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Watford 2 Preston North End 1 (04/10/2008) 04/10/2008

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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Five thunks from our much needed win over Preston…

1- A quite ridiculously open game of football that looked like delivering many more goals at each end. Due in no small part to our formation – going 4-4-2 without John Eustace in midfield was always going to be a high risk strategy. We had enough to make it pay off; all six of our “attacking” players had good afternoons.

2- On the evidence of the season so far it’s difficult to understand how Jon Harley has ever been preferred at left back to left midfield. Chalk and cheese – a gutsy, committed display this, devoid of the rather alarming red mists that look like earning him a suspension before too long. Him or Smudger for MotM for me.

3- No great surprise to see Leigh Bromby dropped from the starting line-up. On the evidence of the first half hour, Lloydy is surely a shoe-in at right back after the international break too.

4- Nervy stuff for the most part from Richard Lee, who suddenly looks like a third choice keeper. But for the sudden presence of some aerial power in central defence we might have rued his tendency to stay on his line.

5- I like Preston. We don’t have a great recent record against them, but I don’t remember any particularly narky fixtures. Today, they were beaten inoffensively having given a decent account of themselves. Good show.

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Comments»

1. Dave Hart - 04/10/2008

No surprise to see Mellor taken off at half time for Preston; I’ve haven’t seen anyone so overweight and unfit since Beattie played for Sheffield United at the Vic last season.

Special praise for Williamson, who played very well. His performances this season have greatly improved. Demerit also gave a real inspired performance. Let’s hope his hamstring injury isn’t too bad.

2. Andrew - 04/10/2008

Re 5- The match where most of the PNE squad had chicken pox (I think it was) and they tried to have the game postponed. Then on the day there was the incident with Gary Penrice & the Deepdale Duck?

3. Tim Turner - 04/10/2008

Agreed about Mariappa – Lloyd on crutches could have done a better job. What with Sadler and Demerit both showing the effects of their recent injuries as well, it was lucky that Darren Ward put in a solid, no-nonsense performance. Not perfect, but authoritative.

I thought Williamson and O’Toole both put in a lot of crucial defensive work, too. But we’ll need the back four to be more solid if we’re going to keep the run going.

Did you notice that we ended the game with seven players on the pitch who’ve come through the Watford academy (albeit a fair few years ago, in the case of Ward and Smith)? Is that some sort of record for a competitive fixture (ie not the League Cup, or one of those final games of the season when there’s nothing to play for)?

4. Tim Turner - 04/10/2008

I’ve realised that I just referred to a single victory as a ‘run’. I’m so unused to witnessing home wins after last season that I must have got a bit carried away…

5. stephen hoffman - 05/10/2008

priskin played really well today which should do his confidence no harm.

6. JohnF - 05/10/2008

A big relief and a good performance on the whole. However, our full backs looked quite rocky and I agree with your comment about Doyley Matt. Somebody needs to work with Mariappa on his concentration and confidence. He has shown in the past he is capable of being a good player. Good to see the front two combining so well and the movement was excellent. We moved the ball much more quickly and this created more space. In midfield Eustace may find it a little more difficult to get back in. I wonder now that Francis is retired (feel sorry for anyone that happens to) whether we can manage to keep Wardy who looked very solid. What were the officials up to? Some bizarre decisions, particularly surrounding Priskin and Hoskins. Just hope the break doesn’t produce what it did last time.

7. Kris - 05/10/2008

From following the game online, it sounded like we were well in charge in the first half and I went into the break thinking we really needed a two goal cushion.

Then seeing us under pressure for most of the second half I almost expected us to collapse and am thankful we didn’t.

Happy about the three points and the first half performance. Worried about Lee’s seemingly poor performance. And finally wondering if we can dig up cash to bring Ward back permanently.

8. NRC - 05/10/2008

Spot on as usual Matt – first half was amongst most enjoyable seen at the Vic for some time now, came away feeling entertained rather than frustrated. A mention for JJOT and, let’s be honest, for Priskin and Hoskins too, both of whom had good games, the latter especially.

