Tag Archives: Scott Malone

An Early Christmas Present for the Terriers

Hogg and Deeney reacquainted

It has been a tough week to be a Watford fan.  We had played well at both Burnley and Palace, but come away with two defeats due, primarily, to two (needless) red cards.  At the West Herts, a number of fans were trying to lift spirits with their Christmas jumpers.  I must say that I am not generally a fan but Jim’s Baa Humbug (featuring a sheep in a santa hat) did raise a smile as did a Huddersfield fan’s Christmas Terrier that I had seen on the way in.

On arrival at the stadium, Pete and I took a detour to visit the 1881 bunker to drop off presents for their collection for local children in need.  It was great to see a packed table straining under the weight of all the gifts.  Due to the detour, I entered the Rookery through the turnstiles at the opposite end to usual.  The steward who searched my bag was lovely.  Then I entered the stadium and saw the program seller inside the entrance and it was former supporter of the season, Doreen Pym, who I always bought my programme from when she was in Bill Mainwood’s hut on Occupation Road.  Handing my money over to her, it felt like old times and I was quite emotional.

Team news was that Silva had made only the one (enforced) change from Tuesday with Capoue coming in for the suspended Cleverley.  So the starting line-up was Gomes; Mariappa, Prödl, Kabasele; Janmaat, Doucouré, Capoue, Holebas; Carrillo, Richarlison; Deeney.  Huddersfield were captained by the wonderful Jonathan Hogg.  So the teams were led out by two of the participants in “that” goal.

Kabasele and Doucoure

Huddersfield had not scored a goal away from home since the first game of the season, so this should have been the ideal opportunity to reverse our mini-slump.  It must be said that their terrible away form hadn’t stopped their fans travelling in numbers.  The packed away end was noisy and impressive.  I was also hoping for an extra boost of luck from my niece, who was back from university.  Her last game had been the impressive win against Arsenal.

Watford have generally started games well this season, so it was a bit of a shock when the visitors took an early lead.  A corner was delivered into a crowded box and, after a scramble, Kachinga poked home from close range.  There were shouts for both a handball and offside from the Rookery, but the officials were unmoved (television pictures showed the hand was a Watford one, but the offside was valid) and the Huddersfield fans burst into a chorus of, “How sh*t must you be, we’re winning away.”   Watford attempted a fight back as Carrillo played a lovely cross towards Richarlison, but a Huddersfield head made the first contact and it went out for a corner.  There was then a lengthy break in the game due to an injury to the goalscorer, Kachinga.  A few in the crowd were booing him as he lay on the turf clutching his knee, which was unpleasant and unnecessary as he was clearly in pain.  Eventually he was taken off on a stretcher and my faith in my fellow fans was restored as the majority of the crowd applauded him off.

Capoue and Richarlison racing to meet a corner

The home side had a couple of decent chances to get an equaliser.  First a corner from Holebas that was flying straight in until it was cleared off the line.  Then Holebas played a lovely cross to Richarlison whose shot was over the target.  If the first Huddersfield goal had been scrappy, the second was a horror show.  The Watford defence appeared to stop playing as Holebas allowed Quaner to escape and deliver a low cross which flew across the goal to Mooy who had the easy task of tapping it home.  In the Rookery, we were looking at each other in disbelief at what we had just seen.  Watford tried to make amends with a lovely passing move that, sadly, came to nothing as Carrillo’s cross was just too far in front of Deeney.  Silva made his first substitution on the half hour, bringing Pereyra on for Mariappa and going to four at the back.  Pereyra’s first involvement was impressive, playing a sweeping pass to Richarlison, but the young Brazilian shot straight at the keeper.  On 33 minutes, Watford were down to 10 men for the third game running as Deeney was dismissed for a tackle on Hadergjonaj that appeared to be clumsy rather than nasty.  There was a caution for the visitors soon after as Hogg was booked for a foul on Carrillo.  From the free-kick, Richarlison had the ball in the net and I was on my feet celebrating.  Sadly I was the only person in the ground who had failed to see the linesman’s flag that ruled the goal out.  It went from bad to worse as Doucouré received his fifth yellow card of the season, ruling him out of the trip to Brighton.  Ince took the free kick and delivered it well over the bar.  A spell of lovely passing descended into fannying about as the bloke behind me, quite reasonably, shouted “The goal’s that way,” before Doucouré lost the ball, Huddersfield broke forward and van La Parra tried a shot from the left that was saved by Gomes.

