Tag Archives: Wigan Athletic FC

Elton’s Homecoming

Elton, David, Zachary and Elijah on the pitch as the SEJ stand is opened

Elton, David, Zachary and Elijah on the pitch as the SEJ stand is opened

Pre-match, all the attention was on Elton’s return to Vicarage Road for the naming of his stand.  As requested, we entered the ground early and were treated to Elton John songs over the tannoy.  The new stand now has words from “Your Song” along the back and there was a request that we welcome Elton by singing along.  I joined in with some gusto, although it is a song that always chokes me up.  When Elton was announced, the crowd were already singing “Elton John’s Taylor-made Army”, which sent shivers down the spine.  When Elton took centre stage, he said that it was one of the greatest days of his life.  He recalled coming as a six year old to stand on the cinder bank.  At that time he never imagined having a stand named after him, in fact he never imagined sitting in a stand.  He paid tribute to the people of Watford and turned to address each stand as he spoke.  He also paid tribute to Dave Whelan and the Wigan fans.  He thanked the Pozzos and said the club was in good hands.  “Watford Football Club is forever in my heart.”  He was clearly moved by the occasion and there wasn’t a dry eye in the Rookery.  The fans sang his name loud and proud.  It was so lovely seeing him there with his two sons in Watford scarves and hats.  They must have loved hearing the crowd singing their Dad’s name.  Well done to the Pozzos for such a lovely gesture, and thank-you, Elton, for decades of wonderful memories.

Back to the game against Wigan.  Jokanovic had named an unchanged side from the Fulham game, so we started with Gomes, Bassong, Angella, Cathcart, Anya, Munari, Tözsér, Abdi, Paredes, Deeney and Vydra.  Wigan featured former players Don Cowie and Andrew Taylor as well as Malky Mackay and David Kerslake in the dugout.

Celebrations after Deeney's first goal

Celebrations after Deeney’s first goal

Watford had an early goal chance as Anya played the ball back to Abdi who curled a cross wide of the target.  At the other end, Espinoza tried a shot from distance that hit the side netting.  Carson had to drop to keep a shot from Munari out.  Vydra played a lovely ball to Paredes whose shot was cleared.  Wigan threatened as a high cross from Taylor was gathered by Gomes with McClean challenging.  Watford won a free kick in a dangerous position, but Tözsér’s low delivery was stopped by Carson. Watford took the lead on 20 minutes, a lovely headed pass from Anya reached Deeney in the box, where he beat Carson from a tight angle.  Another cross from Anya was knocked wide of the near post by Munari.  Wigan had a decent chance to equalize from a Watson free-kick which was headed goalwards by Barnett but Gomes caught it.  McClean hit a decent shot that was blocked by the legs of Gomes.  With a couple of minutes remaining in the half, Watford had their first chance for a while as Abdi found Deeney on the right, but Troy’s shot was wide of the far post.  Wigan equalized just before half time as McCann was allowed a free header as he connected with a corner from McClean and beat Gomes.  It felt like that goal had been coming.  In the aftermath, Anya and Tözsér squared up to each other and had to be held apart.  I have mixed feelings about that.  It is not good to see team mates arguing, but it is good to see them care so much.  When the half time whistle went, it had been a half with little goalmouth action and the draw seemed a fair reflection of the play.

Tozser's free-kick through the wall

Tozser’s free-kick through the wall

At the start of the second half, Paredes made way for Dyer.  The substitute was involved immediately with a ball to Abdi who found Deeney whose cross was blocked.  Deeney then had a shot which hit the side netting.  For the visitors, a free kick from Watson was headed wide by Barnett.  Watson then headed over from a McClean free-kick.  McClean threatened again with a cross to the near post which Gomes got down to block.  On the hour, Abdi played a ball into the box for Vydra, but it was too far in front of him so he had to stretch and knocked it out.  Vydra then played the ball out to Dyer who hit a low cross but there was no one in the box to turn it in.  A cross from Anya was cleared to Tözsér whose shot flew just wide of the target.  Then a long ball forward saw Deeney running to connect while Carson came out to clear and the two collided, the ball broke to Vydra who was tackled before he could shoot.  Deeney was down injured for a while but, thankfully, was fit to continue.  There was a period then when the Watford players played some lovely passes, but it was all show with no end product.  With 15 minutes remaining Vydra was replaced by Ighalo.  A Tözsér free-kick was cleared to Bassong whose shot was weak and easily cleared.

