Tag Archives: Tim Krul

Two Goals, Three Points and a Hug from Pat Nevin

Capoue back in action (at a distance)

Another week meant another televised game, although I am not sure that the world was begging to see Watford take on Norwich in a bottom of the table clash.  I left work at lunchtime for the short walk to Liverpool Street and arrived in Norwich mid-afternoon.  The Norfolk ‘Orns were starting their pub crawl for Amy’s birthday eve rather early, but our party had sensibly decided to meet up with them on the last leg of their tour.

The last time we were in Norwich, I seem to recall it was a lovely evening and we sat outside the pub.  No chance of that on this occasion.  The walk to the pub was longer than I remembered but, on arrival, I was pleased to find Pete already there.  The beer menu was interesting.  There were lots of ciders, but the dry offerings were all a bit strong for me, so I went for a pint of blonde bitter.  I was briefly distracted by the rhubarb and custard sour beer.  I was very surprised to hear that it was selling rather well.  I really should have asked for a taste.

Cathcart, Dawson and Holebas getting advice from Dean Austin

Paul had just asked where the Norfolk ‘Orns were when the pub door opened, and Glenn appeared followed by a large number of his compatriots.  The peace was shattered.  They were all very merry already, but had not yet moved on to their traditional sambuca.  When that appears, you know that it is getting very messy.  I was introduced to one of the Norfolk crowd that I hadn’t met before.  Graham had been an apprentice groundsman working under Les Simmons in the early days of the Elton John/GT era.  He had some interesting stories of his encounters with those three great men.  He then started talking about the Norwich fans that they had met earlier in the afternoon and how little confidence they had in their team.  He surmised that we would win the game, based on the fact that our fans were more confident.  I have to say that I wasn’t convinced as my confidence was very low based on my experiences following the Hornets so far this season.

While in the pub, somebody told me that the child of a friend had chatted to (referee) Andre Marriner in the ground.  I heard “in the Crown” and wondered what on earth the ref was doing in the pub before the game, although that would explain some of the refereeing decisions that we have seen this season.

Gathering for a corner

Team news was that Quique had made three changes from the Chelsea game with Holebas, Hughes and the very welcome return of Capoue in place of Masina, Gray and Chalobah.  So, the starting line-up was Foster; Cathcart, Kabasele, Dawson; Holebas, Doucouré, Capoue, Janmaat; Hughes; Pereyra, Deulofeu.  Even better news was that Deeney was on the bench.  We have missed him terribly.

We set off in good time to get to the ground for the 8pm kick-off.  But, having only had a toastie in the pub, Pete and I decided to get a pie in the ground, so were cutting it fine as we headed for our seats.  The steps into the stand were blocked as people had stopped to listen to the Last Post.  Once the minute’s silence was over, we were able to move but, when I emerged into the stand, the game had already kicked off.  As I climbed the steps to my seat, the crowd reaction around me indicated that we were attacking.  I turned around in time to see Deulofeu bursting into the box and finishing past Krul, so celebrated that goal by leaping up and down in the gangway.  An early goal was just what we needed to settle our nerves.  We continued positively and another run from Deulofeu resulted in a corner.  The delivery from Holebas was met by the head of Janmaat whose effort just cleared the bar.

Foster takes a goal kick

Pereyra then played a lovely cross-field ball to Holebas who tried a shot from distance which was blocked.  Watford had a great chance to grab a second in the 12th minute as a cross from Janmaat found Deulofeu in the box, but his shot was wide of the target.  The first real threat from Norwich came as Hernández broke forward before cutting the ball back to Pukki, but Cathcart was on hand to make the block.  Then Stiepermann played a dangerous through ball to Hernández, but Foster was out to smother the shot.  Watford had a great chance to increase their lead when the ball broke to Hughes who advanced and shot, but his effort was just wide of the target.  Then Pereyra found himself in a great position but wouldn’t attempt a shot.  Doucouré was more adventurous, but his shot was deflected into the arms of Krul.  Norwich looked sure to level the score when McLean crossed for Hernández but the shot, from point blank range, was saved by Foster, although the flag was up so it wouldn’t have counted anyway.  Watford were forced to make a substitution due to injury yet again, this time it was Pereyra who could not continue and made way for Gray.  Andre almost made an immediate impact as he got on the end of a cross from Hughes, turned and shot but it was deflected wide.  At the other end, a cross from Hernández was met by the head of McLean, but it was an easy save for Foster.  The Hornets threatened again as Holebas played the ball back to Capoue who hit a lovely shot, but it was wide of the target.  At the other end, Pukki cut the ball back to Buendía whose shot was dreadful, flying high and wide of the target.  The home side had a decent chance to draw level just before half time as the ball was flicked to Pukki but the volley was straight at Foster, so the half time whistle went with the Hornets in the lead.

