Tag Archives: Tom Lees

Gutted, but Proud

The GT Stand greeting the team

The GT Stand greeting the team

After the post-match excitement of last week, it had been another long wait for the Championship decider.  It was all in our own hands.  Win today and we were champions.

It was an earlier than usual start due to the lunchtime kick-off and, when I arrived in Watford, there were only a smattering of Watford shirts around, but the red and yellow bunting outside The Flag was a nice touch.  On arrival at the West Herts, there was already a decent crowd in there calming their nerves with a liquid breakfast.  When we left for the ground, you could already hear the roars from Vicarage Road.

There was a depressing sign of things to come with hawkers selling Premier League tat in Vicarage Road, although I didn’t actually see any ticket touts.  We have that treat awaiting us.  There was a tremendous atmosphere inside the ground.  A message from Elton John was shown on the big screen.  Then, as the players came out, the Rookery held up a foil display organized by the 1881.  The other stands had flags, streamers, ticker tape and balloons.  It was a tremendous spectacle and lovely to see four stands swathed in yellow.

The promoted Hornets come on to the pitch

The promoted Hornets come on to the pitch

Team news was three changes with Motta in for Paredes, Layun replacing Guedioura, whose loan period expired last week and Vydra preferred to Ighalo up front.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Connolly, Cathcart, Angella, Anya, Abdi, Watson, Layun, Motta, Vydra and Deeney.

Watford made a bright start as Abdi played a lovely ball out to Motta on the right wing, he crossed for Layun whose shot was blocked.  At the other end, Lavery headed the ball in the direction of Lee but Gomes leapt salmon-like to pluck the ball from the air.  Watford had a very good shout for a penalty as Watson won the ball and played in Deeney, who broke into the box and tried to dribble around Kirkland who took his legs from under him.  From the other end of the ground, it was hard to see how it could be anything other than a penalty, but Lee Probert thought otherwise.  In the 12th minute, as planned, there was a chant of “We’ve got Lloydinho.”  Sad to think that, with his contract expiring this Summer, we may never see Lloyd in a Watford shirt again.  Deeney was the next to win the ball back, he passed to Vydra whose shot was blocked by Kirkland.

Celebrating Vydra's goal

Celebrating Vydra’s goal

Watford took the lead after 25 minutes as Deeney broke through, his shot was saved but the ball rebounded to Vydra, who headed home.  We could have had a second soon after as Watson, again, won a ball in midfield, he passed to Deeney who played the ball out to Anya on the left but Ikechi’s shot was into the side netting.  A corner from Abdi was headed over by Angella.  Then Vydra played a short pass to Deeney who crossed for Abdi who just touched the ball wide.  Deeney battled into the box and tried a chip which drifted wide of the goal.  A rare chance for the visitors as a free-kick found Lees in the box, but his header was well wide.  Watford should have increased their lead from a lovely move as Deeney played the ball out to Motta who crossed for Abdi who really should have scored, but put it wide.  Abdi then released Motta who advanced down the wing and into the box where he should have squared for Deeney or Vydra but instead hit a weak shot that was easy for Kirkland.  The 44th minute was marked with applause for Nic Cruwys from every stand in the ground including the away end.  In the last minutes of the half, a crossfield ball found Anya, but there was no Watford player in the box to meet his cross.  The ball eventually found its way to Layun who shot just wide.  So the half-time whistle went with Watford a goal to the good.  It had been a tremendous performance from the Hornets who fought for every ball and restricted the opposition to the odd breakaway.  But the finishing had been wasteful.  We should have been 3 or 4 goals ahead and I just hoped that we wouldn’t live to rue those misses.

Lining up a free kick

Lining up a free kick

At half time, it was lovely to see Guedioura on the pitch presenting the Club Hero award to Mary Thompson, a very worthy recipient.  Cate and I also visited Casey Evans to buy some of the wristbands that she was selling in aid of the Nic Cruwys fund.  A lovely effort, which raised £200.