On another note, first time in LR after eviction from East Stand and a season sampling different parts of the ground (a few rows back from you ESP, which is coincidental as same was true in East Stand) – enjoyed the view from the low rake and lack of girders: best we’ve experienced so far – unlikely to revisit Vic end after constant barracking of players in Plymotuh game.

9. Red - 05/10/2008

How much I enjoyed yesterday. A good football match (although I did notice a bit of the return to the ” lob it up the field mate” style) considering the injuries. Am I looking forward to the next match- you bet. Just a couple of questions. Why does Priskin allow the man marking him to get between him and the ball? Why does the ball so often get caught under his foot? When are we getting a decent referee? Why can’t we always make a noise to support the team when we are under pressure?

10. Esp - 05/10/2008

1- Home matches seem to be very open and this season, more entertaining than the away encounters; complete reversal from last season imho. An excellent game, great contribution from Priskin who as MR has been hinting for ages, will come good in the end. He needs a goal to further boost his confidence, however his tendency to drift offside continues to irritate.
2- Playing Harley as left back was borne out of necessity Matt in earlier games but I agree that wide midfield is his best position. Can’t see anyone better in that position and that includes MacAnuff and Ainsworth who must be permanently benched. I would add Hoskins as a contender for MotM; I thought the sponsor’s choice of Ward was strange but nice to wlecome him back. We need his height! Williamson was the weakest of the front “6” imho
3- Doyley is certainly a player who splits the crowd Matt. I am a big fan but half the people around me in the LR find him guilty of being responsible for many of our defensive lapses and goals against column; not much to choose between him and Mariappa. I fear he may well be dropped even when 100% fit. Agree about Bromby; him and Eustace are not GUARANTEED matches, they should both up their game.
4- I think you are a bit unfair on Lee, still my first choice; although he did commit a howler in the first half with an awful kick which should have been punished in the first half and could have done better with the goal but the standard of goalkeeping in this division is pretty dire this year and the kicking of BOTH goalies yesterday was very poor.
5- Preston were worthy opponents and contributed to an excellent match which would have been a great live TV choice. However it was nearly spoilt by a Bannister clone linesman on the Rous side who waved his flag far too often, missed a lot and flagged us offside incorrectly at a crucial stage in the 2nd half. A draw on the balance of play would have been a travesty after our 2nd half dominance.

Just off to buy Matt Sadler a guide to Throw Ins (MOST of his are foul throws) and to see if Graham Simpson has bid for my Elton John CD collection on e-bay. Enjoy your International break Matt!

11. Matt Rowson - 05/10/2008

I thought that Williamson (in particular) and O’Toole both did well individually, but as a unit we weren’t nearly robust enough in the middle of the park. Eustace is back as soon as he’s fit, as is the 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation that really suits us when our players are fit.

Andrew… I don’t remember the Penrice incident, but he annoyed me too so I won’t hold any grudges.

esp – agree with your comments re. Priskin, and yes I think he WILL come good, it’s a matter of whether we’ll be able to give him the time.

Appreciate that we only played Harley LB out of necessity… my point was that this having been done, and us having seen him in both positions, it’s difficult to understand how he’s played so much of his career at LB for previous clubs.

Goalkeepers… whether Poom is a better choice than Lee looks like an irrelevant debate given the length of Poom’s injury. But I would be surprised if Loach is back behind Lee when fit. He looks outstanding to me, and we need to play him to have any chance of holding onto him.

12. James - 05/10/2008

I agree on the whole, but as long as Priskin and Hoskins are our first choice forwards, I think 4-4-2 is a much better option. Neither of them really has all the attributes needed to lead the line on their own, but together they look like they could form a decent partnership.
When Rasiak’s fit maybe 4-5-1 will be workable, but on yesterday’s showing I would stick with good ol’ 4-4-2.

13. Sequel - 05/10/2008

I recently had to start wearing glasses for distance viewing, and wore them at a match for the first time yesterday. I can now see things in places where I couldn’t even see places before. Boy, are those myopic officials in for some stick!