Deeney celebrates his second goal with the Rookery

Deeney celebrates his second goal with the Rookery

With 10 minutes remaining, Watford regained the lead as Anya crossed from the bye-line and Deeney powered the header home.  Troy followed the ball into the net where his powerful reaction showed how much the goal meant.  It was all Watford after that.  Ighalo chested the ball down to Abdi, who should have hit the target, but blasted the ball over.  That was the Kosovan’s last involvement in the game as he was replaced by Guedioura.  Wigan had their first chance for some time with a deep free kick, but Gomes was equal to it.  At the other end, Dyer played a deep cross towards Ighalo who stretched but could not connect with it.  Ighalo then showed some skills in the box before cutting back to Deeney whose shot was way over the bar.  Ighalo then played a lovely ball for Deeney who was flagged offside.  The last action of the game was a shot from Guedioura from the edge of the box that went over the bar.

Elton points to the cinder track where he stood 61 years ago

Elton points to the cinder track where he stood 61 years ago

The final whistle went to cheers from the home fans.  It was not the greatest of performances from Watford, but those were two thrilling goals.  We’ve played better and lost, so there was a certain pride in winning ugly.  Special mention must go to the referee whose playing of the advantage rule was very impressive.

After the game, there were lots of hugs and kisses as we wished our friends and neighbours a happy Christmas as we won’t see them again until Boxing Day.  The game may ultimately be forgettable, but seeing Elton John opening the stand will stay long in the memory and the post-match tweets from players proudly sharing their photos with Elton was just lovely

The Road Past Wigan Pier

Wigan Pier

Wigan Pier

The last couple of games were played on lovely Spring days and, when I left home, it was rather warm and I feared I was over-dressed.  In the event, I was nothing of the sort as the trip north took place under darkening skies and I arrived to chilly temperatures.  On previous visits to Wigan, I have taken the supporters coach, so this was a new town to visit.  Our pre-match pub was at Wigan Pier.  The ironic name and Orwellian associations meant that I was expecting a rather dreary location, so was pleasantly surprised at how attractive the area was.  Added to that, the beer was decent and the local speciality on the menu, a steak pudding, was cracking.  There was soon a lovely gathering of Hornets, of whom I was the only one that had started my journey down south.  The walk to the ground was along the canal and would have been delightful had it not been punctuated with cold showers.  I was soaked through by the time I arrived at the DW

A nervous-looking local

A nervous-looking local

Stadium.  Recent games have been preceded by airport-level searches before you were permitted to enter the ground, so when I approached a steward and asked if he wanted to search my bag, I was delighted to hear “Na, you’re all right, Love.”  That endeared me to the town even more.

We came in to this game having not won away since early October while Wigan’s mid-week draw with Yeovil was the first time that they hadn’t won in a home league game this year.  Team news was that Belkalem would replace Doyley.  Oh, Beppe, Beppe, Beppe, what were you thinking?  The starting line-up was Almunia, Angella, Cassetti, Belkalem, Pudil, McGugan, Tözsér, Battocchio, Faraoni, Anya and Deeney.  Wigan’s line-up included Watford Academy graduate Rob Kiernan.

 

The defence lines up

The defence lines up

The first chance on goal came from the home side with a lovely ball from Jordi Gómez to Beausejour who only had the keeper to beat, but Almunia blocked the shot.  The Chilean threatened again with a cross that needed a hand from Almunia to keep it out.  The corner was met with a header by Ramis that was blocked on the line and rebounded out off the inside of the post.  Waghorn then tried a shot from distance, but it was straight at Almunia.  On 18 minutes, Watford had their first meaningful attack but Anya’s shot flew well wide of the target.  He pleaded with the referee that it had taken a deflection, but a goal kick was given.  Ikechi was the next to threaten as he received a long pass from Deeney, advanced towards goal but shot well over.  McClean then played a dangerous cross in the direction of Waghorn, but Almunia was first to the ball.  At the other end, McGugan tried

