Tag Archives: Nyron Nosworthy

Seventh Heaven

Paying tribute to Ken Furphy

Paying tribute to Ken Furphy

After last week’s wonderful display, we should have gone into this game with a lot of confidence.  But anyone who has watched Watford this season knows that you cannot predict which team will turn up.  I must admit that when I heard that Blackpool hadn’t won away all season, my heart sank.

We were joined in the West Herts by Jacob, a Danish Watford fan who was making his first visit to Vicarage Road.  Having met Jacob at a pre-season game in Horsens in 2006, it was lovely to see him again and I really hoped that he was in for a treat.

Jokanovic made a single change bringing in Vydra for Munari who had a hamstring problem.  The starting eleven was Gomes, Hoban, Angella, Cathcart, Anya, Tözsér, Layun, Paredes, Vydra, Ighalo and Deeney lining up in a 3-4-1-2 formation.  Blackpool featured Watford old boy Nyron Nosworthy who was given a great reception by the Watford fans.

Before kick-off, there was a minute’s applause for Ken Furphy who passed away last week.  As the manager who first took us to the old second division and the FA Cup semi-final, he is rightly revered among Watford fans and the applause was warm and loud.

Defending a free kick

Defending a free kick

Blackpool made a good start to the game.  An early cross was caught by Gomes with Davies challenging.  Miller got into a good position, but shot just wide of the far post.  Watford also had an early goal attempt from a Tözsér free-kick which Angella headed over the bar.  The visitors took the lead in the 7th minute as Paredes tackled Ferguson in the box, the ball bounced off Gomes to Orlandi who buried the ball with the Watford keeper out of position.  The home side tried to hit back immediately as Ighalo found Vydra who played a one-two with Deeney before shooting wide of the far post.  Hoban played a ball over the top to Deeney, who appeared to have outpaced the Blackpool defence, but the defender recovered to make a tackle.  A lovely passing move ended with Anya behind the Blackpool defence but his low cross was gathered by Parish before Ighalo could reach it.

Celebrating Deeney's goal

Celebrating Deeney’s goal

Deeney dispossessed Perkins and played the ball out to Ighalo whose shot was disappointingly weak and easy for the keeper.  Paredes crossed for Anya whose shot was blocked by Parish, the ball came out to Deeney who tried an overhead kick that flew well over the bar.  Watford’s next chance was a weak shot from Vydra that was blocked.  Layun was the next to try his luck, but his shot from distance was well off target.  Watford should have equalized on 32 minutes as Ighalo picked the ball up and unleashed a shot that Parish did really well to push over the bar.  The pressure on the visitors’ goal continued as Deeney played a low cross to Vydra but the Czech’s shot was blocked.  The only yellow card of the game went to Blackpool’s Davies who was booked for kicking the ball away to delay a Watford free-kick.  It was not his first effort at wasting time.  Given that the pressure had all been from Watford since the early goal it was something of a shock when Blackpool went two goals ahead.  A shot from Miller was going wide, but Gomes got a hand to it.  From the corner, McMahon found Davies on the goal line where he needed two attempts before he put the ball in the net.  In time added on, Miller had a chance to increase the lead but Gomes dropped to gather.

Congratulating Vydra

Congratulating Vydra

I must be becoming immune to boos from the home fans at the half time whistle as they didn’t register and I was only alerted to them when the bloke in front of me shouted “fickle fans” at those venting their displeasure.  It had been an odd half.  Watford had most of the possession, but had misplaced too many passes and the finishing had been woeful.  We needed a bit more aggression.  At this point I was feeling really sorry for Jacob.

At half-time, the Wealdstone Raider was on the pitch raising awareness of Autism Concern.  He finished his piece by mentioning that Watford season ticket holders can get into Wealdstone games for half price.  He exhorted us to “Come and see a decent team.”

Angella returns from celebrating his goal with the Watford bench

Angella returns from celebrating his goal with the Watford bench

I have no idea what Jokanovic said in his half-time team talk, or what was put in the tea, but whatever it was it worked.  He made a tactical change replacing Hoban with Ben Watson, who was making his debut after signing on Friday.  Anya and Paredes dropped into a back four, so the formation was now 4-3-3.  Within a minute of the restart, Watson won a ball in midfield, he released Ighalo who played it out to Layun who returned the pass for the Nigerian to beat Parish.  Ighalo didn’t wait around to celebrate.  He grabbed the ball from the back of the net and ran back to the centre circle.  Watford were suddenly on fire.  Vydra fed Layun whose cross flew wide of the far post with Deeney unable to connect.  Then Ighalo passed to Deeney who took time to control the ball before shooting just wide.  In a brief foray to the other end, the ball broke to Davies who shot straight at Gomes with the offside flag already raised.  A Tözsér free-kick was headed clear by O’Dea, although I’m not sure how much he knew about it as the impact knocked him over and the ball flew in to the Rookery.  My brother-in-law threw the ball back onto the pitch so is claiming an assist for the second goal which came as Deeney headed Tözsér’s corner home to level the score.

