Tag Archives: Samba Diakite

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.

 

Six Goals but Not a Thriller

The construction of the East Stand is progressing

The construction of the East Stand is progressing

Pre-match gatherings before midweek home games are always a rather subdued affair as those of us who neither live nor work in Watford have rushed to get there after work.  So it was a pleasure to be joined by Rod and his son, Luke, who were on holiday from New Zealand and had Toddy on hand to ensure that they experienced the best that the UK has to offer.

Team news was that Beppe had made 4 changes from Saturday with Ekstrand, Hoban, Murray and Merkel in for Belkalem, Faraoni, Battocchio and McGugan.  The changes sounded a bit odd until we realised that Ekstrand and Hoban would go into the back three

Pre-match huddle

Pre-match huddle

with Cassetti taking up Faraoni’s position as right wing-back.  The starting line-up was Almunia, Angella, Ekstrand, Hoban, Pudil, Merkel, Tözsér, Murray, Cassetti, Anya and Deeney.  Lee Williamson started for the visitors and was given a decent reception by the home crowd.  In fact it was a warmer welcome than he had in some games when he played for us.  But more on that theme later.

Blackburn almost scored in the first minute but Almunia leapt to get a hand to a speculative shot from Kane.  At the other end, Angella met a corner from Anya with a header that flew wide.  The first goal came in the third

Cassetti after scoring the first goal (I was so thrilled I forgot to get my camera out)

Cassetti after scoring the first goal (I was so thrilled I forgot to get my camera out)

minute and from an unexpected source as a throw-in from Anya was flicked on by Merkel to Cassetti who knocked the ball past Robinson.  It was a goal that brought a smile to all our faces as much for the goalscorer as the goal.  The visitors almost struck back immediately as Gestede was one-on-one with Almunia, but the keeper stood strong to make the save.  Gestede had another chance soon after with a header from a corner that flew over the bar.  At the other end Murray tried a shot from distance that was just wide of the far post.  Then Tözsér played a ball over the top to Deeney, who beat the defender but shot into the side netting.  Rovers equalized on 27 minutes, Almunia came to punch a free-kick clear but it fell to Dunn who shot into the opposite corner.  Rovers could have taken the lead as Gestede met a long throw from Spurr with a header that he glanced just wide of the target.  Just before half time, Almunia was first to a cross into the box so Gestede came in hard and knocked him flying.  Rhodes picked up the loose ball and put it in the net, but it was long after the referee had blown up for the foul.  In time added on Kilgallon met a corner from Conway with a header but Almunia was equal to it.

 

Defending a corner

Defending a corner

As Robinson came out to take his place in the goal at the Rookery end at the start of the second half, it was really nice to see him applauding the home crowd before we greeted him.  The teams were all in position before the officials appeared and he endeared himself even further by chivvying along the lino who was checking his net.  We thought we’d regained the lead soon after the start of the second half as Pudil played a one-two with Anya who passed the ball back to Deeney who buried it past Robinson.  Our celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.  My brother-in-law, who was listening to the lovely Jon Marks, informed us that it was Anya had been flagged offside but that Jon had seen a replay, courtesy of the Blackburn analyst, which showed that he was nothing of the sort.  Deeney then turned provider with a pass to Anya who shot wide of the far post.

A Cassetti throw-in

A Cassetti throw-in

Deeney had the ball in the box again but was challenged and the ball broke to Cassetti who juggled it before finding Murray whose shot was deflected.  Then Pudil and Tözsér exchanged passes before crossing for Deeney who was crowded out before he could shoot.  Battocchio replaced Murray after an hour.  On 64 minutes, we were a goal down as Hoban lost the ball to Dunn in the box, he played it into the path of Conway who slotted past Almunia.  We were not behind for long as Kane handled Anya’s cross and the referee pointed to the spot.  Deeney made no mistake hitting the ball to Robinson’s right as the keeper went the wrong way.  McGugan replaced Hoban and then boos from the Rookery greeted Diakité as he prepared to come on for Merkel.  The loanee had received the

Celebration of Battocchio's goal

Celebration of Battocchio’s goal

same treatment at Wigan.  It really baffles me why a section of our fans would rather abuse their own player than support the team.  As it so happened, he had his best showing so far in a Watford shirt and, although he was involved in a yellow card incident, he was the victim having been fouled by Evans.  The visitors threatened as Rhodes tried his luck with a shot from the right which Almunia claimed.  Then Kane was booked for a foul on McGugan.  Watford’s third goal came with a couple of minutes to go and was a joy to behold as Anya released Battocchio, who had a lot of ground to cover before he reached the edge of the box and unleashed a shot that flew past Robinson into the goal at the Rookery end.  By way of celebration, he was buried under a crowd of players plus a certain mascot.

