Tag Archives: Marco Cassetti

Out with a Whimper

The teams coming on to the pitch

The teams coming on to the pitch

Last game of the season and the kick-off time is stupidly early, so I’m counting my blessings that we are playing at home.  Our pre-match gathering was smaller and quieter than usual and tinged with sadness that this was our last until August.

Team news was four changes from the horror show at Charlton including a debut for Academy graduate, Alex Jakubiak.  The starting line-up was Bond, Angella, Cassetti, Hoban, Pudil, Murray, Tözsér, Battocchio, Anya, Deeney and Jakubiak.  Huddersfield’s team included the sorely missed Jonathan Hogg.

Deeney receives Player of the Season award from Oli Phillips

Deeney receives Player of the Season award from Oli Phillips

As promised, the Player of the Season award was presented on the pitch before the game.  It was no surprise to see Troy Deeney honoured and rather nice to see Oli Phillips on the pitch to present it, but he was kept waiting as Deeney fulfilled his captain’s duties.

It all started so well as Pudil released jakubiak in the first minute, the youngster let fly a shot which flew across the goal and wide.  Jakubiak threatened again as Anya played him in, but a last ditch tackle seemed to put him off and Smithies was equal to his shot.  Huddersfield’s first goal attempt was a shot from Wells that was easily caught by Bond.  Dixon tried a shot from distance that flew high into the Rookery.  Clayton’s shot was heading for the bottom corner, but

Worshipping Huddersfield

Worshipping Huddersfield

Deeney cleared.  Nothing of note happened on the pitch in the next 15 minutes, so we turned to Harry Hornet to provide our entertainment as he gathered a beach ball from the away stand and ran around the pitch to give it to the 1881.  It was also noted that Huddersfield’s away contingent included the Pope and a gaggle of nuns.  On the half hour, Wells, who had been struggling with an injury following a foul by Cassetti, was replaced by Ward.  On 36 minutes, Battocchio broke into the box, but Smithies denied him.  Hammill had two chances to break the deadlock.  First a shot from outside the box that was straight at Bond and didn’t test the keeper, then a shot that flew wide of the far post.  Hammill was then fouled by Hoban who was booked for his offence.  The resulting free kick

Alex Jakubiak makes his debut

Alex Jakubiak makes his debut

was over the wall and easy for Bond.  In time added on at the end of the half, there was a shout for a penalty as Tözsér’s shot appeared to be handled by Hogg, but the referee waved the appeals away.  It had been a pretty dull first half.  As is often the case with lunchtime kick-offs, the players looked only half awake and there was a sense that most of them were already on the beach.

We kicked off at the start of the second half and, almost immediately, went a goal down.  Angella gave the ball away, it fell to Lolley who broke into the box, Angella got back but the Huddersfield man twisted away from his tackle and shot across Bond to fire the visitors into the lead.  Watford made their first substitution replacing Murray with Diakité.  The loanee’s first contribution was to start a move that ended with Pudil being flagged offside.  Then

Defending in the box

Defending in the box

Huddersfield broke and Ward’s shot to the near post squirmed through Bond’s legs and into the goal to put the visitors two goals to the good 10 minutes into the second half.  Watford’s next substitution saw debutant, Jakubiak, replaced by Faraoni.  A high ball into the box by Diakité appeared to be headed goalwards by Lynch, but was cleared.  Huddersfield went on another quick break, Smith crossed for Ward whose shot was well saved by Bond, making amends for his earlier mistake.  Then Deeney played the ball to Diakité who took a touch to control it before shooting and his shot was blocked.  A tackle by Pudil inadvertently knocked the ball to Ward who fired past Bond for the third.  The

Josh Doherty makes his debut

Josh Doherty makes his debut

visitors made a change as goalscorer, Lolley, was replaced by Scannell.  On 69 minutes, Deeney broke into the box, his path to goal was blocked so he passed back towards Anya, but gave the Scot too much to do to get to the ball.  Hogg was booked for a foul on Diakité.  Then Faraoni went on a run into the box, he skipped past the challenge of a defender before cutting the ball back towards Deeney, but Smithies was there to gather.  Deeney won a free-kick after Lynch leaned on him and Hogg told his team mate in no uncertain terms what he thought of him giving the set piece away.  That passion demonstrated when they were 3-0 up was in stark and upsetting contrast to what we were seeing from our players.  Deeney took the free-kick which bounced harmlessly off the wall.  Another academy

Deeney hits the penalty

Deeney hits the penalty

youngster made his debut as Battocchio was replaced by Josh Doherty.  Angella fouled Clayton and there was a bit of handbags that someone behind me commented was the best bit of action of the afternoon.  When it all calmed down, Angella and Gerrard were booked.  Harry then appeared in a grass skirt, sombrero and Brasil t-shirt ready for his holiday.  On the pitch, Huddersfield won a free kick wide on the left in what looked to be a benign position, but somehow Ward hit it past Bond for his hat trick.  Shocking!  Diakité played a ball over the top to Deeney who couldn’t get hold of it and hit the ball into the ground and it bounced into the keeper’s arms.  There was a bizarre incident in time added on.  Diakité played a high ball over to Cassetti whose header bounced down off the crossbar.  The lino was flagging and the whistle went so everyone stopped.  We all assumed that it was an offside decision, but then the lino indicated a corner.  After some discussion

A muted celebration from Deeney

A muted celebration from Deeney

between the players and the referee, a drop ball was given in the box which resulted in a corner.  Tözsér took the set piece and a rather soft foul on Deeney in  the box resulted in the referee pointing to the spot.  Josh Doherty cheekily approached and offered to take the penalty, but Deeney kept hold of the ball and made no mistake in burying it past Smithies.  His 25th goal of the season gave us something to smile about.

