Tag Archives: Ramallo Jota

Ending the Decade on a High

A festive Hornet shop

I left home bright and early aiming to be at the West Herts at midday.  Unfortunately, a signalling problem at West Drayton meant that the train that I had planned to catch from Slough was cancelled and I ended up on a train that had made an unscheduled stop due to congestion and kindly opened its doors to let the stranded passengers on.  It was slow progress and I finally arrived in the West Herts nearly three hours after leaving home and just in time to see Don leaving for the ground.

Most of our usual crowd were gathered at ‘our’ table with the addition of Jacque’s colleague, Adam, who is a Villa fan and was not relishing the prospect of the game, while the Watford contingent were fired up with some newfound optimism after the last couple of results.

The decision about what to have for lunch is usually quite simple but, on this occasion, I was in the horns of a dilemma.  I do love the jerk chicken but, for some reason, I had ordered sausage and chips before the Man United game, so that now qualified as the lucky lunch and had to be my order.

Capoue barking instructions

My sister had been unable to buy a ticket for the game, having left it late before finding that it was (surprisingly) sold out.  Luckily a friend wasn’t using hers and kindly offered to lend it to her.  We had arranged to meet Pete outside the Red Lion to pick up the spare ticket and I had handed my ticket to my sister so that she could sit with her daughter, so I left the West Herts not having a ticket for the game on my person, which induced a ridiculous mini panic until I spotted Pete and had Julie’s ticket in my hands (thank you, Julie).

Team news was that Pearson had made only one change with Chalobah making way for Doucouré on his return from suspension.  So, the starting line-up was Foster; Femenía, Cathcart, Kabasele, Mariappa; Capoue, Hughes; Deulofeu, Doucouré, Sarr; Deeney.

I tried to take a spare seat in my usual row to sit with the family, but the lad who usually sits there turned up just after kick-off so I belatedly made my way to the back of the Rookery to sit with Pete and experience a different (elevated) view of the field of play.

Celebrating Troy’s first goal

The Hornets started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead as a corner from Hughes was headed on by Deeney to Kabasele whose shot was stopped by a reaction save from Heaton in the Villa goal.  Then Deulofeu played a cross-field ball to Sarr, whose shot was blocked by a defender for a corner that came to nothing.  There was little more action of note until the 26th minute when Villa launched a counterattack, Hourihane crossed for Wesley who looked to have scored with a header from close range, but a brilliant save from Foster kept him out.  The visitors had a shout for a penalty when Wesley went down in the box following a challenge by Cathcart.  It was an age before the VAR check came up on the big screen and there were loud cheers when the referee indicated that we were to play on.  The Hornets fashioned another chance when a free kick from Hughes was punched clear by Heaton, but only as far as Doucouré whose shot was well over the bar.  Soon after, a free kick from Deulofeu was met by the head of Sarr but the ball ended up on the roof of the net.  Then Mariappa released Sarr who played a lovely low cross into the box but there was no Watford player to meet it, so it was easily gathered by Heaton.  Hughes was the next to try his luck with a shot from distance, but it was well over the target.  A lovely cross-field ball from Capoue found Sarr who cut into the box, but his shot was deflected for a corner.  Watford nearly broke the deadlock from the set piece when the ball dropped to Deeney, but he hit his shot straight at Heaton.  Watford finally took the lead in the 42nd minute when Villa gave the ball away, Doucouré tried a shot that was parried by Heaton to Deeney who put the ball under the Villa keeper and into the net.  So the Hornets went into half time with a narrow lead.  It was well deserved as, apart from the early shot from Wesley, it had been all Watford.

Gathering for a corner

The half time guest was Bill Shipwright, who played for Watford in the 50s so was way before my time and I couldn’t hear the interview.  There was also the added bonus of Christian Battochio who was on ticket duty for the 50/50 draw.

