Tag Archives: Medo

Off to a Winning Start

Luther and Gifton

Luther and Gifton

Having seen my first pre-season game on 5th July, it feels like I’ve already seen a lot of football, so the dawning of the first day of the season seemed less exciting than it should have been.  Works on the line around Watford Junction meant that the journey took longer than usual but, on boarding the slow train to Watford at Queens Park, I met the lovely John of Ossett who accompanied me on the rest of my trip.  As the West Herts starting filling up with familiar faces, it was lovely to see Curtis from Denver.  He’d not managed to see a game last season so as far as he was concerned Vydra had never left.  I did warn him that, if we won, he would be our lucky charm and wouldn’t be allowed to go home.

First huddle of the new season

First huddle of the new season

I must admit that I wasn’t convinced when I heard the starting line-up.  I was surprised that Dyer wasn’t starting and it seemed risky to start Paredes when he hadn’t participated in pre-season.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Angella, Ekstrand, Tamas, Pudil, McGugan, Tözsér, Adbi, Parades, Deeney and Vydra.  Usually, the first game of the season sees a lot of people still on holiday so the crowd can be a bit sparse.  This was certainly not the case on Saturday as there wasn’t a spare seat to be found in our section.  There was a change in the pre-match personnel as Richard Short and Tim Coombs made way for Luther Blissett and Lee Partridge.  I’ve seen Luther working in the lounge in the past and it certainly adds an interesting element having a legend interviewing returning players.  On Saturday we were treated to Luther wandering up the pitch chatting to Gifton Noel-Williams, a real joy.

Deeney receives his team mates' congratulations

Deeney receives his team mates’ congratulations

The fans in the Rookery were on their feet in the first minute as Deeney unleashed a shot, but we soon sat down again when we realised that it had hit the net from behind.  Deeney then found Pudil on the left, but his shot was wide of the far post.  After the dreadful performances at the end of last season, it was good to see a bit of fight and team work and I noted an early incident in which Vydra was back in defence fighting for the ball, which made me very happy.  Bolton threatened a break but Tamas was on hand to stop them.  Parades then tried to escape, but was sent flying.  “Welcome to England,” said my neighbour.  On 17th minutes, we were a goal up as a Bolton attack was snuffed out and we played a succession of short passes to bring the ball out of defence before Angella went on a run then lofted a pass to Deeney who buried the ball past Lonergan.  The Rookery went mental.  I was too busy watching the goalscorer but my sister turned with a beaming smile and informed me that Gomes’s celebration was pretty mental too.

Heurelho Gomes

Heurelho Gomes

Bolton tried to hit back immediately but Gomes came for the ball, gathered it comfortably and, as Medo was in his way, flattened the Bolton player for good measure.  No messing.  I loved it.  A cross from Paredes fell to Pudil whose chip was wide of the target.  A chant of “sexy football” started up.  That always worries me as it is often a precursor to a fall, so my heart sank when Neil Danns broke into the box but Tamas took the ball off him and was then pushed over for his trouble, so won a free kick and the danger passed.  We were two goals to the good soon after as Vydra received a lovely ball over the top from Tözsér, cut back from the bye-line, he nearly went down as he skipped past the defender, but recovered and fired the ball past Lonergan.  I am told when asked why he hadn’t gone down under the challenge he replied that if he’d done that Troy would have taken the penalty so he decided to take the chance himself.

The returning Vydra and new boy Paredes

The returning Vydra and new boy Paredes

We were on fire at this point.  Paredes played a ball over the top to Vydra, he passed back to Abdi who fired over the bar.  On the half hour, Medo had a shot for Bolton that flew over the bar.  That was their first goal attempt of the game.  With 10 minutes of the half remaining, Bolton had a free kick in a dangerous position, but the header from Mills bounced into Gomes’s arms.  There was a bit of handbags just before half time when Medo wouldn’t give the ball back after being rather harshly penalized for a foul.  We had one more chance in the half as Abdi tried a low shot that was straight at Lonergan.

Noel-Williams senior and junior

Noel-Williams senior and junior

So, the home crowd were very happy indeed at half time.  We’d seen two excellent goals, some lovely football and we’d barely given Bolton a sniff of the ball.  I am also pleased to report that my concerns at the inclusion of Paredes had been groundless as he had put in a thrilling first half performance.  Drawing the 50-50 tickets at half-time were Gifton and Dejon Noel-Williams.  With junior currently in our academy, we can only hope that he has his father’s talent and becomes a star of the future.

At the start of the second half, Feeney replaced Pratley for the visitors.  Within 30 seconds, Parades had a terrific chance to get a third and I was already jumping for joy when the ball cannoned back off the crossbar.  Bolton then won their first corner to loud, ironic cheers from their fans.  Spearing had a shot deflected wide and the resulting corner was easily gathered by Gomes.

