Tag Archives: Tom Ince

At Least the Pies Were Good

Harold Wilson still IN

After my complaints last week about the ticket office being unhelpful in our attempts to renew my niece’s season ticket, I am pleased to report that, thanks to help from Richard Walker and Dave Messenger, it was all sorted out on Monday and Amelia has secured her seat for next season.

On to this Saturday and I left London ridiculously early, taking the 8:33 out of King’s Cross.  This proved to be a very good decision as the train an hour later was subject to long delays that would have severely restricted my time in what was a fabulous pub.  After a pleasant journey, I arrived to find Harold Wilson in the square outside the station draped in an EU flag with a placard declaring his support for continued membership.  It was then a short walk to the pre-match pub where the beer was fabulous and the pies were superb.  I chose the moo and blue, which was as meaty and cheesy as you could wish for and accompanied by lovely, thick, caramelised chips, peas and onion gravy.  Others in our party who tried the goat curry pie were equally fulsome in their praise of the food.

The pub was also hosting an “At Your Place” event, which was packed out and, by all accounts, went very well.  A special treat for the NE/NW/Yorks Hornets was the presence of Tony Coton, who came and said hello to us afterwards.  He looked unsure about leaning across a table full of beer glasses to give me a kiss, but I wasn’t taking no for an answer.

The walk to the stadium was everything I love about that time before the game.  As the crowds merged, there was that sense of anticipation that builds when you don’t quite know how the afternoon will pan out.  When we arrived by the away turnstiles, we found a huge queue in front of us, but, thankfully, we were soon through security and took our seats just in time for kick-off.

Favourites old and new, Femenia and Hogg

Team news was the very welcome return of Cathcart in place of Holebas, who had taken a knock during the week.  Otherwise, the Hornets were unchanged from the last game, so the starting line-up was Karnezis; Mariappa, Prödl, Cathcart, Janmaat; Doucouré, Capoue; Femenía, Hughes, Pereyra; Deeney.  Huddersfield was captained by former Watford hero, Jonathan Hogg, who certainly still has a place in my heart.

The game started with the home side dominating possession, although the first goal attempt didn’t come until the 18th minute when, from a corner, Mounié headed the ball down for Quaner, Karnezis managed to block the shot, but the flag was up for offside anyway.  The Terriers had another chance soon after as van La Parra crossed into a danger area, but Janmaat was on hand to put the ball out for a corner just before being booked for an earlier foul on Mooy.  Watford’s first real attack came in the 27th minute when they won a corner, but Pereyra’s delivery was poor and went straight out of play.  The visitors followed up with a nice passing move, but it finished with a wayward shot from Deeney that was deflected for a corner.  Again the delivery of the set-piece by Pereyra was dreadful and the ball flew out of play.  It was not the Argentine’s day as he made an attempt to rescue a ball, fell while challenging and was booked, apparently for simulation, which seemed odd as, from my vantage point, he just appeared to have missed a tackle.  Pereyra redeemed himself by playing a lovely pass to Doucouré but the shot was straight at Lössl in the Huddersfield goal, so was easily saved.  A Pereyra free-kick was pounced on by both Deeney and Doucouré, they seemed to get in each other’s way, but the skipper touched it on and Abdoulaye managed a shot that was deflected into the side netting.  That was the closest that either side came to a goal in a half in which the final action was a booking for Zanka for a trip on Pereyra.

Pereyra and Mariappa

It had been a strange first half, there was a lot of running with very little in the way of either goalmouth action or quality.  Huddersfield had dominated possession but had yet to test Karnezis.

The second half also started slowly, the first action of note being a free kick that was played short to Hughes, but his delivery was poor and flew wide of the target.  Each side made a substitution around the hour mark.  First Femenía made way for Richarlison.  Then Ince came on for Quaner to boos from the travelling Hornets.  The visitors had a decent looking chance (at least in the context of this game) as Deeney played in Hughes but, while trying to avoid challenges, he was unable to get a shot in and the ball rolled through to Lössl.  There was a half chance for the home side as a shot from Mounié was blocked by Doucouré.  Then van La Parra tried his luck with a curling shot that was well wide of the target.  Huddersfield made their second change bringing Depoitre on for Mounié.  From the other end of the ground, I was a little concerned when Pritchard went down under a challenge from Prödl, but the referee adjudged that the Huddersfield man had played for the penalty and booked him.