On the attack

On the attack

We wondered where the referee found 6 minutes to add on and, half way through the additional period, the visitors equalized as a Gestede header hit the inside of Almunia’s right-hand post and bounced across the goal into the net on the opposite side.  The frustration in the stands was equalled on the pitch at the final whistle as Deeney aimed a kick at a goalpost.  But Angella went one better.  He was furious and took it out on Pudil aiming a verbal volley that left the Czech defender standing in the middle of the penalty area appearing to tell his team mates that he wasn’t going back into the dressing room until Gabriele had calmed down.

For the second home game in a row, there were complaints about the entertainment value from a game in which we’d scored three goals.  The consensus was that it was the most boring 6 goal “thriller” that we’d ever seen.  It is an odd time as most of the people that I know like the manager and most of the players but there is something missing on the pitch.  We have watched much worse football than this and cheered the teams on, but maybe the gorgeous football that we saw for much of last season has spoiled us.  At this point the season is over for us so we can relax in the upcoming games, the next of which is probably my favourite away day of the season.

 

The Road Past Wigan Pier

Wigan Pier

Wigan Pier

The last couple of games were played on lovely Spring days and, when I left home, it was rather warm and I feared I was over-dressed.  In the event, I was nothing of the sort as the trip north took place under darkening skies and I arrived to chilly temperatures.  On previous visits to Wigan, I have taken the supporters coach, so this was a new town to visit.  Our pre-match pub was at Wigan Pier.  The ironic name and Orwellian associations meant that I was expecting a rather dreary location, so was pleasantly surprised at how attractive the area was.  Added to that, the beer was decent and the local speciality on the menu, a steak pudding, was cracking.  There was soon a lovely gathering of Hornets, of whom I was the only one that had started my journey down south.  The walk to the ground was along the canal and would have been delightful had it not been punctuated with cold showers.  I was soaked through by the time I arrived at the DW

A nervous-looking local

A nervous-looking local

Stadium.  Recent games have been preceded by airport-level searches before you were permitted to enter the ground, so when I approached a steward and asked if he wanted to search my bag, I was delighted to hear “Na, you’re all right, Love.”  That endeared me to the town even more.

We came in to this game having not won away since early October while Wigan’s mid-week draw with Yeovil was the first time that they hadn’t won in a home league game this year.  Team news was that Belkalem would replace Doyley.  Oh, Beppe, Beppe, Beppe, what were you thinking?  The starting line-up was Almunia, Angella, Cassetti, Belkalem, Pudil, McGugan, Tözsér, Battocchio, Faraoni, Anya and Deeney.  Wigan’s line-up included Watford Academy graduate Rob Kiernan.

 

The defence lines up

The defence lines up

The first chance on goal came from the home side with a lovely ball from Jordi Gómez to Beausejour who only had the keeper to beat, but Almunia blocked the shot.  The Chilean threatened again with a cross that needed a hand from Almunia to keep it out.  The corner was met with a header by Ramis that was blocked on the line and rebounded out off the inside of the post.  Waghorn then tried a shot from distance, but it was straight at Almunia.  On 18 minutes, Watford had their first meaningful attack but Anya’s shot flew well wide of the target.  He pleaded with the referee that it had taken a deflection, but a goal kick was given.  Ikechi was the next to threaten as he received a long pass from Deeney, advanced towards goal but shot well over.  McClean then played a dangerous cross in the direction of Waghorn, but Almunia was first to the ball.  At the other end, McGugan tried

Watford on the attack

Watford on the attack

a shot from distance that flew well wide.  Then a through ball from Beausejour found McClean in front of goal, somehow he managed to miss the target but the linesman was flagging anyway.  McClean then broke into the box and Almunia did really well to block the shot.  At the other end, McGugan tried a shot that took a slight deflection off a defender which slowed it down so it was easily gathered by Al Habsi.  Then McClean cut the ball back to Waghorn in the Watford box, but he was stopped by a brilliant tackle.  McClean was tormenting the Watford defence.  This time he attacked from the left, fortunately his shot was in to the side netting.  On 35 minutes, Watford took a totally undeserved lead with our first decent shot on goal.  Angella played a gorgeous ball to

