Tag Archives: Peter Clarke

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.

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.