14. Matt Rowson - 06/10/2008

James

I agree that the Priskin/Hoskins partnership looked pretty good. But our defence was badly exposed and a forward line with any pace at all would have made us pay. Even with Eustace back, the 4-3-3/4-5-1 is a must for me – I thought be looked very very good with this set-up earlier in the season

M

15. GraemeB - 06/10/2008

Matt, I generally agree with your thoughts on the formation. But if Rasiak returns after the international break I think it would be a pity to drop both Hoskins and Priskin. We are now seeing signs that these players could each deliver 15 goals a season. But they need games to develop their potential, and I don’t mean ten-minute cameos from the bench. It remains to be seen if Rasiak will be prolific for us, but he will certainly need support.
Given that we will not be in a position to buy a proven striker any time soon, we really need some of our raw talent to come good. And this goes for other areas too. It may be we should accept that we will not be able to mount a serious promotion challenge this season and concentrate instead on bringing through the likes of Jenkins and Young while hanging on to Hoskins, Loach and O’Toole.

16. bob - 06/10/2008

i felt for the first time in maybe a year that we actually have a partnership up front ‘starting’ to form. there may have only been glimpses, but i think hoskins and tamas are starting to read one anothers play. really great to watch the first half.

for me, loach would be no. 1, if fit. Distribution and shot stopping were better than RL in the few games he has played. command of the box is still a problem for all 3 of our keepers but loach can still learn this and i honestly beleive if he is given a full season as first choice he’ll be off to a premeirship club thereafter..

at the back i am in the mariappa camp, doyley is a very solid defender but if he hasnt improved his game going forward by now he never will. llyods distribution is unreliable making those playing in front of him hesitant and less llikely to want to attack the opposition. this will leave us on the back foot forever and a day. That said, mariappas performance on saturday was woeful. i say give bromby the right back job. i understand he was awful at burnley, but that apart he hasnt put a foot wrong for me this season.

17. Matt Rowson - 06/10/2008

Graeme

given that I was accused of displaying a “ridiculous degree of optimism” in the pub on Saturday for stating that I thought we’d definitely stay up, I suspect that any talk of promotion is ridiculously optimistic, however much of a mishmash the middle of the table (and therefore the foot of the playoffs) might look. So I agree with your general assertion, and the point about not depending on Rasiak is well made, but we’ve got to get some points in the bag also. I’d love to see more of Smith behind Rasiak, but Hoskins can play that role also. Both Hoskins and Priskin have done enough to stay involved, but we don’t have the physical presence to persist with 4-4-2 at the moment.

bob, the fact that Boothroyd was looking at De La Cruz suggests that however many kind-of options we’ve got at RB, none of them are perfect. I disagree about Bromby – I wasn’t at Burnley either but he’s been patchy for me. Doyley over Mariappa, just cos you kinda know what you’re going to get. Mariappa still looks like he’s playing out of position to me.

18. DW - 06/10/2008

1. It never ceases to amaze how many different conclusions people can draw from the same game. I understand that he is carrying an injury but Demerit had a very poor game.

2. If ever there was an opponent that Darren Ward would choose to defend against, it is Mellor. To think that at 18 he was touted as the next best thing shows how quickly things can go wrong.

3. It’s such a shame we can’t play with 12, the starting XI from Saturday plus Eustace has perfect balance. What is clear though is that Eustace has to play and although it pains me to say it, because he had another good game, probably at Priskin’s expense.

4. It’s hard to see a scenario in which we keep Smith beyond the next transfer window, he is patently too good to be playing in a mid table division 2 side. I can’t think of a Watford team that has ever had an individual so much better than everyone else.

5. There can’t have been many games in Graham Simpson’s 40 years of following Watford, in which he wanted us to win as much as he did on Saturday. There is nothing like 3 points to defuse a potential crowd problem.

19. Clutching at Straws - 06/10/2008

I tend to agree that Mariappa looks out of position at RB. Unfortunately in our league he is never going to make it at CB unless he grows about six inches taller!
I may get a flaming for this and I know I have mentioned it before but I firmly believe that the key player for us this season is Williamson. Against W Ham and Preston I feel he was beginnig both times to run the midfield in a way we haven’t seen since Spring in early 2006. Crucially, both performances were without Eustace…..

