Tag Archives: Luke Varney

Beating Burton in the Cup

Cathcart, Capoue and Britos

Cathcart, Capoue and Britos

When the draw was made for the third round of the cup, there was a twinge of regret that we hadn’t been drawn away to Burton, as it would have been a new ground.  But a Saturday 3pm kick-off at Vicarage Road made a very pleasant change.  I arrived at the West Herts just before it opened, in time for the guvnor to open the interior door for Don, offer him his usual (tea with milk and two sugars) and have it delivered to the table before I’d ordered my pint.  These celebrities, don’t know they are born.

Team news for this game promised to be interesting.  Would Walter opt to put out an inexperienced team and rest the remaining first team players or would a better performance and (hopefully) a win be worth risking further injuries?  In the event, the only change that wasn’t enforced by injury or illness was the inclusion of Cathcart in place of Prödl (although it is likely that Pantilimon would have made an appearance even if Gomes had been well).  It was very pleasing to see Brandon Mason given a start after his substitute appearance against Spurs.  The starting line-up was Pantilimon; Kaboul, Cathcart, Britos; Kabasele, Capoue, Doucouré, Mason; Sinclair, Ighalo; Deeney.  Former Watford men, Lloyd Dyer and Lee Williamson started for visitors.  It was also great to see Ben Watson back on the Watford bench.

Celebrating Kabasele's goal (and Mason's assist)

Celebrating Kabasele’s goal (and Mason’s assist)

We had opted for a change of scene for this game, swapping our seats in the Rookery for a place in the SEJ stand.  Our seats were low down and right next to the Watford dugout, which was a little distracting while having the extra attraction of a good view of Nigel Clough (for whom I have had a very soft spot for many years).

Watford’s first attack of the game came through Mason who beat a defender on the wing to go on a run and put in a cross which was caught by the Burton keeper, McLaughlin.  Watford’s injury curse continued as, following a clash of heads with Britos, Cathcart was unable to continue and, with only a quarter of an hour on the clock, was replaced by Prödl.  Being close to the dugout, so we got to see first-hand the time taken to prepare the top knot (which isn’t meant as criticism, I find it rather fetching and it was done while he was receiving instructions).  Burton threatened with a cross from Dyer, but it was an easy catch for Pantilimon.  Watford took the lead through a lovely move as Mason played a one-two with Deeney before putting in a terrific cross that Kabasele stabbed home.  I think that the goal calmed a lot of nerves both on and off the pitch.

Deeney waiting for Brayford's throw

Deeney waiting for Brayford’s throw

Watford had a decent chance to increase the lead as Capoue played a through ball to Ighalo who played a quick one-two with Deeney before executing a trademark scoop and shooting just over the bar.  Burton had to make a substitution just after the half hour mark as Ward replaced the injured Miller.  The visitors had a great chance to equalize just before half time as a cross was punched to Ward on the edge of the box but Capoue was on hand to block the shot.  The Frenchman then went on a counter attack ending with a low shot that was saved by McLaughlin.  The first card came at the end of the half with Naylor booked for pulling Ighalo back as he tried to escape.

There was an atmosphere of satisfaction in the home stands at half time.  It was pleasing to have the lead and there had been some good signs, especially going forward.

 

Celebrating Sinclair's solo effort

Celebrating Sinclair’s solo effort

The visitors started the second half well and had the first chance as a Flanagan cross was headed just wide of the target by Varney.  Sinclair had a chance with a shot from inside the area, but it was straight at McLaughlin.  Another Flanagan cross flew across the face of the goal just missing the outstretched boot of Harness.  At the other end, Capoue’s shot from distance flew just wide of the target.  Watford’s second substitution came on the hour as Kaboul was replaced by Brice Dja Djédjé making his first appearance for the Hornets, having been injured since his transfer from Marseille.  There was a long stoppage after Varney went down following a clash with Pantilimon.  It looked nasty as the Burton man was stretchered off wearing an oxygen mask.  I hate to see players carried off, I hope he makes a rapid recovery.  He was replaced by Akins.  Watford were two goals to the good on 77 minutes as Sinclair went on a run at the Burton defence before unleashing a shot that beat the keeper.  The goal was doubly gratifying as it seemed to make the game safe for the Hornets as well as giving an example to some of his team mates just to shoot if you get a sight of goal.  There was a great chance for a third as Capoue played a through ball to Sinclair who found Ighalo running in to the box, he scooped the ball on to his right foot and shot, but it was blocked by the keeper’s legs.

Djédjé takes a throw-in

Djédjé takes a throw-in

Watford had another decent chance as a corner was cleared to Mason, he played a square ball to Djédjé who shot over the target.  Due to the long stoppage for Varney’s injury, there were 8 minutes of time added on, which gave Sinclair a chance to go on another run towards goal but this time McLaughlin was equal to his strike.  There was just time to give youngster Carl Stewart a debut as he replaced Sinclair after what seemed like an age waiting for a break in the game.  He is the 60th player from the Watford Academy to make an appearance for the first team (the third in the past week).

The final whistle went on a very pleasing win for the Hornets as, while Burton had their moments, it had been a comfortable afternoon.  Mason certainly took his chance, with some great runs down the wing and was clearly delighted with his assist.  I hope that we see a lot more of him.  Doucouré had another good game in the midfield and Capoue had his best game for some time.  Sinclair played well and was clearly buoyed by his goal and our first sight of Djédjé was very promising indeed.  After weeks of doom and gloom, it was lovely to have a post-match discussion with so many positives to reflect on.  Next week’s visit by Middlesbrough will be very interesting indeed.

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.