The players had to wait a long time on the pitch before the second half kicked off, presumably to keep time with the TV games.  Watford had an early attack as Connolly played a gorgeous dink to Deeney whose shot was blocked by Buxton, who needed treatment afterwards.  From the eventual corner, the ball came out to Layun whose shot from outside the box was well wide of the target.   At the other end Maguire attempted a shot that flew well over the bar.  Anya crossed for Motta who delayed his shot so was closed down when a welly may well have been a better option.  A Vydra cross was met with a powerful header from Deeney that was wide of the far post.  Then Abdi played a ball over the top for Vydra to run on to, but Kirkland got there first.  Another ball was played over the top, this time for Deeney but Kirkland was out of his area to clear.  Vydra gave the ball away in midfield, but the Wednesday player could not get the better of the Watford defence and the ball was shepherded out for a goal kick.  Watford’s first substitution saw Motta replaced by Paredes.  Abdi crossed into the box for Deeney, who chested the ball down, but the flag was up for offside.  Jokanovic made a second substitution with 20 minutes to go replacing Anya with Tözsér.  Deeney fed Abdi who was bearing down on goal, but Kirkland was down to block the shot.  Watford’s final substitution saw Ighalo replacing Vydra who left the field to a standing ovation.

Slavisa Jokanovic post match

Slavisa Jokanovic post match

With five minutes to go, people started streaming down the steps of the Rookery to gather pitchside for an invasion.  It all seemed a bit premature as there was still only one goal in it.  Then a flare was thrown on the pitch.  A steward went to retrieve it and another was thrown at him.  The rest of the Rookery let the idiot who threw the flares know exactly what they thought of him.  In the final minutes of the game, Abdi played a ball into the box for Ighalo, but he couldn’t reach it.  In time added on, we gave away a stupid free kick in a dangerous position.  There was a delay before the kick could be taken as a moron had wandered on to the pitch.  The free-kick was met with a defensive header, but we couldn’t get the ball clear and my heart broke when I saw the ball hit the net.  Watford tried to regain the lead with a tremendous shot from Tözsér that required a good save from Kirkland to keep it out.  Watford won a succession of corners which were hampered by the fans on the goalline.  The final whistle went with a Wednesday player breaking forward and Gomes still upfield after the corners.

Deeney having a well deserved celebration

Deeney having a well deserved celebration

There was a huge pitch invasion.  I have to say that, while I am all for pitch invasions when the game is over, it was disappointing to see how many people were more concerned with getting selfies on the pitch than with the result of the game.  I felt totally deflated and, talking to many people afterwards, that was a common feeling.  Eventually the pitch was cleared and the players came out.  Jon Marks interviewed a number of them on the pitch and eventually reached Troy Deeney who said how p*ssed off he was but then launched into a chant of “Watford FC” which brought a smile back to my face.

It was a sombre post match gathering, as it had all been a bit of an anti-climax.  We had made enough chances to have won several games and ended up losing the title to Wednesday’s only on-target shot.  But there was time to reflect on the tremendous job that the team and the staff have done this season.  The team is talented, hard-working and they play for each other with a great team spirit.  In years to come this will be a squad that is regarded with much affection.  It will be a hard job next season, but I believe that we already have a number of players who will shine in the Premier League.  It will be an exciting new adventure.  We now have the Summer to recover and get ourselves ready.  When are the fixtures out???

 

Whites-wash

Yesterday was a very sad day for me as I handed the Supporter of the Season shield back to the club ready to be engraved with the name of this year’s winner.  I have to admit that I had it sitting on my desk at work all day, just to eke out the final moments with it in my possession.

The teams emerge

The teams emerge

Team news was that Beppe had made four changes from Saturday’s team, the most significant of which was Abdi’s first start since August.  The announcement of Almen’s involvement was greeted with loud cheers from the Vicarage Road crowd.  The starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Cassetti, Angella, Riera, Tözsér, Abdi, Murray, Faraoni, Anya and Deeney.  The Leeds line-up included the evil Poleon, whose actions last season in causing Bond’s injury cast a pall over the last game of the season.  But, as always, it was lovely to see Watford legend Nigel Gibbs back at Vicarage Road, even if it pains me to see him with that crest on his chest.

Gibbsy and Sannino exhibiting their national characteristics

Gibbsy and Sannino exhibiting their national characteristics

Watford started brightly and, in the third minute, Anya released Abdi on the left, he crossed for Faraoni whose shot was blocked.  Anya then received a pass from Deeney on the edge of the box, but was taken out by a sliding tackle.  We were a goal up after 8 minutes as Abdi played a lovely ball to Anya on the left wing, he advanced and crossed and there was Abdi to head the ball past Butland.  It was a lovely goal, made all the more enjoyable by the identity of the goalscorer.  It is great to have Almen back.  For the next twenty minutes, Leeds had a lot of possession but were not allowed to do anything with it.  Then Marco Cassetti executed a high tackle on Tonge and found his way into the referee’s book just in time to earn himself a suspension for his tenth caution of the season.  Just before the half hour, Deeney played a lovely through ball to Anya, but the Scot got the ball caught under his feet and the defence got back to thwart him.  Then McCormack saw Almunia off his line and launched an audacious shot from the halfway line that had the Watford keeper back-pedalling to get

