When I checked the time of the train I had booked for Saturday, I realised that I was arriving in Leicester ridiculously early and feared that the designated pub may not be open. Thankfully, given what a miserable day it was, the doors were open and I managed to get a booth. When the next train arrived from London,
the pub suddenly filled up, so my early arrival didn’t look so foolish after all. However my long wait meant that I became irrationally concerned when my friends didn’t arrive. I only relaxed when the last of our depleted party was at our table.
On arrival at the ground, the search teams were operating a queuing system, using metal detectors (yes that is a phone and some coins in my pocket) and a sniffer dog. Thankfully we had left ourselves plenty of time to get to the ground so did not miss kick-off on this occasion.
As there had been no discussion of the team prior to arrival at the ground, it was only when the ball was played back to the Watford keeper early in the game that I realised that Karnezis was in goal for the Hornets. After his performance at Everton, this was a cause of some concern. Silva’s other changes were Pereyra and Deeney in for the injured Cleverley and Gray. So the starting line-up was Karnezis; Janmaat, Wagué, Kabasele, Zeegelaar; Doucouré, Watson; Carrillo, Pereyra, Richarlison; Deeney.
In line with other Premier League clubs, there was a minute’s applause for the wonderful Cyrille Regis, who passed away earlier this week. Those of us of a certain age were deeply saddened at his early death. He was a wonderful player to watch and one who was a trailblazer for the young players of colour that have followed him. It is just heartbreaking that many of them are still suffering abuse related to their colour. But, thankfully, racist abuse is not something that is evident at every game as it was in the 70s and 80s.
Watford started brightly enough with a couple of corners in the first minutes of the game, from the second Carrillo shot over the bar. Leicester looked to hit the visitors on the counter attack as Vardy broke forward but his shot was saved by Karnezis, who I was pleased to see was looking assured in the Watford goal. The Watford keeper was called into action again soon after as a free kick was nodded back to Ndidi, but the shot was blocked. At the other end, there was a good spell for Watford as a Richarlison shot was blocked, a follow-up header from Pereyra was cleared off the line, the ball rebounded to Doucouré on the edge of the area, but his shot was easily gathered by Schmeichel. Watford threatened again as Pereyra took a short free kick to Watson, whose shot was blocked, Pereyra hit the follow-up which flew high and wide.
Deeney was the next to try his luck with a low shot from distance, but Schmeichel was down to save. The lino in front of the away fans incurred their wrath when Vardy appeared to be in an offside position when he received a ball from Mahrez and was allowed to continue, when he then lost out to Kabasele, the defender was adjudged to have committed a foul. Justice was done when Mahrez curled a dreadful free kick straight to Karnezis. Watford appeared to have opened the scoring on 34 minutes when Carrillo headed the ball on to Deeney who volleyed home, but the flag was up for offside. As happens so often these days, the opposition then took the lead. From our vantage point, Wagué took the ball off Vardy in the box fairly, but the Leicester player went down and the referee pointed to the spot. Vardy stepped up and buried the penalty. The comment in my notebook at this point is not fit for a family blog.
So the Hornets went in at half-time a goal down, which was harsh as it had been a very even half.
Watford had a chance to strike back in the first minute of the second half as Carrillo crossed for Deeney, but the shot was blocked. At the other end Vardy was allowed to nip in behind the defender, he crossed for Okazaki whose shot was straight at Karnezis. Silva made his first substitution bringing Gray on for Pereyra. He was immediately forced into his second as Wagué had pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring strain and was replaced by Prödl. Watford continued to push for the equalizer as Richarlison found Deeney but the captain’s shot flew just wide. Leicester made their first change, which also involved a player called Gray who replaced Okazaki. There was a lovely move as Deeney combined with (our) Gray, but the shot was saved by Schmeichel. Leicester were shouting for another penalty when Mahrez went down in the box, but the appeals were waved away. A decent chance for the visitors went begging after Richarlison released Doucouré whose cross seemed to get stuck under Gray’s feet so he was unable to take a shot. The Watford man should have grabbed the equalizer soon after when he received a lovely ball from Deeney, he was one on one with Schmeichel but hesitated long enough for Maguire to get into position to block his shot. So frustrating. The Watford pressure continued as Richarlison broke into the box, his shot appeared to be blocked for a corner, but a goal kick was given. Then a corner from Watson was headed just over by Deeney. Silva’s final change was to bring Okaka on for Janmaat. So, after starting with one up front, Watford now had all three strikers on the pitch at the same time. Ironically, it was at this point that the visitors stopped creating chances. Instead Leicester had a great chance to increase their lead as Mahrez played the ball back to Ndidi whose shot required a decent save from Karnezis to keep it out. But the home side scored their second in time added on as Okaka dwelled on the ball too long before being dispossessed, Mahrez broke and shot across Karnezis into the far corner.
The scoreline definitely flattered the home side, as it had been a pretty even game. Many around me spoke of a better performance by the Hornets, but I thought they were being rather charitable. It certainly wasn’t as poor as the first half against Southampton, but Leicester did not play particularly well and still beat us fairly easily. You could argue that it would have been a different game if Deeney’s goal had stood or Gray had scored the sitter, but Leicester had used their pace to their advantage and Watford had no reply.
It was a disgruntled group who reconvened for post-match drinks. We harked back to how impressed we had been at the start of the season when the football had been entertaining, the work rate impressive, the players played for each other and we truly believed that we could beat any other team (apart from Man City). That magnificent team had been replaced by a shambles that often looked as though they had only met on the bus to the ground that lunchtime. The downturn had started when Everton made the approach for Silva. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for some time, particularly in view of the injuries, but the team which was comfortably mid-table when the first approach was made had finished the day in 10th place but only 5 points off the relegation zone. With no prospect of any improvement, I think all of us had lost patience with Marco Silva.
On Sunday morning it became apparent that Gino Pozzo had also had enough and by the end of the day Silva had been replaced by Javi Gracia. As with the majority of the Pozzo appointments, I know nothing about the new man. I just hope that he can get the team back to their early season form. We have games against Southampton (in the cup) and Stoke coming up and need to see considerable improvement from these players if we are not to be dragged into a relegation battle that I would have no confidence that we could win.