Tag Archives: Toumani Diagouraga

Progression to the Quarter Finals

Good luck to Watford legend, Doyley

Good luck to Watford legend, Doyley, with his new club

The West Herts was surprisingly quiet when I arrived for my pre-match refreshments.  I did wonder whether a cup game against a team that we have faced regularly meant that the crowd would be depleted, but it soon filled up.  I had the added pleasure of the company of my sister, who was a regular in the early 80s, but is now known to my Watford friends as Amelia’s Mum!

Team news was that Flores had made six changes bringing Pantilimon, Paredes, Britos, Holebas, Suárez and Abdi in for Gomes, Nyom, Prödl, Aké, Behrami and Ighalo.  So the starting line-up was Pantilimon, Holebas, Cathcart, Britos, Paredes, Watson, Suárez, Capoue, Deeney, Abdi and Amrabat.  For the visitors, Watford Academy graduate Toumani Diagouraga (Dave), for whom I’ve always had a soft spot, lined up alongside former loanee Liam Bridcutt.

Walking through the Rookery concourse, I had to stop and take a photo of the poster marking Doyley’s debut.  Much as I am happy that he has a new club, it is really hard to think of him playing for another team.

Gathering for a corner

Gathering for a corner

As always on cup days, there were a lot of strange faces in the seats around us.  Having seen the complaints on social media from Leeds fans that there were nowhere near enough tickets available for their massive fan base, I feared that we would have some opposition fans around us.  But, thankfully, yet again, all of the new faces around us were Watford fans.

Watford almost had a dream start to the game as Deeney met a Capoue cross with a header that was deflected just wide.  Then a Watson corner was headed over by Britos when he really should have hit the target.  The next chance came from a Holebas cross which Amrabat headed upwards so that it looped safely into the arms of Silvestri.  Watson’s next corner was delivered deep and headed back across the goal and wide of the far post by Britos.  The visitors won a corner which was taken by Taylor and caught by Pantilimon who didn’t have to leave the ground.  I’d heard that he was tall, but was taken aback to find out that he was a similar height to the bloke standing in the row in front at Palace last week.  There was a moment of joy as Capoue nutmegged a couple of Leeds players before passing to Abdi who found Holebas whose shot was deflected for a corner.  Then a cross came in to Capoue, who played the ball out to Abdi, whose shot was blocked.  The first booking of the game went to Bellusci who was penalized for stopping Watford taking a quick throw-in.

A half hearted goal celebration

A half hearted goal celebration

The first real attack by Leeds came through a dangerous looking break from Antenucci who played the ball to Dallas whose shot was very weak and easy for Pantilimon.  Soon after, Dallas got into another good position, but the presence of Watson ensured that his shot was wide of the far post.  The first yellow card for the home side came when Paredes pulled Taylor’s shirt.  A silly booking to pick up.  Watford threatened again as Troy battled past a couple of players before playing a through ball to Paredes whose cross was easily gathered by Silvestri.  The visitors had a late chance to take the lead in the first half with a shot from Dallas that was deflected wide.

The half time mood in the home end was one of frustration.  Watford had dominated the game and Leeds had been rather poor opposition, but all our dominance in possession had not led to Silvestri being tested.

A premature celebration caught on camera

A premature celebration caught on camera

In a similar manner to the first period, Watford had a great start to the second half.  Deeney had an early foray into the box, but his shot from a narrow angle was blocked for a corner.  Watson’s delivery was disappointing, but resulted in another corner from which the delivery was considerably better and was met by the head of Cathcart who put the ball over the bar.  Bridcutt was the next player to find his name in the referee’s book for a tackle on Capoue.  Watford continued to attack and a cross towards Cathcart at the far post was intercepted by Taylor who headed it out for a corner.  But Watford took the lead very soon afterwards as a lovely cross from Watson was turned home by Wootton who was probably concerned that Deeney was just behind him, not knowing that one of his team mates had flattened the Watford man.  Celebration of an own goal is always a bit odd for the players, but Watson received plaudits for his cross.  The home side should have been two up very soon after as Abdi went on a great run, the Leeds defence opened up in front of him, but his shot was over the bar.  A minute later, Watford thought they had scored a second as Holebas released Amrabat who crossed to Capoue who buried the ball.  I heard the whistle before the ball hit the net but many others didn’t, including my sister whose celebration was broadcast on the BBC, as she discovered when the screen shot was sent to her by one of her daughters.  Television pictures showed that Deeney was deemed to have pushed one of the defenders, but it was a soft foul and it seems much more likely that there is an unwritten rule that Capoue must not be allowed to score.

