Tag Archives: Lewis Grabban

Silencing the Canaries

 

Lloydy at City 'Orns

Lloydy at City ‘Orns

On Thursday evening the City ‘Orns had their traditional Christmas curry.  This year the usual delightful company was enhanced with a visit from Lloyd Doyley who, for many years, was sponsored by the group.  He was in good form, he’s still training at Watford while he searches for a new club.  He’s had offers, but is waiting for the right one.  After chatting away all evening and submitting to an excess of photos, as we left the restaurant he asked if anyone wanted a lift back to Watford.  What a sweetheart.  One of our newer members declared that it was the best night of his year.

Back to Saturday and, having missed the last home game, it has been over a month since I was at Vicarage Road, so it was good to be back home.  The West Herts was packed when I arrived, but it was good to see all the usual suspects and a special treat to see Tim and Jemima visiting from Norway.  A number of our party are Norfolk ‘Orns, so this is a Derby game for them.  The Canaries have also been a bogey team for us so, despite our relative positions in the table, there was no complacency in the pre-match discussions.

Ake taking a throw

Ake taking a throw

Team news was that Gomes was fit to start, while Anya and Jurado came in for Paredes and Abdi.  There was a lot of muttering about the inclusion of Jurado, who has not impressed to date, over Abdi and Guedioura who, it was said, were not being risked due to knocks that they had picked up at Villa.  This caused much muttering, “If they are on the bench, they must be fit.”  The starting line-up was Gomes, Aké, Cathcart, Britos, Nyom, Watson, Capoue, Jurado, Deeney, Anya and Ighalo.  When Gomes’s name was read out pre-match, it was greeted with an even louder and longer cheer than usual.  Norwich’s starters included former Watford loanee, Sebastien Bassong, who was given a good reception from the Hornet faithful.  I was also interested to hear that the visitors had Rudd in goal in place of the more famous Ruddy.  Do they share shirts?

The improvement of the ground by the Pozzos continues with the addition of a big screen over the Police control room at the Rookery end of the ground.  Lucky me as, from my position in the middle of the Rookery, I can see both screens.  I am spoiled.

Deeney waiting to take the penalty

Deeney waiting to take the penalty

The start of the game seemed to be dominated by the visitors but they only had one effort anywhere near the goal, a cross from Grabban that went begging.  The first chance for the home side came when Watson hit a shot from distance that was deflected wide by Bassong.  Soon after, a shot from Aké was blocked to shouts of ‘hand ball’, but the referee gave nothing.  There were more pleas directed at the referee as Capoue put in a looping cross and Deeney went down under a challenge from Bennett but, again, play was waved on.  Then Nyom played a lovely through ball to Anya, but he slipped as he put in the cross, so Rudd was able to gather the ball as Ighalo closed in.  On 28 minutes Capoue played a ball to Ighalo in the box, where he became the meat in a Tettey-Bassong sandwich and the referee finally pointed to the spot.  Rudd delayed the taking of the penalty for as long as he could but, when Deeney stepped up, he coolly put the ball to Rudd’s left sending the keeper the wrong way.  Watford had a great chance to increase the lead as Deeney headed the ball down to Ighalo who broke free of the defence but was flagged offside.  At the other end a ball into the box seemed to bounce past Gomes with a Norwich player closing in, but the keeper turned and gathered the ball.  Watford looked to have increased their lead on 36 minutes as a Nyom cross was slotted home by Ighalo, but the celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.

Deeney sending Rudd the wrong way

Deeney sending Rudd the wrong way

The next chance fell to Capoue, who is an absolute hero everywhere on the pitch except in front of goal, he tried a volley from outside the box which was way off target which he acknowledged to the Rookery.  Ighalo’s harrying caused Rudd to make a poor clearance that went straight to Jurado, who passed to Deeney who tried to play it through to Anya, but the ball was cut out before it reached the Scotsman.  A lovely period of pressing from Ighalo and Deeney frustrated the Norwich defence who could not find a way to get the ball out of their half, eventually Watson got involved and forced Olsson to concede a throw-in to loud applause from the Hornet faithful.  Ighalo threatened the Norwich goal yet again in the dying minutes of the half but, again, Rudd managed to block.  In time added on, Norwich had their first shot on goal as a Brady free kick was headed over by Bassong.

So we reached half time a goal ahead.  Apart from the first few minutes, Watford had completely dominated, Ighalo should have had a couple of goals and Gomes hadn’t had a save to make.

