Tag Archives: Oliver Norwood

A Soggy Stalemate

Welbeck and Gray waltzing with the opposition defenders

Due to evening commitments in London last week, my commuting time was at a minimum, this meant that I hadn’t listened to the “From the Rookery End” podcast.  So, I made it my accompaniment for the train journey to Watford and wished that I hadn’t.  When even the ultra-positive Colin sounds exasperated, and that game at Wolves was enough to try the patience of a saint, you know that we are in trouble.

I arrived at the West Herts later than usual to find my sister at the bar.  She had arrived early for a chat and was somewhat put out to find that I wasn’t there yet.  We joined the usual suspects at our table before the Norfolk ‘Orns made an appearance.  They were on one of their days out, which generally means an early start on the beer and shots in the West Herts.  It has to be said that they were already very jolly when they arrived, but their early start meant that there were no pork scratchings in Glenn’s goodie bag to the consternation of all.

Pereyra preparing for a corner

On arrival at the Rookery turnstiles, I was patted down by a steward, I don’t believe that has happened before.  It was noticeable that, as there was only a female steward at that end of the turnstiles, while I was being searched, the men were streaming past unmolested, which was a source of some irritation.  On arrival in the Rookery, we found, as we had for the Swansea game, a pool of water under our seats.  We asked a steward for assistance in clearing it, his solution was to tell us we could find another seat if any were available.  We had seen one of the cleaning staff with a mop and a bucket further down the stand, so I went and asked him to assist us.  This meant that we missed joining in the “Forza” display prior to kick-off.  Even after the man with the mop had done his (much appreciated) thing, the floor was too wet to place my bag down, so I was relieved when the guy that sits next to me did not appear and I was able to use his seat for my bag.  To add insult to injury, when I tried to take a photograph for the blog, I found that my camera battery was drained.  Thankfully I had a charger with me so was able to remedy the situation and just hoped that there would be something worth photographing.

Team news was that Quique had made 4 changes with Prödl, Kabasele, Pereyra and Gray replacing Dawson, Capoue, Sarr and Deulofeu.  So, the starting line-up was Foster; Cathcart, Prödl, Kabasele; Holebas, Cleverley, Doucouré, Janmaat; Pereyra; Welbeck, Gray.

Challenging at a corner

Watford had a great chance to open the scoring in the 8th minute after a terrific run from Pereyra, he put in a low cross for Gray who managed to blast the ball into the Vicarage Road stand when it looked much easier to score.  Soon after, Pereyra won a corner that was taken short but eventually led to a cross by Janmaat that was headed over by Prödl.  There was almost a disaster of our own making at the other end as Cathcart turned a cross from Baldock towards his own goal, but Foster pulled off a smart save to stop it.  The visitors had another chance to open the scoring with a low shot from Fleck, but it was an easy save for Foster.  The Blades threatened again as McBurnie slid in trying to convert a low cross from Basham, but Foster was able to gather.  Doucouré got himself into a great position for a shot, but there was a body in the way of his effort from the edge of the box.  The Hornets had one last chance to take a lead into the break as Prödl met a cross from Cleverley with a header that dropped to Kabasele who tried to turn it in, but Henderson was able to make the save.

It had been an incredibly dull half of football, which had done nothing to improve my mood.  The half time celebrity guest was Alan Smart.  Being reminded of the awful season that he was involved in at this level didn’t help.  The high point for him was scoring the winner against Chelsea.  Unfortunately, the prospect of any similar results this season are currently looking very remote.

Janmaat takes a free kick

The second half started promisingly for the Hornets as a misplaced header dropped to Welbeck who powered downfield with Gray running alongside.  As Henderson came out to meet him, he decided to take the shot himself and it was blocked by the keeper.  From our perspective in the Rookery, passing to Gray looked like a better option but, given his earlier miss, the outcome may well have been the same.  The Hornets had a really good spell, which galvanised the crowd, but they couldn’t fashion a goal attempt worthy of note.  The visitors had the next chance as Robinson volleyed goalwards, but Foster was able to make the save.  Watford made two substitutions in quick succession.  Prödl limped off due to a hamstring injury to be replaced by Dawson, a great shame as the presence of Seb in the back three had been a positive.  Then Gray made way for Deulofeu.  In between the substitutions McBurnie was booked for a foul on Kabasele.  Soon after being cautioned he was replaced by Mousset.  Next there was a break in play due to an injury to Holebas.  José was down for a while being treated but, once back on his feet, he walked off the pitch while giving the evil eye to his assailant, who had my sympathy.