Ighalo thanks Deeney for his unselfish pass for the seventh goal

Ighalo thanks Deeney for his unselfish pass for the seventh goal

Unbelievably, we were ahead on 53 minutes as a long pass from Layun was headed down by Deeney to Ighalo who swept it under Parish and into the net.  The Nigerian did feel able to celebrate on this occasion.  Watford’s fourth came soon after as Anya broke down the left, his cross was cleared, but only as far as Vydra who buried it.  If the fans were happy to see Vydra score, it seemed that the players were even more so, they looked delighted for him as they celebrated.  Blackpool had a chance to pull one back as Gomes had to be smart to turn an O’Hara free-kick wide.  But that was a brief respite for the visitors as Deeney hit a cross which they were relieved to see headed out for a corner before it reached Angella.  Nosworthy almost got on the scoresheet for his former team but he turned the ball just wide of the goal.  From the corner, Angella headed the ball against the post, looked annoyed with himself and made no mistake with the follow-up to put the Hornets 5-2 ahead.  Anya went on another storming run down the left and passed to Vydra whose shot was saved by the feet of Parish.

Ighalo greets the Rookery

Ighalo greets the Rookery

On 68 minutes, Ken Furphy’s picture appeared on the big screen again prompting a minute’s applause to remember his achievement in leading Watford to promotion to the second division for the first time in our history in the 68-69 season.  The home side continued their siege on the Blackpool goal as Deeney crossed for Vydra who nodded the ball down to Ighalo whose shot was saved.  Ighalo’s hat-trick came on 72 minutes as Vydra played a through ball to Deeney, his shot bounced off the post to Ighalo who headed it in.  Jokanovic made his second substitution bringing Munari on for Tözsér.  With 10 minutes to go, Watford made it 7 as Deeney broke into the box and unselfishly played a square ball for Ighalo to tap into an empty net for his fourth goal of the afternoon.  There was only time for Anya to make way for Pudil.  The last 10 minutes were goalless.  At the final whistle, the ground was jumping and the players were warmly applauded.  Ighalo received the man of the match award for the second week running and looked delighted as he walked around the pitch proudly clutching the match ball.

Jokanovic’s half time changes will have done a lot to win over the more sceptical among the Watford faithful.  The early goals in the second half seemed to instil confidence in the Watford players and inject an energy that had been missing in the first half.  An unexpected joy was the work between the three forward players.  They were all playing for each other, which meant each of them put in a more effective performance.  There was just one niggling concern.  I hope that nobody tests that half-time tea for additives.  Oh, and someone needs to stop Jacob returning to Denmark.

Yet Another Trip to Bristol in the Cup

The teams come on to the pitch

The teams come on to the pitch

For the second time in four days I set off in the rain to drive westwards wondering if there was to be a game at the end of it.  The postponement on New Year’s Day was very frustrating.  Particularly because the flooded roads on the way in to Yeovil had made the decision inevitable and there was a sneaking feeling that, without the promise of Sky money, the game would have been called off earlier and saved us a wasted journey.  On Saturday, I had arranged to visit friends after the game, so a postponement wouldn’t have been as much of a disappointment.  I had been tasked with choosing the pre-match pub and stumbled on one a short walk from where I was staying, which turned out to be a little gem.  Real ale, excellent pies served with delicious minty mushy peas and very friendly bar staff.  In fact, the pub was so delightful that we nearly forgot to leave for the game.  In retrospect that would have been a good decision.

Prior to the match, we had speculated on who would fill in at left wing back in the absence of Anya, Pudil and Bellerin.  The answer was Battocchio, an interesting and slightly worrying choice.  I was disappointed to hear that Doyley had been relegated to the bench, so the starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Angella, Nosworthy, Battocchio, McGugan, Iriney, Murray, Cassetti, Fabbrini and Deeney.