During the break, Malky Mackay was on the pitch with his son, Callum, making the half time draw.  He said nice things about both of his old clubs and predicted that we would both survive.  He paid tribute to the Pozzos for what they have done since they came in and was also very complimentary about his fellow Glaswegian, Anya.  There were a few boos from the back of the Rookery as his name was announced, but he received warm applause as he walked along the front of the Rookery.

Gomes in goal

Gomes in goal

There was a lively start to the second half.  A quick throw from Ighalo set Anya up, but his shot was over the target.  At the other end, Capoue and Cathcart both let a ball go over their heads under the assumption that Gomes would gather, but they hadn’t seen Brady lurking and there were huge sighs of relief in the Rookery when he shot wide.  There was a worrying moment as Aké and Wisdom challenged for a header, the Watford man was knocked flying and fell very awkwardly.  We could see his legs moving, but he was keeping his head and neck rigid and there was soon a stretcher on the pitch.  Thankfully, on this occasion, it wasn’t required and Nathan was able to continue in the game.  Almost immediately he showed that there were no ill effects as he went on a storming run down the left before putting in a great cross that Ighalo was unable to convert.  Soon after, Jurado won the ball and broke clear, he found Ighalo who battled against a defender to get a shot in but the ball was deflected into the side netting.  A Norwich break was stopped as Deeney bundled Brady over and was shown a yellow card for his trouble.  A lovely passing move from Watford, including a trademark nutmeg from Capoue, finished disappointingly with a welly from Aké.  Watson slid into a tackle on Olsson, he won the ball but the Norwich player fell over his trailing leg so Ben received a yellow card for what appeared to be a good tackle.  From Brady’s free kick, Mbokani was challenging but Gomes caught the ball.

Capoue lining up in the box with Ake and Deeney

Capoue lining up in the box with Ake and Deeney

Capoue showed his skills again, taking the ball from between a Norwich player’s legs and disappearing up the field, he skipped past two players before playing a through ball to Ighalo whose shot was saved.  Ighalo threatened again as he received a ball over the top from Deeney, he did well to get into position for the shot but it was rather weak and easily gathered by Rudd.  A dangerous clearance from the Norwich keeper was gathered by Gomes as Brady challenged.  Deeney played another ball over the top to Ighalo and this time the Nigerian’s shot was wide of the far post.  Flores’s first substitution was to replace Anya with Paredes.  A break from Ighalo was stopped as he was sent flying by Bennett who was booked for the offence.  Watford’s second substitution saw Jurado replaced by Abdi.  It has to be said that, after a ropey start, Jurado had grown into the game and put in his best performance to date.  Watford’s next chance came as Aké played a cross field ball to Paredes, who crossed for Ighalo whose shot was saved by Rudd.  Yet another chance fell to Ighalo and, yet again, Rudd blocked it.  A rare threat by the visitors was wasted as a ball into the box was met with a back header by Jerome that went out for a goal kick, when Brady was lurking behind him in a more dangerous position.

Watson takes a free kick

Watson takes a free kick

Gomes gave us another worrying moment as he went down needing treatment but, thankfully, he was able to continue.  Abdi had been a man possessed since he came on, putting in an uncharacteristically aggressive performance, and after a battling run down the wing alongside Brady his opponent was booked for a petulant push.  In the last moments of the game, Ighalo took another tumble in the box, but this time the referee waved play on.  There was a spell of pressure in the Watford area as we failed to clear but it finished with a looping ball into the area from Bennett that was easily gathered by Gomes.  As Emma announced six minutes of time added on, my heart sank, but our nerves were soon calmed as Deeney found Ighalo in the box who worked his way into position and shot past Rudd.  He thoroughly deserved his goal as he had been working his socks off and he celebrated by throwing his shirt away.  I’m sure the booking didn’t faze him.  Soon after, he was replaced by Guedioura and went up to shake the referee’s hand before he left the field.  Bless his heart.  Norwich never looked like striking back and the last goal chance of the game came when a poor clearance from Rudd reached Guedioura, he tried to chip the keeper who was out of his goal but the ball flew over the bar.  It was worth trying.

Deeney and Britos ready for action

Deeney and Britos ready for action

The final whistle went after the quickest 6 minutes of injury time that I have ever experienced.  Despite the scoreline, it had been a convincing win.  In the celebrations on the pitch, the Quique hugs were in evidence.  First a very warm embrace for Gomes.  Then he approached Harry Hornet, who dropped his drum like a brick in order to enjoy his hug.  Well done to Flores for recognizing the incredible work that Harry does during games.  The performances this season have not generally needed the addition of his entertainment, but he is always there in a quiet moment to make the crowd laugh and encourage them to cheer their team on.