Pearson was forced to make a substitution at the break.  Hughes had picked up an injury towards the end of the first half and was replaced by Chalobah.  Villa also made a change bringing El Ghazi on for Jota.  The Hornets started the half in a positive manner with a shot from Doucouré that was deflected for a corner.  Watford threatened again as Capoue crossed for Sarr whose shot was blocked.  The first booking of the game went to Mariappa for a foul on Grealish.  Chalobah then had a chance to extend the Watford lead with a shot from distance that cleared the bar.  Disaster then befell the home side as Mariappa was shown a second yellow for a supposed foul on former Watford loanee, Lansbury.  From my vantage point it appeared that Lansbury ran into Mariappa (who doesn’t have a bad bone in his body), but pleas to the referee fell on deaf ears and the Hornets were reduced to 10 men with over half an hour of the game to go.  Pearson immediately made a change and you had to feel for Chalobah who was sacrificed for Dawson.

Sarr and Capoue are under there somewhere

Just as the nerves were starting to jangle, Deeney ran into the box and was brought down by Luiz.  It looked a bit soft from behind the goal but, having seen it later from another angle (as the VAR did), it was nailed on as Deeney was shoved to the ground.  There was a delay before the spot kick could be taken as Targett had been down injured.  There were some complaints from Villa players that the Hornets had played on around him, but they had had the opportunity to put the ball out of play when he first went down and had not done so, so their complaints were unwarranted.  Targett was replaced by Guilbert before the penalty could be taken.  Then Troy stepped up and blasted the ball down the middle to put the Hornets two goals up and ease my nerves somewhat.  The nerves were properly calmed on 70 minutes when Deeney released Capoue who played a gorgeous cross for Sarr who sped into the box to meet it and shot past Heaton.  My heart sank when VAR was invoked for a possible foul in the build-up and I begged for that gorgeous goal not to be disallowed.  After an agonising wait, the referee pointed to the centre circle and I punched the air again.  On 72 minutes, GT’s face came up on the big screen adorned with both Watford and Villa badges and the great man’s name was sung with gusto as I wiped a tear from my eye.

Capoue, Doucoure and Femenia prepare for a free kick

The visitors made a final change bringing Kodja on for Lansbury.  The referee’s card was out again as Capoue was booked for an altercation with Grealish.  On 77 minutes, Villa had their first on-target shot of the half as Hourihane tried his luck from the edge of the area, but his shot was straight at Foster.  There was another booking for the Hornets as Sarr was cautioned for trying to stop a Villa free kick.  When they finally took it, the ball was played out to Grealish whose shot flew wide of the near post.  The final change for the Hornets saw Masina on to replace Cathcart, who had been treated for an injury shortly before.  Grealish had another chance to pull a goal back with a shot from outside the area but, again, his effort flew wide of the near post.  There were two late bookings, one for each side.  First Deeney for bundling Luiz over.  Then Grealish for kicking the ball at Sarr as he lay on the ground.  The booking for the Villa captain was not before time as he had been behaving petulantly all afternoon.  There was a touch of handbags at this point, but no more cards were shown and the final whistle went on a very satisfying win for the Hornets.

Capoue readying to take a corner

I had rather enjoyed my afternoon watching the game from the gods.  It is nice to have a different perspective and it was noisier up there with the contribution of the few from the 1881 that moved just behind us.  My neighbours were rather lovely too.  A man with his two small daughters, which I always love to see.  Needless to say, when the crowd rose to their feet, which they did less often than they do further down where I usually sit, the father would lift the girl next to me off her seat so that she could see and I made myself useful by putting the seat down for her to stand on.  We had it down to a fine art by the end of the game.

