitors back in the game and to reboot the nerves.  Between the goals, Deeney had made way for Okaka and the Watford fans cheered up somewhat at the sight of the return of Cleverley who came on for Deulofeu.  Tom was in action immediately with a shot that was blocked before Quina put the follow-up wide.  Then Doucouré could have calmed Watford nerves with a terrific shot but, yet again, it was met with a terrific save from Etheridge.  There were groans as the fourth official held up the board indicating that there were 5 minutes of added time and the visitors had a chance to grab an equaliser that would have been a travesty, as Camarasa put a free kick into the box, but Foster was out to make the stop although it took him two attempts to gather it.  There was much relief when the final whistle went.

Elton entertaining at his spiritual home

At the end of the match there was complete bafflement.  Watford had been coasting until the first Cardiff goal, which seemed to give the visitors confidence and the home side jitters.  While we weren’t exactly hanging on at the end, the memory of the last minute at Goodison Park on Monday was too fresh for me to feel comfortable until the final whistle had gone.  It has to be said that the players (with the notable exceptions of Kabasele and Cathcart) made a rapid exit from the pitch, but that was probably just to dry off after the soaking.  But, with time to reflect, apart from that dodgy 3 minutes this was a superb performance by the Hornets.  They were playing some lovely football, but there were also plenty of shots and three goals so gorgeous that there was a comment on Match of the Day that there could have been a goal of the day competition that only included goals from this game (Hoilett’s wasn’t too shabby either).  It was a great team effort, but praise must still go to Deulofeu who was absolutely excellent, Doucouré who is back to his best and the wonderful Quina who is not just very skilful, but also plays with an assurance that belies his tender years.

At the end of the day, there was massive relief that the winless streak is over and the performances in the past week have been excellent and deservedly lifted us back into the top half of the table.  Let us hope that we continue in this vein as football is suddenly fun again.

Six Goals at Elland Road

A kind welcome

A kind welcome

This was an expensive week for the travelling Hornets with two away games up North.  After an encouraging performance against Burnley midweek, I travelled with a better spirit but, knowing that Leeds have been on a decent run, my expectations were not high.  Our pre-match pub in Leeds is a good ‘un.  The cider was lovely, the pie was tasty and the company was excellent.  The top deck of the shuttle bus to the ground was inhabited by a group of Leeds fans who were loud and obnoxious, so I was glad to reach Elland Road to escape the racket.  As we entered the stadium, we were greeted by posters thanking us for traveling 179 miles to attend the game.  Rather a nice touch, I thought.

Team news was that Pudil and Anya were in for Cassetti and Murray.  If I hadn’t seen his midweek post on Twitter, I would have struggled to recognize Anya as he has shaved off his Afro.  A big mistake to my mind, I hope he grows it back very soon.

A minute's silence for Mandela or Bremner!

A minute’s silence for Mandela or Bremner!

Before kick-off, the minute’s applause for Nelson Mandela was announced.  Much as I am a admirer of the great man, I questioned the wisdom of such a gesture at a sporting occasion in the UK.  Clearly, the Leeds hierarchy had similar questions, so they announced that it was also to mark the anniversary of the passing of Billy Bremner, which meant that the applause was accompanied with chants of Bremner’s name which rather defeated the object.

The starting line-up was Bond, Faraoni, Nosworthy, Ekstrand, Pudil, Bellerin, Battocchio, Thorne, McGugan, Anya and Deeney.  There were no Watford alumni in the Leeds line-up, but it cannot be forgotten that one of Watford’s favourite sons, Nigel Gibbs, was on the Leeds bench.

A new-look Anya

A new-look Anya

Leeds started brightly, and in the second minute, Smith headed a cross from McCormack straight at Bond. The next Leeds attack was a free-kick by McCormack into the box which was headed over by Zaliukas.  Then Bellerin intercepted the ball in midfield, his pass was deflected back to Battocchio who crossed for the young loanee to head the ball wide of the far post.  Then a low through ball reached Austin whose shot was parried by Bond to Murphy whose follow-up flew wide.  Watford were immediately on a counter attack as Faraoni put a ball through to Anya, who ran into the box but his shot was parried.  On 11 minutes Watford took a rather surprising lead. McGugan exchanged passes with Bellerin, tried a cross which bounced back to him off a defender so he played a languid through ball which Deeney tucked between Kenny and the near post.  It

Leeds line up a free kick

Leeds line up a free kick

had been so long since we last scored that I half convinced myself that the ball had hit the side netting, so my celebration was a bit hesitant, but finally got going once I realized that we had actually scored!  We had the next decent chance on 23 minutes when a McGugan through ball reached Anya, but Kenny narrowed the angle and Ikechi’s shot was just past the far post.  Leeds then threatened with a dangerous cross from Austin, which looked as though it may have snuck in if Bond hadn’t caught it at the near post.  Then McCormack latched on to a pass into the box.  Bond ran out and dived at his feet to make a great save, so it seemed unfair that the ref pulled play back for a free kick as he’d previously played advantage that the home side had not been able to capitalise on.  McCormack took the free kick, which bounced off the wall for a corner.  Then McGugan played a lovely defensive move as a Leeds player, whose number I didn’t note, ran into the box.  I was concerned that he would draw a penalty, but McGugan coolly shepherded the ball out for a goal kick.  Then a dangerous ball came in towards Smith in the box, but Nosworthy stuck out a foot to deflect it for a corner.  From the corner, there were loud shouts for a penalty from the Leeds fans as Smith went down in the box, but the ref made the right decision.  On 29 minutes, a shot from McCormack bounced off Ekstrand and rebounded to