Thank you for so many wonderful memories, Alec

We were all stunned at half-time, so it was good that there was a distraction on the pitch, although it was tinged with sadness as Alec Chamberlain was saying goodbye after 21 years at the club.  He has been a terrific servant as both player and coach.  Most memorably, he was the keeper for our successive promotions in GT’s second spell, playing a key role in the penalty shoot-out in the play-off semi-final when he made the decisive save from Holland.  He started by speaking about overcoming the stigma of having played for them up the road.  “Gibbsy forgave me.  He said I was a born again Hornet.  Once he accepted me, I knew I was fine.”  He spoke warmly about his time at the club, including two Player of the Season awards, and ended by thanking the fans and saying that he looked forward to seeing us all again in the future.  He has been a legend at Watford, which will be a sadder place without him.

At half-time, there had been some hopeful harking back to the Blackpool game in 2015, but the second half started with the visitors in the ascendancy.  There was danger when a shot from Ince was parried leaving Gomes out of position and allowing the Huddersfield man to cross for Quaner who, thankfully, headed wide.  But the third goal was not long in coming.  Holebas, who had fallen asleep for the second goal, collapsed in the box holding his face, so allowing Depoitre a free run before he fired across Gomes into the far corner.

Okaka making a rare appearance

The Hornets finally showed a bit of fight at this point, but Janmaat’s shot from distance was over the bar.  Then Kabasele found Carrillo who made space for a shot that was deflected over.  The referee had his red card out again soon after, showing Hogg a second yellow for a challenge on Richarlison.  “We’ll have a bit more space now,” commented the chap who sits next to me.  At this point each side made a substitution, with Williams replacing van La Parra for the visitors and Capoue making way for Gray for the Hornets.  Watford then had their best spell of the game.  First, a corner was headed just over by Prödl.  Then a gorgeous curling shot from Pereyra was saved by Lössl.  The breakthrough finally came when the ball dropped to Doucouré who thumped it into the goal.  Woe betide anyone who had got in the way of that shot.  The Watford crowd finally had something to cheer and there were roars as Janmaat won a corner.  The Hornets continued attacking as Pereyra passed back to Richarlison whose shot was blocked.  Then the ball found its way out to Gray whose shot was just wide of the target.  Richarlison had another chance to reduce the deficit, this time a shot from distance that curled just wide.  Silva’s last change saw Okaka come on for Holebas.  But the next chance fell to the visitors with a shot from Ince that was gathered by Gomes.  Doucouré turned from hero to villain as, after losing the ball to Depoitre, his attempt to win it back felled the Huddersfield man and the referee pointed to the spot.  Gomes went the right way, but Mooy buried it in the corner.  The visitors should have had a fifth as Quaner unleashed a shot, but Doucouré was back to clear it off the line.  The final kick of the game almost sent us home with a little comfort as Pereyra hit a lovely shot but Lössl was able to make the save.

Well done to the 1881

So finally a game in which the result reflected the performance, but that was not what I had in mind.  I still don’t understand where that dreadfully poor showing came from.  Huddersfield clearly wanted the win, while the Watford players looked as though they had already stopped for Christmas.  The post-match discussions included a lot of adverse comments about the referee, but he was not to blame for that defeat.  It was Watford’s worst performance by some considerable margin.  We have generally worked hard during games, but looked lethargic on Saturday.  Our usual second-half of the season slump has started rather early, I just hope it can be halted before we start sliding down the table.

