In contrast to the warmth and bright sunshine that we enjoyed during the Woking game, I arrived in Kingston to cool temperatures and drizzle for the short walk to Kingsmeadow. A number of the City ‘Orns had been put off meeting at the ground due to the advertised beer festival for which the tickets were advertised at £17. In fact, all of the bars at the ground were open and, if you wanted the odd drink at the beer festival, there were tokens available, so I was able to avail myself of a lovely pint (or two) of Rosie’s Pig. I had forgotten about the German theme of our last visit and, in particular, the oompah band, until the men (and one woman) in lederhosen appeared and struck up. To be fair, there wasn’t a lot of oompah going on and I enjoyed the entertainment. The German theme continued with the offerings at the burger van. Miles Jacobson (fresh from a trip to Japan, the sole purpose of which seemed to be to import sake kit-kats) recommended the krakuer, a wurst infused with cheese, which is as good and as bad as it sounds.
Preliminary team news had focussed on the players who were out through injury and the fact that we were unlikely to see many of the new signings. Sure enough, the starting line-up was Gomes; Janmaat, Prödl, Britos, Holebas; Watson, Doucouré; Success, Capoue, Berghuis; Okaka.
We took up a position on the terraces quite close to the dugouts. When Marco Silva appeared, he was given a very enthusiastic reception from the Watford fans. It was gratifying to see that Neal Ardley was greeted in an equally warm manner.
Watford had an early chance as Doucouré went on a run before finding Capoue whose chip cleared the crossbar. Then there was an early display of petulance from Holebas as he failed to keep a ball in play. It was oddly endearing and indicated that we were back. Jose was then serenaded with Colin and Flo’s song “He always wins the ball, he never smiles at all.” I’m sure he loved that. Especially when it was followed by “Jose, give us a smile.” Back to the football, Wimbledon were on the attack, but Barcham’s shot cleared the crossbar. The home side very nearly made the breakthrough as, from a Francomb corner, a glancing header from Taylor rebounded off the post. Down the other end a cross reached Doucouré at an awkward angle so he could only head it away from goal. There was a better opportunity as a Holebas free kick was cleared to Capoue who lashed it wide. Then Britos met a Watson corner with a decent header that was blocked by the Dons keeper, Long. Watford should have opened the scoring from a lovely free kick by Holebas, but Long pushed it clear, so we reached half time goalless.
Watford made three substitutions at the break with Janmaat, Britos and Success making way for Dja Djédjé, Kabasele and Amrabat.
Those who were late leaving the bar after half time (no names mentioned) returned completely oblivious to the fact that Wimbledon had scored two goals in the first five minutes of the half. The first came as a cross from Taylor was turned in by McDonald. The second came after a mistake in midfield allowed Barcham to escape and cross for McDonald to score his second. Watford hit back as Holebas crossed for the ever reliable Watson, who beat the Dons keeper. Watford then had a great chance for an equalizer as Berghuis played the ball back to Capoue who shot just wide of the target. On the hour, Silva substituted the goalkeeper as Gomes made way for Bachmann. The goal action continued at the Wimbledon end as a close range shot from Amrabat was blocked, it fell to Okaka who, under a challenge, was unable to bundle it in. Then Amrabat played a through ball to Dja Djédjé who crossed for Watson whose shot was blocked, as was the follow-up from Capoue who immediately appealed for handball, but the referee was having none of it. There was a great chance for an equalizer as a throw from Holebas was headed on by Okaka to Berghuis but the header was just wide of the target. The Dutchman was not to be denied, though and, with 13 minutes remaining, he met a cross from Dja Djédjé with a pin-point header to level the score.
Capoue should have put the visitors in the lead as Amrabat found Dja Djédjé on the overlap again, he crossed for Capoue who appeared to kick the ground so failed to test the keeper. Wimbledon then tried a shot from an angle, but Bachmann was able to push it over the bar. Watford had a golden chance as Doucouré found Capoue with a lovely pass but, with the goal at his mercy, the Frenchman hit his shot straight at the keeper. Soon after, Etienne made way for Folivi. The home side had a great chance to snatch the winner as Appiah found himself one on one with Bachmann, but the keeper prevailed Sadly, the home side were not to be denied, Watford failed to clear a cross, Antwi’s shot was blocked only for the ball to fall to Egan who hit a low shot past Bachmann to secure the victory. There was only time for 16 year-old Lewis Gordon to replace Berghuis for the Hornets before the final whistle went. I heard some boos in the away stand …. at the end of our first pre-season game. As so often, I ask myself, who are these people?
The post match conclusion was that it had been an entertaining game that had raised a number of questions. Ben Watson didn’t put a foot wrong but, with the influx of midfielders, would he be on his way or is there still a place for his presence as a defensive midfielder. The hope from our party was that there is. Capoue was his usual mixture of brilliance and frustration, if only the former can outweigh the latter, we will all be happy. But the main topics of discussion were the full backs and the strikers. We have made a number of impressive signings in this transfer window, but we still need bolstering in those departments. The discussion of possible strikers to bring in seemed rather hopeful and I dreamed of a young Blissett lurking in the wings. No doubt the Pozzos will bring in somebody that I have never heard of and let us hope that it is someone who can make a sustained contribution.
I’m unable to make the trip to Austria for the games there, so my next opportunity to see the Hornets will be the trip to Villa. It will be very interesting to see what changes have been made to the line-up by then.