Before the game, Beppe had talked of putting on a good performance for the fans.  In the event, it was a dreadful display.  The team seemed to switch off on Easter Monday after that tremendous first hour against QPR and we’ve seen nothing worth watching since.  It was an awful way to finish a season that we’d started with such high expectations.  But we had failed to replace key players that we lost in the Summer, so the absence of Vydra, Chalobah, Eustace and Hogg as well as the injuries that kept Abdi out for most of the season did for us.  Mutterings after the game indicated that there would be a big clear out this Summer, so next season’s squad could look very different again.

Harry dressed for his holidays

Harry dressed for his holidays

As is usual for the last game of the season, the players came back out for a lap of honour.  After that performance, it was rather subdued, but there was still a decent number of fans left in the Rookery and I just had to stay and applaud the players despite all the downs.  This was a probable farewell to Troy Deeney, who threw his boots into the crowd.  I was looking elsewhere when he launched the first boot towards us so was a bit shocked to see this missile flying through the air.  I always find it hard to leave the ground after the last game of the season, but I finally said goodbye to my neighbours and wished them a good Summer.

It will be another close season of speculation and upheaval, but at least the club is stable off the pitch and there are no fears for the short-term future of the club and, for me, that overrides all the on field disappointments.

I would like to sign off with a word of thanks to all who have read my blog this season, especially those who have given me encouragement.  I hope that you continue to enjoy the reports.  Your kind words are always appreciated.

 

More Fight Off than On the Pitch

The teams emerge from the tunnel

The teams emerge from the tunnel

I woke up on Saturday feeling distinctly unwell, having had a cold for a couple of days.  I was so tempted to put the covers over my head and stay there for the day, but I dosed myself up with cold medication and made the journey to Pride Park.  I shouldn’t have bothered.

Team news was a couple of surprising changes as Almunia, Angella and Abdi all missed out due to injury and were replaced by Bond, Doyley and Battocchio.  Jakubiak was back from Braintree to take a place on the bench.  The starting line-up was Bond, Ekstrand, Cassetti, Doyley, Pudil, McGugan, Tözsér, Battocchio, Riera, Ranegie and Deeney, who was captain for the day.  Watford old boy, Forsyth, started for Derby alongside previous loanee, Thorne, and Hemel’s Lee Grant whose finest hour, I’m led to believe, was playing for a (Watford fanzine) CYHSYF team.  The much missed John Eustace was on the bench.

Congratulating Deeney

Congratulating Deeney

It was all go in the fourth minute of the game with a booking and a goal.  First Cassetti received a yellow card for a foul on Russell.  Then Battocchio played a through ball to Deeney, who appeared out of nowhere to hit the ball into the roof of the net.  This season, we have had a nasty habit of sitting back and defending early leads with disastrous consequences.  I feared a repeat of that scenario but, rather than sitting back, we just stopped playing.  Deeney was in action at the other end soon after getting in a block as Ward turned and shot.  Then Forsyth cut the ball back, but it was cleared by Cassetti for a corner from which Ward’s shot was high and wide.  Ward was the danger man again as he skipped around a tackle from Ekstrand, advanced and shot wide of the far post.  Riera was

Indicating a free-kick

Indicating a free-kick

the second Watford player to be booked, but I didn’t see the challenge.  Derby really should have scored as we failed to clear a corner and the ball dropped to Martin, but he shot wide when he appeared to have an empty goal to aim at.  Martin had another decent chance with a cross to the near post, but Ekstrand’s attentions ensured he missed the target.  Watford finally made another attacking break twenty minutes after the goal, but McGugan’s shot from distance flew well over the bar.  Just before the half hour, Derby got their equalizer as Watford failed to deal with a cross into the box, Pudil could only head the ball on to Hendrick who poked it past Bond.  The home side could have taken the lead soon after as Ranegie dwelt too long on the ball and was robbed by Thorne who played

Defending a corner

Defending a corner

in Ward whose shot was saved by the feet of Bond.  A back heel to Derby player of the season, Bryson, teed him up to shoot but Pudil blocked his attempt.  Ward then got the ball in the box, and seemed to be there for ages before he found space for a shot that flew just wide.  In the 40th minute, a rare Watford attack saw McGugan play a one-two with Ranegie, his first shot was blocked, the follow-up went behind the goal.  Our ball retention had been appalling and another misplaced pass allowed Forsyth to set up Hendrick who shot wide.  In time added on McGugan fed Riera whose shot was blocked, the rebound looked about to fall to Battocchio in a great position for a shot, but McGugan picked it up and crossed for Ranegie whose header was too high.