Almunia keeping warm

Almunia keeping warm

The game was played with a pink ball, which was one of the brighter aspects of the afternoon.  We started well enough and, in the second minute, McGugan broke into the box but shot wide.  City were on the attack on 7 minutes with a dangerous ball into the box, Almunia was nudged out of the way as he came to collect it, the ball went out of play and the free kick was delayed as the Bristol City fans in the Wedlock stand refused to give the ball back.  On 8 minutes, Fabbrini lost the ball in the middle of the pitch, Baldock went on a run and shot from distance but Almunia dropped to gather.  The Watford keeper was in action again soon after, plucking a cross from Bryan out of the air.  On the quarter hour, Fabbrini went on a great run down the wing and broke into the box where he went down under a challenge.  Given that Diego’s tumble was greeted with groans from the travelling ‘Orns, it was no surprise when the referee waved play on.  Battocchio tried a shot from the edge of the area, but Parish was equal to it.  City were soon on the counter-attack, but Reid’s shot was also from distance and was wide of the target.  At the break in play, the ref had words with Fabbrini.  On 20 minutes, Emmanuel-Thomas shot wide of the far post.  Then McGugan got the ball in the area ran across the box to get into a better shooting position but skewed his shot disappointingly over the bar.  Bristol threatened again as a cross was headed on to Bryan whose shot required a decent save from Almunia who pushed it around the post.  The corner fell to Elliott who shot over the bar.  Down the other end

Bryan clearing the ball

Bryan clearing the ball

McGugan hit a lovely shot towards the top corner and Parish had to leap to tip it over.  On 34 minutes McGugan hit a free kick from a long way out which flew wide of the near post.  Then a run and cross from Bryan had both Emmanuel-Thomas and Wagstaff coming to meet it, they got in each other’s way and the header was wide.  With five minutes to half time, Battocchio required a bit of  juggling to control the ball and give it to Fabbrini who advanced into the box and squared to McGugan whose shot was blocked.  From the resultant corner, the ball fell to Battocchio whose cross was met by a header from Angella that hit the top of the crossbar.  In time added on, a free-kick from Reid was headed wide by Osborne.

 

McGugan on the attack

McGugan on the attack

At half-time, our wing-back situation became even stranger as Cassetti was replaced by Smith who is neither a winger nor a back.  I thought moving Murray out may have been a better bet, with Smith playing in the middle, until I had a flashback to the game at Ashton Gate last season when Sean took Cassetti’s place and had a complete nightmare.  Bristol City made the running at the start of the second half as Emmanuel-Thomas played a through ball to Baldock whose shot was easily saved by Almunia.   Soon after, Almunia was in action again as Elliott got on the end of a corner but his header was straight at the Watford keeper.   Then a move started with a ball to Deeney that should have allowed him to break free, but instead we saw a sequence involving several awful misplaced passes by Watford players which finished with Emmanuel-Thomas shooting wide.  The only other notable events in the first 25 minutes of the half were a McGugan free-kick that he put over the bar and a tannoy announcement requesting that Watford’s Italian coach driver make himself known to the stewards.  I am still trying to work out if that was a coded message. 

Fabbrini on the attack

Fabbrini on the attack

Just after 70 minutes, Watford finally made their first attack of the half as Fabbrini played a through ball to McGugan who fell over in the box.  Then Fabbrini broke again and fed Deeney whose shot was saved by Parish.  Next a free-kick for the home team was headed back from the far post by Elliott to Osborne who headed it over the bar.  Fabbrini was on the attack again but this time his cross was headed wide by Burns. Then McGugan broke into the box but his shot was deflected for a corner.  On 83 minutes, we appeared to have won the game as Smith squared the ball to Murray.  I saw the Watford youngster shoot, but my view of the goal was blocked by the crowd in front of me standing up so I was a little late to join in the celebrations as the ball went in to the bottom

Goal celebrations in the Wedlock Stand

Goal celebrations in the Wedlock Stand

corner.  I had just remarked that we didn’t really deserve the lead when we no longer had it, as Emmanuel-Thomas scored at the other end, Burns having beaten Battocchio to set him up.  We tried to regain the lead as Fabbrini broke and played a ball for Deeney, but the defender was quicker to it and the chance was gone.  In the last minute of normal time, a shot from distance came in that was pushed over by Almunia, who was also required to come and punch clear from the corner.  The home side had one final chance to win the game as Osborne met a free-kick with a header, but Almunia was equal to it.  On the final whistle, my first thought was annoyance that I would have to endure that a second time.  It was not an enjoyable game.  I hope that some of the absentees are fit for Saturday or it could be a very difficult afternoon indeed.

Zola’s Last Stand

After two good away points married to decent performances, we returned to Vicarage Road in good spirits for the visit of Sheffield Wednesday.  Apart, that is, from certain of our party, who will remain nameless, who had carried on the festivities after the Christmas Lunch with GT et al at the club the previous day, and were feeling a little the worse for wear.

