Tag Archives: Marcus Bettinelli

Entertainment on the Riverside

Another Saturday game, but also another on television meaning a stupid kick-off time.  This time at 12:30, which is the worst time for a football match.  I left home bright and early and, due to the timing of my trains, was outside the designated pub about 20 minutes before it opened so, as I refused to take refuge in the Wetherspoons next door, I sat on the side of the river in the drizzle watching an intrepid fellow constructing his windsurf board.  I love the water as much as the next guy, but that seemed a little adventurous on such a miserable day.

When the pub opened, I bought a couple of pints and found a cosy corner to wait for my party to gather.  The early kick-off meant that it really didn’t seem like time for football, but the walk to Craven Cottage has to be the nicest in the league and I enjoyed the stroll along the Thames through the park to the ground.  On entry, I decided to find the Ladies, which I was told was under the stand.  Instead of the usual entrance, there was a series of doors allowing multiple queues and complete privacy.  I was also impressed to see that there were free sanitary products in the cubicles.  Well done, Fulham, for that gesture.

Team news was, as expected, an unchanged team for the sixth league game this season, so the starting line-up was Foster; Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Hughes, Doucouré, Capoue, Pereyra; Deeney, Gray.  The opposition dugout would, of course, contain Slaviša Jokanović, the man who took the Hornets to the Premier League, and the lovely Marco Cesarini, former head of medical at Watford, even if he is mostly remembered for translating for Beppe Sannino.

The game started brilliantly for the Hornets as, in the second minute, Hughes cut the ball back to Gray who finished smartly past Bettinelli in the Fulham goal to ensure that the away stand started shaking bright and early in the game.  The goal celebration continued with an inflatable woman in a Watford shirt bouncing around the stand.  Fulham tried to strike back as Johansen broke into the box, but Foster was out to save at his feet.  Vietto was the next to try his luck, drawing a save from Foster before latching on to the loose ball and shooting wide of the far post.  At the other end, Deeney met a low cross from Gray with a shot that was blocked for a corner.  The corner was met by the head of Kabasele, but his effort was blocked on the line by Sessegnon.  Watford had a couple of great chances to increase their lead.  First a Watford free-kick was saved, but the Fulham keeper could only push it out to Doucouré who hit a delicate shot wide when if he’d wellied it it would have hit the back of the net!  Then a clearance fell to Gray whose close range shot was blocked by Bettinelli.  A Fulham break was frustrated by the Watford defence who refused to allow Mitrović a sight of goal.  As Kabasele amiably reacted to some grief he was getting from the Fulham fans, I couldn’t help noticing that those at the front of the stand were wearing the “Come on Fulham” clappers that had been left on seats as hoods to protect them from the rain.  The first booking went to Mawson for a nasty foul on Pereyra.  This was followed by another booking for an even worse foul on Deeney by Fosu-Mensah, who was possibly lucky to stay on the pitch.   Doucouré then impressed and frustrated in equal measure, beating a couple of players before hitting a shot that was weak and straight at the keeper.  There was a huge shout for a penalty when Gray got on the end of a through ball and passed to Hughes, who was taken out by Mawson, but the referee waved play on while we all looked at each other in amazement.  At the other end, Mitrović fell over Hughes in the box and made his own penalty claim, thankfully his was also given short shrift by the referee.  With five minutes to go to half-time, the Watford substitutes all paraded past us on the way to the dressing room.  I know many fans try to beat the crowds to get to the tea bar, but this was the first time that I had seen that from the players.  There was one last chance for the Hornets to increase their lead before half time, but Pereyra’s curling shot flew just wide of the far post.

So we reached half time a goal to the good, but the consensus was that we should have finished Fulham off.  We had dominated the half, but not made enough of our chances.

As the half time tannoy announcer did his stuff, I couldn’t help missing the voice of Diddy David Hamilton.