That had been a truly shocking first half performance from Watford.  How we were level was a complete mystery.  “They are already on holiday” was the consensus in the concourse.

An effort flies wide of the target

An effort flies wide of the target

As the crowd returned to their seats for the second half there was a bizarre scuffle a couple of rows in front of me which was broken up by friends of the combatants.  I have no idea what started it, but one of those involved who, at first glance, appeared to be a gentle grandfatherly type, then spent the next five minutes offering a 30 year-old out.  Quite how he thought this would end well for him is a mystery to me and to his mates who were practically sitting on him to stop him causing any more trouble.

Watford started the second half brightly as a Deeney shot from distance looped into Grant’s arms.  Then a header from Ekstrand reached Ranegie whose attempt was blocked.  At this point, it was sad to see Ekstrand being carried off the pitch, he was replaced by Hoban.

However, it was hard to concentrate on matters on the pitch as the pensioner hoolie was still carrying on in front of us and the stewards waded in.  To be fair, the stewards dealt brilliantly with the incident and allowed the friends to act as peacemakers rather than just

Lining up to defend

Lining up to defend

dragging people out as is so often the case.  On the pitch, a cross from Pudil really should have been dealt with, but was allowed to roll across in front of goal but sadly Deeney couldn’t get a touch to turn it goalwards.  It was then McGugan’s turn to limp off and be replaced by Anya.  Derby went a goal up on the hour mark as Bryson and Russell exchanged passes before finding Forsyth who powered the ball into the roof of the net from the edge of the box.  Derby were immediately on a mission to increase their lead as Cassetti was robbed, Bond blocked Martin’s effort and Russell’s follow-up was wide of the far post.  Then a shot from Hendrick bobbled wide and a cross was met by a header from Ward that was just wide of the far post.  Martin then curled a shot wide from the edge of the box.  I was too busy trying to make out the number of the striker (gold on black and white stripes is a nightmare), so completely missed Cassetti’s sending off after getting a second yellow for a foul in  the build-up.  As that will probably be the last time we’ll see him in a Watford shirt, it was a very sad way to end to his time with us.

Ranegie receives congratulations

Ranegie receives congratulations

Quite unbelievably, we were level on 70 minutes.  Anya went on a run into the box and crossed for Ranegie to head past Grant.  This was one of those goals that you celebrate with a certain embarrassment as it was so completely undeserved.  Derby immediately tried to strike back as Riera was robbed by Ward in the box, but his shot was saved by Bond.  Russell then tried a shot from the edge of the area which was blocked.  There was then a rash of substitutions as Ward and Russell were replaced by Dawkins and Bamford for the home side while Faraoni came on for Ranegie for the Hornets.  Anya tried another cross, but Deeney couldn’t reach it and it went out for a throw.  I missed Derby’s third goal as the pensioner hoolie decided to launch his attack at this point, so I was distracted by the revolting sight of his builder’s bum as he sat down in front of me before grabbing the neck of the 30 year old’s father who was sitting quietly with his wife and, it has to be said, still had 10 years or more on the idiot if he’d decided to take

Anya breaks forward

Anya breaks forward

him up on his offer of a scrap.  Pensioner hoolie’s mates tried to intervene, but this time the stewards were justified in ushering him out.  I hope to goodness that bloke has neither a wife nor a cat as I would fear for them when he got home.  Back to the game, the replay on the screen showed that the Derby goal had been a shot from distance by Hendrick.  With five minutes to go the score became a fairer reflection of the game as Derby scored their fourth when Bryson received a pass from Dawkins then played a through ball to Martin who shot past Bond.  That was Martin’s last action of the game as he made way for Hughes.  Watford tried to reduce the deficit as Faraoni met a Tözsér corner with a header at the near post that was blocked by Grant.   In time added on, Bryson tried a shot from the edge of the area but Bond pulled off a good save to keep the score respectable.  For the visitors, Pudil broke forward but his shot was high and wide.  At the final whistle we were well beaten and I couldn’t bring myself to applaud the team as the

The Clough & Taylor statue, a thing of beauty

The Clough & Taylor statue, a thing of beauty

performance had been dreadful.  After applauding the crowd, Deeney came over to the away end and gave away his wristbands.  When he saw a couple of disappointed kids, he took his boots off and made a present of them before leaving the pitch in his socks.

Travelling home with Mick, who generally takes defeat very badly, it was me who had the “raving hump” about the game.  All that money shelled out on a day that would have been better spent wrapped in a blanket with a mug of lemsip.  Mick also reminded me that we’d only won 4 away games this season (and I missed one of those).  But, as we passed through the British countryside on the train journey home, I felt rather sad that this was the last of my Saturdays out following the team until next season.  Despite the disappointment of the game, the days out are always good due to the lovely people that follow our team (with the notable exception of pensioner hoolie).  I’m already looking forward to next season.