Deeney and Thorne ready for kick-off

Deeney and Thorne ready for kick-off

Team news was that Hall would replace the suspended Ekstrand with Cassetti and Murray in for Pudil and McGugan.  Having recovered from recent illness & injury, Almunia returned to the squad, but Zola kept faith with his young deputy so the line-up was Bond, Faraoni, Nosworthy, Hall, Cassetti, Bellerin, Thorne, Battocchio, Murray, Anya and Deeney.

The first action of note was a ball over the top to Anya, who advanced and put a low ball across the goal but no Watford player was anywhere near.  On 7 minutes a Murray corner was met by Cassetti who headed over the bar when he really should have done better.  Soon after, Bellerin showed a lot of skill to flick the ball past a defender, he advanced down the wing, but his cross was straight at the keeper. 

Hall back in action

Hall back in action

Then Deeney exchanged passes with Bellerin and crossed into the box for the inrushing Anya, but Martinez was first to the ball.  On 20 minutes, Anya had a great chance as he received the ball with his back to goal, turned and curled his shot just wide.  By the midpoint of the first half, Sheffield Wednesday had failed to launch an attack worthy of the name.  Then Wickham won a free-kick and hit it over the Watford wall and past the reach of Bond for the visitors to take the lead.  A couple of minutes later, Murray played a cross-field ball to Deeney whose pass into the box was too far in front of Battocchio.  Next Anya went on another run, but his cross was headed out for a corner.  Nosworthy met the deep corner with a header which

Anya on the ball

Anya on the ball

was cleared.  On the half hour, the Wednesday fans were shouting for a penalty.  Maghoma appeared to have escaped from Nosworthy, but Nyron recovered to make a last ditch tackle on the edge of the box, and the referee waved play on.  Anya then had another chance at goal but his shot from distance was well over the bar.  With five minutes remaining in the half, Deeney played the ball across to Anya who buried it.  Sadly the celebrations in the home stands were cut short by the linesman’s flag, although those with a better view than I had suggested that the Scot was onside.  Wednesday threatened immediately as a cross from Hélan was cut out by Cassetti before it reached Lee.  Then a ball over the top by Cassetti was headed out to Murray whose shot was straight at Martinez.  Just before half time, a cross from Faraoni was cut out but reached Murray whose shot from distance was parried to Anya but the follow-up shot was also blocked by Martinez.  So we reached half time a goal down to Wednesday’s only shot on target.  I braced myself but, thankfully, there were only a couple of boos from the home stand.

Watford on the attack

Watford on the attack

At the start of the second half, Faraoni picked up an injury and was replaced by Fabbrini.  Just before the hour, Murray took a free-kick that was cleared by Martinez.  Then a shot from distance by Maghoma was easily gathered by Bond.  On 64 minutes, there was an almighty scramble in the Wednesday goal mouth with half a dozen shots blocked.  It just wouldn’t fall for us.  Since coming on, Fabbrini was spending a lot of time on the floor and both Lee and Wickham were booked for fouls on the Italian.  In between these offences, Battocchio was replaced by Forestieri.  With 15 minutes remaining, a cross from Cassetti was missed by Forestieri and Anya, who probably thought that Fernando would get on the end of it.  Then Fabbrini fed Murray whose cross-cum-shot was wide of the far

Thorne challenging

Thorne challenging

post.  With 10 minutes to go, McGugan replaced Hall.  In the 83rd minute, there was another goalmouth scramble as first Murray’s shot was blocked, then his through ball to Fabbrini was met with a shot, but the Italian was flagged offside.  In the last minutes of the half, Bellerin fed Forestieri whose cross reached Deeney, but he couldn’t get the header on target.  Then Forestieri was flattened in the box, but the referee waved play on.  In time added on, Thorne passed to Fabbrini who chested the ball down to McGugan who was closed down before he could shoot.  Then we had a fantastic chance to level the game as Fabbrini played a perfect through ball to Forestieri but, with the way the afternoon had gone, there was a certain inevitability in the way the Argentine’s shot flew agonizingly wide.

There were loud boos at the final whistle.  I don’t boo a team that has put in an effort and I believe that these lads were trying, but it wasn’t working for them.  Who knows what would have happened if Anya’s goal had been allowed to stand.  But it wasn’t and we were faced with our fifth successive defeat at home.  In the post-match analysis in the pub, we agreed that it was hard to see what could be done to turn it around as different combinations and formations had failed to address our woeful home form.  Sadly, Zola’s subsequent resignation indicates that he was also at a loss.  While the news was not unexpected, it left me saddened and feeling rather empty.

