Tag Archives: Marco Davide Faraoni

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.

 

Glutton for Punishment

The teams emerge

The teams emerge

The previous two away games served up very different performances, so I travelled to Charlton hoping for something more in the style of QPR than Derby.  There were five changes in personnel from Saturday with McGugan and Ekstrand injured, Cassetti suspended and Pudil and Ranegie rested.  The starting line-up was Bond, Belkalem, Hoban, Doyley, Riera, Murray, Tözsér, Battocchio, Faraoni, Anya and Deeney.  Charlton’s team included Watford Academy graduate, Sordell, and former loanee, Jackson.

 

Greeting the crowd

Greeting the crowd

The first incident of note was in the sixth minute when Faraoni pulled up injured and spent some time receiving treatment.  Watford were the first to threaten as Tözsér played a ball over the top to Deeney, but Hamer was out to challenge and won the battle on this occasion.  For the home side, Cousins cut the ball back for Harriott, but Faraoni tackled and put the ball out for a corner.  That was the Italian’s last contribution as the injury caused him to be replaced by Ranegie.  There was a scare for the Hornets as Bond appeared to have safely gathered a Jackson free-kick but then fumbled and the ball was heading for the goal when he recovered and gathered it at the second attempt.  At the other end, Ranegie knocked the ball down to Deeney whose shot was saved by Hamer.  Jackson headed a cross from Solly goalwards, but Bond kept it out.  On 22 minutes, Charlton went ahead as Harriott shot through Doyley’s legs and past Bond.  The

Defending a free kick

Defending a free kick

visitors should have equalized soon afterwards as a through ball from Battocchio was blocked and rebounded back to him, he passed to Deeney whose shot was pushed around the post by Hamer.  From Tözsér’s corner, Belkalem’s header was on target and had to be pushed onto the crossbar by the keeper.  Another corner from Tözsér was a little too deep, but was knocked down to Anya whose cross flew over the bar.  Murray was the next to try a cross, but it was caught by Hamer.  On the half hour, Battocchio played a short pass to Murray whose shot was just wide of the target.  Watford had another chance to draw level, but a lovely cross from Anya was headed back across goal by Ranegie, when he should have tested the keeper, and went out for a corner from which Hamer pushed the ball out for a throw.  In time added on at the end of the half Belkalem was booked for a foul on Wilson who went down as if he’d been punched following what appeared to be minimal contact.

Tozser lines up a free kick

Tozser lines up a free kick

So we reached half time a goal down.  In the away end, a singing section had gathered, but they had positioned themselves at one side of the stand which meant that very few of the songs were taken up elsewhere.  So, despite my attempts to join in, it was rather quiet where I was located just to the left of the goal.

The first action of the second half was the substitution of Doyley by Angella.  I am one of Lloydy’s biggest fans but he’d had a mare.  Soon after, there was a lovely Watford move as Murray played a through ball to Battocchio who fed Deeney.  Hamer came out to save, but Troy had already been flagged offside.  Harriott threatened again with a swift break, but Hoban intercepted and won a goal kick. That was good work from the youngster.  On the hour, Watford drew level as Deeney controlled a ball from Angella, shrugged off the attentions of the defenders and hit a lovely shot into the roof of the net.

Celebrating Deeney's wonder strike

Celebrating Deeney’s wonder strike

It was a rare moment of quality that appeared to come from another game.  Riera was booked for a trip on Poyet.  Sordell had failed to make an impression against his former team and was replaced by Obika.  Deeney tried a shot from the right of the box that was over the target.  Troy had another chance as he received a through ball from Ranegie, but he couldn’t control and it rolled through to Hamer.  The home side launched a counter attack that culminated in Jackson shooting past Bond to regain the lead.  There was a frantic period in the Charlton box as Angella and Deeney exchanged passes, but a defender took the ball off the Italian’s feet to stop the threat , Anya had a shot that was blocked and then Hamer was called into action to punch away a couple of crosses.  With 15 minutes to go, Murray was replaced by Diakite, a move that was met with great excitement from the woman sitting behind me who was raving about the loanee and clearly must have seen something that I’ve missed in his previous outings.  Diakite’s first action was to give away a free kick from which the ball reached Harriott who powered a shot past Bond for Charlton’s third.  We never looked like getting back into the game after that.  Diakite had a shot blocked before Riera came in to make a clearance, Poyet ran across and appeared to bounce off him and went flying.  The referee bought the theatrics and Riera received a second yellow.  He remonstrated with the official and Deeney approached Poyet and looked as though he was going to inflict an injury commensurate with his dramatic reaction.

