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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.