20. Johnny Boy - 06/10/2008

On the Doyley/Mariappa debate like Bob I am tending to the Mariappa camp because I felt he had a good game against West Ham, his crossing is improving and, love him to death I don’t think Lloyd is premiership class should we go back up sometime soon. More material to work with in Mariappa.
Regards Hoskins/Priskin, I think either would be unlucky to be dropped to the bench but if a Rasiak/Smith partnership was to bring in the goals one, or both would have to go but a better player for their stint in the first team. Also, on current form Tom ’50 goals’ Smith could be a target in the tranfer window, heaven forbid.
Ward improved as the game went on – needs to improve his distribution skills but then he not used to the new, slick, passing Watford.
( I’ve been in love with my / this comment!)

21. Esp - 06/10/2008

GB wrote: “I think it would be a pity to drop both Hoskins and Priskin. We are now seeing signs that these players could each deliver 15 goals a season.”
Although I was once a critic of Priskin’s all round contribution but have changed my mind this season and am now very much a fan (as his confidence has grown) I think you are wildly optimistic to ascertain he will be a 15 goal man Graeme – Hoskins though, definitely, Smith ditto and Rasiak,maybe, if he stays.
I see Priskin as a provider of goals (like Hendo did for Marlon) and his cross for our first goal was sublime on Saturday – what he does off the ball is effective and creates opportunities for the joint striker.
Finally a point I didn’t make yesterday – now that we have a new found strength of character and guile in the side (coming back from a goal down twice this season) how about some passion from the home crowd?
Apart from just after the 2nd goal the Rookery was like a mourge and “we” deservedly got some stick from the impressive turn out of North Enders in the Vic Road stand; I know we all KNOW that the atmosphere at the Vic is crap (except for Cup games) but now that the team are giving us something to cheer the onus is on us to do just that…. If we get behind the team maybe Matt’s “ridiculous degree of optimism” won’t seem so ridiculous after all!

22. Dan - 06/10/2008

Once again, an enjoyable home game. This is so much better than the second half of last season. I thought Priskin was superb – he put himself about a bit, but more importantly when he got the ball he did something useful with it – the pass to Harley for the goal was perfectly weighted, and demonstrated a hitherto unseen ability to read the game. I don’t know if he was fired up by playing against a former team, but more performances like that and I might start to believe.

Hoskins has been excellent too. If Rasiak is back in a couple of weeks we might actually have some options up-front.

The trouble with Mariappa is you don’t know what you’re going to get – the pacy, solid, attacking full-back or the defensive liability who can’t kick a ball straight. Doyley is the best option we have in that position, albeit also prone to the occasional terrible game.

The side is hugely reliant on Tommy Smith – I hate to think what will happen if gets injured (or worse, sold).

As for the officials – well at least we were back to general incompetence rather than stupidity on a game-changing scale.

Having slated Reading for their unsportsmanlike behaviour, I realise that I shouldn’t enjoy our blatant gamesmanship with the multi-ball system, but I do. The regularity with which two balls keep finding their way on to the pitch when we are defending a lead is quite incredible. I’m sure the extra ball that spurred the fourth official into action on Saturday was fired in from the back of our ‘bench’.

23. Tapps - 06/10/2008

Darren Ward has the same gait as David Beckham….and that’s where the similarity ends. I can imagine AB’s pre match instructions to him were “win it then kick it” which he did with aplomb.

Another enjoyable game. I thought Mariappa recovered well from a poor first 30 minutes. Many 22 year olds heads would have completely gone but he restored his composure and did alright – still a very promising prospect in my book.

Early days for assessing Loach. Some great saves but most ‘keepers can do that. It’s the ‘commanding the box’ bit mentioned earlier which will determine whether he could be in the same class as a Foster.

24. DM - 06/10/2008

Another thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at the Vic for me. Last season’s horrible-ness is starting to feel like a distant memory. We can stay in the bottom half for all I care, if it means we get to watch a committed and youthful team improve gradually over the next year or so.

The passing and movement in the first half was as good as I’ve seen from a Watford team in a very long time. Smith and Harley were excellent, I share Matt’s view that it’s odd Harley is known as a left back, while Williamson effectively patrolled and probed in midfield, ably assisted by a quietly effective 90 mins from JJ O’T.