Murray puts in a cross

Murray puts in a cross

Less than 5 minutes later, Poyet succeeded in adding Ranegie’s name to the ref’s collection.  Then, as Angella failed to clear, Fox shot wide of the far post.  In time added on, a Hoban cross came to Anya with his back to goal.  There were some in the away end who believed he’d propelled the ball across the line, but it appeared to me that Ikechi had actually kept the ball out, possibly using his arm in the process, although I would be interested to see a replay.  The last action of the game was a shot from Anya that was straight at Hamer.  So we lost our last away game of the season and the home crowd celebrated survival, which was some consolation as I quite like Charlton.

Reading my notes back, we were competitive in the first half but, once we went a goal down, we never looked like getting back into the game.  We’ve been poor on our travels for most of the season, but those last two performances were abject and have had me questioning why I bother if the players don’t.  Still, I know that come the end of May I’ll be itching for pre-season.  I’m a glutton for punishment.

 

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.

A Win with no Caveats

Abdi on the attack

Abdi on the attack

There was a cricket match going on at the West Herts, which is always a sad sight as it means that the season is nearly over.  When I arrived to get my programme from Doreen at the Bill Mainwood programme hut, she had run out.  This interruption to my pre-match routine always puts my nerves on edge as I assume that the rest of the afternoon will go equally badly.

Team news was that Sannino had made one change with Ranegie replacing the injured Anya.  So the starting line-up was Almunia, Angella, Ekstrand, Hoban, Riera, McGugan, Tözsér, Abdi, Faraoni, Ranegie and Deeney.

Riera being congratulated on his goal

Riera being congratulated on his goal

The first goalmouth action was an odd juggling match at the left hand post between Almunia and Wordsworth which, fortunately, ended with Manuel knocking the ball out for a corner.  A lovely Watford breakaway started with Riera passing to Faraoni who advanced and played a through ball for Ranegie who was stopped by a brilliant tackle on the edge of the box.  There was danger at the other end of the pitch as a shot rebounded off Ekstrand to Williams whose shot was blocked by Almunia.  Watford took the lead on 21 minutes with a lovely goal, which started with a brilliant interception by Hoban who found McGugan, he released Riera who advanced before cutting inside and curling a wonderful

Tozser takes a corner

Tozser takes a corner

shot into the corner.  From kick-off, Ipswich tried to strike back as Williams broke into the box and played a low cross that nobody could get on the end of.  Abdi played in Ranegie, who mishit a shot which fell to Riera but his shot flew past the far post.  Then Deeney did well to hold the ball up before passing to McGugan who whipped in a cross that was put out for a corner just before it reached Ranegie.

At half time, it was great to see my lovely friend, Sarah, on the pitch with the NCS youngsters who had raised money for the Teenage Cancer Trust with an event at the museum.

Deeney congratulates Angella

Deeney congratulates Angella

Ipswich started the second half brightly as Nouble broke into the box and fired a shot over the bar.  Watford nerves were jangling as a ball bounced dangerously around the box before being cleared off the line by Hoban.  Then McGugan released Deeney who controlled the ball before shooting, but his effort was straight at Gerken.  The visitors were level five minutes into the half as a cross from Nouble was flicked past Almunia by Wordsworth who was wandering lonely as a cloud in our box.  Soon after, Deeney was prevented from reaching an Angella cross by a push that went unpunished.  Angella then made a rare error in losing out to Murphy who was stopped by a great saving tackle from Ekstrand.  Angella was booked soon after for a push on Williams who had been winding him

Tozser breaks into the box to set up McGugan

Tozser breaks into the box to set up McGugan

up for a while and whose play-acting was seriously getting on my nerves.  Just after the hour mark, Ipswich should have taken the lead as a header from Hyam was pushed up onto the bar by Almunia and bounced out.  After these scares, it was a relief to see Watford score again as Angella appeared out of nowhere to nod a Tözsér free-kick past Gerken.  His mental celebration is becoming a bit of a trademark, but always makes me smile.  We had hardly sat down from celebrating that goal when Tözsér broke into the box and cut the ball back to McGugan who shot past Gerken into the far corner for Watford’s third.  Given the start that Ipswich had made to the half, they must have wondered what had hit them.  It was Watford who looked like increasing the lead as Angella bust a gut