Challenging at a corner

With about 10 minutes remaining, each side made a substitution with Billing on for van La Parra and Deeney making way for Gray.  The home side had a chance to take the lead almost immediately as a defensive header from Prödl reached Hogg, whose shot was just wide of the far post.  At this point, there was an ironic chant of “This is the best trip I’ve ever been on” from the travelling Hornets.  Gracia’s last roll of the dice was to replace Hughes with Sinclair.  But it was the home side who made the breakthrough in time added on with a goal out of nothing.  A ball was launched into the Watford box, Karnezis came across to gather but Zanka pulled the ball back and Ince was on hand to finish into an empty net with Huddersfield’s first on-target shot of the game.  So frustrating.  The Hornets tried to hit back as a shot from Prödl was blocked leading to a Watford corner, but Lössl leapt to gather the delivery and the home side won all three points at the death.

 

Pereyra ready to take a free kick

At the final whistle there was a joyous roar from the Huddersfield fans, who had been very loud in support of their team throughout the game.  I was happy for them, but couldn’t help but contrast that with the tears of two young Watford fans who were sitting near me.

It was another very frustrating afternoon for Watford fans.  Our team had certainly been better in the second half, but it was hard to argue that we deserved anything out of the game.  Huddersfield seemed to want it more, even if they did have only the one shot on target.

Sadly we are having yet another season where we finish with a whimper and (hopefully) stay up due to sterling efforts in our early games.  I find myself looking forward to mid-May when it will all be over.  But I can’t help hoping that we still have something more to cheer this season.  Otherwise, the pies had better be cracking over the next month.

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 Happy Homecoming

The Clough and Taylor statue is a gorgeous thing

The Clough and Taylor statue is a gorgeous thing

I have been away for a month travelling through Australia and New Zealand, so have followed the recent drama from afar.  I cheered when we topped the table.  Was horrified to hear of the dreadful attack on Nic Cruwys, my thoughts remain with him and his family.  I was also greatly saddened to hear of the loss of Guy Judge, a passionate Watford fan and friend to many.  He will be greatly missed by his Watford friends and family.

After so long away, it was a little odd to be setting off for a game again.  I left far too early and managed to forget my replica shirt.  When I arrived in the pre-match pub in rainy Derby, there was no sign of my companions, so I went to look upstairs but was told it was closed until 6.  I then heard my name being called …. from upstairs.  The security man looked shamefaced, “There have been infiltrators,” so I ducked under the guard rope to join my party.  When a couple more infiltrators arrived soon after, Mr Security gave up and opened the upstairs bar.

When we reached the ground, there was a terrific atmosphere in the concourse.  And, when the players came out, they were greeted with ticker tape, balloons and streamers.  There was no mistaking how important this game was to the travelling fans.

The starting line-up was Gomes, Hoban, Angella, Cathcart, Motta, Guedioura, Watson, Layun, Ighalo, Deeney and Vydra.  Watford old boy, Forsyth started for Derby with former loanee Thorne back from his long-term injury.

Celebrating Vydra's goal

Celebrating Vydra’s goal

The first notable incident was an early card for Ben Watson who lost out to Bryson and hit back with a late tackle.  Watford’s first goal attempt came on 11 minutes when Deeney got on the end of a Layun corner but directed the ball wide of the goal.  At the other end, a Bent shot was deflected for a corner.  From the set piece, the ball was cut back to Bent but Gomes was alert, stuck a foot out and turned the shot around the post.  At the other end, Ighalo tried a shot from distance that was deflected wide.  Then Deeney won the ball on the right and advanced but there was no Watford player in the box to meet his cross.  Deeney had another chance to put the visitors ahead with a header from a Motta cross, but he directed it straight at Grant in the Derby goal.  Watford took the lead on 23 minutes as Vydra won the ball, played it to Ighalo then advanced into the box to receive the return and blast it past Grant to send the travelling Hornets into delirium.  There were chants of “We are top of the league,” but it was far too early for that.