Up top, Hoskins and Priskin were busy, moved well and despite a few offsides for Tamas, I thought that was a massive step forward for him. Hell, sections of the Rookery even sang his name when he was taken off ! Early to suggest Rasiak’s place is in jeopardy when fit, but good to see both putting a case for starting with the Pole at a later date.

Defence remains a concern – Much as I feel Eustace isn’t fit to lace Gavin Mahon’s boots I would still have him in midfield – as our attacking players tired on Saturday PNE gained a foothold in midfield due to our lack of a naturally defensive player. Also the back 4 itself – Mariappa recovered in the 2nd half but was dreadul in the first – Sadler and Lee looked rusty but most worryingly, DeMerit has developed a very annoying habit of making at least one mistake leading to a clear-cut chance per game. Better strikers would have punished his slip around the 85 min mark. Ward played well but was far from faultless – I think the lack of a Mackay-type senior voice at the back is coming through as a major area we need to address.

25. Dan - 06/10/2008

And another thing… Mellor was always a fat bastard, even when he was at Liverpool. Though he has rarely looked more useless than he did on Saturday.

26. the real DL - 06/10/2008

@DW: Smith being best player. Not since Helguson kept us up for a couple of seasons have we had a player who stands out so much.

We looked great going forward but vulnerable defensively. LW is a class act and JJ did ok, but we need JE’s presence, clever fouls and physical abrasion to protect a fragile back line.

27. Matt Rowson - 06/10/2008

the real DL… Helguson was our best player, probably, but not to a dominant debate-ending extent. Kevin Phillips in the mid-nineties was the last player to stand out a mile for me.

(Edit: But you’re too young to remember him DL…)

28. GraemeB - 06/10/2008

Yes Matt I am an optimist, but maybe not ridiculously so. Despite our lowly position we are only four points from the play-offs after a dreadful spate of injuries. You’d expect things ought to pick up as the wounded gradually return and there’s no reason why we should not finish in the top half of the table.
Certainly Hoskins can play off Rasiak, but with Smith in a rich vein of goals I’d prefer see him in a central role rather than confined to the wing. So for me this means a 4-3-1-2 formation with Hoskins and Rasiak up front and Tommy in the hole. I do feel though that this would look far more secure with Eustace in the side.
For me the great thing about Hoskins is that at last we seem to have a player who can unlock defences with a moment of brilliance — Priskin also shows promise in this respect.
ESP if Priskin does not have the potential to score 15 goals a season he should not be wearing the No 9 shirt. If he could just get a couple to increase his confidence I believe we could soon see that he is more than just a provider for others.

29. James - 06/10/2008

To be fair, Ramage had as much talent as Phillips back then, but unfortunately he could only be bothered to put the effort in once or twice a month.

I watched the 94/95 season video again a while ago and Ramage seemed to have a hand in pretty much every attack.

30. Dave Hart - 06/10/2008

DM,

Demit had trouble with his left hamstring throughout the whole of the second half. He could clearly be seen stretching it before the second half had even kicked off, and continued to do so for the next 20 minutes. I actually thought he played quite well.

It would appear as though Bromby had been told to prepare to come on towards the end of half time, as he suddenly changed his warm up methods after a coach ran over to him. He spent virtually the whole of the second half warming up, as if he would be needed at any moment.

Matt R,

Phillips was indeed a very good player for us, but what about Ronny Rosenthal?

31. Dave Hart - 06/10/2008

I saw the final game of the 94/95 season against Derby, and Ramage had an absolute stormer. Shame he was so lazy really.

32. the real DL - 06/10/2008

Matthew, you cheeky b****r, I am not too young!
Super Kev was fantastic, I agree. Comparisons are ultimately futile, but we can all agree that Tommy is our best player – and unfortunately, most bankable asset.

33. markymark - 07/10/2008

Is Smith that bankable bearing in mind he’s 29 next birthday and therefore at his peak or slightly past his peak ?
I would actually sell JM if we can get over a million as he had never really cut the mustard for us & certainly not scored the goals we thought he would.Moreover,Ainsworth has shown lately he’s almost as good as a winger.