Angella wants the ball

Angella wants the ball

For the home side, Paredes found Vydra who was tackled, but fought back and regained possession before playing the ball back to Abdi whose shot was deflected for a corner.  Abdi threatened again, playing a one-two with McGugan before taking a shot that Lonergan saved.  Gomes was really tested for the first time just before the hour as he pushed Feeney’s shot from distance around the post when it was heading for the top corner.  Bolton’s second substitution saw Moxey replaced by Dervite.  Bolton had had a decent spell, so it was good to see Deeney in shooting position again but he fired the ball straight at Lonergan.  At the other end, Lee tried to lob Gomes, but the keeper got his fingertips to it and tipped it over the bar.  With 20 minutes to go, Beckford replaced Danns for Bolton and Sannino’s first substitution saw Munari make his debut in place of McGugan.  Vydra went on a run and tried to play Deeney in, but his pass was just behind his team mate and the chance was gone.  Substitute Beckford was the next to threaten, but he shot in to the side netting.

Forestieri congratulated for a goal within seconds of coming on

Forestieri congratulated for a goal within seconds of coming on

At this point Vydra left the field to ecstatic applause and was replaced by Forestieri.  Fernando was barely on the pitch before he latched on to a ball over the top from Angella and slotted it past Lonergan.  I’d been a little nervous that Bolton would get back into the game, so that goal settled my nerves.  Bolton again tried an immediate response with a point-blank header from Lee that was pushed out by Gomes.  From the corner, Dervite’s header flew over the bar.  Sannino’s final substitution saw Dyer coming on for Pudil.  Forestieri had another great chance but his enthusiasm got the better of him.  He looked like a little puppy as he went scampering after the ball and then tripped over his own feet.

Deeney and Vydra in striking position

Deeney and Vydra in striking position

Dyer and Deeney exchanged passes then Troy shot well over the bar when he probably should have passed to Dyer.  The last two chances of the game fell to Bolton, but neither troubled Gomes, as first a misplaced header fell to Lee who shot over the crossbar.  Then a soft shot from Davies drifted wide of the near post.

The final whistle went to great applause from the home fans.  We had been masterful in the first half and, even if Bolton got back into it a bit in the second, it was a convincing win.  Even better than that, we had quality all over the pitch.  It was a joy to witness.  The horror show that was the end of last season is now a distant memory.  I’m really trying not to be over-optimistic, but I can’t help feeling that this could be a very exciting season indeed.

 

Nat Lofthouse Saved my Day

The spirit of sport statue

The spirit of sport statue

I felt like Franny-no-mates at Euston on Saturday morning as there was not another Watford scarf or shirt anywhere to be seen.  I hate that when I’m travelling to an away game as I find myself wondering if I’ve got the wrong day/time/venue.  Thankfully, when the train stopped at Milton Keynes, my usual travelling companions appeared and the journey passed with discussions of games recent and in distant memory.  Every stop on the way to Manchester elicited different recollections.  As we changed trains, they were discussing going for pre-match beers in Manchester, but I’d arranged to meet friends in a pub near the stadium and convinced them that there was somewhere to get a drink in that wasteland.  When we arrived at Horwich Parkway and they found themselves walking through a deserted industrial area, I sensed that they were doubting my word.  But we turned a corner and there was the promised pub just a short walk to the ground and everyone was happy.  On reaching the Reebok, we found Section H which was marked on our tickets, but all the turnstiles in that section were closed.  Thankfully we soon found the ‘proper’ entrance for the away fans.  There were no female stewards outside the ground, so I escaped the frisking, and the friendly male steward who searched my bag was only interested in whether I had any chocolate.  The inevitable question about flares seemed to be an afterthought.

Pre-match huddle

Pre-match huddle

Team news was that we would see Park’s debut.  The starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Cassetti, Angella, Anya, Merkel, Tözsér, Murray, Faraoni, Park and Deeney.  As the teams emerged from the tunnel, I was puzzled that I could only see Bolton players then noticed that there were two tunnels.  It was one of those days.

Jutkiewicz gave Watford an early scare as he broke into the box but Almunia was quickly down to save at his feet.  Tözsér delivered a lovely free kick for Watford but Baptiste put it out for a corner which came to nothing.  At this stage, Cassetti spent some time off the pitch receiving treatment and came back with his leg strapped up.  Bolton threatened again as Davies played a through ball to Mason who was one-on-one with Almunia but the Spaniard got down to thwart him.  From the corner, Mason headed over the bar.  At the other end, Angella met a free-kick from Tözsér with a header

Deeney waiting for the ball to drop

Deeney waiting for the ball to drop

that was straight at Bogdan.  Then Anya broke down the left and put in a cross from the bye-line, Deeney headed goalwards and Bogdan pulled off a smart save to keep it out.  From the corner, the ball broke to Mason who ran the length of the pitch before Ekstrand tackled him in our box to prevent a shot.  Mason threatened again as he latched on to a ball over the top into the area but this time Faraoni was on hand to make a saving tackle.  From the corner Mason’s header was straight at Almunia.  Then a backheader fell to Deeney on the edge of the box, but his shot was horrible, flying well wide of the near post.  It was all rather frantic, but had been quite entertaining.  On 23 minutes, Bolton made a substitution replacing the injured Pratley with Danns.  Soon after, Faraoni intercepted a clearance and went for goal, but Bogdan was on hand to save again.  Murray then played a lovely ball to Faraoni whose progress was stopped on the edge of the box by a foul from Medo, who earned a yellow card.  Tözsér’s free-kick cannoned off the wall, his follow-up was