Cathcart lines up a free kick

Cathcart lines up a free kick

Hughes had a chance to equalize almost immediately as his shot from distance was just narrowly wide of the target.  Thorne’s return to action didn’t last very long as he had to be replaced by Hendrick.  Bent broke into the Watford box, but he didn’t have the ball under control so Gomes was able to come and gather the ball.  Ince tumbled dramatically on the edge of the box and, with the crowd shouting for a penalty, Watford launched a counter attack where a ball over the top to Deeney led to a collision between the striker and the keeper.  At the other end, Bent had another chance with a header but he’d mistimed his jump so it was well wide of the target.  Another Derby attack was thwarted as Angella tackled with a back heel, total class.  The Derby forwards were then frustrated by some diligent harrying from Vydra putting in a shift in the defence.  Watford threatened again as Guedioura picked up a loose ball and broke into the box, his shot was saved by Grant and Deeney was unable to connect for the follow-up.

Motta takes a throw

Motta takes a throw

Another good Derby cross was missed by Bent, who then got the ball stuck under his feet when he found himself on the edge of the Watford area, so did not threaten the goal.  Ince then broke into the box but his shot was deflected for a corner.  Derby equalized just before half-time.  I must admit that my first impression of Motta’s challenge on Russell was that it had been a brilliant tackle, so I was gutted when Kevin Friend first pointed to the spot and then showed Motta a red card.  Not again!!  Bent, whose goal attempts so far had been somewhat wanting, stepped up and beat Gomes from the spot.

Needless to say, the conversation at half time was about the penalty incident.  Texts from friends watching the game on TV shared the pundits’ opinion that it was a penalty but the card was harsh.  Whatever the truth of the matter, we felt hard done by and were not relishing the prospect of the second period.

Defending a corner

Defending a corner

At the start of the second half, it was no surprise when Jokanovic sacrificed one of the strikers for Tözsér.  The only surprise was that it was Vydra who went off rather than Ighalo, who had had a rather frustrating first period.  The visitors started the half well and there was a taste of things to come as Guedioura played a lovely through ball for Deeney who, unfortunately, couldn’t reach it.  Deeney then had a couple of chances to regain the lead with, first, a header from a Tözsér free-kick that needed a good save from Grant to keep it out.  Then the ball found its way back to Troy but his shot from distance was wide of the target.  But it was the home side who took the lead as Ince skipped into the box and shot into the far corner past Gomes.  My heart sank.  Jokanovic decided to change things bringing Anya on for Layun.  The next notable action was another booking, this time for Deeney, for what could only be described as a coming together that ended with Shotton rolling dramatically on the ground.  What was particularly galling about this card was that Deeney was trying to get the ball near the Derby penalty area.  If you can’t challenge for a ball in that area of the field, you might as well give up.  An attempted forward break by Ince was stopped by a lovely tackle.

Heroes all

Heroes all

The Watford equalizer was a thing of beauty and played out right in front of us, so we got a wonderful view as Guedioura played a peach of a pass into the path of Ighalo who coolly tucked it past Grant sparking mayhem in the away end.  It was no more than we deserved at that point as we’d had a great spell.  McLaren reacted to the goal by bringing Chris Martin on.  A moment of carelessness soon after nearly undid all our good work as Ighalo gave the ball away to Bent who advanced and shot but was foiled by the legs of Gomes.  Jokanovic made a defensive substitution sacrificing Ighalo, who left the field to loud chants of his name, for Connolly.  It was backs against the wall stuff for the last 10 minutes.  Ince had a great chance to regain the lead for Derby as he turned and shot but directed his effort over the bar.  Hearts were in mouths as Angella tried to shepherd the ball out but had the ball nicked off his feet by a Derby player whose cross was cleared by Cathcart.  The fourth official held up the board to show six added minutes.  “Where did he get 6 minutes from,” asked the bloke next to me.  “McLaren” was my churlish reply.  My abiding memory of those interminable minutes was of 10 Watford players lining up across the field deep in their own half, which seemed a bit risky but the only real goal chance that the home side had was the last action of the game as a header from Keogh was brilliantly tipped over by Gomes.

The whistle went to huge cheers from the travelling Hornets.  The Derby players slumped to the ground, they needed 3 points from this game.  Our lads were completely exhausted and I was trembling due to the stress of the previous 20 minutes.  The players were given such a rapturous reception that you would have thought they’d won the game.  Nobody seemed to want to leave the away stand, it was reminiscent of games in the 80s when we were kept in for 15 minutes after the final whistle.  So we were all still there when Guedioura came over after receiving his man of the match award and was given a hero’s ovation and responded in kind.

Post match drinks went on long into the night with reflections on how much fun we’ve had following Watford this season.  We need a win on Monday, but the brave second half performance has set us up rather nicely.  It’s good to be home.