As the teams came out for the second half, Jokanović was warmly applauded by the travelling Hornets, but I don’t think he realised that the applause was for him as he didn’t react.  He made two changes at the break with Mawson and McDonald making way for Odoi and Ayité.  The changes immediately made a difference and the hosts started strongly.  First, a cross from Schürrle was headed over by Mitrović, then Vietto advanced but his shot was high and wide.  Watford’s first booking went to Holebas for what looked like a decent tackle on Vietto.  Watford’s first goal attempt of the second half came as Doucouré played the ball out to Gray whose low shot was saved by Bettinelli.  Pereyra then almost played the visitors into trouble as he tried to dribble out of defence but lost the ball, thankfully the resulting header from Mitrović was deflected for a corner.  Jokanović made his final substitution on 63 minutes bringing Anguissa on for Johansen.  Deeney had a great chance to increase the lead for the visitors, but was too greedy and ran into a defender who forced him to shoot wide when maybe he should have passed to someone in a better position.  Gracia made his first substitution as Femenía came on for Hughes. The home side equalised on 78 minutes as a low cross from Vietto was turned home by Mitrović.  It was frustrating, but on the balance of play in the second half, it felt as though it had been coming.  Gracia made his second change soon after bringing Success on for Gray.  Watford should have regained the lead on 84 minutes as Deeney gained possession and powered into the box but, on this occasion, he wasn’t selfish enough as he tried to play in Success and his cross was cut out.  The Nigerian then had a chance of his own but his low shot was saved.  At the other end, the home side nearly took the lead with a fabulous shot from Mitrović that required a wonderful flying save from Foster to keep it out.  The resulting corner was met by the head of Mitrović, but Foster came to the rescue again, getting a touch on it to push it on to the crossbar.  There was a late substitution from the Hornets as Sema came on for Pereyra.  In time added on Watford had a couple of chances to snatch a victory.  First, Success unleashed a rocket of a shot from distance, but it was well over the target.  Then Foster launched a free kick which was headed down by Deeney towards Success but the keeper gathered.  Just before the final whistle, a tap on the shoulder alerted me to the sight of the Queen’s rowbarge, Gloriana, passing by the ground on the Thames.  Obviously hoping to get glimpse of the Golden Boys.

So, for the second week running, we came away disappointed at the result.  I think we would all have taken a point before the game, but our first half performance was such that we should have been further ahead at half-time and, had that happened, it seemed unlikely that the home side would have been able to recover.  Instead, Fulham were still in the game at the break and Jokanović made changes that strengthened his team, who pressed harder against the Hornets who then misplaced more passes and allowed the home side to threaten more.  Still, it was another terrific game for the neutral, this season has seen some excellent entertainment and that is something to be enjoyed.

 

A Long Awaited Revenge on the Banks of the Thames

The teams emerge

The teams emerge

I’m not a fan of games being moved for television but, if we do have to play on a Friday night, it may as well be an away game a 45 minute train journey from home.  Despite the run of poor results, I have been quite positive about the performances (Birmingham excepted), but a lunchtime listen to the Watford Weekend preview show on which Jon Marks trawled through a bucket load of stats about how bad we have been against Fulham made me wonder whether I should stay at home.

On arrival in Fulham, there were a lot of Watford fans in evidence and their demeanour suggested that they had been enjoying the local hospitality for some time.  There was a lot of singing in the misnamed Temperance and I was hoping that it would continue in the ground.  There is nothing worse than an away day when all the singing happens in the pub.

Commemorating the Christmas truce in 1914

Commemorating the Christmas truce in 1914

Team news was that Jokanovic had made just one change, with Cathcart in for Ekstrand, so the starting line-up was Gomes, Bassong, Angella, Cathcart, Anya, Munari, Tözsér, Abdi, Paredes, Deeney and Vydra.  I wasn’t best pleased to get to my seat to find a huge pillar obstructing my view, but we stood for the whole game which made it a bit easier to adjust position to look around it.  When the players emerged, Richard noted with some joy that they were wearing red shorts.  Prior to kick-off the two teams mingled for a photograph to commemorate the Christmas truce in 1914.

Watford could have taken the lead in the second minute as a Tözsér free-kick was heading for the top corner until Bettinelli got a hand to it and tipped it over.  Tözsér took the resulting corner which flew across the goal but nobody could get a touch to it.  Deeney received a ball from Tözsér in the box, Troy’s header beat the keeper but was cleared off the line.  Fulham won a free-kick in a dangerous position, but McCormack blasted it over the bar.  Tözsér threatened again with a powerful shot from outside the area that stung Bettinelli’s palms.  Watford took the lead after 15 minutes as we won a free-kick in a dangerous position.  Fulham lined up their wall but Abdi hit a low shot between legs and into the bottom corner.  Cue crazy celebrations in the away end.

Deeney sends Kiraly the wrong way

Deeney sends Kiraly the wrong way

Two minutes later Abdi fed Vydra who was through on goal when Bettinelli took him down.  The referee immediately pointed to the spot and brandished a red card at the Fulham keeper.  Ruiz was sacrificed for Kiraly who, after all these years, still hasn’t worked out that pajama bottoms are not a good look for a keeper.  For his fashion faux pas alone, it was sweet justice that he went the wrong way as Deeney hit the penalty down the middle to put Watford two up.  The home side tried to strike back immediately as Christensen broke into the box but Tözsér was on hand to make a brilliant saving tackle.  Paredes crossed for Deeney, but he had two defenders in attendance and the ball was taken off his feet.  At the other end, McCormack hit a cross towards Rodallega, but Angella was on hand to turn it out for a corner.  At this point the Watford fans started a chant of “We’ll bounce when we want” which we did in the rather rickety stand.  This chant continued in various forms throughout the game and the exercise, in addition to the goals, ensured that I felt nice and warm all evening.