Ream on the ball

Ream on the ball

narrowly wide, rippling the side-netting from the outside.  The masked man, Ream, then took a free-kick which was met with a header from Jutkiewicz straight at Almunia.  Just before the half hour, Danns tried a looping shot but, again, it was straight at Almunia.  Watford’s next attack finished with a shot from Murray that was well wide of the target.  On 33 minutes, Medo beat Merkel on the right and fed Jutkiewicz, who looked well offside as he hit a shot off the crossbar and then the follow-up past Almunia.  I thought he would be booked for time wasting, but the referee brought play back for a free-kick, presumably for a foul by Merkel in the build-up. From the free kick, Spearing crossed for Jutkiewicz who turned and shot past Almunia to put the home side a goal up.  The anger in

Park in action

Park in action

the away area at this turn of events was mainly aimed at the ‘cheating’ referee.  Five minutes before half time, Ream took a free-kick which Wheater headed over the bar.  Soon after Faraoni was penalized for hand ball and stupidly protested.  The referee let him know in no uncertain terms why he had blown up and pointed out the fouls that he had committed up to that point. We were two goals down just before half time as Mason outran the defence and placed his shot under Almunia and into the net.  At this point, Graham was texting to update one of our friends.  He said he only needed two words … ‘Dreadful defending.’  The other female in our party articulated the two words that had come immediately to her mind. They were the same as mine and a lot less polite than Graham’s.

Anya taking a throw-in

Anya taking a throw-in

Straight from kick-off in the second half, Jutkiewicz broke forward but Faraoni was on hand to clear.  Soon after, Cassetti’s injury got the better of him and he was replaced by Pudil with Ekstrand taking up position in the middle of the back three.  On 55 minutes, Ekstrand pulled Danns over then yelled at the ref when he penalised him and received his tenth booking of the season.  Medo took the free kick putting it just over the bar. Just before the hour, Jutkiewicz crossed for Danns whose volley was caught by Almunia.  On the hour, Sannino made a double substitution replacing Merkel and Park, both of whom had been disappointing, with Battocchio and Ranegie.  The chances were still coming for the home side as Mason played a low ball across the box, but Faraoni was on hand to clear.  At the other end Ranegie headed a ball towards Deeney, it came back to him off a defender

Defending a free kick

Defending a free kick

and he shot tamely wide. From another Bolton corner, a weak header from Wheater was easy for Almunia.  For the visitors, a long ball from Angella reached Deeney, but he couldn’t control it and was tackled so the ball went out for a corner.  From the set piece, Battocchio received the ball on the edge of the area and, to the exasperation of the travelling Hornets, just launched it way over the bar.  At the other end, the ball fell to Danns on the edge of the Watford area, but his shot was also well over.  Pudil then played the ball into the box, it was cleared as far as Murray who unleashed a decent shot but it was blocked by Bogdan.  Battocchio tried another shot from distance but it just looped into Bogdan’s arms.  Bolton’s next attack started when Ranegie lost the ball to Danns, he released Mason who was one-on-one with Almunia but the Spaniard dropped to block at his feet. A cross from Anya was met with a header from Ranegie that was cleared. With 12 minutes remaining, Davies was replaced by Chung-Yong Lee.  Into the last ten minutes, Anya

Bogdan launches a free-kick

Bogdan launches a free-kick

went on a run and crossed for Ranegie, but Bogdan was first to the ball.  Then Bolton seemed to play the ball about in our box for an age before it was finally cleared. With four minutes left on the clock, Trotter replaced the excellent Mason.  Watford pushed again as Ranegie passed to Deeney in the box, but there were two defenders on him and the ball was cut out.  Then Ranegie and Deeney both battled challenges to keep possession but when the ball was played to Pudil, he just gave it away.  Then Battocchio found Deeney whose shot was blocked, Anya’s follow-up cross was cleared.  The board went up indicating 6 minutes of time added on at which point Faraoni passed the ball into Bogdan’s arms and I just wished that we could do what the curlers did and put an end to the misery.  In time added on, Angella was booked for taking Trotter down on the edge of the area.  The free kick came straight back off the wall. Frustration got the best of Faraoni as he jostled with Ream who was trying to waste some time by the corner flag and the Italian was booked for his actions.   The final action of the game was Ekstrand lumping the ball into the box where it was caught by Bogdan.

Nat Lofthouse

Nat Lofthouse

The final whistle went to boos from the travelling fans. I didn’t boo but neither did I applaud at the end.  That display was not worth taking my hands out of my pockets.  To be fair, I’d enjoyed the first half hour of the game.  But once Bolton scored the rest had been just dreadful.  A number of people commented after the game that if Deeney’s early header had gone in, it would have hit Bolton’s confidence and the game would have been totally different.  But it didn’t and we were left with a long trip home wondering why this talented team is putting in such abject performances.

Still, to end on a positive note, the Nat Lofthouse statue is lovely.