34. DM - 07/10/2008

Dave Hart – Fair do’s, if he was carrying an injury on Saturday – Still doesn’t excuse the fact he has made some very sloppy errors in pretty much every game this season. He is someway short of the levels we saw from him in his first few seasons with the club.

35. Esp - 07/10/2008

The answer to whether Smith is bankable is a resounding YES Markymark; nobody on BHaPPY would WANT to sell him, that is obvious, but then we never wanted Ashley or Marlon to go (BOTH of whom have goals in September’s MotD Goal of the Month) – I don’t think the board would turn down a $2 million offer and could we stand in the way of one more hurrah for Tommy in the Prem?
With regard to his pricetag two 27 year olds were sold in July – Rob Earnshaw was worth £2.65 million to Forest, and of course Darius went for £2 million to the Blades.
I think Smith is a better player than George Boeteng who Hull paid Boro £1 million for despite being an ageing 33 and Rob Hulse went for £1.75 from the Blades to Derby and he is 29 next birthday.

36. Matt Rowson - 07/10/2008

DM – I think the difference between the Jay of a couple of years ago and Jay now is who he’s playing alongside. Playing alongside a Neil Cox or a Malky Mackay, a senior figure, is different onions to playing alongside Bromby or even Shittu. We’ve seen centrebacks struggle when shorn of their senior partner in the past – David Holdsworth (McClelland, Roeder) and Wayne Brown (Galli) spring to mind.

esp – I think markymark’s point is still valid. Smudger’s age doesn’t make him “past it” by any stretch, but it might dissuade a club from offering a figure that we wouldn’t be able to turn down, irrespective of whether money has been paid for similarly aged players in the recent past.

However markymark’s other suggestion is nonsense. However much McAnuff needs to step up his game more consistently to prove his value, suggesting that Ainsworth’s recent performances lead to any kind of positive conclusion is just daft.

37. Esp - 07/10/2008

Some more “ridiculous” crystal optimism:
A quick look at the table for 24/9/05 shows that the top 3 after 10 matches played in season 2005/6 (namely Sheffield United, Reading and Watford) were the SAME 3 teams that finished in the top 3 at the end of the season (although not in that order of course).
My point however is that CRYSTAL PALACE who were languishing in 15th place with 11 points* at that stage (although they had only played 9 matches to most teams’ 10 ) finished in a play off position.

(* We are currently on 11 points of course; Palace did win their 10th match however to reach 14 points although that doesn’t change my point much!)

38. DM - 07/10/2008

Matt – Totally agree. As per my last sentence in Point 24, I think the lack of a Mackay-type senior voice at the back is coming through as a major area we need to address. If we can, of course…..

39. Simmo - 07/10/2008

Just to join the debate on Tommy Smith, while undoubtedly he is currently our best player, selling him has proved to be not too bad for the selling club.

These are the facts. We sold Tommy to Sunderland in 2003 and we gained promotion by 2006. Sunderland sold him in 2004 to Derby and Sunderland won promotion in 2005. Derby sold Tommy back to us in 2006 and Derby got promoted in 2007.

Tommy was just breaking in to the team when we got promotion in 1999, so has he actually done anything to get a team promoted? It seems that if we can sell Tommy in January we are already a shoe-in for promotion between 6 months and 3 years!

*Health Warning – This is tongue-in cheek (in case anyone thinks I am actually making a serious point!)

40. Esp - 07/10/2008

Do you work for the Guardian sports pages Simmo?

41. markymark - 07/10/2008

The point I was trying to make was that if we have to sell anyone “bankable” then its got to be JM for the following reasons:

He still quite young at 26 and must be worth over a million still

Ainsworth though not as good of course could still improve at 21

We have someone quite useful called Lewis Young who should definately become as good as Jobi

The system we look best this season ( 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 ) means we can play 2 of Hoskins,Rasiak ( when fit ) & Priskin alongside Smith without missing JM at all

BTW : Anyone else here have substantial savings in Icesave so we can share our grief!

42. Simmo - 08/10/2008

Esp – No. I spell check all my entries!

43. DM - 08/10/2008

Markymark – As much as I’ve defended Jobi McAnuff on these pages before now, I doubt there is one single Watford fan who would rather sell Smith than McAnuff. I doubt we’ll get the choice though..


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