Deeney congratulated for his goal

Deeney congratulated for his goal

On the field, a through ball was played to Tözsér, with two defenders on him it looked as though any chance of a shot was gone but he continued to challenge, so the ball came off a defender and Kiraly had to scramble to prevent a corner.  A lovely passing move finished with Tözsér feeding Deeney whose shot was deflected over the bar.  Watford’s third goal came on 36 minutes as a Cathcart shot was blocked, Munari played it back in for Deeney who beat the defence and knocked it past Kiraly.  Munari played a lovely ball to Vydra who shot first time and Kiraly had to make a smart save to keep it out.  I was very happy to see Matej try the early shot as he only does that when he’s feeling confident and a confident Vydra is a joy to watch.  He took the corner himself, but Cathcart headed over the bar.  When the announcement of time added on was made, I was rather sad that it was no longer Diddy David Hamilton’s dulcet tones on the tannoy.  Anya had the ball in the net in injury time, but the offside flag was up.

Abdi congratulated after scoring his second

Abdi congratulated after scoring his second

At half time, there was unconfined joy in the away end.  That was, until I caught up with Don Fraser who said he’d like a fourth goal to calm his nerves!  The Hornets duly obliged, five minutes into the second half, but I have to admit that I didn’t see the strike as Almen Abdi was behind the pillar when he hit the shot which I did see hitting the back of the net.  I’m told it was a rather good strike.  One of the guys sitting behind us came back into the stand and jokingly asked if he’d missed anything.  It was a tad ironic that he had a better view of the goal in the concourse than I did from the stands.  Abdi could have had his hat trick as Vydra beat a defender on the right, crossed to Anya who played the ball back but Almen shot just wide.  Tözsér was the next to test Kiraly as he picked up a short corner from Vydra, but the keeper cleared.  The home side made a rare foray into the Watford box but Rodallega’s shot was blocked.

Munari and Abdi congratulate Deeney

Munari and Abdi congratulate Deeney

On 65 minutes, Jokanovic replaced Vydra with Forestieri, much to the dismay of the Czech striker.  There was a scare for the visitors as we gave the ball away to McCormack who was taken down on the edge of the box.  Fortunately the free kick rebounded off the wall.  Then Forestieri gave the ball away, it reached Williams who tried a shot from distance that was deflected goalwards, but Gomes got a hand to push it around the post.  From the corner the header was easily gathered by Gomes.  At this point the Watford fans launched into a chant of “There’s only one Graham Taylor”, that was followed by a few classic chants from the 90s.  At first it seemed a bit odd, but we reasoned that it was a flashback to the last time we won at Craven Cottage.  There had been a long period of Fulham possession without them creating much, but the Hornets revived.  Forestieri should have scored the fifth as he received the ball with only the keeper to beat, but he tried to dribble around Kiraly who stuck out a hand to push the ball off his feet.  You could just imagine Vydra on the bench muttering, “I’d have scored that.”

Deeney applauds the travelling Hornets after scoring his third

Deeney applauds the travelling Hornets after scoring his third

Paredes put in a dangerous cross but Deeney could not connect.  With 8 minutes remaining, Tözsér made way for Guedioura.  The departing player was given a rapturous send off by the travelling Hornets.  Soon after Anya made way for Pudil.  Deeney tried a shot from distance that Kiraly saved.  Fulham broke down the other end, I was so hoping that we would keep our clean sheet so was very happy to see Rodallega’s shot fly well wide of the far post.  In the final minute of the game, we finally achieved vengeance for that horrible defeat on Boxing Day 2000 when Munari played a through ball to Deeney who walloped it past Kiraly for his hat-trick.  That was the last action of the game as the referee blew up before the restart.

What an evening.  It was a tremendously assured performance.  While Fulham were disadvantaged going down to 10 men early on, Watford were already well on top at that point and we certainly made the most of the extra man, constantly harrying the opposition, and giving them no time or space to get back into the game.  Abdi was back to his best and Deeney’s recent struggles appear to be over.  As if all that wasn’t enough, messages arrived during the game from friends informing me that Sir Nigel Gibbs is coming home to assist Jokanovic.  Friday nights don’t get better than that.