Behind Enemy Lines

Taking the field at Loftus Road

Taking the field at Loftus Road

I must admit that I love going to Loftus Road, but it smacked of over enthusiasm to arrive in Shepherds Bush before the pubs opened.  The lush hanging around waiting for admission was denied entry to our hostelry of choice by a bouncer demanding to see a QPR season ticket.  Thankfully, the next place that I tried hadn’t quite organized themselves, so I breezed in and found a table only to see each of my companions denied entry.  Twice I ran to the door to plead them to let my friends join me.  The lady was immediately admitted, the “old fella” took a bit more persuasion, but we were ultimately successful and the beer and the lunch were well worth the hassle.  While supping our pints, our attention was drawn to Police riot vans parked on the Green which heralded a group of Watford fans being escorted to the ground.  Quite why that was necessary, I have no idea.  But it was rather incongruous to see a bunch of Watford youths giving it large to a group of their fellow fans who were enjoying another pint before strolling in the sunshine to the away entrance.

Pre-match huddle

Pre-match huddle

There were two changes from the team that beat Ipswich on Saturday as Hoban made way for Cassetti, who was returning from suspension, and Pudil replaced Faraoni meaning that Riera swapped wings.  So the starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Cassetti, Angella, Pudil, McGugan, Tözsér, Abdi, Riera, Ranegie and Deeney.

We started the game very brightly with a McGugan shot from distance and a Deeney volley both of which flew over the bar.  Then Ranegie got on the end of a cross from McGugan but a defender’s challenge ensured he shot over.  Deeney latched onto a backheader from Dunne and Green had to be smart to push his shot wide.  QPR’s first attempt was a soft shot from Austin that was straight at Almunia.  Then Abdi intercepted the ball and passed to Deeney who broke forward, but the defence closed ranks before he could shoot, so he passed back to McGugan who shot way over.

Dunne launches a clearance

Dunne launches a clearance

McGugan played a lovely cross towards Ranegie, but he couldn’t get a touch on it.  Another cross, this time from Angella, appeared to have reached Deeney, but Onuoha took it off his feet.  Just before the half hour, Austin was tripped and tumbled in the box, appealing for a penalty, as the ball was cleared to Simpson who tried a shot from distance that was easily gathered by Almunia.  Watford launched a counter attack but McGugan’s shot took a deflection and was easy for Green to deal with.  Everyone in the away stand was screaming at Ekstrand to pass to Pudil, who had a free run, but he delayed which allowed the defence to get back to block Pudil’s shot.  Watford had dominated the half, but QPR nearly made the breakthrough on the stroke of half time as Carroll curled a free-kick goalwards but, fortunately, Almunia was equal to it.

Almunia on the ball

Almunia on the ball

Half time entertainment was an interview with Phil Parkes, who I’ve always rather liked, made all the more entertaining as it was conducted while he tried to dodge being showered by the sprinklers.  I was also intrigued to see advertisements for the QPR stadium tours that were available in English and Korean.  Given the impossibility of sitting during the game, half time was also an opportunity to rest tired legs ready for the second half.

The only change at the start of the second period was the removal of Angella’s head bandage.  It had been moving around his head during the first half, so he clearly decided he was better off without it.  We had an early chance as Ranegie knocked Angella’s cross back to

Deeney congratulating Ranegie

Deeney congratulating Ranegie

Abdi but his shot hit the bloke in front of me in the upper tier.  Ranegie then sent a cross towards Deeney but Barton headed it for a corner.  The Frenchman was sporting a rather bizarre top knot so, while waiting for the corner to be taken, he was regaled with “Your hair’s embarrassing.”  He turned to the crowd and asked whether we were referring to him or Onuoha, whose hair was immaculate.  Tözsér took a quick free kick that was met with a powerful volley from Deeney that Green did really well to keep out.  A minute later we were ahead as Deeney nodded an Ekstrand cross down to Ranegie who swept it past Green.  There was a fairly mental celebration in the stand, which was in danger of tipping some of us into the lower tier.  Watford continued to push as Angella battled to keep the ball in on the sideline, passed to Riera who found Abdi whose shot flew wide of the target.  Ranegie was booked as Onuoha bounced off him.  McGugan tried to

Angella and Doyle tussle

Angella and Doyle tussle

release Ranegie, but the Swede was flagged offside.  Then Abdi was booked for a soft foul on Morrison.  From the free kick, Barton shot over the bar.  On the hour McGugan was replaced by Battocchio and was applauded off by Cassetti and Tözsér, which was a nice touch.  Battocchio’s first contribution was a lovely pass to Pudil whose shot was caught by Green.  From a corner, Morrison evaded a couple of tackles before shooting straight at Almunia.  Austin connected with a Barton corner, but his header was blocked and the follow-up was punched clear by Almunia.  At this stage I noted worriedly that we were sitting deep and inviting them to attack us, which would only become more risky as Zamora and Hoilett replaced Doyle and Simpson.  The next chance for the home side fell to Austin whose terrific shot was well saved by Almunia.  With quarter of an hour to go, QPR were level as Barton took a free-kick just outside the area which he hit through the ragged end of our wall