To end this report on a positive note, 681 presents were donated to the 1881 collection.  A great testament to the work of the 1881 in organising this and the generosity of the Watford fans.  This will ensure a happy Christmas for a great many children, which is just wonderful.

A Fitting Tribute

The poppy display

The poppy display viewed from the family stand

With this being the closest home game to Armistice Day in the 100th year since the start of World War I, the usual commemorations were being supplemented with a foil display organized by the 1881 group and financed by Watford’s players.  A crowd turned up at the ground first thing to put the foils out, a job that was completed in double quick time.  According to the instructions from the club, we arrived at our seats earlier than usual to find all the usual stragglers were already there and that programmes had sold out.  When instructed, we raised our foils and, from our position under the display, could only wonder whether it had been a success.  I must admit that the photos were breath-taking and must thank a friend who sits in the Family Stand for providing the wonderful picture shown here.  Huge congratulations to Roy Moore and the other lads from 1881 who designed and executed the display.  It was a tremendous achievement.

On the pitch, the players were to wear the black and white kit from 1914, so Millwall wore their yellow change strip.  It was very bizarre to see the opposition in yellow at Vicarage Road.  Team news was that there were three changes with Gomes and Deeney returning from injury and Andrews in for Anya in midfield, so the starting line-up was Gomes, Pudil, Ekstrand, Bassong, Paredes, Tözsér, Munari, Andrews, Ighalo, Vydra and Deeney.  Undistinguished former loanee Matthew Briggs started for the visitors.  It should also be mentioned that, now the final seats have been installed in the Community stand, we have a four-sided ground for the first time in many years.  It is a wonderful sight to see.

Ighalo trying to hold off a defender

Ighalo trying to hold off a defender

The home side dominated the early exchanges, the first goal attempt coming as Deeney and Vydra exchanged passes in the box and Troy hit a shot that Forde dropped to save.  At the other end a low cross by Woolford was gathered by Gomes.  On 11 minutes, Millwall took the lead as McDonald crossed to Woolford inside the box, he shrugged off Bassong and slotted the ball into the bottom corner.  That certainly depressed the mood in the home stands.  Watford tried to strike back immediately as Vydra played a through ball to Paredes but his shot rebounded off the post.  Millwall’s Dunne went down dramatically after a challenge from Deeney.  Watford played on and Dunne leapt to his feet and sprinted back to defend.  At the next break in play Forde bafflingly went to remonstrate with the referee and was booked.  The next time that the ball went anywhere near the goal was on the half hour when a free-kick from Tözsér flew over the bar.  The next action of note was a bizarre challenge by Vydra, who was clearly frustrated as he jumped into Williams.  He was fortunate not to be carded.

Forde trying to organize his wall

Forde trying to organize his wall

Injury forced an early Watford substitution as Bassong made way for Hoban.  An attempted break by Ighalo was stopped by a push from Briggs who was shown a yellow card for his trouble.  From the free-kick, Ighalo unleashed a shot that was turned around the post by Forde.  The resultant corner was straight off the training ground as it was played out to Andrews, who dinked it in to Vydra, running into the box, who got the slightest touch and the ball trickled over the line.  The goal invigorated Matej who next hit a shot from a cut back by Ighalo which was turned just wide.  Then, from the corner, he headed just over.  For the visitors, Fuller broke into the box and went down under a challenge but the referee was having none of it and the forward was booked for his protests.  In time added on at the end of the first half, Dunne bundled Deeney over on the edge of the box and was booked for the offence.  Tözsér’s free-kick was a bullet that flew past the wall and into the net.  The Millwall keeper, Forde, didn’t move.  It had been a strange first half, with a long period when nothing much happened, but it had burst into life at the end and it was great to go into half time a goal to the good.