Watson takes a free kick

Watson takes a free kick

The first substitution was made by the visitors as Mowatt replaced Dallas.  Another Watford corner resulted in another Cathcart header over the bar.  Leeds had their best chance of the game so far on 65 minutes as Bridcutt unleashed a stinging shot that was easily caught by Pantilimon.  At the other end, Deeney broke into the box but, with only the keeper to beat, the angle was narrowed so he passed to Capoue who was tripped, but the referee waved penalty appeals away.  Flores made his first substitution on 67 minutes replacing Amrabat with Ighalo.  The Nigerian was immediately involved as he broke forward but he slipped before he could shoot and the chance was lost.  Yet again Deeney battled into the box, but this time he was deemed to have fouled the defender and a free kick was given to the opposition.  Quique’s second substitution saw Guedioura coming on for Abdi.  The impressive Holebas went on a great run which finished with a poor shot that was easy for Silvestri.  There was a break in the game as the perennially unpleasant Steve Evans kicked off about something.  Flores wasn’t going to be drawn and retreated graciously.  I think he was right in thinking that a Quique hug wouldn’t have helped the situation, and it would have been wasted on Evans.  Guedioura played a lovely cross for Ighalo but the Nigerian was held off the ball so couldn’t connect.  Then Deeney broke forward before finding Capoue who reverted to his usual accuracy in front of goal blasting well over and leaving me with my head in my hands.

Costel Pantilimon

Costel Pantilimon

There was a rare attack from the visitors as Wootton broke forward before finding Doukara who hit the ball over the bar.  Anya came on for Capoue just before the fourth official indicated an additional five minutes.  In his first action, Ikechi went on a great run and crossed for Ighalo whose touch was poor so the chance went begging.  There was one last chance for the Hornets to make the game safe as Ighalo was brought down on the edge of the box.  Deeney played the free kick short to Watson whose shot was low and into the wall.  There was one final chance for the visitors as a cross was punched by Pantilimon to Doukara whose shot was blocked before the final whistle went to signal a Watford win.  The young lad sitting behind me had become quite philosophical towards the end as he reasoned that, if Leeds did get an equalizer, we would win the replay.  I wasn’t quite so calm about this outcome as I really didn’t fancy a midweek trip to Leeds in a couple of weeks.

As we left the ground through the GT stand, there were Police horses at the hospital side of the ground and a large crowd of Leeds fans blocking the road and making snide comments about how miserable we looked.  Having had a number of unpleasant experiences at Elland Road dating back to the late 80s, I would not have dared to have come out celebrating and was very happy to escape up Harwoods Road and back among the Watford fans making their way home.

There were a number of people who expressed their disappointment at the narrow win, but it appeared to me to be an efficient win against a team that never really threatened.  So we are in the quarter finals, but won’t know our opponents until a couple of days before the game when Arsenal and Hull play their replay.  The prospect of facing Arsenal in the quarter finals will always evoke memories of 1987, the non-penalty, Luther scoring the third goal and GT ducking under a rain of coins which, unlike Chris Brunt’s experience, came from the opposition.  Whatever happens from now on, being in 9th position in the table and the quarter-final of the FA Cup is pretty impressive.

Proper Football

Gathering for the pre-match huddle

Gathering for the pre-match huddle

I woke up on Tuesday morning with a rotten cold which meant that I spent most of the day sneezing and with my nose streaming.  I felt awful, so my plan to spend the evening on a cold terrace seemed foolish in the extreme.  The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should give this one a miss.  That thought was quickly dismissed.  Instead I dosed myself up with Sudafed and best bitter and took my rightful place on the Griffin Park terrace for the top of the table clash.

Jokanovic had made two changes from Saturday with Tözsér and Forestieri coming in for Munari and Hoban.  The starting line-up was Gomes, Anya, Angella, Cathcart, Paredes, Tözsér, Watson, Ighalo, Layun, Forestieri and Deeney in what I am reliably informed was a 4-2-3-1 formation.  I must admit that the inclusion of both Anya and Paredes in the defence gave me some cause for concern.  The Brentford line-up included former Watford youngster, Diagouraga, with Jack Bonham and the lovely Tommy Smith taking their place on the home bench.