Attacking a corner

Attacking a corner

into the opposite corner.  Watford tried to strike back immediately as a shot from Deeney was parried by Green, the ball reached Abdi whose shot was headed off the line by Onuoha.  Austin then broke free of the defence but shot wide of the far post.  Ranegie played a through ball to Deeney who shot just wide of the far post, but the flag was already up for offside.  Austin broke into the Watford box, but Almunia dropped to save.  Austin was then booked for a very late tackle on Riera.  In the final minute of normal time, with Watford having failed to make the most of a couple of corners, QPR broke forward, there was a bit of goalmouth pinball, Watford failed to clear the ball and it fell to Austin who curled a shot past Almunia to win the game for the hosts.

I must admit that I left the ground furious that we’d sat back and let them get back into the game.  My notes don’t back up that version of events, but it was certainly the case that we had prevented QPR getting a sniff of goal for over an hour and, while the winner came after we’d committed forward for a corner, they had a number of chances in the last 25 minutes.  Still, on the plus side, we had played some lovely football and looked the better team on the day.  It is just a shame that we don’t capitalize on our periods of dominance.  If we did, it would have been us confirming a play-off place instead of languishing in mid-table.

Whites-wash

Yesterday was a very sad day for me as I handed the Supporter of the Season shield back to the club ready to be engraved with the name of this year’s winner.  I have to admit that I had it sitting on my desk at work all day, just to eke out the final moments with it in my possession.

The teams emerge

The teams emerge

Team news was that Beppe had made four changes from Saturday’s team, the most significant of which was Abdi’s first start since August.  The announcement of Almen’s involvement was greeted with loud cheers from the Vicarage Road crowd.  The starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Cassetti, Angella, Riera, Tözsér, Abdi, Murray, Faraoni, Anya and Deeney.  The Leeds line-up included the evil Poleon, whose actions last season in causing Bond’s injury cast a pall over the last game of the season.  But, as always, it was lovely to see Watford legend Nigel Gibbs back at Vicarage Road, even if it pains me to see him with that crest on his chest.

Gibbsy and Sannino exhibiting their national characteristics

Gibbsy and Sannino exhibiting their national characteristics

Watford started brightly and, in the third minute, Anya released Abdi on the left, he crossed for Faraoni whose shot was blocked.  Anya then received a pass from Deeney on the edge of the box, but was taken out by a sliding tackle.  We were a goal up after 8 minutes as Abdi played a lovely ball to Anya on the left wing, he advanced and crossed and there was Abdi to head the ball past Butland.  It was a lovely goal, made all the more enjoyable by the identity of the goalscorer.  It is great to have Almen back.  For the next twenty minutes, Leeds had a lot of possession but were not allowed to do anything with it.  Then Marco Cassetti executed a high tackle on Tonge and found his way into the referee’s book just in time to earn himself a suspension for his tenth caution of the season.  Just before the half hour, Deeney played a lovely through ball to Anya, but the Scot got the ball caught under his feet and the defence got back to thwart him.  Then McCormack saw Almunia off his line and launched an audacious shot from the halfway line that had the Watford keeper back-pedalling to get

Celebrating Anya's Goal

Celebrating Anya’s Goal

behind it.  We went two goals up as Anya played a short pass to the overlapping Riera, his low cross reached Murray who played it short to Faraoni whose cross back to the far post was met with a header from Anya that flew past Butland.  Watford attacked again as Deeney released Murray who advanced before playing a through ball to Faraoni but his shot was put out for a corner.  At half time, there was satisfaction that we were comfortably two goals ahead.  Leeds had had a lot of possession, but our defence had restricted their shooting opportunities so that the only shot that Almunia had to deal with was a punt from the half-way line.

Challenges in the penalty area

Challenges in the penalty area

Leeds were immediately on the attack at the start of the second half as Riera lost out to Poleon who played a through ball to Hunt whose shot was wide of the near post and bounced behind the goal.  Deeney played a ball over to Anya but he was tripped by Wootton, who was booked.  Then Murray played a lovely ball to Deeney in the box, but Butland came out to block.  The clearance eventually reached Tözsér who, with shouts of “shoooot” ringing in his ears, curled a shot just wide of the target.  Then Riera intercepted the ball, it reached Deeney who tried to release Anya, but the pass was too far in front of him.  At the other end, a low shot from the substitute, Stewart, was straight at Almunia.  On the hour mark, Faraoni put the ball out to allow McCormack to receive treatment and was rewarded with a kick from Hunt, who was lucky to escape with a yellow card.  Hunt was involved in the next attack but his header from a free kick was straight at