Back to the West Herts and we were all smiles, apart from poor Adam who was very gracious in defeat admitting that they deserved nothing from the game.  It had been a tremendous performance from the Hornets who had run the show all afternoon.  The game took place less than 48 hours after the end of the United game and yet the players were all working very hard for the win and were resilient when down to 10 men.  Deulofeu worked his socks off and was unlucky not to have more influence on the game.  Femenía was tremendous again in the left back position.  Deeney was back to his battling self and was thoroughly enjoying answering the jeers of the Villa fans with his goals.  But it was Sarr who deservedly won man of the match for a wonderful performance.  It took him a while to learn how to play the English game, but he is now showing why the Pozzos paid all that money for him.  A month ago we felt doomed, now we are only 3 points away from safety and our prospects for the new year are looking increasingly positive.

So, following the last game of this decade, I can’t help but reflect on the past 10 years.  We started 2010 with Malky in charge and an unhappy ownership who were struggling for money.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, we then had the horror of Bassini’s reign, and I am so thankful that there were still good people on the board and among the staff who kept the club going.  The arrival of the Pozzos had some concerned about foreign ownership, but they have built the team and the infrastructure into one that can compete in the Premier League while still maintaining the feel of a community club and for that I will be eternally grateful.  While the start to this season was dreadful, we go into 2020 with a spirit of optimism and I look forward to more wonderful adventures over the next 10 years following my team.

Proper Football

Gathering for the pre-match huddle

Gathering for the pre-match huddle

I woke up on Tuesday morning with a rotten cold which meant that I spent most of the day sneezing and with my nose streaming.  I felt awful, so my plan to spend the evening on a cold terrace seemed foolish in the extreme.  The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should give this one a miss.  That thought was quickly dismissed.  Instead I dosed myself up with Sudafed and best bitter and took my rightful place on the Griffin Park terrace for the top of the table clash.

Jokanovic had made two changes from Saturday with Tözsér and Forestieri coming in for Munari and Hoban.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Anya, Angella, Cathcart, Paredes, Tözsér, Watson, Ighalo, Layun, Forestieri and Deeney in what I am reliably informed was a 4-2-3-1 formation.  I must admit that the inclusion of both Anya and Paredes in the defence gave me some cause for concern.  The Brentford line-up included former Watford youngster, Diagouraga, with Jack Bonham and the lovely Tommy Smith taking their place on the home bench.

Gathering for a corner

Gathering to defend a corner

As Jokanovic walked across the pitch before the game he was greeted with a chant that I have not heard before.  He was suitably appreciative, turning to applaud the fans, which was another new experience for me.

The home side had an early chance with a first minute corner that was headed over by Douglas.  Next to threaten the Watford goal was Gray, who ran on to a through ball, but was met by Gomes who came out bravely to challenge and succeeded in winning a goal kick.  At the other end, a ball over the top to Deeney led to Watford’s first attempt on goal, but Button saved the shot at the second attempt.  Gray, who was receiving dog’s abuse from the away fans for his Luton connections, broke into the Watford box where he was stopped by Angella who coolly took the ball off his feet.  Watford’s first decent chance came when a lovely passing move led to a shot from Deeney, but Button was equal to it.  At the other end, Anya rose to head a Brentford free kick clear.  The Scot was soon in attacking mode as he made a great break and crossed for Watson whose shot seemed to take a deflection before the keeper pushed it around the post.

Attack versus defence

Attack versus defence

Ighalo’s first attempt on goal was a shot from outside the box that flew wide of the near post.  Deeney should have done better when he received a pass from Forestieri in the box, but he hesitated before shooting and ended up running into a defender and wasting the chance.  Paredes did really well to battle down the wing and cross for Forestieri to head goalwards but a Brentford defender was there to block.  A cheeky backheel from Deeney set Forestieri up for another attempt which was also blocked.  With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Forestieri won a free kick.  He took it quickly, exchanged passes with Deeney and hit a shot that swerved just wide.  Bidwell was mounting a rare Brentford attack when he lost the ball to Layun, his attempt to get the ball back was a studs up lunge which left the referee no option but to show him a red card.  Ironically, the reduction in personnel inspired Brentford into their best spell since the opening of the game.  But their only meaningful goal attempt in this period came from a free-kick that was confidently gathered by Gomes with Dean challenging.