Foster prepares to take a free kick

The visitors made a second substitution, replacing Robinson with Billy Sharp, who was once heralded as “the answer” by a section of Hornet fans.  Flores also made a change bringing Sarr on for Welbeck.  Deulofeu impressed as he ran to keep an impossible ball in play, advanced and crossed, but it was just too high for Doucouré and Henderson was able to make the catch.  Deulofeu created a half chance as he cut in from the left and tried a shot, but it was easy for the keeper.  As the clock struck 90 minutes, a break by Deulofeu was stopped by a foul by Lundstram, who was shown a yellow card for his trouble.  The Hornets had a great chance to snatch the three points when the free kick from Deulofeu was met by the head of Dawson, but Henderson managed to make the save.  There was one final chance for the Hornets as Doucouré was urged to shoot by the crowd, but the shot from distance was woeful and nearly hit the corner flag.  So, the game ended goalless.

As I walked back to the West Herts, I bumped into another regular.  He was very philosophical, reasoning that we’ve both been watching Watford for a long time and have seen a lot worse than this.  He was right, but the current winless streak is still a great cause for concern.

Man of the Match Kabasele calling the shots

The main positive from the afternoon was that this was the first clean sheet since February.  Our defence has been dreadfully leaky and we looked much stronger with three at the back, although this improvement at the back may have been helped by the opposition being Sheffield United.  Still, Prödl had a great game, he is much more of a commanding presence at the back than either Cathcart or Dawson.  Kabasele was immense and was named man of the match by the sponsors and thoroughly deserved it.  The strikers are still struggling, but at least they are making chances and we really should have won this game.  Sadly, I have felt that after most of the games this season, Brighton and Man City notwithstanding.  Most of the teams that we have played this season have been poor to mediocre and yet we find ourselves with only 3 points from 8 games.  The big problem with this team, as many have been saying for weeks is a lack of confidence and leadership.  Troy is badly missed and you can’t help thinking that a scrambled goal or one bouncing off someone would make a huge difference.

So we go into an international break for a much needed breather and the hope that we will soon see an upturn.  My dear friend, Don, always urges us to “Keep the Faith”.  It is becoming increasingly hard.

 

Oh What Fun It is to See Watford Win Away

A welcome from our hosts

A kind welcome from our hosts

My Friday night entertainment this week was Kristin Scott-Thomas in a Greek tragedy at the Old Vic, I was hoping for somewhat jollier fare at Reading, but it couldn’t be guaranteed.  Certainly the pre-match meeting place was top notch, lovely real ale in a pub with lots of nooks and crannies that has been described by a friend as a Harry Potter house.

Jokanovic made two changes from the win over Wigan.  One was forced, as Munari had a slight hamstring injury that necessitated the inclusion of Guedioura.  For the other, Pudil was preferred to Paredes, allowing him to make his 100th appearance.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Bassong, Angella, Cathcart, Pudil, Tözsér, Guedioura, Abdi, Anya, Deeney and Vydra.

There was a very lively start as a first minute cross found Murray on the right of the box, but his volley was well over the target.  Watford’s first goal attempt came soon after as Pudil headed a Guedioura cross goalwards, Federici pushed it out for a corner from which Guedioura’s shot was blocked.  Abdi was the next to threaten the Reading goal with a powerful curling shot that Federici pushed clear.  The half then became incredibly dull, the next action of note being a nothing foul on the half hour that earned Abdi a yellow card.

Angella begs for (and is shown) forgiveness as Murray falls to the ground

On this occasion Angella begs for (and is shown) forgiveness as Murray falls to the ground

There was a worrying scramble in the Watford box as Gomes parried a header from Murray, the ball came back in but was eventually cleared.  Then Gunter beat Pudil to get into the box and crossed for Blackman who headed over under a challenge from Cathcart.  On 37 minutes, Angella got into a tussle with Murray who was backing into him.  It was six of one and half a dozen of the other, so there were roars of derision from the travelling Hornets as the referee showed Angella a yellow card.  Guedioura had the first Watford chance for some considerable time when he shot over the bar.  Pudil played a lovely ball to Abdi whose cross was headed down to Deeney who tried an overhead kick that flew wide.  Reading should have taken the lead just before half time as Murray received the ball in the box but managed to fire wide of the far post.  In time added on at the end of the half, Angella was tripped on the edge of the box and his arm hit the ball as he fell.  The referee, with the help of the lino, decided that this constituted deliberate handball and was worthy of a second yellow, so Angella was given his marching orders.  It had been a dire half of football, but that decision ensured that the half time boos were directed towards the officials rather than the players.