Celebrations after the second goal

Celebrations after the second goal

Smith, whose follow-up shot was just wide of the far post.  On 37 minutes, Smith latched onto a ball in the Watford box, Bond pulled off a fantastic save, but must have been frustrated again to see that his efforts were unnecessary as the forward had been flagged offside.  On 43 minutes, Nosworthy seemed to think he had all the time in the world to control a ball in our box, Pugh came up behind him and threw himself over Nyron trying to win a penalty.  Fortunately the referee was having none of it and all he won was a yellow card, but Nosworthy had taken a huge risk.  As the clock reached 45 minutes, Mowatt took a free kick from a dangerous position to the right of the Watford box.  Bond came out to punch the ball clear and it reached Bellerin, who ran the length of the pitch then squared for Battocchio, who took a couple of touches and seemed to have lost his chance, but found space between two defenders to fire the ball past Kenny.  This time I celebrated immediately and chants of “We want six,” rang out from the travelling Hornets. In injury time, McGugan took a shot that went straight into Kenny’s arms.  As the half-time whistle went, Anya was on the ball running up the left wing and he kept on going, not wanting to stop!

It had been a cracking half.  We were slightly fortunate to take a two goal lead in at the break and well aware that there was still a long way to go in the game.

A defensive header from Ekstrand

A defensive header from Ekstrand

Leeds came out like a rocket at the start of the second half.  Within a minute of kick-off, a Bellerin pass up the wing was intercepted and the counterattack finished with a header from Smith tipped over the bar by Bond.  From Mowatt’s corner, it was Smith again, but this time he headed over the bar while climbing on Thorne.  Leeds’ first goal came in the 49th minute and had an element of fortune as a clearance hit Thorne and dropped to Pugh who beat Nosworthy and slipped the ball past Bond at the near post.  The Watford heads didn’t drop as Faraoni audaciously nutmegged a Leeds defender to get into the box, but his cross was blocked. However, ten minutes into the half, Leeds were level as Peltier robbed Anya as he tried to dribble the ball across the middle of the park, he passed to McCormack on the wing who crossed for Smith to power a header past Bond.  Straight from the restart, Battocchio freed Bellerin, but he couldn’t quite reach the return pass in the box and the chance was cleared.  Leeds carried on threatening the Watford goal.

Gibbsy on the wrong bench

Gibbsy on the wrong bench

First Austin broke in to the box and Bond stood tall to block his close range shot.  Then, from a corner, Mowatt’s shot came crashing back off the crossbar.  There was some relief for Bond as Watford launched a counter attack with Anya finding McGugan whose shot from distance was pushed wide by Kenny.  Soon after, Smith shot straight at Bond.  Then a Thorne ball over the top reached Deeney, who shot wide but had been in an offside position anyway.

On 65 minutes Murray replaced McGugan, seven minutes later Faraoni made way for Cassetti.  Soon after, Cassetti failed to challenge Smith whose header reached McCormack who turned the ball into the net, but his celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.

Faraoni down the wing

Faraoni down the wing

However, Leeds were to take the lead a couple of minutes later as McCormack got on the end of a pass from Murphy, outran Nosworthy and shot past Bond.  Watford almost hit back immediately as Battocchio shot from inside the box and Kenny had to drop smartly to gather the ball.  With 10 minutes remaining, Murray jinked into the Leeds box and curled a shot just wide of the far post.  On 85 minutes, while Forestieri was on the sidelines waiting to come on, Anya went on a run down the wing and crossed for Thorne whose shot was parried by Kenny, but Deeney was on hand to pick up the loose ball and grab the equalizer.  With a couple of minutes to go, Mowatt played a through ball to

An attacking throw-in

An attacking throw-in

Smith whose shot was over the bar, but he was flagged offside anyway.  After the equalizer, Forestieri had returned to the bench and the final Watford substitution was Hall replacing Battoccio.  In injury time, Anya and Bellerin combined on a counter attack, and the young Spaniard won a corner which came to nothing as Ekstrand was booked for a foul on Zaliukas.  But it was the Swede who could have won the game for the Hornets as Deeney received a pass from Cassetti and squared the ball but Zaliukas was on hand to make a great tackle and prevent Ekstrand from shooting.

Applauding the crowd

Applauding the crowd

At the final whistle, there was a lot of shirt swapping on the field and rapture from the stands.  It had been a thrilling game of football and I think all the fans were happy to leave with a point.  Watford had played some lovely stuff, but gave the ball away a little too much by getting caught in possession and our defence was vulnerable in the second half when Nosworthy tired, but it is churlish to criticize after such a thoroughly entertaining afternoon.  It has to be said that Anya’s pace made a difference and some of his interplay with Bellerin was excellent.

How the mood has changed in the past week with two terrific points from difficult away games.  Hopefully, this will make Monday’s fans’ forum a more positive occasion and we can take this spirit back to Vicarage Road for the visit of Wednesday.  It is fun being a Watford fan again.