At half-time, I was treated to the sad story of the death of Tommy the cat.  His owner reminisced about our last league game at Griffin Park when a Tommy (Mooney) had scored and said that, in the cat’s honour, we needed the winning goal to come from Tommie Hoban who not only shared the late feline’s name but also the attributes of being ginger and Irish.  Okay!!

Deeney steps up to take the penalty

Deeney steps up to take the penalty

Brentford started the second half as they finished the first.  Forestieri lost out to Diagouraga in their box, the Frenchman released Gray whose shot was, thankfully, awful.  At the other end, Layun tried a shot that flew wide of the target.  From the goal kick, Brentford launched a fast break, Gray beat Angella and shot across Gomes into the roof of the net.  By way of celebration, the Brentford players all ran and surrounded Warburton.  The goal galvanized the visitors who had a chance to break back almost immediately as Douglas used his upper arm to control Watson’s cross into the box and the referee pointed to the spot.  Deeney stepped up but his penalty was too casual, Button went the right way and made an easy save.  Just before the hour, Jokanovic made his first substitution bringing Abdi on for Watson.  Ighalo found Forestieri in a great position for a shot, but the Argentine was being challenged so couldn’t get any power on it.  Anya beat a defender before hitting a cross that was saved by Button.  Anya tried another shot that was saved, the ball dropped to Ighalo whose follow-up flew wide.  Paredes exchanged passes with Layun before putting in a dangerous cross but there was no Watford player in the box to meet it.  Ighalo did really well to keep the ball on the by-line and cross for Abdi but he couldn’t control the ball which bounced off him to Button.

Proper old-school bundle

Proper old-school terrace celebration

On 68 minutes, the pressure from the visitors finally led to an equalizer.  Paredes was being given far too much space on the right which he exploited to cross for Ighalo to head home, prompting a joyous bundle on the away terrace.  Watford immediately pushed for a winner as, from a corner, Angella was knocked over, the ball fell to Deeney but Button was on hand to put the ball out for another corner.  The Brentford keeper was in action again as Ighalo exchanged passes with Forestieri before unleashing a shot that required a flying save to keep it out.  Forestieri was the next to try his luck, he did really well to wriggle clear of the defender but his shot was disappointing, flying well over the bar.  Brentford had their first goal attempt for some time as a quick break finished with a shot from Toral that Gomes blocked and then gathered at the second attempt.  Back up the other end, Forestieri played the ball back to Abdi whose shot was deflected into the side netting leading some on the other side of the goal to think we’d netted a winner.  With 12 minutes remaining, Tommy Smith replaced Pritchard to polite applause from the Watford faithful and shaking of heads around me due to concern that this would be the man to honour the dead moggy.  Tommy was immediately involved as Paredes did really well to keep an overhit pass from going out for a throw but found his reward was to be knocked over by Smith.  The former Hornet was rather harshly booked for the foul, much to the amusement of those in the away end who regaled him with a chorus of “Watford ‘til he dies.”   Tözsér played a short free-kick to Forestieri whose shot cannoned off the post.

Jokanovic takes another win in his stride

Jokanovic takes another win in his stride

With eight minutes remaining Deeney was replaced by Vydra.  The Czech had an early chance as he ran on to a pass into the box from Layun, but Button was first to the ball.  We were into time added on when a Vydra cross was blocked, it appeared to have gone out for a corner but a Brentford defender kept it in only to pass to Layun who returned the ball to Vydra, whose cross was volleyed home by Ighalo.  I have to say that being short and in the middle of the crowd behind the goal, I didn’t see Ighalo’s contribution, but it didn’t stop me joining in the sort of goal celebration that can only happen on a packed terrace.  We tried to run the clock down by replacing Anya with Hoban for the last minute of time added on.  Brentford appeared to have a final chance to get back on level terms, when the ball went out for a corner but the flag was up, much to our delight, and Watford came away with all three points.  At the end of the game, Deeney threw the boots that had missed the penalty into the crowd.