Celebrating McGugan's strike

Celebrating McGugan’s strike

McGugan who shot past Al Habsi into the far corner.  We weren’t ahead for long as Beausejour found himself one-on-one with Almunia, the Spaniard parried the initial shot, but was beaten by the follow-up header.  McClean nearly struck soon after as he skipped through the defence and shot past the near post.  Just before half-time, Angella was penalized for a foul on Perch, he was completely distraught and I was rather amused to see Perch trying to placate him.  In time added on, Al Habsi dropped the ball but McGugan couldn’t capitalize, although a foul on the keeper was given anyway.

Almunia gathers

Almunia gathers

The second half started with a shower of icy rain that made a rather lovely musical accompaniment to the game.  The home side were ahead ten minutes into the half as Waghorn got the ball in the box, it appeared to be caught under his feet but he managed to turn and shoot past Almunia.  Almost straight from kick-off, Tözsér was booked for an innocuous looking tackle.  Waghorn was the next to make his way into the referee’s book after a foul on Faraoni.  On the hour, Waghorn was replaced by Jack Collison making his Wigan debut after joining on loan from West Ham.  Beausejour then found Jordi Gómez whose shot from distance was well over the bar.  Anya latched on to a throw-in and advanced on goal, but was closed down before he could shoot.  With 20 minutes remaining, McClean, who had been a menace all afternoon, was replaced by Powell.  Beausejour threatened again with a volley that flew wide of the far post.  Watford’s first substitution saw

These foreign managers all look the same to me :-)

These foreign managers all look the same to me 🙂

Belkalem make way for Ekstrand.  Deeney tried a shot that was blocked and came back to him, but he was closed down before he could get a second shot in.  Then Angella played another great forward ball, this time to Pudil who ran into the box and was tackled, the ball fell to Anya who shot wide of the target.  Wigan made their final substitution as Rogne replaced Kiernan.  At this point, the rain became quite biblical, but the music that it played in our stand was gorgeous.  A corner from Tözsér was met with a powerful defensive header from Boyce.  With 10 minutes remaining, Diakite replaced McGugan.  His first act in the game was to earn a yellow card for a foul on Jordi Gómez.  This provoked a chant of “send him back to QPR” from some of the travelling crowd.  Based on

Anya on the attack

Anya on the attack

what little I have seen, I am no fan of Diakite, but how does abusing your own players help when the team is fighting to get back in the game?  I despair of some of our fans.  We had a great chance to equalize soon after as Anya found himself in the box with just Al Habsi to beat, but he shot wide when he maybe should have done better although he was complaining of being held back.  Wigan then threatened but Fortuné’s shot was into the side netting.  In the Wigan box, Battocchio played a ball back to Tözsér whose shot was blocked.  The home side launched a counter-attack and there was Battocchio back in defence where he intercepted the ball as Powell tried to play Fortuné in.  With two minutes remaining, Ekstrand received his inevitable yellow card, although this one was very harsh as he’d merely tripped Jordi Gómez.  In time added on, Deeney played a low cross towards Battocchio that was cleared, Cassetti picked it up and found Deeney whose shot was blocked but the flag was already up.  The last chance of the game fell to McArthur whose shot was wide of the far post.

Ekstrand clears

Ekstrand clears

It was another disappointing away day for the Hornets.  The team worked hard, but there were too many misplaced passes and Wigan seemed to be first to every loose ball.  We lost the game in midfield, where we couldn’t gain a foothold.  Wigan are a decent team, although nothing special, but we didn’t really trouble them and the score flattered us a bit.  Still, as always, it was a good day out.  I loved my visit to Wigan so am a bit conflicted when I say that I hope they win the third promotion spot as they are a very likeable club.  We only have a short break before facing another team from Lancashire.  Our away performance against Blackburn was truly horrible, so I’m hoping that we revert to our marvellous home form on Tuesday.