Tozser lines up a free kick

Tozser lines up a free kick

At the start of the second half, Vydra was sacrificed for Paredes.  Watford, facing a second half playing with ten men, had to decide their approach.  They started the half by pressing the home side and in the 53rd minute, a Tözsér corner was curling in when Federici got a hand to it and pushed it clear.  At the other end, Murray got behind the Watford defence where he directed his shot wide of the far post.  A break by the home side finished with a cross from Blackman which was caught by Gomes.  Reading threatened again as a shot from McCleary was parried by Gomes, the follow-up from Gunter was turned around the post.  A low cross from McCleary went just wide of the far post as Blackman was sliding in and just failed to connect.  Watford fashioned a good move that appeared to give several chances for a strike on goal, but finished with the ball being taken off Abdi’s foot as he shaped to shoot.  For Reading, Blackman shot well over the bar.

Celebrations of Abdi's goal

Celebrations of Abdi’s goal

Watford had mounted a decent rearguard action to this point.  Then, all of a sudden, we took the lead.  Unlike the 70 minutes that had preceded it, Watford’s goal was a thing of beauty as Guedioura won a tackle in midfield and played it out to Anya on the left, he crossed back to Abdi who blasted it past Federici right in front of the Watford fans who reacted with total delirium.  The goal changed the momentum of the game.  Reading’s first yellow card was shown to Williams who was penalized for taking Paredes down as he attempted to break.  Guedioura played a ball over the top for Deeney, but it was a bit too far in front of him so Federici gathered the ball just as Deeney arrived and the players collided resulting in treatment for the Watford man.  At the other end, Gunter went down as he was challenged on the edge of the box, thankfully the referee waved penalty appeals away.  The board went up for a Watford substitution and we expected Deeney to leave the field, but instead Anya made way for Dyer.  Deeney only lasted another couple of minutes, clearly he couldn’t run the injury off, so he was replaced by Ighalo.

Red sky at night

Red sky at night

A ball into the Watford box appeared to be headed on by Paredes but, thankfully, Blackman volleyed over.   The referee added four minutes which were then extended as an off-the ball altercation between Murray and Paredes ended with the Ecuadorean poleaxed and the Reading player being shown a yellow card.  Reading’s last attempt at an equalizer was a soft header from Cooper that was comfortably caught by Gomes.  The final whistle went to loud cheers from the Watford fans.  Jokanovic was his usual, calm self, but Martinez was going mental on the sidelines.  The players came over and applauded the appreciative fans who had certainly done their part in cheering the ten men on in the second half.  In gratitude, Abdi and Pudil kindly donated their shirts to a couple of lucky fans.

Since the away stand is the opposite end of the ground from the shuttle buses back to town, it was no surprise that the bus we took was packed with Watford fans.  The youngsters on the top deck were making a lot of joyful noise and the old folk (including me) on the lower deck were just grinning like fools.  As Jingle Bells (Oh what fun it is to see Watford win away) rang out, my friend commented that he was surprised that it had not had an earlier airing, but I don’t think anyone dared tempt fate like that until the final whistle.

I wish all my readers a very happy Christmas.  See you all on Boxing Day.

Out with a Whimper

The teams coming on to the pitch

The teams coming on to the pitch

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.

Deeney receives Player of the Season award from Oli Phillips

Deeney receives Player of the Season award from Oli Phillips

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

Worshipping Huddersfield

Worshipping Huddersfield

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

Alex Jakubiak makes his debut

Alex Jakubiak makes his debut

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

Defending in the box

Defending in the box

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

Josh Doherty makes his debut

Josh Doherty makes his debut

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

Deeney hits the penalty

Deeney hits the penalty

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

A muted celebration from Deeney

A muted celebration from Deeney

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.

Harry dressed for his holidays

Harry dressed for his holidays

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.