Zola in happier times

Zola in happier times

The first time I saw Zola in person was at a tribute match for Mike Keen at Wycombe a few years ago that I attended because Malky and Alec were playing.  I lived abroad during the time that Zola played in England, so had no recollection of ever seeing him in action before.  I have to say that he was mesmerizing and had the crowd on their feet on more than one occasion.  But what impressed me most on that day was when he was substituted and greeted with a crowd requesting autographs and photos, he responded with a huge, warm smile and took the time to satisfy all the demands.  When he came to Watford, he brought us some of the best football that I have seen in nearly 35 years of watching the Hornets.  Like others, I will never forget that tremendous finish to the Leicester game and the wonderful goal against Huddersfield but another thing that will remain with me is Zola’s off-field presence.  He was a delight at the At Your Place events.  A warm, funny man, who was passionate about football, but also cared about the people that came to watch his team.  Anyone who was lucky enough to meet him came away with an increased respect for the man.  He is a football genius and an utter gentleman.  I’ll miss him greatly.

 

Six Goals at Elland Road

A kind welcome

A kind welcome

This was an expensive week for the travelling Hornets with two away games up North.  After an encouraging performance against Burnley midweek, I travelled with a better spirit but, knowing that Leeds have been on a decent run, my expectations were not high.  Our pre-match pub in Leeds is a good ‘un.  The cider was lovely, the pie was tasty and the company was excellent.  The top deck of the shuttle bus to the ground was inhabited by a group of Leeds fans who were loud and obnoxious, so I was glad to reach Elland Road to escape the racket.  As we entered the stadium, we were greeted by posters thanking us for traveling 179 miles to attend the game.  Rather a nice touch, I thought.

Team news was that Pudil and Anya were in for Cassetti and Murray.  If I hadn’t seen his midweek post on Twitter, I would have struggled to recognize Anya as he has shaved off his Afro.  A big mistake to my mind, I hope he grows it back very soon.

A minute's silence for Mandela or Bremner!

A minute’s silence for Mandela or Bremner!

Before kick-off, the minute’s applause for Nelson Mandela was announced.  Much as I am a admirer of the great man, I questioned the wisdom of such a gesture at a sporting occasion in the UK.  Clearly, the Leeds hierarchy had similar questions, so they announced that it was also to mark the anniversary of the passing of Billy Bremner, which meant that the applause was accompanied with chants of Bremner’s name which rather defeated the object.

The starting line-up was Bond, Faraoni, Nosworthy, Ekstrand, Pudil, Bellerin, Battocchio, Thorne, McGugan, Anya and Deeney.  There were no Watford alumni in the Leeds line-up, but it cannot be forgotten that one of Watford’s favourite sons, Nigel Gibbs, was on the Leeds bench.

A new-look Anya

A new-look Anya

Leeds started brightly, and in the second minute, Smith headed a cross from McCormack straight at Bond. The next Leeds attack was a free-kick by McCormack into the box which was headed over by Zaliukas.  Then Bellerin intercepted the ball in midfield, his pass was deflected back to Battocchio who crossed for the young loanee to head the ball wide of the far post.  Then a low through ball reached Austin whose shot was parried by Bond to Murphy whose follow-up flew wide.  Watford were immediately on a counter attack as Faraoni put a ball through to Anya, who ran into the box but his shot was parried.  On 11 minutes Watford took a rather surprising lead. McGugan exchanged passes with Bellerin, tried a cross which bounced back to him off a defender so he played a languid through ball which Deeney tucked between Kenny and the near post.  It

Leeds line up a free kick

Leeds line up a free kick

had been so long since we last scored that I half convinced myself that the ball had hit the side netting, so my celebration was a bit hesitant, but finally got going once I realized that we had actually scored!  We had the next decent chance on 23 minutes when a McGugan through ball reached Anya, but Kenny narrowed the angle and Ikechi’s shot was just past the far post.  Leeds then threatened with a dangerous cross from Austin, which looked as though it may have snuck in if Bond hadn’t caught it at the near post.  Then McCormack latched on to a pass into the box.  Bond ran out and dived at his feet to make a great save, so it seemed unfair that the ref pulled play back for a free kick as he’d previously played advantage that the home side had not been able to capitalise on.  McCormack took the free kick, which bounced off the wall for a corner.  Then McGugan played a lovely defensive move as a Leeds player, whose number I didn’t note, ran into the box.  I was concerned that he would draw a penalty, but McGugan coolly shepherded the ball out for a goal kick.  Then a dangerous ball came in towards Smith in the box, but Nosworthy stuck out a foot to deflect it for a corner.  From the corner, there were loud shouts for a penalty from the Leeds fans as Smith went down in the box, but the ref made the right decision.  On 29 minutes, a shot from McCormack bounced off Ekstrand and rebounded to

