Tag Archives: Simon Cox

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.

Surrender by the Trent

Murray intercepts

Murray intercepts

So, a trip to Nottingham for football on a Thursday evening.  I’d been in Stratford overnight on Wednesday (for Bring Up the Bodies at the RSC – utterly wonderful) and it was snowing when I left, so I feared the game may be threatened.  Nottingham was soggy but, thankfully, the pitch was in decent condition.  The biggest threat to the travelling Hornets appeared to be problems on the M1 and gridlock around the city.  Fortunately for me, I’d taken the train so arrived nice and early.  The pre-match pub for Forest is one of my favourites.  It’s the brewery tap, so the beer is lovely and, as so often in these establishments, so are the staff.  It is one of those pubs that almost tempt you to forego the game.  If only, we had.

The only change in personnel from Saturday’s match at City was the reinstatement of Almunia in goal, so we lined up with Almunia, Ekstrand, Angella, Doyley, Pudil, Battocchio, Murray, Faraoni, Anya, Forestieri and Deeney.  Given the timing of the game and the fact that it was on television, there were more changes in the crowd as the 3500 who had travelled to City at the weekend dwindled to about 500.  Still, those in attendance made plenty of noise, as is the way with small crowds of fanatics.  Well, they did for the first hour.

Defending a set piece

Defending a set piece

There was a rather worrying incident early in the game as Angella made a clearance and was yelled at by Almunia for not leaving the ball for him.  Not good when your defence are arguing that early in the game.  The visitors had the first goal attempt in the third minute as Pudil advanced down the left and passed to Anya who found Deeney but his shot was just over the bar.  Forest’s first chance came from a corner, Reid and Paterson exchanged passes and the former tried a looping shot that was easily caught by Almunia.  Then, from a free-kick, Moussi headed the ball back across goal and Collins met it with a header that came back off the crossbar.  At the other end, Angella volleyed wide from an Anya free-kick.  On 16 minutes, Angella was in the Forest box again heading wide from an Anya corner.  Forest were nearly embarrassed as a back pass came dangerously close to drifting in, but Darlow managed to get across to clear.  Murray then tried a shot from distance that flew wide.  This had been a good spell of possession from the Hornets, but we hadn’t really created any decent chances.  Just before the half hour, there was a scare as Almunia came for a free-kick from Reid, Halford got there first and headed over, but the flag

Angella being congratulated after his first goal

Angella being congratulated after his first goal

was already up for offside.  Then Reid passed to Paterson, who found space for a shot, but Almunia dropped to gather the ball.  Reid threatened again, getting on the end of a cross from Abdoun but his shot flew over the bar.  On 31 minutes, Faraoni got himself into a great position, but unleashed an awful shot that, luckily for us, was deflected for a corner.  Anya took the set piece and Angella was on hand to put the ball in off the crossbar.  One of the Forest stewards told a friend that it was one of the best goals he had ever seen.  I will have to wait to see the highlights to confirm that, but it was pleasing to be one up, especially as this was during a period of Forest domination.  Soon after, a ball from Faraoni released Forestieri on the wing, but he ran into a crowd and his shot was blocked.  Ekstrand was then booked for taking Paterson down.  From the free-kick, Halford headed over.  Then Battocchio flicked a pass to Anya whose cross was met by a volley from Deeney which flew into the side-netting.  Battocchio then found Forestieri whose shot into the crowd was deflected wide.  Just before half time, Angella earned himself a stupid booking as he stopped Forest taking a free-kick.  The home side had a couple of attempts to equalize before half time.  First a cross-cum-shot by Harding, that needed a hand from Almunia to keep it out.  Then a break by Abdoun, whose cross was straight at Almunia.  It had been an even, if uneventful, first half, and we were happy to go in a goal to the good.

Goal celebration for our second

Goal celebration for our second

At the start of the second period, Cox replaced Halford.  Forest attacked straight from kick-off, with Almunia having to be alert to block a dangerous shot from Reid.  But it was Watford who were on the scoresheet again as Angella met a free-kick from Murray with a strong header past Darlow and then ran to the corner where the Watford fans were located to celebrate with us.  It was all looking so good at this point.  Doyley was the next to threaten with a through ball to Deeney who was flagged offside.  Then a free-kick from Reid was tipped over the bar by Almunia.  Forest pulled a goal back just before the hour mark as the substitute, Cox, got on the end of a header across the box by Moussi and turned it past Almunia.  Prior to the restart, Abdi replaced Forestieri.  Murray went on a great run soon after, but was taken down by Lichaj.  On 62 minutes, Cox tried a back header, but Almunia was equal to it.  The next action was off the field as a Forest player

Angella being congratulated after his second goal

Angella being congratulated after his second goal

was challenged and went flying off the pitch straight into Sannino, who hit the deck.  Clearly his coat was soaked after this challenge, so he ripped it from his back and threw it to the bench.  That was possibly the most assertive Watford action of the second half.  Watford old boy Henderson then entered the fray, replacing Abdoun.  Darius made his mark almost immediately with a free header for the equalizer.  This was followed by the substitution of Abdi, who had been struggling since very soon after he came on.  Very sad to see, and I can’t help but worry how long he will be out for.  Cassetti was the replacement.  Deeney lost the ball to Paterson and with Forest players closing in, Almunia came out to clear.  Then Pudil received the ball in the box, juggled it to his other foot and shot over the bar.  Battocchio exchanged passes with Anya, his shot was turned around the post by Darlow, but the ref gave a goal kick.  Cassetti informed the official of his mistake and was booked for his trouble.  With 10 minutes remaining, Fabbrini replaced Anya and Mackie came on for Paterson.  Mackie was immediately involved, trying a shot from the edge of the area that was blocked.  He wasn’t to be denied for long, though, as in the next

Attacking a corner

Attacking a corner

move he got on the end of a cross from Reid and headed Forest into the lead.  Doyley then tried a shot that Fabbrini turned wide.  This time the ref gave a corner!  With two minutes remaining, Fabbrini was fouled to win Watford a free kick in a dangerous position.  Murray stepped up to take the kick and launched the ball way over everyone in the box and wide of the far post.  Adding insult to injury, Fabbrini intercepted a Watford clearance and immediately gave it away, it reached Cox on the left who was given plenty of space to score Forest’s fourth.  In time added on, Deeney tried a shot that was tipped over by Darlow.  Then Doyley broke forward again and found Faraoni whose shot was straight at the keeper.  In the final minute, Cox attempted a shot for his hat trick which Almunia pushed over the bar.  The last action of the game came as Henderson turned a cross from Harding back across the area but nobody was able to apply the finishing touch and it flew wide of the far post.

Applauding the crowd

Applauding the crowd

The final whistle saw the optimism that had been engendered by Saturday’s performance completely dissipate.  Forest were well organized, but they didn’t have to play particularly well to beat us as we were completely spineless for the last half hour of the match.  That lack of a spine has been a problem with our formation for most of the season.  That, and the fact that our talented players frequently play as if they have never met.  It is all incredibly frustrating.  Even the eternal optimists who have recently been talking of winning games in hand and making a run to the play-offs must be given pause by the fact that we are now in the same position that Wolves were last season.  This could become a battle for survival.  We can only hope that this team is up for the fight.