Football doesn’t get better than this.  A cracking game of football at a proper old-fashioned ground with the crowd almost on the pitch and goals celebrated with terrace bundles.  While the Brentford sending off will have influenced the outcome, Watford were great value for their win, dominating the game with some lovely play at times.  Please, Slavisa, now that we’ve got a song for you, can we have this Watford in our remaining games?  I’d be ever so grateful!

Another Week, Another Manager

New gaffer McKinlay in the dugout

New gaffer McKinlay in the dugout

Another week, another manager.  I’d hardly had time to learn which way the accent went on Garcia’s first name when he was gone to be replaced by Billy McKinlay.  The circumstances of his departure were rather sad so I can only wish him a happy and healthy future.  I must admit that a Scottish Head Coach was not what I expected from the Pozzos.  This feels like another era.  Billy’s first line-up was eagerly anticipated and, having styled him as a no-nonsense Scot, Fabbrini’s was not a name I expected to appear.  But he was in for Murray with Dyer and Ekstrand replacing Anya and the injured Angella.  So the starting line-up was Gomes, Pudil, Cathcart, Ekstrand, Paredes, Munari, Tözsér, Dyer, Vydra, Fabbrini and Ighalo in a 4-2-3-1 formation.  Okayyyy!  Toumani Diagouraga (affectionately known as Dave) started for the visitors and Mark Warburton, ex-Academy coach, was in the opposition dugout.

Positioning themselves for a corner

Positioning themselves for a corner

It was a lively start for the home side with Fabbrini skipping over a couple of tackles and playing a one-two with Vydra before being closed down.  The Italian had also earned warm applause from the crowd for tracking back early doors.  Vydra did well to retain the ball following a challenge and get a cross in but Douglas got between Munari and the ball so Button was able to gather safely.  Vydra exchanged passes with Dyer before evading a tackle and hitting a shot that was deflected into the side netting.  From the corner, Munari headed the ball on to Ighalo whose shot was also deflected wide.  Another corner was cleared to Paredes who played it back in to Tözsér whose cross-shot was saved.  Then Dyer found Ighalo who saw yet another shot deflected wide.  After a quick counterattack, former Watford youngster, Diagouraga, had Brentford’s first goal attempt of the game but his shot was wide of the target.  Watford should have made the breakthrough as Dyer played a short corner to Tözsér who returned the pass for Dyer to cross towards Ighalo whose header rebounded off the crossbar.

Ighalo steps up to take the penalty

Ighalo steps up to take the penalty

Paredes controlled the ball on the right then nutmegged a defender, a move that deserved a better outcome than his cross flying into an empty box.  Pudil was booked for running into McCormack.  It looked a harsh yellow, especially as the Brentford players were going down very easily as a tactic to disrupt our play.  Off the field, Harry Hornet was hoovering just in front of the Lower GT stand.  I kid you not.  Our habit of falling asleep at set pieces continued as Judge lofted a free-kick to the far post where Douglas connected but Gomes saved comfortably.  Vydra and Paredes exchanged passes, the Ecuadorian hit a cross, but Button claimed the ball.  Jota broke and unleashed a shot which Gomes had to stretch to tip over.  Then Judge tried his luck with a shot from distance that flew well wide of the far post.