Gathering for a corner

Gathering to defend a corner

As Jokanovic walked across the pitch before the game he was greeted with a chant that I have not heard before.  He was suitably appreciative, turning to applaud the fans, which was another new experience for me.

The home side had an early chance with a first minute corner that was headed over by Douglas.  Next to threaten the Watford goal was Gray, who ran on to a through ball, but was met by Gomes who came out bravely to challenge and succeeded in winning a goal kick.  At the other end, a ball over the top to Deeney led to Watford’s first attempt on goal, but Button saved the shot at the second attempt.  Gray, who was receiving dog’s abuse from the away fans for his Luton connections, broke into the Watford box where he was stopped by Angella who coolly took the ball off his feet.  Watford’s first decent chance came when a lovely passing move led to a shot from Deeney, but Button was equal to it.  At the other end, Anya rose to head a Brentford free kick clear.  The Scot was soon in attacking mode as he made a great break and crossed for Watson whose shot seemed to take a deflection before the keeper pushed it around the post.

Attack versus defence

Attack versus defence

Ighalo’s first attempt on goal was a shot from outside the box that flew wide of the near post.  Deeney should have done better when he received a pass from Forestieri in the box, but he hesitated before shooting and ended up running into a defender and wasting the chance.  Paredes did really well to battle down the wing and cross for Forestieri to head goalwards but a Brentford defender was there to block.  A cheeky backheel from Deeney set Forestieri up for another attempt which was also blocked.  With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Forestieri won a free kick.  He took it quickly, exchanged passes with Deeney and hit a shot that swerved just wide.  Bidwell was mounting a rare Brentford attack when he lost the ball to Layun, his attempt to get the ball back was a studs up lunge which left the referee no option but to show him a red card.  Ironically, the reduction in personnel inspired Brentford into their best spell since the opening of the game.  But their only meaningful goal attempt in this period came from a free-kick that was confidently gathered by Gomes with Dean challenging.

At half-time, I was treated to the sad story of the death of Tommy the cat.  His owner reminisced about our last league game at Griffin Park when a Tommy (Mooney) had scored and said that, in the cat’s honour, we needed the winning goal to come from Tommie Hoban who not only shared the late feline’s name but also the attributes of being ginger and Irish.  Okay!!

Deeney steps up to take the penalty

Deeney steps up to take the penalty

Brentford started the second half as they finished the first.  Forestieri lost out to Diagouraga in their box, the Frenchman released Gray whose shot was, thankfully, awful.  At the other end, Layun tried a shot that flew wide of the target.  From the goal kick, Brentford launched a fast break, Gray beat Angella and shot across Gomes into the roof of the net.  By way of celebration, the Brentford players all ran and surrounded Warburton.  The goal galvanized the visitors who had a chance to break back almost immediately as Douglas used his upper arm to control Watson’s cross into the box and the referee pointed to the spot.  Deeney stepped up but his penalty was too casual, Button went the right way and made an easy save.  Just before the hour, Jokanovic made his first substitution bringing Abdi on for Watson.  Ighalo found Forestieri in a great position for a shot, but the Argentine was being challenged so couldn’t get any power on it.  Anya beat a defender before hitting a cross that was saved by Button.  Anya tried another shot that was saved, the ball dropped to Ighalo whose follow-up flew wide.  Paredes exchanged passes with Layun before putting in a dangerous cross but there was no Watford player in the box to meet it.  Ighalo did really well to keep the ball on the by-line and cross for Abdi but he couldn’t control the ball which bounced off him to Button.

Proper old-school bundle

Proper old-school terrace celebration

On 68 minutes, the pressure from the visitors finally led to an equalizer.  Paredes was being given far too much space on the right which he exploited to cross for Ighalo to head home, prompting a joyous bundle on the away terrace.  Watford immediately pushed for a winner as, from a corner, Angella was knocked over, the ball fell to Deeney but Button was on hand to put the ball out for another corner.  The Brentford keeper was in action again as Ighalo exchanged passes with Forestieri before unleashing a shot that required a flying save to keep it out.  Forestieri was the next to try his luck, he did really well to wriggle clear of the defender but his shot was disappointing, flying well over the bar.  Brentford had their first goal attempt for some time as a quick break finished with a shot from Toral that Gomes blocked and then gathered at the second attempt.  Back up the other end, Forestieri played the ball back to Abdi whose shot was deflected into the side netting leading some on the other side of the goal to think we’d netted a winner.  With 12 minutes remaining, Tommy Smith replaced Pritchard to polite applause from the Watford faithful and shaking of heads around me due to concern that this would be the man to honour the dead moggy.  Tommy was immediately involved as Paredes did really well to keep an overhit pass from going out for a throw but found his reward was to be knocked over by Smith.  The former Hornet was rather harshly booked for the foul, much to the amusement of those in the away end who regaled him with a chorus of “Watford ‘til he dies.”   Tözsér played a short free-kick to Forestieri whose shot cannoned off the post.