Two Home Wins in a Week

Challenging for a cross

Challenging for a cross

When planning my journey to Saturday’s game, I had spent some time on railway websites working out which of my possible routes was the least disrupted by flooding.  The storms on Friday evening meant that I also had to give some last minute thought to trees on the line in Hertfordshire.  I set off more in hope than in expectation but, apart from spending rather longer than desirable standing on stations waiting for delayed departures, the journey was quite painless and I was in the West Herts at a respectable time.  Pre-match, more than one person asked incredulously whether my colleagues had really enjoyed the Birmingham game.  The response that they knew nothing about football seemed a satisfactory explanation.  The main team news was that Bond was in for Almunia who had picked up a calf strain, and Diakite was to make his full debut.  The starting line-up was Bond, Angella, Cassetti, Doyley, Pudil, Diakite, Tözsér, Murray, Faraoni, Forestieri and Deeney.  The Middlesbrough line-up included former Watford player of the season, Danny Graham, as well as Nathaniel Chalobah who impressed for us on loan last season.

In common with all matches this weekend, Vicarage Road was to have a pre-match appreciation of the life of the great Tom Finney who died this week.  No sooner had Richard Short started his introduction than the fans throughout the ground broke into spontaneous, affectionate applause, which was rather lovely.

Doyley executes an arabesque

Doyley executes an arabesque

It was the sixteenth minute before anything happened on the pitch that seemed worthy of jotting down.  To be honest, Adomah’s shot wasn’t that thrilling and Bond was down to save easily, but I was fearing at that stage that I would get to half time with a blank page in my notebook.  Watford’s first goal attempt came as Pudil passed to Forestieri whose shot was deflected for a corner.  Next a defensive header fell to Murray on the edge of the box, but his shot flew over the bar.  For the visitors, Adomah played a through ball to Graham in the box, but the former Watford man shot wide of the far post.  Forestieri picked the ball up from Faraoni and passed across the field to Pudil whose shot was well off target.  Then a free-kick from Tözsér was gathered at the far post by Shay

Tozser takes a free kick

Tozser takes a free kick

Given.  At the other end, a Ledesma shot from distance was nowhere near the target.  There followed a yellow card for each side.  First, Gibson was penalized for a trip on Deeney.  Then Leadbitter tried to escape from Cassetti and was taken down for his audacity.  The wronged man took the free kick himself, it was met with a header from Woodgate that beat Bond but, to the relief of the home supporters, was ruled out for offside.  A Murray shot was gathered by Given with Deeney closing in on him.  Finally, a moment of skill as a break from Graham was stopped by a brilliant tackle from Cassetti, but the Italian followed this up with a horrible shanked pass which was much more in keeping with the game so far.  Then Deeney jumped to meet a Faraoni cross that was a bit too high so he couldn’t get much power in his header which looped into Given’s hands.  The last ‘goal attempt’ of the half, came from a Tözsér free-kick which was headed wide of the far post by Forestieri.  The half-time whistle was a blessed relief after a truly dire half of football summed up by a comment from the guy who sits next to me that he’d never get that 45 minutes of his life back.

Shay Given

Shay Given

The start of the second half saw the return of Tommie Hoban after a more than a year out following Achilles surgery.  Lloyd Doyley made way, which was a bit surprising as Cassetti was on a card and Angella had taken some knocks but, unbeknownst to me, Lloyd had picked up an injury.  The visitors also made a substitution with Carayol replacing Ledesma.  Given the lack of entertainment in the first half, it was some consolation that the second half would feature the lovely Shay Given in the goal at the Rookery end.  There was no sense of finding his feet for young Hoban after his long layoff, as his first action was a robust tackle on the other substitute, Carayol.  A minute later, Forestieri was tripped in the

Troy's penalty

Troy’s penalty

box by Gibson.  The referee immediately pointed to the spot.  Troy Deeney stepped up and placed the penalty straight down the middle as Given dived to his right and the Hornets were unexpectedly a goal up.  Five minutes into the half, Watford were down to ten men as Diakite inexplicably launched into a two-footed tackle on Whitehead.  This was greeted with “I told you,” by Trevor who sits in front of me and is also a season ticket holder at QPR.  He’d commented when Diakite came on as a sub against Brighton that he doesn’t usually spend long on the pitch.  Middlesbrough almost took advantage immediately but Graham’s shot was deflected just wide.  Luckily for Watford, a moment of madness by Gibson