The table on Saturday evening showed us in 9th place.  Due to the number of games played at odd times, the position at 5pm on Saturday can be misleading but examination of the remaining fixtures for the weekend indicated that only Everton, playing on Monday, could overtake us, so we are guaranteed to be in the top half at the end of the weekend.  I expected us to make a good fist of it this season, but this is beyond my wildest dreams.

Canaries do the Double

Ben Watson has his eye on the ball

Ben Watson has his eye on the ball

This fixture was always going to struggle to live up to the excitement of the last few games.  Norwich certainly promised to be tricky opponents having been in decent form since Alex Neil took over.  Team news was that Deeney was restored to the starting line-up which was Gomes, Angella, Ekstrand, Cathcart, Anya, Abdi, Watson, Layun, Paredes, Ighalo and Deeney.  Former loanee, Sebastien Bassong, started for the visitors.

It all started rather brightly as Watford fashioned a chance in the second minute but Deeney headed Layun’s cross over the bar.  The first goal attempt for Norwich came from a controversial free kick that was taken short to Whittaker whose shot was high and wide.  Ighalo did really well to retain the ball under pressure from the defenders, played it out to Paredes whose cross was disappointingly hit straight to the Norwich keeper, Ruddy.

Layun lines up a free kick

Layun lines up a free kick

Ighalo won the ball from Bassong in the midfield and played it to Deeney whose shot from an acute angle went wide of the far post.  On 35 minutes, Abdi was hacked down by Tettey on the edge of the box.  The Norwich players surrounded the referee protesting ridiculously at a cynical foul ensuring that Johnson joined Tettey in the referee’s book.  The free-kick was in perfect position for Abdi, but his shot was deflected off a Norwich head and clear.  The half-time whistle went after a total non-event of a half.  Watford had had the better of the possession but Norwich, using fair means and foul, had done a very good job of disrupting our play so there had been little in the way of goalmouth action.  The fact that I had managed barely half a page of notes during the half tells its own story.

Paredes baffled and Jokanovic questioning the fourth official following another odd decision

Paredes baffled and Jokanovic questioning the fourth official following another odd decision

Watford also had the first goal attempt of the second half as a cross from Anya was headed clear.  The corner was disappointing with Layun’s set piece going straight to Ruddy.  Deeney did really well to keep the ball under pressure, he played it in to Ighalo in the box, but the ball was taken off his feet by a Norwich defender before he could shoot.  A break by Johnson was stopped by Cathcart who was booked for the foul.  Tettey shrugged off a challenge from Ighalo, knocking the Nigerian to the ground as he ran into the box, before wellying his shot over the bar.  On the hour, a cross from Anya was blocked, the ball fell to Abdi but he was off balance as he shot and it was an easy catch for Ruddy.  The game changed in the 64th minute as Hoolahan broke into the Watford box and executed a dramatic dive.  It was clear from our vantage point that he was play-acting, but the referee was behind him and pointed to the spot.  Grabban stepped up and hit the penalty to Gomes’s left.  The keeper went the right way but couldn’t reach the ball which nestled in the bottom corner.

Gomes takes a free kick

Gomes takes a free kick

The referee continued to endear himself to the Watford fans as, following a nasty foul by Howson on Abdi, the yellow card was shown to Ben Watson.  I have no idea what he had done, but most likely he had critiqued the referee’s performance.  Jokanovic made his first substitution at this point bringing Munari on for Layun.  The visitors were two goals to the good soon after as Johnson played the ball to Jerome who chipped over Gomes and into the net.  Watford’s second substitution saw Vydra on for Ekstrand.  Watford’s goal was threatened again as Cathcart passed a clearance straight to Grabban whose shot had to be turned around the post by Gomes.  Watford’s final substitution came on 77 minutes as Tözsér replaced Watson.  Watford had a chance to hit back as Vydra received a pass from Ighalo in a decent position to try a shot but he elected to pass to Deeney instead and the ball was cut out.  Norwich had a great opportunity to further increase their lead as a Redmond free kick was met with a smart header from Johnson, but Gomes pulled off a great save as he dived and got a hand to the ball to keep it out.  Norwich scored their third with the next move as Cathcart failed to cut out a cross from Whittaker which reached Grabban, who turned it past Gomes.  Grabban could have had his hat trick soon after as he broke forward but his shot from an angle flew just over the bar.  The last chance of the game fell to Watford, a cross from Anya was headed away from goal by Deeney, it fell to Tözsér who shot wide of the target.