Deeney is under there somewhere

Deeney is under there somewhere

Almunia.  Watford’s third goal was a testament to the persistence of two men.  First Abdi intercepted and then battled a defender to keep the ball, he passed to Deeney who went past a couple of defenders in the box, while never appearing to have control of the ball, before hitting a shot from an acute angle that hit the roof of the net.  By way of celebration, he leapt into the Rookery and was engulfed in the celebrating crowd.  When he emerged he was given a yellow card.  Then Anya beat a defender and cut the ball back to Deeney who tried to find his strike partner with a through ball, but Butland was first to it.  Poleon tried a shot at Almunia, which was parried, and, when he lined up to shoot from the rebound, he was tackled and Watford launched a counter attack which finished with Anya playing a square ball to Deeney who looked certain to score but Butland stood tall

Waiting for the ball to drop

Waiting for the ball to drop

and blocked his shot.  At the other end, Warnock tried a shot that was well over the bar.  In the last ten minutes, both sides made substitutions as White replaced McCormack for Leeds and McGugan and Pudil came on for Abdi and Riera.  McGugan’s first action was to latch on to a throw-in and hit a cross that was blocked by Pearce with no little pain for the defender.  Leeds then put themselves into trouble as a corner bounced off the back of Tonge’s thigh and needed an intervention from Butland to prevent them from going further behind.  Merkel replaced Murray for the last couple of minutes of the game, but there was no subsequent action of note.

Applauding the crowd

Applauding the crowd

At the final whistle, there was a feeling of job done by the home team against an opposition that had had a lot of possession but were very poor.  But, sometimes, you have to give credit to a team in that situation.  I was impressed with the performance as, despite their possession, the Leeds players were allowed no time on the ball to create anything and never really threatened Almunia.  A feature after the final whistle of recent games has been the rage that Angella demonstrates when we underachieve, so it was nice to see him celebrating with his team mates rather than them running from his fury.

After the players had been applauded off the pitch, Cristian Battocchio made his way on crutches along the front of the Rookery and was greeted with warm applause and the faithful chanting his name.  Despite his injury, he was smiling broadly as he acknowledged the crowd.

Don and Johnno

Don and Johnno

On the way out of the ground, I went to meet Don Fraser in the Lower Rous.  During the game, he had been joined by Richard Johnson, a corporate guest for the game, who chose to watch from the disabled platform rather than the posh seats in the Upper Rous.  As we left through the lounge, I greeted Johnno, although I wasn’t sure that he could hear me after 90 minutes of listening to Don barracking the referee.  As we left through the hospitality entrance, there was a bloke surrounded by a crowd of people having photographs taken with him.  I assumed he was a retired footballer and that I would kick myself when I found out who he was.  Then I read the report of the game on the BBC website and saw a photograph of Massimo Cellino and the penny dropped.  Although why on earth anyone would want to have their picture taken with him completely baffles me.

The Return of Dyche and Attwell

 

Watford managers past and present

Watford managers past and present

All the talk before this game was about the return of two men, the much loved former manager, Sean Dyche, and equally much reviled referee, Stuart Attwell, who was making his first appearance at Vicarage Road since awarding the ghost goal.

On arrival at my seat in the Rookery, I was delighted to see the elderly couple who sit in front of my sister. They have been absent for a considerable time and we feared the worst.  As so often with the people you see at every game, we only knew their first names, so had no way of finding out how they were.  It was such a relief to see them back where they belong.

Waiting for a ball into the box

Waiting for a ball into the box

Team news was that Beppe had made only one change from the win at Sheffield Wednesday with Cassetti coming in for the injured Doyley, so the starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Cassetti, Angella, Pudil, McGugan, Tözsér, Battocchio, Anya, Ranegie and Deeney.  Former Watford loanees, Chris Baird and Michael Kightly, started for Burnley.

There had been much pre-game talk on social media about giving Attwell a hard time and, sure enough, the first time that the ball went out for a goal kick it was greeted with cheers and a rendition of 1-0 to the Golden Boys.  This elicited a smile from the referee.  Early in the game, Burnley won a free-kick in a dangerous position but Treacey delivered it

Celebrating Deeney's goal

Celebrating Deeney’s goal

straight into the arms of Almunia.  On 9 minutes, Watford were ahead as Deeney hit a shot from distance, which took a nasty deflection and looped over Heaton and into the net for Troy’s 20th league goal of the season.  The visitors appeared to have equalized almost immediately as a cross from Treacey was booted into the net from point blank distance by Barnes, so we were relieved to see that the flag was up for offside.  Immediately the Rookery started a chorus of “There’s only one Stuart Attwell.”  We had a couple of great chances to increase the lead.  First, McGugan brought the ball down and hit a lovely curling shot that was just wide of the far post.  Then Battocchio found Ranegie with his back to goal on the edge of the box, he played a short pass to Deeney

Anya on a run

Anya on a run

but his shot was just over the bar.  Then McGugan put a dangerous cross into the box but Ranegie couldn’t quite get his head to it.  At the other end, Barnes got on the end of a Kightly cross, but the presence of Angella ensured that his header was wide of the target.  Battocchio then played a ball over to Pudil, who didn’t have time to control and poked it wide.  Ten minutes before half-time Battocchio collided with a Burnley player and stayed down.  It was a while before play stopped and the physio could come on.  The treatment went on for some considerable time before the stretcher was waved on and Cristian was carried off and straight out through the gap between the Rookery and the Main Stand.  It is horrible to see a player carried off like that and it put a dampner on the rest of the half.  Abdi took his place in the midfield.  There were 6 minutes added on at the end of the half, during which a Tözsér corner was flying around the Burnley box as a number of shots were blocked, but McGugan’s final attempt flew over the bar.