Tozser congraulated on his bullet

Tozser congraulated on his bullet

Millwall had the first chance of the second half as Woolford got his head to a corner from Williams but he directed it wide of the target.  At the other end, a header from Hoban was saved, but the flag was already up for offside.  Deeney and Munari exchanged passes then played a through ball for Vydra but Forde was first to the ball.  On the hour, Holloway made his first substitution as Briggs was replaced by Malone.  Martin tried to break forward but was taken down by Hoban who was booked for the foul.  On 63 minutes, Watford increased the lead as, from a free-kick, Vydra cut the ball back to Munari who lashed it past Forde for Watford’s third goal.  A frustrated Fuller kicked out at Ekstrand and was lucky not to see a second yellow card so Holloway did the sensible thing and replaced him with Gueye before he got himself sent off.

Harry joins in the celebrations for the third goal

Harry congratulates Munari on the third goal

Jokanovic also made a change replacing Vydra with Dyer.  Hearts were in mouths in the Rookery as Woolford beat Hoban and shot goalwards, but Pudil was on hand to clear the shot off the line.  Gueye’s first contribution was a shot through a crowd of players that was easily caught by Gomes.  A terrible back pass from Williams almost increased Watford’s lead as it appeared to beat Forde, but it drifted just wide.  With 10 minutes remaining, Pudil needed a team mate’s help with a touch of cramp, was told to leave the pitch having ‘received treatment’ and soon after was replaced by Doyley.  The Millwall players seemed determined to score an own goal, this time Forde had to reach to prevent a back header sneaking in.  Holloway’s final substitution saw Martin make way for O’Brien.  There was another bizarre occurrence as a Millwall player went behind the advertising hoardings to retrieve the ball and took the throw-in from there leading the referee to blow up for a foul throw.  Gueye broke into the box and cut the ball back but Gomes dropped to gather.  Gomes then had to be smart to tip over a header from Dunne.  Dyer released Paredes who ran the length of the pitch but his shot was deflected wide.  That was the last action of the game as the whistle went to cheers and chants of “We are top of the league.”

Yet again, it hadn’t been a brilliant performance but we had broken down a well-organized Holloway side and, once we’d got the third goal had never been in any danger.  We all agreed that sometimes you have to win ugly.  It is far too early in the season and far too tight at the top of the Championship to get too excited, but we are now none games unbeaten and the signs are all good for an exciting season.

Disappointment at the Den

Borough Market

Borough Market

It was a little chilly on Saturday, but pleasant enough to have our pre-match pints standing outside the pub in Borough Market watching the world go by. The cider was rather lovely and the food stalls there are a delight, which is just what you need before making the short trip to the depths of South Bermondsey.

The pre-admission bag search was carried out by a woman who, in her quest to find bottles, repeatedly asked me if I was carrying deodorant. I tried not to interpret this as a pointed comment on my personal hygiene.

The minute's silence for the 96

The minute’s silence for the 96

In common with all games this weekend, there was a minute’s silence at 15:06 to remember the 96 who died at Hillsborough. As someone who was at a football match on 15th April 1989, standing on a terrace at Swindon, the horror of what happened that day will never leave me. Over the intervening 25 years, that horror has been married to increasing levels of anger at the way that the victims and their families have been treated. I hope that the new inquests will finally give the families some closure.

Cristian Battocchio in with the away fans

Cristian Battocchio in with the away fans

As we awaited the kick-off, a chant of “Cristian Battocchio” went up behind me and sure enough there was the young midfielder looking for a seat in the away stand. I’m pleased to say that he was walking without crutches and had no trouble walking up and down the steps as he chose his vantage point.

The home side had an early chance on goal as Edwards tried a shot from distance that flew over the bar. Edwards was also involved in the next incident of note, as he tried to escape from Riera and was cynically taken down, earning the Spaniard a booking. Watford’s first goal attempt was a shot from McGugan that was wide of the target. Angella had a great chance from a McGugan corner but headed just wide. Deeney released McGugan, but the defender got the better of him and set up a counter attack that finished with Martin shooting just wide of the