Celebrating Anya's Goal

Celebrating Anya’s Goal

behind it.  We went two goals up as Anya played a short pass to the overlapping Riera, his low cross reached Murray who played it short to Faraoni whose cross back to the far post was met with a header from Anya that flew past Butland.  Watford attacked again as Deeney released Murray who advanced before playing a through ball to Faraoni but his shot was put out for a corner.  At half time, there was satisfaction that we were comfortably two goals ahead.  Leeds had had a lot of possession, but our defence had restricted their shooting opportunities so that the only shot that Almunia had to deal with was a punt from the half-way line.

Challenges in the penalty area

Challenges in the penalty area

Leeds were immediately on the attack at the start of the second half as Riera lost out to Poleon who played a through ball to Hunt whose shot was wide of the near post and bounced behind the goal.  Deeney played a ball over to Anya but he was tripped by Wootton, who was booked.  Then Murray played a lovely ball to Deeney in the box, but Butland came out to block.  The clearance eventually reached Tözsér who, with shouts of “shoooot” ringing in his ears, curled a shot just wide of the target.  Then Riera intercepted the ball, it reached Deeney who tried to release Anya, but the pass was too far in front of him.  At the other end, a low shot from the substitute, Stewart, was straight at Almunia.  On the hour mark, Faraoni put the ball out to allow McCormack to receive treatment and was rewarded with a kick from Hunt, who was lucky to escape with a yellow card.  Hunt was involved in the next attack but his header from a free kick was straight at

Deeney is under there somewhere

Deeney is under there somewhere

Almunia.  Watford’s third goal was a testament to the persistence of two men.  First Abdi intercepted and then battled a defender to keep the ball, he passed to Deeney who went past a couple of defenders in the box, while never appearing to have control of the ball, before hitting a shot from an acute angle that hit the roof of the net.  By way of celebration, he leapt into the Rookery and was engulfed in the celebrating crowd.  When he emerged he was given a yellow card.  Then Anya beat a defender and cut the ball back to Deeney who tried to find his strike partner with a through ball, but Butland was first to it.  Poleon tried a shot at Almunia, which was parried, and, when he lined up to shoot from the rebound, he was tackled and Watford launched a counter attack which finished with Anya playing a square ball to Deeney who looked certain to score but Butland stood tall

Waiting for the ball to drop

Waiting for the ball to drop

and blocked his shot.  At the other end, Warnock tried a shot that was well over the bar.  In the last ten minutes, both sides made substitutions as White replaced McCormack for Leeds and McGugan and Pudil came on for Abdi and Riera.  McGugan’s first action was to latch on to a throw-in and hit a cross that was blocked by Pearce with no little pain for the defender.  Leeds then put themselves into trouble as a corner bounced off the back of Tonge’s thigh and needed an intervention from Butland to prevent them from going further behind.  Merkel replaced Murray for the last couple of minutes of the game, but there was no subsequent action of note.

Applauding the crowd

Applauding the crowd

At the final whistle, there was a feeling of job done by the home team against an opposition that had had a lot of possession but were very poor.  But, sometimes, you have to give credit to a team in that situation.  I was impressed with the performance as, despite their possession, the Leeds players were allowed no time on the ball to create anything and never really threatened Almunia.  A feature after the final whistle of recent games has been the rage that Angella demonstrates when we underachieve, so it was nice to see him celebrating with his team mates rather than them running from his fury.

After the players had been applauded off the pitch, Cristian Battocchio made his way on crutches along the front of the Rookery and was greeted with warm applause and the faithful chanting his name.  Despite his injury, he was smiling broadly as he acknowledged the crowd.

Don and Johnno

Don and Johnno

On the way out of the ground, I went to meet Don Fraser in the Lower Rous.  During the game, he had been joined by Richard Johnson, a corporate guest for the game, who chose to watch from the disabled platform rather than the posh seats in the Upper Rous.  As we left through the lounge, I greeted Johnno, although I wasn’t sure that he could hear me after 90 minutes of listening to Don barracking the referee.  As we left through the hospitality entrance, there was a bloke surrounded by a crowd of people having photographs taken with him.  I assumed he was a retired footballer and that I would kick myself when I found out who he was.  Then I read the report of the game on the BBC website and saw a photograph of Massimo Cellino and the penny dropped.  Although why on earth anyone would want to have their picture taken with him completely baffles me.