Vydra congratulating Ighalo

Vydra congratulating Ighalo

Vydra played a great ball to Ighalo in the box, but it was on his wrong foot so he took a couple of touches and was then knocked over by Tarkowski.  It looked a bit soft and the referee paused but eventually pointed to the spot.  To the surprise of everyone in the Rookery, Ighalo stepped up to take the penalty himself, hitting it straight down the middle where it was saved by Button but Ighalo was alert and knocked the follow-up over the keeper much to the relief of the Watford faithful.  As the players returned to the centre circle for the restart, Tarkowski and others expressed their displeasure at what they must have perceived to be a dive, which was a bit rich given their collective inability to stay on their feet when any Watford player was in the vicinity.  The referee came to calm the situation and showed both Ighalo and Tarkowski the yellow card.  In time added on at the end of the first half, Gray slashed a shot well wide of the target.  His blushes were spared by the offside flag.  So we reached half time happy to be a goal to the good, if a bit disappointed that the complete dominance of the first twenty minutes had not yielded more.

Paredes attacking the ball

Paredes attacking the ball

Brentford had the first chance of the second half as a cross from Bidwell flashed across the Watford goal but Gray couldn’t connect and it was he, rather than the ball, that ended up in the net.  Vydra found Fabbrini who hesitated before playing the ball so lost out to Judge who he then fouled and so found himself in the referee’s book.  Jota got himself into a great position, but hit his shot into the ground and it bounced wide of the far post.  Then Gray beat the defence, but his shot was straight at Gomes.  The visitors were level on 57 minutes as Judge played the ball out to Douglas who slotted it past Gomes.  It was too easy and very disappointing, but no more than Brentford deserved for their dominance in this period.  McKinlay made a change immediately, replacing Fabbrini with Anya.  Gray broke forward again, but his cross went begging.  Then Judge tried another shot which flashed wide.  The first 20 minutes of the second half had been all Brentford so it was encouraging to see Vydra break forward, he found Anya who advanced, but Bidwell intervened and the ball went out for a corner.

Vydra receives congratulations for a stunning strike

Vydra receives congratulations for a stunning strike

On 70 minutes, Watford took the lead again with another beauty from Vydra.  The ball was bouncing in and around the Brentford box when it came out to the Czech who hit a pile-driver past Button into the net.  It was one of those rare occasions when I am glad that the goal was at the opposite end of the pitch as I fear I would have ducked if I’d seen that ball flying at me with power that looked fit to burst the net.  The home side brightened up at this point and could have increased the lead further as a poor clearance reached Anya who crossed for Ighalo, his shot was blocked and rolled to Vydra whose first touch was poor so he just helped the ball on to Button.  Brentford tried to strike back as Odubajo broke into the box but he shot over the bar.  With a quarter of an hour remaining, Abdi replaced Ighalo.  Gomes threw the ball out to Dyer who ran the length of the pitch, but his cross was behind Anya.  Brentford made another substitution as Diagouraga made way for Proschwitz.  Abdi played a through ball aimed for Vydra but it was a little too heavy and rolled through to Button.  Anya played a one-two with Vydra before his shot was deflected wide.  After more great work from Vydra, Dyer found Anya but his cross was straight at the keeper.

Tozser organizing

Tozser organizing

The fourth official indicated four minutes of added time with the Rookery roaring their team on.  Early in the added period, Paredes was booked for time wasting as he strolled over to take a throw-in.  Then Gray beat Pudil on the wing and was dragged down by the Czech who accepted his second yellow and was applauded off by the Rookery for taking one for the team.  Vydra then made way for Hoban, to shore up the defence, while Pritchard waited to take the set piece.  The free kick was met with a header from Bidwell that was just pushed over by Gomes.  The Brentford keeper, Button, had come up for the free-kick so could then be seen dribbling the ball around our box before he had to belt back upfield as Anya was breaking  and crossed for Dyer whose shot from distance was blocked.  Brentford cleared but Anya picked the ball up and advanced again, this time crossing for Munari who couldn’t control his header which went across the goal.  The final whistle went to cheers from the home fans who had been thoroughly entertained.  I’m not sure that we learned too much from that game, given the injuries, but the highlight for me was seeing Vydra back doing what he does well, scoring cracking goals, but also getting involved making chances for others.  That bodes very well for the rest of the season.