Gray congratulated on his goal

Doucouré had the first chance of the second half with a shot from the edge of the area that was deflected over the bar.  The first booking of the game went to Kabasele who was cautioned for pulling back Hernández.  The Hornets scored a second after 52 minutes.  Deulofeu advanced down the left, his first attempt at a cross was blocked, the second was gorgeous and dropped for Gray who volleyed home.  Suddenly it felt much more comfortable.  The first substitution came on the hour as the home side decided to ring the changes, Buendía and Stiepermann were replaced by Cantwell and Drmic.  The home side had a chance to pull a goal back soon after when Lewis tried a shot from distance that was pushed around the post by Foster.  The resultant corner was met by a Watford head and the danger was over.  My heart sank as Kabasele saw a second yellow card for a silly push on Drmic.  He was on his way to the dressing room before the referee had the card out of his pocket.  It was an unnecessary foul and we would now have to play 25 minutes with 10 men.  The home side reacted positively to having an extra man on the field and we heard the Norwich fans, who are usually very vocal, for the first time during the evening.  There was a very harsh booking for Hughes who was cautioned for colliding with an opponent as he won a header.

Dawson, Janmaat and Kabasele in the Norwich box

Flores then made a tactical substitution.  Having lost Kabasele, he sacrificed Deulofeu for Mariappa.  Norwich had a great chance to get a goal back as McLean unleashed a powerful shot from the edge of the box, but it was met with a great save from Foster.  Norwich youngster, Cantwell, then broke into the box but his shot was blocked.  My nerves were tested when a cross into the Watford box was turned wide of the target by Janmaat.  From my angle, it looked as though he was going to turn the ball into his own net, but he knew what he was doing.  Cantwell’s corner was met by Lewis whose shot was high and wide.  With 10 minutes to go, Norwich made their final substitution bringing Vrancic on for Lewis.  Watford should have ensured the win when Hughes played a cross-field ball to Gray, but Andre had too much time to think about his shot and lifted it over the target.  With five minutes remaining of normal time, a frustrated Vrancic was booked for a nasty foul on Capoue in the Watford box.  Watford’s final change came with 2 minutes left on the clock as Holebas made way for Masina.  By this point the Watford fans, who had been in good voice all evening, were particularly confident and a chant of “We’re gonna win the league” rang out in the away end.  As 5 minutes of time was added, I had everything crossed that we would keep a clean sheet.  Thankfully the only event of note in added time was Masina getting booked for a foul on Aarons.  The final whistle went to great celebrations in the away end and joyful chants of “We’re not bottom any more.”

Holebas and Doucoure Prepare for a Corner

There were smiles and hugs and celebrations among the Watford fans.  We have waited far too long for that victory and it was well deserved.  While the game was not a classic, once Watford took the lead we looked comfortable.  Deulofeu can be very frustrating, but he took his goal brilliantly and his assist for Gray’s goal was a thing of beauty (very reminiscent of the goal against Wolves in the cup semi-final).  It was wonderful to see Capoue back in the team and his presence in the midfield allowed Doucouré to put in his best performance for some time.  The defence was solid, and the lads did very well to keep their shape and organisation with only 10 men on the pitch.  With Capoue and Deeney both returning to fitness, the future is looking a lot brighter and we can go into the international break feeling much more positive about our prospects for the season.

