Tag Archives: Ruben Martinez

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.

Honours Even at Ewood Park

The teams take to the pitch at Ewood Park

The teams take to the pitch at Ewood Park

We don’t have a good record at Blackburn in the few games that we have played there in recent years, the most recent win being the 4-3 during the petrol crisis in 2000.  So I have never seen us win at Ewood Park, although it is still an away day that I enjoy.  Despite seemingly constant traffic on the way up, we made good time and were soon holed up in the pre-match pub waiting for the rest of the North-West Horns to arrive.  The first pint was rather lovely, but the pub ran out of beer from the hand-pump very early much to the annoyance of some of our party.  But the beer still flowed as our number swelled and the pre-match gathering was fun as always.

With Garcia now out of hospital but in the director’s box, it was Ruben Martinez in the dugout again.  There were four changes from the Bournemouth game with Angella, Cathcart, Munari and Ighalo coming in for Tamaz Ekstrand, Abdi and Dyer.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Pudil, Cathcart, Angella, Paredes, Murray, Munari, Tözsér, Anya, Vydra and Ighalo.  Watford old boy Lee Williamson lined up for the opposition.

Preparing for a corner

Preparing for a corner

We had a great chance to take the lead in the first minute of the game as Anya cut the ball back to Ighalo, but he shot well wide when he should have hit the target.  Rhodes was the first to threaten for the home side as he chipped the ball goalwards, but Gomes gathered easily.  Baptiste tried a low shot from the right which Gomes dropped to save.  A lovely through ball reached Rhodes who was advancing into the box, but Paredes got in his way and the ball found its way back to Gomes.  Tözsér found Murray who advanced down the left before passing to Ighalo who took a couple of touches before finding the space to shoot, Steele was down quickly to block the shot.  A short corner was dummied by Vydra and ran through to Tözsér whose shot was blocked.  At the other end, Cairney cut in and shot goalwards but Gomes was behind it.  Cairney threatened again as he received a pass from Gestede but shot over the bar.

Vydra congratulated by his team mates

Vydra congratulated by his team mates

Watford made the breakthrough after half an hour as Cathcart released Vydra, who seemed to pause expecting an offside flag, which gave the defender time to get back, but he recovered and shot past Steele to put the Hornets ahead against the run of play.  Munari broke down the wing and exchanged passes with Anya whose shot was blocked.  In the 39th minute, Rovers came close to equalizing but the shot from Gestede was fractionally wide.  Instead it was Watford who increased the lead as Tözsér curled a free kick which bounced in off the post.  Rhodes and Gomes both tried to reach a cross from Baptiste, but the Spaniard was first to the ball punching it to safety.  The last chance of the half was an overhead kick from Rhodes that cleared the bar.  The half-time whistle went with Watford two goals to the good, although it has to be said that the scoreline flattered us a bit.

The celebrations for Tozser's free kick

The celebrations for Tozser’s free kick

At the start of the second half, Rovers made a change replacing Baptiste with erstwhile Watford target Craig Conway.  A number of fans had yet to return to their seats after the interval when Blackburn pulled one back as Gestede got his head to a deep cross into the box to propel a powerful header past Gomes.  Rovers threatened again soon after, Paredes could only knock a ball into the box sideways to Gestede but, fortunately for the visitors, he shot wide.  Rhodes received the ball in the box turned and shot but he also missed the target.  At the other end, Ighalo fed Murray who curled a shot into Steele’s arms.  Then Vydra played the ball out to Murray who passed it back when he was probably in a better position to shoot, albeit from distance.  There were loud protests from the Blackburn faithful as Pudil put the ball out for a corner, I couldn’t see from the opposite end but they clearly felt that a hand had been used.  From the subsequent corner, Marshall headed wide.

Jostling for the ball at a corner

Jostling for the ball at a corner

The crowd in the Ronnie Clayton stand were getting increasingly angry at the time that Gomes was taking for his goal kicks, the referee agreed with them and showed the keeper a yellow card.  Murray played the ball out to Anya on the wing, but his cross was over the heads of all in the box.  Munari released Vydra who played it out to Ighalo who was pushed off the ball far too easily.  At the other end, Rhodes got the ball on the edge of the box but Paredes made a great tackle to avert the danger.  Vydra was booked for knocking Duffy flying after the Blackburn player had already played the ball.  It was an odd challenge that can only have been born of frustration.  Rovers then made their second substitution replacing Williamson with Tunnicliffe.  Pudil played a low cross towards Ighalo who failed to connect although he was offside anyway.  A shot from Gestede was knocked out for a corner by Gomes with a Blackburn player challenging for the header.  A cross from Paredes was slightly too high for Ighalo to get a decent contact.  On 68 minutes, Dyer replaced Ighalo who had had an awful game being shrugged off the ball far too easily.  Dyer’s first act was to play a through ball to Vydra just before being taken down.  The referee blew up for the free-kick when it looked sensible to play advantage, Vydra lashed the ball into the net in frustration.