At half-time, there was much satisfaction in a good first half performance tinged with worry about Battocchio’s injury.  Cristian had been playing really well before he went off.  Deeney was playing like a man possessed and the often maligned McGugan had been excellent.  In addition, Almunia did not punch a single cross, each time assuredly catching the ball.

A Watford attack

A Watford attack

At the start of the second half, the Watford players were out early and found themselves kicking their heels waiting for their opponents.  It nearly started badly for Watford as a clearance by Ekstrand rebounded off Barnes and went just wide.  Then a shot from Arfield curled just wide of the far post. At the other end, Ranegie released Deeney who played a low cross to McGugan who shot wide.  A scramble in the Watford box that appeared to include a handball by the home side, finished with Kightly shooting into the side-netting.  McGugan received a pass from Abdi but his shot from distance was well over the bar.  Then Anya exchanged passes with Deeney who crossed for McGugan, but Baird cut it out.  Then a Tözsér cross was met with a lovely header from

Ranegie challenged for a header

Ranegie challenged for a header

Ranegie, but Heaton was equal to it.  With 15 minutes to go, Faraoni replaced Ranegie for the home side and Burnley brought on Stock for Jones.  There was anger in the home stands as a ball crossed the sideline, but play was allowed to go on and Burnley won a free-kick in a dangerous position.  It could have spelled disaster as the deep free-kick was on target, but Abdi headed the ball off the line.  From Kightly’s corner, Ben Mee sent a header goalwards, but Almunia pulled off a fabulous save to keep it out.  McGugan then played a brilliant through ball to Anya, who rounded the goalkeeper, but his shot lacked pace and Baird had time to get back to clear.    From the corner, Pudil’s header was well saved by Heaton.  At the other end Edgar’s header flew just wide.  The Clarets got the equalizer with five minutes remaining as Arfield found space on the edge of the box and shot into the

The lovely Stuart Attwell

The lovely Stuart Attwell

corner past the diving Almunia.  Riera came on in place of the excellent McGugan for the last minutes of the game.  The first booking of the game went to Faraoni after what looked like a soft foul, although I was informed that he threw the ball away.  In the last minute of time added on, Angella released Pudil who advanced and found Deeney who played a one-two with Anya before shooting just wide.

After the final whistle, Sean Dyche graciously applauded all four stands and the Watford faithful loudly applauded him in return.  It was disappointing to come away from that game with only a point, but pleasing to see such a positive performance against a team that will likely claim the second automatic promotion spot.  If we continue to build and key players stay fit, next season could 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.

 

The Road Past Wigan Pier

Wigan Pier

Wigan Pier

The last couple of games were played on lovely Spring days and, when I left home, it was rather warm and I feared I was over-dressed.  In the event, I was nothing of the sort as the trip north took place under darkening skies and I arrived to chilly temperatures.  On previous visits to Wigan, I have taken the supporters coach, so this was a new town to visit.  Our pre-match pub was at Wigan Pier.  The ironic name and Orwellian associations meant that I was expecting a rather dreary location, so was pleasantly surprised at how attractive the area was.  Added to that, the beer was decent and the local speciality on the menu, a steak pudding, was cracking.  There was soon a lovely gathering of Hornets, of whom I was the only one that had started my journey down south.  The walk to the ground was along the canal and would have been delightful had it not been punctuated with cold showers.  I was soaked through by the time I arrived at the DW

A nervous-looking local

A nervous-looking local

Stadium.  Recent games have been preceded by airport-level searches before you were permitted to enter the ground, so when I approached a steward and asked if he wanted to search my bag, I was delighted to hear “Na, you’re all right, Love.”  That endeared me to the town even more.

We came in to this game having not won away since early October while Wigan’s mid-week draw with Yeovil was the first time that they hadn’t won in a home league game this year.  Team news was that Belkalem would replace Doyley.  Oh, Beppe, Beppe, Beppe, what were you thinking?  The starting line-up was Almunia, Angella, Cassetti, Belkalem, Pudil, McGugan, Tözsér, Battocchio, Faraoni, Anya and Deeney.  Wigan’s line-up included Watford Academy graduate Rob Kiernan.