Richard was staying at the hotel attached to the ground, so we all went there for a post-match celebratory glass or two of Malbec.  When the Norwich fans who had been drowning their sorrows at the next table disappeared, they were replaced by a group of youngsters who clearly were not football fans.  When they were joined by an older guy, we realised that they were media types who had been working on the various broadcasts of the match as the older guy was Pat Nevin.  Now I have had a crush on Pat Nevin for decades, so came over all unnecessary at being in such close proximity, but I knew I wouldn’t have the nerve to speak to him.  We sat there for an hour or so trying not to stare (and failing miserably).  As we prepared to leave, Richard took the plunge and said hello to Pat.  The rest of us took a deep breath before joining him and were treated to a good twenty minutes of Pat chatting with us about Watford (too good to go down), meeting Elton John, being a footballer in the days when someone like him was considered to be a weirdo (I’m not a weirdo, they are weirdos), his friendship with John Peel.  He was absolutely delightful company, so warm and interesting.  He told us that he has just completed writing an autobiography (the first of three volumes).  That promises to be a fascinating read and will definitely be on a birthday/Christmas list in the near future.

We have had some tough trips this season, but Friday night in Norwich had 2 goals, 3 points, a clean sheet, great company and a hug from Pat Nevin to finish it off.  What could be better?

The Pygmies Slay the Giants

The statue of Bobby Robson

The statue of Bobby Robson

I was up at the crack of dawn again for the trip to Newcastle.  In my desire not to miss the train I had booked, tickets for which had cost a small fortune despite booking as soon as the fixture date was confirmed, I was at Kings Cross an hour before it was due to leave.  The upside of this is that it meant I bumped into Jon Marks and had time for a chat about our season so far.  The main theme was the fact that, unlike our last season in the Premier League, this time we are not travelling to every away game with a sense of impending doom.  Given the form of Newcastle this season, this game was definitely winnable.  It was only when he left that I realized that I hadn’t congratulated him on his tremendous celebration at the end of the Swansea game.

Newcastle really is a beautiful city.  The (circuitous) route to the designated pre-match pub took me down the steps at the side of the castle allowing a bit of sightseeing.  I arrived at the pub just after the doors had opened, so was able to grab a little section for our party to fill and I was soon joined by the usual suspects.  Among those in the same hostelry was Dave, our Supporter Liaison Officer, who took time to talk with a number of the North West Horns who were present.

 

A distant view of the handshakes

A distant view of the handshakes

The journey from the pub to the ground is not long, but it is all uphill, which was more painful due to the knowledge that on arrival we would have to climb 14 flights of stairs to reach level 7.  My memory of our last visit was that we were so high up that I could barely recognize the players.  In fact, I recall reading somewhere that it is a quarter of a mile from the back of the away end to the centre circle, so I had brought my binoculars.  Outside the ground, I was drawn to a statue (I do love statues) that purported to be of Bobby Robson but, to my mind, was not a great likeness.

Team news was that the only change was the replacement of the suspended Behrami with Ben Watson.  So the starting 11 was Gomes, Anya, Prödl, Cathcart, Nyom, Watson, Capoue, Jurado, Deeney, Abdi and Ighalo.

 

In the run up to the game, the Newcastle Chronicle had an article which included the paragraph, “Let’s face it, Watford are pygmies living in a land of giants.  They deserve huge credit for achieving what they have, but clubs like Newcastle, with 50,000 fans bellowing them on, ought to sweep them contemptuously aside.”  The words made my blood boil, but meant that Flores didn’t need to dig too deep to get inspiration for the pre-match team talk.

Congratulating Ighalo on goal number one

Congratulating Ighalo on goal number one

As the team prepared for kick off I was both surprised and encouraged to see the players acknowledging our chants.  It was a relief that they could hear us from such a distance.

Watford had the best of the early exchanges with Ighalo getting an early sight of goal as he beat his man on the edge of the box, turned and shot wide of the near post.  He went even closer soon after, shooting just wide after Abdi headed the ball down to him.  There was danger at the other end as a Newcastle cross was only helped on by Cathcart and Cisse prodded the ball past Gomes who, thankfully, scrambled back to smother it before it reached the goal.  The visitors were ahead after 10 minutes as Abdi won the ball on the wing, it found its way to Ighalo via Capoue and Deeney and the Nigerian hit it into the bottom corner to a send the travelling Hornets on level 7 into ecstasy.  Goal celebrations at that elevation were a bit dodgy and the chap in the row in front nearly went tumbling, but managed to regain his balance before any damage was done.  There then followed a period of bouncing from the happy Hornets up in the gods.