Celebrations after the second goal

Celebrations after the second goal

Smith, whose follow-up shot was just wide of the far post.  On 37 minutes, Smith latched onto a ball in the Watford box, Bond pulled off a fantastic save, but must have been frustrated again to see that his efforts were unnecessary as the forward had been flagged offside.  On 43 minutes, Nosworthy seemed to think he had all the time in the world to control a ball in our box, Pugh came up behind him and threw himself over Nyron trying to win a penalty.  Fortunately the referee was having none of it and all he won was a yellow card, but Nosworthy had taken a huge risk.  As the clock reached 45 minutes, Mowatt took a free kick from a dangerous position to the right of the Watford box.  Bond came out to punch the ball clear and it reached Bellerin, who ran the length of the pitch then squared for Battocchio, who took a couple of touches and seemed to have lost his chance, but found space between two defenders to fire the ball past Kenny.  This time I celebrated immediately and chants of “We want six,” rang out from the travelling Hornets. In injury time, McGugan took a shot that went straight into Kenny’s arms.  As the half-time whistle went, Anya was on the ball running up the left wing and he kept on going, not wanting to stop!

It had been a cracking half.  We were slightly fortunate to take a two goal lead in at the break and well aware that there was still a long way to go in the game.

A defensive header from Ekstrand

A defensive header from Ekstrand

Leeds came out like a rocket at the start of the second half.  Within a minute of kick-off, a Bellerin pass up the wing was intercepted and the counterattack finished with a header from Smith tipped over the bar by Bond.  From Mowatt’s corner, it was Smith again, but this time he headed over the bar while climbing on Thorne.  Leeds’ first goal came in the 49th minute and had an element of fortune as a clearance hit Thorne and dropped to Pugh who beat Nosworthy and slipped the ball past Bond at the near post.  The Watford heads didn’t drop as Faraoni audaciously nutmegged a Leeds defender to get into the box, but his cross was blocked. However, ten minutes into the half, Leeds were level as Peltier robbed Anya as he tried to dribble the ball across the middle of the park, he passed to McCormack on the wing who crossed for Smith to power a header past Bond.  Straight from the restart, Battocchio freed Bellerin, but he couldn’t quite reach the return pass in the box and the chance was cleared.  Leeds carried on threatening the Watford goal.

Gibbsy on the wrong bench

Gibbsy on the wrong bench

First Austin broke in to the box and Bond stood tall to block his close range shot.  Then, from a corner, Mowatt’s shot came crashing back off the crossbar.  There was some relief for Bond as Watford launched a counter attack with Anya finding McGugan whose shot from distance was pushed wide by Kenny.  Soon after, Smith shot straight at Bond.  Then a Thorne ball over the top reached Deeney, who shot wide but had been in an offside position anyway.

On 65 minutes Murray replaced McGugan, seven minutes later Faraoni made way for Cassetti.  Soon after, Cassetti failed to challenge Smith whose header reached McCormack who turned the ball into the net, but his celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.

Faraoni down the wing

Faraoni down the wing

However, Leeds were to take the lead a couple of minutes later as McCormack got on the end of a pass from Murphy, outran Nosworthy and shot past Bond.  Watford almost hit back immediately as Battocchio shot from inside the box and Kenny had to drop smartly to gather the ball.  With 10 minutes remaining, Murray jinked into the Leeds box and curled a shot just wide of the far post.  On 85 minutes, while Forestieri was on the sidelines waiting to come on, Anya went on a run down the wing and crossed for Thorne whose shot was parried by Kenny, but Deeney was on hand to pick up the loose ball and grab the equalizer.  With a couple of minutes to go, Mowatt played a through ball to

An attacking throw-in

An attacking throw-in

Smith whose shot was over the bar, but he was flagged offside anyway.  After the equalizer, Forestieri had returned to the bench and the final Watford substitution was Hall replacing Battoccio.  In injury time, Anya and Bellerin combined on a counter attack, and the young Spaniard won a corner which came to nothing as Ekstrand was booked for a foul on Zaliukas.  But it was the Swede who could have won the game for the Hornets as Deeney received a pass from Cassetti and squared the ball but Zaliukas was on hand to make a great tackle and prevent Ekstrand from shooting.