Gestede holding Cathcart at bay

Gestede holding Cathcart at bay

Cairney was the next player to see yellow as he handled the ball when he was on the ground.  Vydra had a great chance to increase the lead as he latched on to a header from Hanley but he passed instead of shooting and the chance was gone.  An overhead kick from Gestede was blocked by Angella and went out for a corner with the home fans howling that he’d handled.  Gestede threatened again with a shot from the corner of the box that was well wide.  Rovers equalized on 77 minutes as Tunnicliffe headed a cross from Marshall into an empty net.  It was no more than they deserved.  Soon after, Murray made way for Forestieri.  Tözsér played a dangerous ball into the box but Munari couldn’t get a touch to it.  Watford nerves were jangling as Duffy unleashed a shot from distance that was just wide of the target.  At the other end, a corner from Tözsér was met with a glancing header from Munari which flew just wide.

Angella on the ball

Angella on the ball

Rhodes went down very easily on the edge of the Watford box following a challenge from Angella.  Cairney’s free-kick rebounded off the corner of the post and crossbar, the follow-up from Gestede was saved by Gomes who was then fouled by Rhodes who knocked the ball into the net but the referee blew up for the foul.  With a couple of minutes remaining, Ekstrand replaced Anya for the Hornets.  The Swede was tested immediately being beaten by Rhodes whose close range shot was saved by Gomes.  In injury time Forestieri went down dramatically clutching his face after what looked like a nothing challenge.  I was yelling for him to get up, so felt a bit guilty when I saw a photo of his swollen eye on Twitter.  Angella then spent some time off the pitch with an injury and was booked when he came back on, presumably because he hadn’t received the referee’s blessing.  The final whistle was greeted with anger in the Watford crowd that we’d thrown away a two goal lead.  But, on the balance of play, that lead had flattered us and, after hanging on in the second half, a draw felt like a decent result.

A Lunchtime Stalemate

The teams (and mascots) emerge from the tunnel

The teams (and mascots) emerge from the tunnel

I hate lunchtime kick-offs.  I missed the Blackpool game due to work commitments on the other side of the Atlantic, but drew the line at taking the red-eye on Friday night and travelling straight to Vicarage Road.  However, even after a night’s sleep in my own bed, I was not impressed at having to leave home earlier than I do for most away games.  There is then the confusion about whether coffee, tea or beer should accompany your pre-match brunch.  I’d had a coffee on the train, so the beer won that argument.

In the absence of our hospitalized manager (get well soon, Òscar), Ruben Martinez was in charge for the day.  There were three changes from the Blackpool game with injuries to Angella and Deeney meaning that Tamas and Dyer deputized and Murray was preferred to McGugan.  So the starting line-up was Gomes, Pudil, Tamas, Ekstrand, Paredes, Murray, Tözsér, Abdi, Dyer, Vydra, Anya.  Rather surprisingly, Gomes was given the captain’s armband.

Wilson shielding the ball from Ekstrand

Wilson shielding the ball from Ekstrand

The game did not start well for the home side.  Bournemouth had chance in the first minute as the ball fell to Ritchie in the box but he shot wide of the target.  In the second minute Wilson, with the help of a hefty shove, beat Tamas to get into the box where Tamas returned the shove and conceded a penalty.  Fortunately Harte hit the spot kick wide of the target.  I can only speculate on how much those in the Rookery who were waving, trying to put him off, contributed to the miss.  Watford’s first foray forward was a ball over the top from Murray which Vydra could not control and the chance was lost.  A free-kick from Tözsér found Murray at the far post but his header was over the bar.  Watford looked in trouble as the ball bounced around our box, but Ekstrand finally cleared.  Pudil played a lovely through ball to release Dyer, he crossed for Vydra but the Czech could not connect.  Stanislas cut in from the left and hit a low shot but Gomes was down to gather easily.