McGugan celebrating his goal

McGugan celebrating his goal

near post. On 16 minutes, Watford went ahead as Deeney cut the ball back to McGugan who buried it past Forde. McGugan could have increased the lead soon after with a lovely shot that curled just wide. On 25 minutes, he tried another shot from distance that also curled just wide of the target. Millwall’s Martin was booked for a rant at the referee after a throw was given against him when he headed the ball out. I can only think that he believed that Abdi had got a touch to it. The home side had a great chance to equalize as Malone unleashed a powerful shot that Almunia did well to block. On the half hour, Almunia came for a corner by Martin, his punch fell to Woolford but his shot was blocked. Then Millwall had

Abdi on the ball

Abdi on the ball

another decent chance as Garvan got on the end of a cross from Maierhofer but again the shot was saved by Almunia. Tözsér was penalized for a high tackle on Williams which the Millwall players thought was inside the box, but the referee indicated otherwise. The free-kick came to nothing. Then Angella intervened to divert a shot from Martin for a corner. Deeney and McGugan combined, but Troy’s shot was straight at Forde. Just before half-time, with Anya on the ground injured, Millwall launched an attack that seemed to go on forever but ended when Woolford shot straight at Almunia, who kicked the ball out to allow Anya to receive treatment. That was Ikechi’s last involvement as he limped off to be replaced by Forestieri.

A Tozser free kick

A Tozser free kick

At half time, Morison replaced Garvan. Early in the second half, Almunia and Hoban both went up for a cross with Maierhofer challenging and Hoban went down injured. It was a worrying sight but, thankfully, after a period of treatment he was fit to continue. Millwall had a great chance to equalize as Maierhofer met a free kick with a header that was just over the bar. Then a nice move from Watford as a throw-in from Faraoni allowed Abdi to get behind the defence and cross, but Deeney’s header was over the bar. On the hour, Jackson replaced Martin for the home side. Millwall were level soon after as, from a corner, the ball dropped to Morison who shot across Almunia into the opposite corner. It has to be said that the equalizer had been coming and, all of a sudden, there was a wall of noise in the

The wounded warrior

The wounded warrior

Den. For the visitors Pudil replaced Riera, who had been disappointing. On 69 minutes, Watford launched their first real attack of the half as Abdi found Forestieri whose shot was blocked and rebounded back to Abdi whose shot was also blocked. We were on the attack again immediately as Pudil advanced and crossed for McGugan, but Forde was down to save his shot. Maierhofer was replaced by Easter for the home side. There was a clash of heads between Angella and Beevers which resulted in the Italian returning with a heavily bandaged head. As the first high ball came his way after his treatment, I wondered if he’d hesitate, but not our Gabriele. He seemed even more determined to get his head to every ball that came anywhere near him, as if to test out his new headgear. Millwall substitute Jackson attempted to break the deadlock, but his shot was high and wide. Murray replaced McGugan

Celebrating Adbi's Goal

Celebrating Adbi’s Goal

for the final few minutes. Millwall really should have taken the lead as a great shot from Dunne required an equally good save from Almunia to keep it out. But it was the visitors who, totally undeservedly, took the lead as a swift counter attack finished with Pudil cutting the ball back to Abdi whose shot took a deflection before flying past Forde. Millwall went for the equalizer but Almunia denied Woolford. Watford couldn’t hold on. Deep into injury time, a Millwall corner bounced around the Watford box before dropping to Woolford whose shot should have been held by Almunia, but bounced out of his arms and into the goal.


More celebrations of Abdi's strike

More celebrations of Abdi’s strike

There was a lot of frustration among the travelling ‘Orns at the end of the game. But, annoying as it was to concede so late again, the hosts were fully deserving of at least a point as we had been dreadful in the second half. Equally, no blame should be attached to Almunia who, despite his lapse, had pulled off some great saves to keep us in the game.

Hopefully, people will finally stop talking about promotion and what ifs. We have not been strong or consistent enough this season to gain promotion and I certainly don’t want to see another unprepared Watford team losing week in week out in the Premier League. Next season will be very interesting. If we can keep this team together with a couple of quality additions, I’d like to think that we could do what Leicester have done this season. But that is a big ‘if’. Next Summer will be very interesting.