Applauding the crowd

Applauding the crowd

At the final whistle, there was a lot of shirt swapping on the field and rapture from the stands.  It had been a thrilling game of football and I think all the fans were happy to leave with a point.  Watford had played some lovely stuff, but gave the ball away a little too much by getting caught in possession and our defence was vulnerable in the second half when Nosworthy tired, but it is churlish to criticize after such a thoroughly entertaining afternoon.  It has to be said that Anya’s pace made a difference and some of his interplay with Bellerin was excellent.

How the mood has changed in the past week with two terrific points from difficult away games.  Hopefully, this will make Monday’s fans’ forum a more positive occasion and we can take this spirit back to Vicarage Road for the visit of Wednesday.  It is fun being a Watford fan again.

A Gutsy Performance at Turf Moor

Lighting my way

Lighting my way

The trip to Burnley is not high on my list of favourite away days.  When the game falls on a Tuesday night, it makes it even less appealing.  Given our recent run of form, I found myself questioning my sanity in taking a day and a half off work and spending a small fortune on train and hotel.  Still, there is always that niggling feeling in the back of your mind that it could be 7-4 again and you’d kick yourself if you were sitting at home.

The first challenge in planning the trip had been where to stay.  The hotel at which I’d stayed on a previous visit had closed down and hotels in central Burnley were conspicuous by their absence from the usual booking websites.  But then I found a boutique hotel located a short walk from Manchester Road station.  A boutique hotel in Burnley?  That I had to see.  When I arrived, I was delighted to find a characterful place with lots of art on display including a print of one of Matisse’s blue nudes.  Very pleasant indeed.

Welcome to Burnley

Welcome to Burnley

Pre-match there wasn’t a lot of confidence among the Watford faithful, but the team news indicated a switch in formation to 4-5-1 with Faraoni coming in for Pudil and Battocchio replacing Forestieri.  As the Burnley manager emerged from the tunnel, it was great to see Sean Dyche turn and applaud the Watford fans behind the goal and receive a warm reception from the travelling Hornets.

Burnley started strongly with an early foray into the Watford box that was smothered by Bond.  Then Bond was in action again, coming out to punch a free kick clear.  On 7 minutes, Treacy had a shot from distance but it was straight at Bond.  The next attack saw the young keeper come out of his penalty area to take the ball down on his chest and clear.  It was a confident move that was a sign of things to come.  On 8 minutes a corner by Stanislas flashed across the Watford goal, but there was no Burnley player near enough to apply the finishing touch.

Pre-match huddle

Pre-match huddle

On 10 minutes, Watford had their first attack with Murray passing to McGugan whose shot was blocked.  It has to be said that there were some pretty robust tackles coming in from the Burnley boys, but the ref let those go while he seemed to blow up for the slightest infringement by a Watford player.  On 14 minutes, the ball fell to Arfield on the edge of the box, but his shot flew well over the crossbar.  Then McGugan put a dangerous cross into the Burnley box, but Heaton reached the ball just before Battocchio.  On 19 minutes, Burnley won a free-kick for a minor infringement, Trippier took the kick and hit it straight at Bond.  Soon after, the referee blew up to penalize a Burnley player for climbing.  A decision that was met with ironic cheers from the travelling Hornets.

A Brace of Watford Managers

A Brace of Watford Managers

On 26 minutes, a string of lovely passes across the pitch finished with Faraoni beating the defender on the right and whipping in a cross that was blocked.  Then Trippier crossed for Arfield, whose shot was easily gathered by Bond.  Another cross from Trippier reached Jones, whose shot was blocked and put out for a corner which was headed over by Shackell.  At this point, I was distracted by an advertisement on the big screen.  On previous visits, I have marvelled at the unlikelihood of a “Clarets Wine Club”, so imagine my delight at the iPie advertisement.  Yes, Burnley have an app with which you can order your half time pie with a ‘click and collect’ service.  Will the wonders of technology

Thorne and Arfield wait for the ball to drop

Thorne and Arfield wait for the ball to drop

ever cease?  On 40 minutes, Burnley should have been ahead as Arfield met a cross from Stanislas with a close range header, but Bond leapt to his left to keep it out.  Then McGugan and Murray combined to feed Faraoni whose shot was wide of the far post.  Treacy then went on a run across the top of the area and unleashed a stinging shot that Bond first parried and then caught.  Just before half-time, Battocchio intercepted a ball in midfield and advanced on the Burnley goal, but his shot was blocked.  Then Cassetti won a free-kick close to the bye-line.  McGugan put a deep cross into the box which was met with a defensive header back to Heaton.  The half-time whistle went and, for the first time in weeks, the Watford players left the pitch to applause from their fans and chants of “Johnny Bond” and “Yellow Army” following them down the tunnel.  Burnley had been the better team in the half, but there was a pleasing resilience to Watford’s play and Bond had been superb.