Deeney breaks forward

Deeney breaks forward

There were no boos at the final whistle, mainly because those who indulge in such behaviour had set off for home some time beforehand.  After some terrific performances in the last few weeks, it is difficult to be critical.  The penalty that shouldn’t have been was definitely a turning point, but it was disappointing that we capitulated rather than fighting back as we did at Bolton and Brentford.  Norwich came to disrupt our play and we allowed them to do so a little too easily.  The scoreline flattered the visitors, but we barely had a shot on goal so didn’t deserve anything from the game.  Thankfully, we have another home match on Tuesday in which to get this out of our system.

As there was so little to say about the game, there is time and space to mention a couple of off pitch incidents.  I am reliably informed that there was a fight between Watford fans in the SEJ stand.  Stewards involved and everything.  What is the World coming to?  I was also surprised to hear that Beppe Sannino was at the game.  He told Don afterwards that he was “Sorry Watford lost,” but that we would soon be a Premier League team.  At least Don thought he meant us, not Norwich!  It is good to see that there are no hard feelings there anyway.

A Battle on the South Coast

The decoration inside the ground

The decoration inside the ground

After a few days of scare stories about bad weather that could lead to another postponement, it was a relief to have a pleasant drive down to the South Coast and lovely weather for my walk across town from the hotel to the pre-match pub.  The pub itself was another little gem.  The back room used to be a boxing gym, and was rather lovely.  The bar staff were friendly and welcoming.  The clincher for me, though, was the Rosie’s Pig.  Delicious. Bournemouth was a new stadium for me, so I was looking forward to the visit.  It is quite a neat little ground.  They have decorated the inside of the ends of each stand with pictures of players, which is a nice touch, although it has to be said that they didn’t appear to be from particularly classic games.  The away fans were located at one end of a stand down one side of the ground and were very close to the pitch which, despite the rain, appeared to be in excellent condition.

The teams emerge

The teams emerge

Sannino made three changes from Tuesday’s cup replay, so the starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Hall, Angella, Pudil, McGugan, Iriney, Battocchio, Faraoni, Fabbrini and Deeney.  Main team news for Bournemouth was that their top scorer, Grabban, was recalled having signed a new contract after a brief flirtation with Brighton.  Other pre-match news was that, due to colour clashes involving both our home and away kit, we were playing in all yellow.  The only time I can remember seeing that colour combination before was due to some Boothroyd bloody-mindedness at Charlton.  From memory, the game that day was awful.

McGugan delivers a corner

McGugan delivers a corner

The home team threatened first, but Pugh failed to get on the end of a dangerous cross from Ritchie.  Watford’s first chance came through a counter-attack.  Fabbrini broke forward, he was tackled but the ball fell to Battocchio who advanced down the right and crossed to McGugan in the box, but Lewis swung his boot and didn’t get a decent connection so the shot flew wide.  The referee went back and booked Ritchie for felling Fabbrini.  On 16 minutes, Battocchio found Fabbrini on the right, his low cross was put out for a corner from which the ball fell to Battocchio, who squared to Faraoni whose cross was easily caught by Camp in the Bournemouth goal.  Soon after, repeated attempts to break down a Bournemouth attack failed and Surman was able to fashion a shot from the edge of the box but it was wide of the target.  On 24 minutes, Iriney went down injured.  I

Angella launching the ball forward

Angella launching the ball forward

have criticised his contributions in the past, but he had been immense in this game so far and his substitution was very bad news, even if his replacement was Abdi.  Bournemouth threatened again through Ritchie who advanced into the box, but the attentions of Pudil ensured that his shot was well over the bar.  Angella then joined the attack but, when his cross was cut out, it left our defence weakened allowing Grabban to break and cut the ball back for Ritchie whose shot was deflected over.  Camp was called into action for the first time as a Battocchio shot was deflected and the keeper had to dive to push it around the post.  The corner was headed out to Pudil, but his shot was horribly reminiscent of McGugan’s mishit earlier in the game.  A back header from Abdi reached Surman who broke forward and found Pugh in space but he shot well over when he really should have

Angella celebrating his goal

Angella celebrating his goal

tested Almunia.  Five minutes before the break, Angella found Fabbrini who turned and shot over.  On 44 minutes, Grabban was through but could not quite connect with a cross from Ritchie.  Then, on the stroke of half time, McGugan was taken down on the left.  He took the free-kick himself and Angella rose highest to nod it past Camp.  We were somewhat fortunate to be ahead, but it was a great time to score. At the start of second half, McGugan pulled up requiring treatment although he was able to continue.  Then Abdi passed to Fabbrini whose through ball deflected to Deeney, but Troy’s shot was blocked and went out for a