McGugan congratulated by his team mates

McGugan congratulated by his team mates

to get on the end of a Tözsér corner at the far post, but didn’t quite make it.  Then McGugan did really well to keep the ball in play on the sideline, cut in but shot well over.  With 10 minutes remaining, Abdi was replaced by Battocchio, it was so good to see the youngster make such a rapid recovery from what had looked like a nasty injury two weeks ago.  Green replaced Wordsworth for the visitors.  A ball over the top from Tözsér was won in the air by Deeney who continued to fight off the attentions of the defender before getting in a cross that deserved more than to be blocked.  The evil Williams went down theatrically again and this time earned Tözsér a booking.  As a fan in the stands most of my shouting is reserved for encouraging our lads so I was greeted with open mouthed surprise from my sister and our neighbours in the row in front as I let Williams know in no

Angella  challenges almost out of shot :-)

Angella challenges almost out of shot 🙂

uncertain terms what I thought of him.  Sannino made another substitution as Pudil replaced Riera.  A Williams cross was met with a header by Nouble that the attentions of Hoban ensured was directed over the bar.  There was a final rash of substitutions as Murray replaced McGugan for the home side while Hyam and the obnoxious Williams were replaced by Watford’s old friend, Hunt, and Taylor for the visitors.  In the final minute of the game, Hunt tried a shot from distance which bounced off the roof of the net.  Then Ranegie and Murray combined to feed Battocchio, whose shot was blocked and rebounded to Murray who volleyed just over.  After the start that Ipswich had to the half, I had been concerned that this would be another disappointing afternoon, but the two quick goals killed them off and they didn’t muster another chance worthy of the name.

Post match congratulations

Post match congratulations

In recent games, I have been drawn to watching Gabriele Angella’s reaction at the end of the match.  When we lose, he is livid and his team mates are better staying well out of his way.  But at the end of this game he joined a number of the others in front of the Lower Rous.  It was so lovely to see so many players signing autographs and Gabriele was the last to leave.

We have had a couple of decent home wins recently in which any praise of the team has been tempered with comments regarding the poor quality of the opposition.  The win over Ipswich had no such caveat.  They are a decent team and we thoroughly deserved that win.

Disappointment at the Den

Borough Market

Borough Market

It was a little chilly on Saturday, but pleasant enough to have our pre-match pints standing outside the pub in Borough Market watching the world go by. The cider was rather lovely and the food stalls there are a delight, which is just what you need before making the short trip to the depths of South Bermondsey.

The pre-admission bag search was carried out by a woman who, in her quest to find bottles, repeatedly asked me if I was carrying deodorant. I tried not to interpret this as a pointed comment on my personal hygiene.

The minute's silence for the 96

The minute’s silence for the 96

In common with all games this weekend, there was a minute’s silence at 15:06 to remember the 96 who died at Hillsborough. As someone who was at a football match on 15th April 1989, standing on a terrace at Swindon, the horror of what happened that day will never leave me. Over the intervening 25 years, that horror has been married to increasing levels of anger at the way that the victims and their families have been treated. I hope that the new inquests will finally give the families some closure.

Cristian Battocchio in with the away fans

Cristian Battocchio in with the away fans

As we awaited the kick-off, a chant of “Cristian Battocchio” went up behind me and sure enough there was the young midfielder looking for a seat in the away stand. I’m pleased to say that he was walking without crutches and had no trouble walking up and down the steps as he chose his vantage point.