Stopping Carayol

Stopping Carayol

ensured that both teams played most of the second half with 10 men.  Bond had gathered the ball from a corner and was about to launch it upfield, when Gibson tried to kick the ball out of his hands and was, deservedly, given a second yellow for his stupidity.  Soon after, there was a bit of handbags between Chalobah and Forestieri that earned both men a yellow card and ensured that Nathaniel was jeered every time he touched the ball for the rest of the game.  As the second period reached the halfway stage, Anya replaced Faraoni.  Ikechi was involved immediately crossing for Deeney who, under challenge, headed straight at Given.  An injury then necessitated another substitution as Forestieri was replaced by Battocchio.  Middlesbrough threatened as an innocuous looking shot from Carayol took two attempts from Bond to control.  The visitors then replaced Varga with Main.  The introduction of Anya had injected a bit of pace into the game and a quick break had Given back pedalling, but he was able to narrow the angle so Anya’s shot was just wide of the far post.  Graham then got on the end of a cross from Whitehead but it was

Anya versus Friend

Anya versus Friend

easily caught by Bond.  It was end to end stuff as Anya played a lovely through ball to Deeney, but Given was out to dive at his feet and save.  He launched the ball upfield where it reached Friend whose shot was blocked.  Danny Graham had another chance from the edge of the box but again it was well wide.  Into the last 10 minutes, Kamara replaced Woodgate.  With four minutes remaining Deeney advanced down the left and pulled the ball back to Tözsér on the edge of the box but his shot was weak and did not test Given.  This move summed up the game for me.  It appeared to be in slow motion and seemed that neither Deeney nor Tözsér really wanted to bother the Boro keeper

Bond takes a free-kick

Bond takes a free-kick

with a shot.  A cross into the Watford box was punched by Bond as far as Adomah whose shot was blocked.  Deeney then found Murray on the left, who pushed the challenging Chalobah out of the way before shooting straight at Given, but the whistle had already gone for the foul.  There were five minutes of added time in which all the chances fell to the visitors.  First a cross from Carayol flew well wide.  The same player put in another cross that was headed back across goal to Graham whose header was caught by Bond.  Finally, Carayol went for goal himself but his shot was just wide and Watford had another 1-0 win.

So two home games in a week have yielded six points, but very little entertainment.  I’m all for winning ugly on occasion, but when it becomes a habit it is not a lot of fun to watch.  Next up is a trip to the West Country to stand on a terrace at a new ground, always something to look forward to.  Here’s hoping that the weather doesn’t intervene this time.

A New Dawn?

Tozser lining up a free kick

Tozser lining up a free kick

After the horrible collapse at Forest on Thursday, I can’t say that I was looking forward to this game. Deadline day had seen some action with Iriney and Fabbrini departing on loan and Diakite and Park arriving.  However, having been crying out for a defensive midfielder, the arrival causing most interest was Tözsér who had come in on loan from Genoa, hopefully to shore up our midfield.  When the teams were announced, we found we were to get an early idea of whether he was “the answer”.  The starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Hall, Angella, Anya, Merkel, Tözsér, Battocchio, Cassetti, Forestieri and Deeney.  In goal for the visitors was former loanee, Kuszczak, although I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t recognize him.  I knew he looked familiar, but couldn’t quite place the face.

Anya being congratulated for his goal

Anya being congratulated for his goal

The first action of note came in the 11th minute.  Almunia came out of his area to clear as Ulloa threw himself to the ground in the box, the clearance fell to Forestieri who tried a shot which didn’t trouble Kuszczak.  We were a goal up soon after as Forestieri won the ball in the middle of the park, turned and fed Merkel, he found Anya on the left who made no mistake shooting across Kuszczak into the far corner.  Anya was involved again soon after, going on a long run up the left wing, crossing the touchline just in front of the linesman at one point, but in the absence of a flag the run continued and culminated in a shot from distance, but Kuszczak was equal to it.  On 25 minutes, Brighton threatened for the first time as a López cross flew across our area but Battocchio was back to make a crucial tackle.  We should have been two goals up a minute later as Cassetti won the ball on the right and crossed to Forestieri who, with only the keeper to beat, opted to place

Battocchio on the attack

Battocchio on the attack

the shot instead of going for power and did so right into Kuszczak’s arms.  Irritation at the miss was tempered with relief that we hadn’t built a two goal lead to throw away.  Brighton’s next goal attempt came from a corner, the ball fell to Andrews but his shot from distance was well over the bar.  On the half hour, Almunia had to come out to get a hand to a dangerous cross from Ward before Ulloa could get his head on it.  López’s follow up shot was wide of the far post.  Then another Brighton corner was met by Upson who headed well over the bar.  On 39 minutes, an injury forced the first substitution as Forster-Caskey was replaced by LuaLua.  In the closing minutes of the half, Forestieri played a square ball to Battocchio on the edge of the box, but his speculative shot was straight at Kuszczak.  Brighton could have equalized as the substitute, LuaLua, went on a run down the left and unleashed a fierce shot that hit the corner of the bar and post, the ball reached Lopez, who shot into the side netting.