A second goal celebration

A second goal celebration

Newcastle looked to strike back almost immediately with a quick counter attack by Sissoko who played the ball out to Cisse but the shot was into the side netting.  The home side had another chance as Haidara cut the ball back to Sissoko but the cross evaded both Thauvin’s head and the goal.  Ighalo was taken down as he tried to break, howls for a foul were quietened when the ball broke to Jurado who found Abdi, he teed up Deeney whose shot curled just wide of the target.  Jurado had the ball on the edge of the box, but failed to test Krul with a shot that was weak and straight at the keeper.  Ighalo received the ball from a throw-in before breaking free of the defence but his shot was also straight at Krul.  Just before the half hour Watford were two goals ahead as a long pass from Prödl was beautifully controlled by Deeney before he played a through ball to Ighalo who rounded the keeper and found the net.  It was a lovely goal and, after chanting in praise of the scorer, the travelling Hornets also acknowledged Deeney’s contribution.  Full back, Nyom, went on a stunning run and, with no better idea of what to do just belted the ball at a defender to win a corner.  Jurado had the ball in the Newcastle box but didn’t seem to want to shoot and the lack of other options meant the chance went begging.    A Newcastle break was stopped by a cynical foul from Abdi who was booked for his trouble.  Newcastle looked to pull one back through Perez but his shot from distance flew over the bar.  Then a shot from Thauvin was parried by Gomes, the ball fell to Anya who went on a run upfield but, with nobody accompanying him, he had no outlet.  Just before half time, a ball into the Watford box bounced off a defender and out for a corner prompting loud cheers from the home fans that summed up how little they had had to applaud in the first half.  In time added on, Nyom released Ighalo but Krul was quickly out of his box to clear the danger.  The half time whistle went to boos from the Newcastle fans.  In contrast, the travelling Hornets were delighted with their two goal lead and the very assured performance of their team.

Gomes launches the ball

Gomes launches the ball

The visitors had the first chance of the second half through Deeney, whose shot was deflected for a corner.  But it was the home side who struck next, pulling a goal back just after the hour mark as Janmaat exchanged passes with Sissoko before shooting past Gomes.  Watford tried to restore the two goal lead as Ighalo found Deeney in the box but he was tackled before he could line up a shot.  Newcastle’s goalscorer, Janmaat, very nearly grabbed an equalizer, but Gomes was equal to the shot and pushed the ball around the post.  The Dutchman then turned provider with a cross that de Jong headed wide.  Flores made his first substitution with 15 minutes to go with Berghuis coming on for Abdi.  The substitute went on a run through the middle and passed to Nyom whose cross was wild.  A counter attack by the home side finished with a shot from de Jong that Gomes got down to save.  Watford’s second substitution saw Ake coming on for Jurado, a change which was welcomed by the fans in the away end as the Spaniard had had another disappointing game.  An attempt to break by Wijnaldum was stopped as he was pulled back by Capoue, who was cautioned.  With three minutes remaining on the clock, Guedioura replaced Watson much to the delight of the travelling Hornets who had been calling for his introduction for some time.

Challenging at a corner

Challenging at a corner

Newcastle’s first caution went to Colback who received a yellow card for a trip on Ighalo as he tried to break.  In all honesty, this did us a favour as Odion appeared to be running out of steam and this ensured that we kept possession and a little more time was used up.  Berghuis cut the ball back to Nyom on the right wing, he charged into the box but his shot was high and wide.  I had been counting down the seconds since Newcastle’s goal, so was relieved that there was only 4 minutes of added time this week.  Thankfully, the only chance of an equalizer in this period came with a shot from Mbemba that went harmlessly across the goal and wide.  The final whistle went to boos from the home fans and loud cheers from Hornets up in the gods.  The joy on the faces of the players and coaching staff as they celebrated reflected that of the fans in level 7.  I swear we floated back down those 14 flights.

 

Nathan Ake

Nathan Ake

So, back to back wins in the Premier League, both of them thoroughly good performances.  Although, as this is Watford, they never make it easy for us and that second half had been a bit painful to watch at times.  Especially occasions when we had a good spell of possession but didn’t seem to want to increase the goal tally.  While Ighalo will receive the plaudits for his goals, it was his great interaction with Deeney that left the biggest smile on my face.  They are back to their best.  We missed Behrami in midfield and I was, again, disappointed with Jurado but, all in all, it was another impressive performance from a team that looks like it belongs at this level.  I am starting to like Premier League football.