Jokanovic takes another win in his stride

Jokanovic takes another win in his stride

With eight minutes remaining Deeney was replaced by Vydra.  The Czech had an early chance as he ran on to a pass into the box from Layun, but Button was first to the ball.  We were into time added on when a Vydra cross was blocked, it appeared to have gone out for a corner but a Brentford defender kept it in only to pass to Layun who returned the ball to Vydra, whose cross was volleyed home by Ighalo.  I have to say that being short and in the middle of the crowd behind the goal, I didn’t see Ighalo’s contribution, but it didn’t stop me joining in the sort of goal celebration that can only happen on a packed terrace.  We tried to run the clock down by replacing Anya with Hoban for the last minute of time added on.  Brentford appeared to have a final chance to get back on level terms, when the ball went out for a corner but the flag was up, much to our delight, and Watford came away with all three points.  At the end of the game, Deeney threw the boots that had missed the penalty into the crowd.

Football doesn’t get better than this.  A cracking game of football at a proper old-fashioned ground with the crowd almost on the pitch and goals celebrated with terrace bundles.  While the Brentford sending off will have influenced the outcome, Watford were great value for their win, dominating the game with some lovely play at times.  Please, Slavisa, now that we’ve got a song for you, can we have this Watford in our remaining games?  I’d be ever so grateful!

Another Week, Another Manager

New gaffer McKinlay in the dugout

New gaffer McKinlay in the dugout

Another week, another manager.  I’d hardly had time to learn which way the accent went on Garcia’s first name when he was gone to be replaced by Billy McKinlay.  The circumstances of his departure were rather sad so I can only wish him a happy and healthy future.  I must admit that a Scottish Head Coach was not what I expected from the Pozzos.  This feels like another era.  Billy’s first line-up was eagerly anticipated and, having styled him as a no-nonsense Scot, Fabbrini’s was not a name I expected to appear.  But he was in for Murray with Dyer and Ekstrand replacing Anya and the injured Angella.  So the starting line-up was Gomes, Pudil, Cathcart, Ekstrand, Paredes, Munari, Tözsér, Dyer, Vydra, Fabbrini and Ighalo in a 4-2-3-1 formation.  Okayyyy!  Toumani Diagouraga (affectionately known as Dave) started for the visitors and Mark Warburton, ex-Academy coach, was in the opposition dugout.

Positioning themselves for a corner

Positioning themselves for a corner

It was a lively start for the home side with Fabbrini skipping over a couple of tackles and playing a one-two with Vydra before being closed down.  The Italian had also earned warm applause from the crowd for tracking back early doors.  Vydra did well to retain the ball following a challenge and get a cross in but Douglas got between Munari and the ball so Button was able to gather safely.  Vydra exchanged passes with Dyer before evading a tackle and hitting a shot that was deflected into the side netting.  From the corner, Munari headed the ball on to Ighalo whose shot was also deflected wide.  Another corner was cleared to Paredes who played it back in to Tözsér whose cross-shot was saved.  Then Dyer found Ighalo who saw yet another shot deflected wide.  After a quick counterattack, former Watford youngster, Diagouraga, had Brentford’s first goal attempt of the game but his shot was wide of the target.  Watford should have made the breakthrough as Dyer played a short corner to Tözsér who returned the pass for Dyer to cross towards Ighalo whose header rebounded off the crossbar.

Ighalo steps up to take the penalty

Ighalo steps up to take the penalty

Paredes controlled the ball on the right then nutmegged a defender, a move that deserved a better outcome than his cross flying into an empty box.  Pudil was booked for running into McCormack.  It looked a harsh yellow, especially as the Brentford players were going down very easily as a tactic to disrupt our play.  Off the field, Harry Hornet was hoovering just in front of the Lower GT stand.  I kid you not.  Our habit of falling asleep at set pieces continued as Judge lofted a free-kick to the far post where Douglas connected but Gomes saved comfortably.  Vydra and Paredes exchanged passes, the Ecuadorian hit a cross, but Button claimed the ball.  Jota broke and unleashed a shot which Gomes had to stretch to tip over.  Then Judge tried his luck with a shot from distance that flew well wide of the far post.

