Watford 2 Bristol City 0 (14/01/2014) 15/01/2014Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
1- It does come to something when the prospect of playing a top side in the next round really doesn’t provoke any excitement at all. I don’t remember ever feeling this before in such a circumstance… we’ve gone into ties as massive underdogs of course, but always with a puncher’s chance and a nothing-to-lose skip in our step. And yet here… if we beat Bristol and if Man City overcome Blackburn… well. Ho hum. Last season’s tie doesn’t help, of course. We were pretty good then, City beat us comfortably without getting out of second gear anyway. We’re not playing particularly well now, if you’ve not noticed. We could probably do without this…
Such seems to be the prevailing mood, based on an attendance of 7300 which includes a respectable 1500 or so from Bristol. The mood is damp, unexpectant; one comment recalls similar sized crowds in the early nineties, an impression that we build upon by “switching ends” at half time – after half-hearted objections from a steward – and sitting in the Vic Road end for the first time, in my case, in 15 years. The Rookery looks even emptier from here than it did when we were sat in the centre of it. Whatever cup fever is, there doesn’t seem to be much of it on offer at Vicarage Road.
2- City started brightly, and created the first clear chance of the game when Emmanuel-Thomas played in Baldock who was thwarted one-on-one by Bond. Hearts in mouths time – instinctive that, a subconscious reaction. I’m not sure defeat would have been met with much more than a shrug. But as it was, a good stop from the young keeper, alert early in the game… and that was pretty much as good as it got for City, who gave a much more passable impression of side in the relegation zone in the third tier than they had done at Ashton Gate.
Which isn’t to say that we were terribly impressive, at least not for the first half. Attacking, certainly, it was all a bit ragged… too deliberate, but like a dance routine conducted out of time. No rhythm section to guide everyone along… passes sent to where teammates had been half a beat earlier, or where they might have been if they’d been thinking the same way. Increasing amounts of possession, but not a lot in the way of end product until Lewis McGugan’s long corner found Davide Faraoni at the far post, a combination of Faraoni and Karleigh Osbourne seeing the ball tucked into the net. Deliberate, that delivery, and not the last time the trick was tried… Faraoni was lurking at the far post for a deep corner in the second half too, thwarted on that occasion. Defensively we looked quite tight though… Onesize back in the defence and joyfully bootering anything or anyone that got within range. We’ve said it before, but if you could be confident about his fitness there’d be no decision to make. This releases Angella onto the right hand side of the three with ostensibly more freedom to swagger upfield with the ball; joining in the early nineties retro feel he’s a sort of Colin Foster tribute act. Once more, he’s our most impressive performer. We end the half on top, but unconvincingly so.
3- As the second half progressed, our superiority became evident. You wouldn’t go as far as to say we bossed it, but we were clearly too strong for City and finally making it show. City’s back three – including the suitably named Adam Flint – had coped well enough with high balls and physical confrontation, but as at Ashton Gate didn’t like the ball moving around them on the floor, not a bit of it. Lewis McGugan, more assertive and industrious than of late, began to enjoy himself; our passing began to work openings although the finishing-off betrayed a forward line short of confidence – particularly in the Forestieri, whose relentless energy closing down a defence that didn’t want to be closed down helped us stay on the front foot even if the occasions when he was on the end of a move were best forgotten. Troy Deeney, too, although his best chance was denied him by an astonishing save from Parrish which the striker was quick to acknowledge. In the end it was McGugan who made the game safe, sauntering into the box to finish decisively. We could have had more, but could probably also have done with a 1-0 win with something off Deeney’s backside, say, to get our strikers going again in preference to this,but beggars can’t be choosers.
The highlight of the half undoubtedly came with the introduction of Almen Abdi, verdicts on whose prolonged absence have veered between “he’s almost back” to “he’ll never play again”. Actually seeing him enter the fray was rather odd, then, like Lord Lucan showing up or something, but suitably every touch was cheered however insignificant; appropriately he played one luscious through ball before playing a wild pass into touch, presumably as an attempt to be “part of the team”.
4- Increasingly difficult not to see Marco Cassetti as the Godfather of the squad. Been there, done that of course. Bought the t-shirt, chucked it out in favour of a Versace suit. Not involved today through injury, the last time we saw him was an uncomfortable wing back at Ashton Gate… uncomfortable both due to the injury he’d picked up, further limiting his mobility, and the harum scarum relentless pestering of City wing-back Joe Bryan. A wing back who, in unrelated developments, saw himself executed twice in this game, on each occasion by one of Cassetti’s compatriots… first by Davide Faraoni in the first half , who somehow escaped a booking, and then late in the second by Gabrielle Angella, who didn’t. You mess with Marco, and we have to have a conversation. Or kick you into the stand.
5- A win. Full stop. And we did need that. City weren’t great, didn’t do that terribly annoying “haring around closing us down” thing that we’re really going to have to come to terms with at some point. But we won the game, our first win against eleven men since early October. That’ll do, for the timebeing.