 

The defence lines up

The defence lines up

The first chance on goal came from the home side with a lovely ball from Jordi Gómez to Beausejour who only had the keeper to beat, but Almunia blocked the shot.  The Chilean threatened again with a cross that needed a hand from Almunia to keep it out.  The corner was met with a header by Ramis that was blocked on the line and rebounded out off the inside of the post.  Waghorn then tried a shot from distance, but it was straight at Almunia.  On 18 minutes, Watford had their first meaningful attack but Anya’s shot flew well wide of the target.  He pleaded with the referee that it had taken a deflection, but a goal kick was given.  Ikechi was the next to threaten as he received a long pass from Deeney, advanced towards goal but shot well over.  McClean then played a dangerous cross in the direction of Waghorn, but Almunia was first to the ball.  At the other end, McGugan tried

Watford on the attack

Watford on the attack

a shot from distance that flew well wide.  Then a through ball from Beausejour found McClean in front of goal, somehow he managed to miss the target but the linesman was flagging anyway.  McClean then broke into the box and Almunia did really well to block the shot.  At the other end, McGugan tried a shot that took a slight deflection off a defender which slowed it down so it was easily gathered by Al Habsi.  Then McClean cut the ball back to Waghorn in the Watford box, but he was stopped by a brilliant tackle.  McClean was tormenting the Watford defence.  This time he attacked from the left, fortunately his shot was in to the side netting.  On 35 minutes, Watford took a totally undeserved lead with our first decent shot on goal.  Angella played a gorgeous ball to

Celebrating McGugan's strike

Celebrating McGugan’s strike

McGugan who shot past Al Habsi into the far corner.  We weren’t ahead for long as Beausejour found himself one-on-one with Almunia, the Spaniard parried the initial shot, but was beaten by the follow-up header.  McClean nearly struck soon after as he skipped through the defence and shot past the near post.  Just before half-time, Angella was penalized for a foul on Perch, he was completely distraught and I was rather amused to see Perch trying to placate him.  In time added on, Al Habsi dropped the ball but McGugan couldn’t capitalize, although a foul on the keeper was given anyway.

Almunia gathers

Almunia gathers

The second half started with a shower of icy rain that made a rather lovely musical accompaniment to the game.  The home side were ahead ten minutes into the half as Waghorn got the ball in the box, it appeared to be caught under his feet but he managed to turn and shoot past Almunia.  Almost straight from kick-off, Tözsér was booked for an innocuous looking tackle.  Waghorn was the next to make his way into the referee’s book after a foul on Faraoni.  On the hour, Waghorn was replaced by Jack Collison making his Wigan debut after joining on loan from West Ham.  Beausejour then found Jordi Gómez whose shot from distance was well over the bar.  Anya latched on to a throw-in and advanced on goal, but was closed down before he could shoot.  With 20 minutes remaining, McClean, who had been a menace all afternoon, was replaced by Powell.  Beausejour threatened again with a volley that flew wide of the far post.  Watford’s first substitution saw

These foreign managers all look the same to me :-)

These foreign managers all look the same to me 🙂

Belkalem make way for Ekstrand.  Deeney tried a shot that was blocked and came back to him, but he was closed down before he could get a second shot in.  Then Angella played another great forward ball, this time to Pudil who ran into the box and was tackled, the ball fell to Anya who shot wide of the target.  Wigan made their final substitution as Rogne replaced Kiernan.  At this point, the rain became quite biblical, but the music that it played in our stand was gorgeous.  A corner from Tözsér was met with a powerful defensive header from Boyce.  With 10 minutes remaining, Diakite replaced McGugan.  His first act in the game was to earn a yellow card for a foul on Jordi Gómez.  This provoked a chant of “send him back to QPR” from some of the travelling crowd.  Based on

Anya on the attack

Anya on the attack

what little I have seen, I am no fan of Diakite, but how does abusing your own players help when the team is fighting to get back in the game?  I despair of some of our fans.  We had a great chance to equalize soon after as Anya found himself in the box with just Al Habsi to beat, but he shot wide when he maybe should have done better although he was complaining of being held back.  Wigan then threatened but Fortuné’s shot was into the side netting.  In the Wigan box, Battocchio played a ball back to Tözsér whose shot was blocked.  The home side launched a counter-attack and there was Battocchio back in defence where he intercepted the ball as Powell tried to play Fortuné in.  With two minutes remaining, Ekstrand received his inevitable yellow card, although this one was very harsh as he’d merely tripped Jordi Gómez.  In time added on, Deeney played a low cross towards Battocchio that was cleared, Cassetti picked it up and found Deeney whose shot was blocked but the flag was already up.  The last chance of the game fell to McArthur whose shot was wide of the far post.

Ekstrand clears

Ekstrand clears

It was another disappointing away day for the Hornets.  The team worked hard, but there were too many misplaced passes and Wigan seemed to be first to every loose ball.  We lost the game in midfield, where we couldn’t gain a foothold.  Wigan are a decent team, although nothing special, but we didn’t really trouble them and the score flattered us a bit.  Still, as always, it was a good day out.  I loved my visit to Wigan so am a bit conflicted when I say that I hope they win the third promotion spot as they are a very likeable club.  We only have a short break before facing another team from Lancashire.  Our away performance against Blackburn was truly horrible, so I’m hoping that we revert to our marvellous home form on Tuesday.