The home side had an early chance on goal as Edwards tried a shot from distance that flew over the bar. Edwards was also involved in the next incident of note, as he tried to escape from Riera and was cynically taken down, earning the Spaniard a booking. Watford’s first goal attempt was a shot from McGugan that was wide of the target. Angella had a great chance from a McGugan corner but headed just wide. Deeney released McGugan, but the defender got the better of him and set up a counter attack that finished with Martin shooting just wide of the

McGugan celebrating his goal

McGugan celebrating his goal

near post. On 16 minutes, Watford went ahead as Deeney cut the ball back to McGugan who buried it past Forde. McGugan could have increased the lead soon after with a lovely shot that curled just wide. On 25 minutes, he tried another shot from distance that also curled just wide of the target. Millwall’s Martin was booked for a rant at the referee after a throw was given against him when he headed the ball out. I can only think that he believed that Abdi had got a touch to it. The home side had a great chance to equalize as Malone unleashed a powerful shot that Almunia did well to block. On the half hour, Almunia came for a corner by Martin, his punch fell to Woolford but his shot was blocked. Then Millwall had

Abdi on the ball

Abdi on the ball

another decent chance as Garvan got on the end of a cross from Maierhofer but again the shot was saved by Almunia. Tözsér was penalized for a high tackle on Williams which the Millwall players thought was inside the box, but the referee indicated otherwise. The free-kick came to nothing. Then Angella intervened to divert a shot from Martin for a corner. Deeney and McGugan combined, but Troy’s shot was straight at Forde. Just before half-time, with Anya on the ground injured, Millwall launched an attack that seemed to go on forever but ended when Woolford shot straight at Almunia, who kicked the ball out to allow Anya to receive treatment. That was Ikechi’s last involvement as he limped off to be replaced by Forestieri.

A Tozser free kick

A Tozser free kick

At half time, Morison replaced Garvan. Early in the second half, Almunia and Hoban both went up for a cross with Maierhofer challenging and Hoban went down injured. It was a worrying sight but, thankfully, after a period of treatment he was fit to continue. Millwall had a great chance to equalize as Maierhofer met a free kick with a header that was just over the bar. Then a nice move from Watford as a throw-in from Faraoni allowed Abdi to get behind the defence and cross, but Deeney’s header was over the bar. On the hour, Jackson replaced Martin for the home side. Millwall were level soon after as, from a corner, the ball dropped to Morison who shot across Almunia into the opposite corner. It has to be said that the equalizer had been coming and, all of a sudden, there was a wall of noise in the

The wounded warrior

The wounded warrior

Den. For the visitors Pudil replaced Riera, who had been disappointing. On 69 minutes, Watford launched their first real attack of the half as Abdi found Forestieri whose shot was blocked and rebounded back to Abdi whose shot was also blocked. We were on the attack again immediately as Pudil advanced and crossed for McGugan, but Forde was down to save his shot. Maierhofer was replaced by Easter for the home side. There was a clash of heads between Angella and Beevers which resulted in the Italian returning with a heavily bandaged head. As the first high ball came his way after his treatment, I wondered if he’d hesitate, but not our Gabriele. He seemed even more determined to get his head to every ball that came anywhere near him, as if to test out his new headgear. Millwall substitute Jackson attempted to break the deadlock, but his shot was high and wide. Murray replaced McGugan

Celebrating Adbi's Goal

Celebrating Adbi’s Goal

for the final few minutes. Millwall really should have taken the lead as a great shot from Dunne required an equally good save from Almunia to keep it out. But it was the visitors who, totally undeservedly, took the lead as a swift counter attack finished with Pudil cutting the ball back to Abdi whose shot took a deflection before flying past Forde. Millwall went for the equalizer but Almunia denied Woolford. Watford couldn’t hold on. Deep into injury time, a Millwall corner bounced around the Watford box before dropping to Woolford whose shot should have been held by Almunia, but bounced out of his arms and into the goal.

 

More celebrations of Abdi's strike

More celebrations of Abdi’s strike

There was a lot of frustration among the travelling ‘Orns at the end of the game. But, annoying as it was to concede so late again, the hosts were fully deserving of at least a point as we had been dreadful in the second half. Equally, no blame should be attached to Almunia who, despite his lapse, had pulled off some great saves to keep us in the game.

Hopefully, people will finally stop talking about promotion and what ifs. We have not been strong or consistent enough this season to gain promotion and I certainly don’t want to see another unprepared Watford team losing week in week out in the Premier League. Next season will be very interesting. If we can keep this team together with a couple of quality additions, I’d like to think that we could do what Leicester have done this season. But that is a big ‘if’. Next Summer will be very interesting.

 

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.