Pre-corner jostling

Pre-corner jostling

A Burnley fan came to chat to us at half time to hear our opinion of our team and ask whether we thought Zola’s position was in danger.  He said that we had been the best passing team that they’d seen last season.  We said that we could still pass, but we were lacking the pace and penetration we had last season.  He said that they have a first eleven and then a bench full of kids so their current position was unlikely to be maintained at the end of the season.

We started the second half brightly.  An early shot from Battocchio went just past the far post.  Then a Burnley shot was met by a bicycle kick from Deeney to clear.  On 53 minutes, Battocchio went on a run down the wing, his cross was cut out and Burnley launched a counter-attack, Arfield shot goalwards and Bond had to drop smartly to gather.  Then Murray

Bond takes a goal kick

Bond takes a goal kick

broke into the box, but was closed down and lost the ball.  On 54 minutes, we had a great chance to take the lead as Battocchio passed the ball to Cassetti on the left and the Italian’s cross was met with a shot from close range by McGugan that Heaton did very well to keep out of the bottom corner.  Then a ball over the top reached Deeney, he passed it out to Murray whose cross was just missed by the leaping Bellerin.  Next Bellerin headed the ball down to McGugan who crossed for Murray to shoot, but again the shot was blocked.  Then a dangerous cross into the Watford box by Trippier was put wide by Mee under the attentions of a defender.  He was injured in the process and, after a spell of treatment on the pitch, went off and changed his shirt and came back numberless.  On 63 minutes, McGugan lifted a pass in the direction of Ekstrand, but the Swede did not react and Stanislas intercepted the ball but his shot was deflected for a corner.  Then a Watford shot from distance was deflected wide.  From McGugan’s corner, the ball bounced up and hit a defender’s hand, but the shouts for a penalty from the travelling ‘Orns fell on deaf ears.  On 66 minutes, a Murray cross was, again, too high for Bellerin but the ball fell to McGugan whose shot was cleared off the line.  From the throw-in, Murray fed Bellerin, but the Arsenal

Ready to defend a corner

Ready to defend a corner

youngster’s header was easy for Heaton.  On 68 minutes, our friend from half-time’s claim that they had the youth team on the bench was contradicted as Kightly replaced Treacy.  The former Watford loanee was involved in the next attack as he received a ball from Mee, but his shot landed on the netting on top of the goal.  On 74 minutes, Murray battled to keep the ball, he was tripped, fell over, got up still with the ball at his feet and was finally taken down to win a free kick.  At this point, he was replaced by Fabbrini.  McGugan took the free-kick which was deep into the box, but cleared.  Then Fabbrini passed to McGugan whose cross was headed out for a corner.  He took the corner which reached Faraoni who put the shot wide.  With 10 minutes remaining, Hewitt replaced Stanislas and Pudil came on for Cassetti.  Soon after, a deep shot straight at Bond did not test the young

Post-match congratulations

Post-match congratulations

keeper.  I have to say that our defence were doing a great job of closing the Burnley players down and restricting their shooting opportunities.  In the 87th minute, a cross from Trippier was met by a clearance from Fabbrini for a corner.  From the corner, the shot went harmlessly wide.  Then Fabbrini brought the ball down on his chest, went on a great run, but when he released the ball his pass was too far in front of Bellerin and the attack broke down.  It had been a frantic last five minutes, but the game remained scoreless.  At the start of the 4 minutes of injury time, we were taking time over our set pieces and Nosworthy, who’d shaped to take a free kick and then left it for Bond, was booked for time wasting.  We almost snatched the win in time added on as McGugan and Deeney exchanged passes and the former Forest man’s shot was deflected into the side-netting.  Pudil got a head to the resulting corner, but the ball was cleared and the game ended with honours even

This was such a contrast to Saturday both on and off the pitch.  Gone were the on field nervousness and the hostility from the stands.  Instead we had a brave, committed performance on the pitch which was cheered on enthusiastically by the 274 travelling Hornets.  The players spent some time on the pitch at the end thanking the fans for their support.  Zola looked a lot happier than he did at the weekend and must have been gratified to hear his name chanted again.  As a final gesture of thanks, Daniel Pudil removed his shirt, climbed over the advertising hoardings into the disabled enclosure and handed it to Gavin Ricketts.

All in all, it had been a very enjoyable evening and a timely reminder of why I go to these games.