Ready to attack a corner

Ready to attack a corner

As the players came out for the second half, Kuszczak’s appearance in the goal at the Rookery end was greeted with very warm applause.  Brighton threatened early on, as a ball into our box was met with a firm header by Hall, it fell to López whose shot was caught by Almunia.  On 52 minutes, Brighton were wasteful again as the ball fell to Andrews on the edge of the box, but his shock was reckless and well wide of the target.  Then Forestieri must have won the ball three or four times as he fought off the attentions of Brighton defenders before releasing Anya but, sadly, all that resulted from their hard work was a corner.  Another Brighton attack failed to muster a shot on target as Ulloa’s shot was blocked, the ball fell to López whose shot was well wide.  Deeney then closed down a clearance by Greer, but the ball looped over the bar.  Watford had another decent chance to increase their lead as a ball came in to Forestieri who held off two defenders to head the

Forestieri celebrates

Forestieri celebrates

ball down to Deeney, but his shot was over the bar.  At the other end LuaLua found Stephens but he shot well wide.  Just before the hour mark, Forestieri won the ball on the left, dribbled around Kuszcazk and shot into the open goal.  The goal was a just reward for Fernando’s tremendous performance.  However, there were a few muttering about us being two up given what that heralded in the last two games.  I was heartened at the fact that on the hour it was us scoring rather than the opposition.  Soon after, new boy Tözsér lined up a free-kick which looped just over the bar.  Brighton made their second substitution as Rodríguez replaced Orlandi.  There was a let off for the Hornets on 67 minutes as a free-kick was headed past Almunia by Ulloa but it was ruled out for off-side.  Harry Hornet was highly amused at this turn of events.  Another Brighton free-kick was hit

New boy, Merkel, takes a throw

New boy, Merkel, takes a throw

straight at the wall, but they regained possession and a cross to the far post was met with a header that Almunia caught.  Then a sliced shot by LuaLua was blocked by Angella.  The resulting corner was met with a header from Ulloa that was going wide, but Almunia was taking no chances and claimed it.  With 15 minutes remaining, Murray replaced Merkel after spending some considerable time standing on the touchline waiting for a suitable break in the game.  Watford’s next attack was thwarted as Deeney received the ball in an advanced position but was hacked down by Greer, who was booked for the offence.  Murray took the resulting free-kick which flew through the wall but was gathered by Kuszczak.  With 10 minutes remaining March replaced López.  Deeney had a half chance as he ran into the box to a ball that had bounced off Murray, but Kuszczak got there first.  In the last minutes of normal time, Battocchio made way for Diakite, and Forestieri was withdrawn to a standing ovation and replaced by Park.  There was five minutes of time added on, but the only action of note was a reckless challenge by Park on the edge of our area which led to another silly yellow card for Ekstrand for kicking the ball away.  The resulting free kick curled over the bar and our clean sheet was preserved.

Ekstrand takes a free-kick

Ekstrand takes a free-kick

What a difference a couple of days make.  Three points are always welcome, but it was the performance that really pleased.  Tözsér impressed immediately, putting his foot in when needed and acting as that midfield fulcrum that we’ve missed.  Hall was immense in the centre of defence.  They formed the spine that was so obviously missing on Thursday and the overall performance improved immeasurably.  I sometimes feel that Forestieri wins man of the match awards for being eye-catching rather than effective, but today it was thoroughly deserved.  He was tireless, playing like a terrier whose favourite ball you were trying to take.  But he wasn’t the only one in that regard.  Where, on Thursday, we were nowhere to be seen as Forest took their chances, today we refused to allow the Brighton players any space.  If a ball was lost, there was a player instantly fighting to get it back.  While I’m not convinced that we’ll get anything at Leicester next week, I’m very encouraged that we are going in the right direction.