Boruc gathers with Cathcart challenging

Boruc gathers with Cathcart challenging

At the other end, Tözsér played a ball over the top to Vydra who spun and knocked it goalwards, but Boruc was equal to it.  Ritchie was the next to threaten for the visitors, but his shot was well over the bar.  Just before the half hour, Tamas went down injured.  As soon as Kevin the physio reached him, he signalled for a substitute at which point some morons in the Watford crowd actually cheered.  Tamas had been having a bad day, but to cheer a nasty injury to a player beggars belief.  After a long delay for treatment, he was stretchered off and replaced by Cathcart, making his second debut for Watford.  With 10 minutes to go to half time, the ball dropped to Pudil on the edge of the area from where he shot just wide of the near post.  Dyer went on a great run before playing the ball in to Vydra, but Cook made a great saving tackle to thwart him.  Bournemouth really should have taken the lead as Francis broke into the box and chipped the ball over to Wilson whose header was flying into the net until Gomes appeared out of nowhere to make a terrific save.  As the half time whistle went, a suited and booted Troy Deeney got up from the dugout to give his opinion on the first period to Sky Sports.  We’d missed him desperately on the pitch.

Troy on TV duty when we needed him on the pitch

Troy on TV duty when we needed him on the pitch

Early in the second half, the visitors had the ball in the net as a clearance from Ekstrand reached Surman whose shot was parried by Gomes to Wilson who knocked it past the keeper, but the flag was up for offside.  Gomes had to stretch to keep out a free-kick from Harte, Ritchie’s follow-up was blocked.  Watford’s second substitution saw Forestieri replacing Dyer, who did not look happy to be leaving the field so Martinez went to the dugout to put a consoling arm around him.  Anya whipped in a cross that was headed goalwards by Vydra, Boruc caught the ball but Anya had been flagged offside anyway.  We’d just had a decent spell in the game when we went behind as Arter unleashed a brilliant shot from 25 yards into the top corner.  A Tözsér free-kick was blocked and bounced to Forestieri whose shot was also blocked.

Paredes covering Pugh

Paredes covering Pugh

Forestieri then went on a run down the right that was stopped when Cook flew into him.  For some baffling reason, Arter decided to remonstrate with Fernando and there was a spell of handbags after which Cook received a yellow card for the nasty tackle, while Tözsér and Surman were similarly punished for the follow-on.  Tözsér took a free-kick that was headed out for a corner.  The follow-up was bouncing around in the box, but no Watford player could get a decent touch to send the ball goalwards.  It was clearly open season on Forestieri as Arter took his turn to knock him flying and make his way into the referee’s book.  With 20 minutes remaining, Ighalo replaced Abdi.  Anya found Murray whose shot was blocked by Ighalo who was unable to turn and finish.  Forestieri tried a shot from distance that was well over.  Anya did well to beat two players on the left wing, his first cross was blocked, his second attempt went begging due to a lack of Watford players in the box.  We had a strong shout for a penalty as Tözsér played a ball to Anya in the box where he was felled but the referee waved play on.

Cathcart congratulated on his goal

Cathcart congratulated on his goal

Our equalizer came from an unexpected source as a headed clearance fell to Cathcart who volleyed past Boruc.  It was an excellent strike from Cathcart whose debut had been very impressive indeed.  Anya crossed for Vydra whose shot was more of a cross which was met by Forestieri flying through the air with his arm outstretched.  If you weren’t there, it is really hard to describe this move except to say that Fernando reminded me of Christopher Reeve as Superman.  He really should have avoided the yellow card due to the shear comedy value.  Anya found Pudil on the overlap but his cross was straight into the arms of Boruc.  We had a great chance to win the game as Forestieri passed to Ighalo in the box, but his shot was weak and straight at the keeper and he turned to find Fernando indicating that he should have passed it back to him.  As the clock struck 90 minutes, Elphick hauled Vydra to the ground and was booked.  The last action of the game came when the ball fell to Ekstrand who wellied it over from distance.  It had been a very disappointing afternoon with the highlight being a tremendous performance from the returning Cathcart topped off with a terrific goal.

On the way out of the ground, I bumped into a lovely family that I know whose children had been mascots for the day.  The children were beaming as their Mum told me how well they’d been looked after, particularly by Ikechi Anya who had gone above and beyond in looking after his charge.  After a disappointing afternoon, that put a huge smile on my face.