Lining up to defend

Lining up to defend

corner.  On 50 minutes, the injury got the better of McGugan and he was replaced by Murray.  The youngster was in action almost immediately putting in a low cross that was met with a shot from Hall which was blocked.  At the other end, a good sliding tackle from Ekstrand prevented Grabban from getting on the end of a cross from Pugh.  On the hour, Grabban broke into the Watford box, where he was jostled and eventually pulled to the ground.  The referee didn’t give the penalty immediately but, after consulting with the linesman, he pointed to the spot and sent Angella off.  There was some confusion from the stands as to who the recipient of the red card was, and some argument on the pitch about the decision, but eventually the Italian walked.  It was Grabban himself

Almunia the hero

Almunia the hero

who stepped up to take the penalty, and he made no mistake, shooting straight down the middle with Almunia diving to his left.  Straight from the restart, Bournemouth were on the attack again but Faraoni was alert and headed the cross clear.  Then Surman latched onto a pass from O’Kane but shot well over the bar.  Bournemouth had a great chance to take the lead as Pugh cut the ball back to Daniels in the box, but his shot curled just wide.  On 70 minutes, another penalty was awarded.  Pugh broke into the box and should have shot but, instead went to ground in a dramatic fashion.  Protests from the travelling fans and the Watford players fell on deaf ears and only led to a yellow card for Almunia.  At this point a group of Watford fans who had gathered in front of the seats surged forward and started tussling with the stewards who were standing behind the advertising hoardings and some idiot threw a smoke bomb onto the pitch that was removed by Almunia.  When everything had calmed down, Grabban stepped up again, but justice was done as Almunia dived to his right to save.  The Spaniard then did brilliantly, standing tall to block the follow-up from Ritchie and then dropping to save an O’Kane shot from the edge of the box.  On 77 minutes, Pugh was replaced by Pitman and left the field to loud boos from the travelling Hornets.  At the same time, Rantie replaced Surman and Anya came on for

Bournemouth threaten

Bournemouth threaten

Fabbrini.  With 10 minutes remaining, Almunia parried a long-range shot from Ritchie then dropped to gather the ball with Grabban and Pitman challenging.  The latter was adjudged to have come in too hard on the keeper and was shown a yellow card.  Bournemouth continued to threaten as O’Kane fed Daniels on the left, but his cross was cut out by Hall.  From the corner, Arter handled in his own box, was penalized and another argument broke out on the field in what was becoming a bad tempered game both on and off the field.  Then Watford launched an attack as Deeney broke and hit a ball over to Anya who cut in from the bye-line but couldn’t find a pass and the ball went out for a goal kick.  In the last minute of normal time, the Cherries should have won the game as Rantie cut the ball back to Ritchie who unleashed a powerful shot, but Pudil threw himself in front of the ball and saved the day.  From the corner, the ball fell to Pitman whose shot just cleared Almunia’s bar.  There was 7 minutes of time added on, so plenty of time for a winner.  For Bournemouth, Pitman tried a chip, but it was straight at Almunia.  Then the ball fell to Deeney in the box, but his shot was deflected into the side netting.  At this point, it became clear that defending the point was the priority for the visitors as the corner was taken with 4 Watford players on the half way line.  In the last minute, Daniels got his head to a corner but it drifted over the bar. 

Thanking the travelling fans

Thanking the travelling fans

At the final whistle, 8 stewards escorted the referee as he left the pitch, which seemed excessive since he was walking towards the home stand.  For all the complaints about the penalties and the performance of the referee, we were quite fortunate to come away with a point from that game.  But what will live longer in the memory was the unpleasant atmosphere in the away end.  There were scuffles both with stewards and among some Watford fans who got into an argument about one bloke who insisted on standing about half way up when all around him were seated.  Another Watford fan threw a bottle that hit one of our disabled supporters.  Due to the disorder, the fans in wheelchairs were moved to sit with the home fans.  One fan also threw the ball hard at one of the Bournemouth players who was about to take a throw-in.  Unnecessary and unpleasant, and I have to give credit to the player in question who didn’t react.  I also thought the stewards did a tremendous job.  As they investigated the scuffle in the crowd near us, they did so in a reasonable manner and were very pleasant to those in the area.  The Leicester stewards should take a lesson from these guys.  Coming up, we have the prospect of another away trip, this time to Man City.  The post-match realization that we are now on a run of seven away draws was soon nullified by the news that City had scored another 4 goals.  I have to admit that my head is telling me to go to Vicarage Road to see the Youth Cup game next Saturday, but there is that niggling “what if?” that will ensure I travel to Manchester.  I hope they are gentle with us.