Vydra congratulating Ighalo

Vydra congratulating Ighalo

Vydra played a great ball to Ighalo in the box, but it was on his wrong foot so he took a couple of touches and was then knocked over by Tarkowski.  It looked a bit soft and the referee paused but eventually pointed to the spot.  To the surprise of everyone in the Rookery, Ighalo stepped up to take the penalty himself, hitting it straight down the middle where it was saved by Button but Ighalo was alert and knocked the follow-up over the keeper much to the relief of the Watford faithful.  As the players returned to the centre circle for the restart, Tarkowski and others expressed their displeasure at what they must have perceived to be a dive, which was a bit rich given their collective inability to stay on their feet when any Watford player was in the vicinity.  The referee came to calm the situation and showed both Ighalo and Tarkowski the yellow card.  In time added on at the end of the first half, Gray slashed a shot well wide of the target.  His blushes were spared by the offside flag.  So we reached half time happy to be a goal to the good, if a bit disappointed that the complete dominance of the first twenty minutes had not yielded more.

Paredes attacking the ball

Paredes attacking the ball

Brentford had the first chance of the second half as a cross from Bidwell flashed across the Watford goal but Gray couldn’t connect and it was he, rather than the ball, that ended up in the net.  Vydra found Fabbrini who hesitated before playing the ball so lost out to Judge who he then fouled and so found himself in the referee’s book.  Jota got himself into a great position, but hit his shot into the ground and it bounced wide of the far post.  Then Gray beat the defence, but his shot was straight at Gomes.  The visitors were level on 57 minutes as Judge played the ball out to Douglas who slotted it past Gomes.  It was too easy and very disappointing, but no more than Brentford deserved for their dominance in this period.  McKinlay made a change immediately, replacing Fabbrini with Anya.  Gray broke forward again, but his cross went begging.  Then Judge tried another shot which flashed wide.  The first 20 minutes of the second half had been all Brentford so it was encouraging to see Vydra break forward, he found Anya who advanced, but Bidwell intervened and the ball went out for a corner.

Vydra receives congratulations for a stunning strike

Vydra receives congratulations for a stunning strike

On 70 minutes, Watford took the lead again with another beauty from Vydra.  The ball was bouncing in and around the Brentford box when it came out to the Czech who hit a pile-driver past Button into the net.  It was one of those rare occasions when I am glad that the goal was at the opposite end of the pitch as I fear I would have ducked if I’d seen that ball flying at me with power that looked fit to burst the net.  The home side brightened up at this point and could have increased the lead further as a poor clearance reached Anya who crossed for Ighalo, his shot was blocked and rolled to Vydra whose first touch was poor so he just helped the ball on to Button.  Brentford tried to strike back as Odubajo broke into the box but he shot over the bar.  With a quarter of an hour remaining, Abdi replaced Ighalo.  Gomes threw the ball out to Dyer who ran the length of the pitch, but his cross was behind Anya.  Brentford made another substitution as Diagouraga made way for Proschwitz.  Abdi played a through ball aimed for Vydra but it was a little too heavy and rolled through to Button.  Anya played a one-two with Vydra before his shot was deflected wide.  After more great work from Vydra, Dyer found Anya but his cross was straight at the keeper.

Tozser organizing

Tozser organizing

The fourth official indicated four minutes of added time with the Rookery roaring their team on.  Early in the added period, Paredes was booked for time wasting as he strolled over to take a throw-in.  Then Gray beat Pudil on the wing and was dragged down by the Czech who accepted his second yellow and was applauded off by the Rookery for taking one for the team.  Vydra then made way for Hoban, to shore up the defence, while Pritchard waited to take the set piece.  The free kick was met with a header from Bidwell that was just pushed over by Gomes.  The Brentford keeper, Button, had come up for the free-kick so could then be seen dribbling the ball around our box before he had to belt back upfield as Anya was breaking  and crossed for Dyer whose shot from distance was blocked.  Brentford cleared but Anya picked the ball up and advanced again, this time crossing for Munari who couldn’t control his header which went across the goal.  The final whistle went to cheers from the home fans who had been thoroughly entertained.  I’m not sure that we learned too much from that game, given the injuries, but the highlight for me was seeing Vydra back doing what he does well, scoring cracking goals, but also getting involved making chances for others.  That bodes very well for the rest of the season.