Watford on the attack

Watford on the attack

a shot from distance that flew well wide.  Then a through ball from Beausejour found McClean in front of goal, somehow he managed to miss the target but the linesman was flagging anyway.  McClean then broke into the box and Almunia did really well to block the shot.  At the other end, McGugan tried a shot that took a slight deflection off a defender which slowed it down so it was easily gathered by Al Habsi.  Then McClean cut the ball back to Waghorn in the Watford box, but he was stopped by a brilliant tackle.  McClean was tormenting the Watford defence.  This time he attacked from the left, fortunately his shot was in to the side netting.  On 35 minutes, Watford took a totally undeserved lead with our first decent shot on goal.  Angella played a gorgeous ball to

Celebrating McGugan's strike

Celebrating McGugan’s strike

McGugan who shot past Al Habsi into the far corner.  We weren’t ahead for long as Beausejour found himself one-on-one with Almunia, the Spaniard parried the initial shot, but was beaten by the follow-up header.  McClean nearly struck soon after as he skipped through the defence and shot past the near post.  Just before half-time, Angella was penalized for a foul on Perch, he was completely distraught and I was rather amused to see Perch trying to placate him.  In time added on, Al Habsi dropped the ball but McGugan couldn’t capitalize, although a foul on the keeper was given anyway.

Almunia gathers

Almunia gathers

The second half started with a shower of icy rain that made a rather lovely musical accompaniment to the game.  The home side were ahead ten minutes into the half as Waghorn got the ball in the box, it appeared to be caught under his feet but he managed to turn and shoot past Almunia.  Almost straight from kick-off, Tözsér was booked for an innocuous looking tackle.  Waghorn was the next to make his way into the referee’s book after a foul on Faraoni.  On the hour, Waghorn was replaced by Jack Collison making his Wigan debut after joining on loan from West Ham.  Beausejour then found Jordi Gómez whose shot from distance was well over the bar.  Anya latched on to a throw-in and advanced on goal, but was closed down before he could shoot.  With 20 minutes remaining, McClean, who had been a menace all afternoon, was replaced by Powell.  Beausejour threatened again with a volley that flew wide of the far post.  Watford’s first substitution saw

These foreign managers all look the same to me :-)

These foreign managers all look the same to me 🙂

Belkalem make way for Ekstrand.  Deeney tried a shot that was blocked and came back to him, but he was closed down before he could get a second shot in.  Then Angella played another great forward ball, this time to Pudil who ran into the box and was tackled, the ball fell to Anya who shot wide of the target.  Wigan made their final substitution as Rogne replaced Kiernan.  At this point, the rain became quite biblical, but the music that it played in our stand was gorgeous.  A corner from Tözsér was met with a powerful defensive header from Boyce.  With 10 minutes remaining, Diakite replaced McGugan.  His first act in the game was to earn a yellow card for a foul on Jordi Gómez.  This provoked a chant of “send him back to QPR” from some of the travelling crowd.  Based on

Anya on the attack

Anya on the attack

what little I have seen, I am no fan of Diakite, but how does abusing your own players help when the team is fighting to get back in the game?  I despair of some of our fans.  We had a great chance to equalize soon after as Anya found himself in the box with just Al Habsi to beat, but he shot wide when he maybe should have done better although he was complaining of being held back.  Wigan then threatened but Fortuné’s shot was into the side netting.  In the Wigan box, Battocchio played a ball back to Tözsér whose shot was blocked.  The home side launched a counter-attack and there was Battocchio back in defence where he intercepted the ball as Powell tried to play Fortuné in.  With two minutes remaining, Ekstrand received his inevitable yellow card, although this one was very harsh as he’d merely tripped Jordi Gómez.  In time added on, Deeney played a low cross towards Battocchio that was cleared, Cassetti picked it up and found Deeney whose shot was blocked but the flag was already up.  The last chance of the game fell to McArthur whose shot was wide of the far post.

Ekstrand clears

Ekstrand clears

It was another disappointing away day for the Hornets.  The team worked hard, but there were too many misplaced passes and Wigan seemed to be first to every loose ball.  We lost the game in midfield, where we couldn’t gain a foothold.  Wigan are a decent team, although nothing special, but we didn’t really trouble them and the score flattered us a bit.  Still, as always, it was a good day out.  I loved my visit to Wigan so am a bit conflicted when I say that I hope they win the third promotion spot as they are a very likeable club.  We only have a short break before facing another team from Lancashire.  Our away performance against Blackburn was truly horrible, so I’m hoping that we revert to our marvellous home form on Tuesday.