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Watford 0 Stoke City 0 (15/03/2008) 16/03/2008

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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Five thunks from Stoke 

1- Twat.

2- Forget six draws in a row, forget missed penalties and a missed chance to take firm control of our destiny again.  If we keep playing like this, we’re going up automatically.

3- For all that we’ve only gotten two points off the Potters, it seems that we’re well equipped to play them.  Keeping a high line against a forward line with no pace is always a decent start (and we’ve done this to Ricardo Fuller before) but if you’re strong enough to outmuscle their forwards as well they haven’t got anywhere to start.

4- Some terrific performances, including Danny Shittu trying to play centreback and centre forward simultaneously in the second half, Jobi McAnuff looking ever more potent, and John Joe O’Toole’s best showing to date.  As I think we’ve mentioned before here, he’s going to be a hell of a player.

5- Full marks to the Stokies for their vocal disdain of Eustace’s dismissal, and to Don Fraser for his “come up here Styles and we’ll show you what contact is” shout of the day.

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Comments»

1. Esp - 16/03/2008

1- I would have used a stronger word Matt but many of us are dads and of course many kids read BHaPPY!!

2- I think we played excellently too but I feel if other teams play to their real potential (West Brom for instance) I think we will lose out to the two teams with ex-Hornet connections City and WBA but, of course, I hope you’re right – the play off lottery plays havoc with your blood pressure when you’re my age

3- It was one of the most physical games I have witnessed at the VIc thank goodness it wasn’t totally ruined as a spectacle by that twat Styles (Even though he is woeful if the Prem had have had a full schedule I guess we wouldn’t have had him)

4 – I would add Bromby to the list Matt; you didn’t mention Tommy but I think that’s right, his final ball was not good and he hogs the ball too long for me

5- Fantastic comment from Don deservedly getting a wider audience and that shout epitomised the passion from the Rookery who were in excellent voice. Stoke of course also had many reasons to complain about Styles. At least he was shit in equal measure 😦

2. Dave Jackson - 16/03/2008

Great effort by the boys, and the crowd too.
However, I was worried when I saw Hendo take the ball after the penalty had been given. Although he can’t be faulted for effort and attitude, his miss at Bristol and his general lack of shooting form didn’t make him seem the ideal choice yesterday. Perhaps Aidy could have prepared an alternative?

3. GraemeB - 16/03/2008

Jay DeMerit at right back. Terrific. His presence gave the defence extra solidity and he linked up well with Smudger going forward.
Fully agree with your comments on JJOT. He has real quality and improves with every game. Was he intentionally trying to win a penalty, jinking around in the box surrounded by defenders with the Rookery baying for him to pass? Good on you boy!

4. JohnF - 16/03/2008

What an afternoon. I think we started to play the ball on the deck even more after the sending off. If they continue to play like this then we will do it. All players gave a 100% and nobody had a bad game. Still concerned about misfiring forwards and don’t understand exactly what is wrong. I agree, young O’Toole was excellent and he played well with Williamson who looked very tidy when he came on. Macanuff was back to his best and Smith also played well both in centre midfield and out wide. We seem to be developing options in midfield and ptentially in defence. Some tough games coming up but not many games with teams who have nothing to play for which could be an advantage. Well done to all of the team.

5. JohnF - 16/03/2008

The complete pratt managed to bring both sets of fans together and I wish them well. Styles is just useless, thank goodness the two linesmen had reasonable games.

6. stephen hoffman - 16/03/2008

can someone explain to me , why the football league thought it a good idea , to choose this game for styles who was demoted for being a crap premier referee beggars belief

as for stoke really poor , didn’t have a shot on target all game , it seemed they were the team with ten men not watford

also hero in the second half , lee williamson ,for there excellent tackle on the halfway line .

7. stephen hoffman - 16/03/2008

*for the excellent tackle on halfway line

8. Graham Sterry - 16/03/2008

Saw the challenge on TV and like it or not I doubt whether we will be appealing as it was high and reckless.

Whilst leaving the ground I was discussing with the family about the injustice of life and mentioned that West Brom also had a player sent off and our conversation was overheard by a departing Stoke fan whose throw away comment was ‘Did’nt seem to make a difference to your lot as you were on top from first to last minute’

I took that as a supreme compliment from the opposition for the performance by all apart from Richard Lee and then only because he had nothing to do!

For the first time in ages we are masters of our own destiny.

I’m with you Matt and now believe that we are on our way and that’s without one of Aidy’s free beers!

9. Wolery - 16/03/2008

All this and no mention of Leigh Bromby, who didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon. With Jay on the right we seem to have a solid back four at the moment.

And that’s the best I’ve seen Lee WIlliamson play.

Now if only we could start scoring again…

10. Back from Hammerau - 16/03/2008

Results may have gone well for them yesterday, but do Stoke deserve to go up if that’s the amount of ambition they show with an extra man?

Did anyone hear what Aidy said at the end of the game?

11. Jamie - 16/03/2008

My problem with the decision was, although I’ve yet to see a replay, was that given the players and crowd’s lack of reaction to the incident, why did Styles not choose to take the advice of his linesman who would have seen the same incident from a different angle and would have been able to add to the decision making process. If after that a red is still deemed necessary fair enough, but why not use an extra set of eyes when possible? Again look to rugby union for how it should be done Touch Judges will regularly enter the field of play and tell the referee what they saw. They work as a three some whereas in football it seems to be one large ego + two.

Other than that an excellent game and interesting that before and after the sending off that Stoke would let us play so much. JJ I thought was MoM, a mature performance and a very necessary one.

12. Red - 16/03/2008

Was this the best game of the season? All power to the Stoke fans-they contributed to a fantastic atmosphere and they did it without rubbishing Watford players or fans. I think I would have taken off Doris and left John on. Jobi was on fire. Any idea when the play-off dates are?

13. Matt Rowson - 16/03/2008

BfH, I’m not sure it was down to ambition… they were chucking attacking players on for defenders from half time onwards. They just didn’t have the tools to hurt us given that, unusually, they were facing a physically stronger side than they were.

Red… the first play-off semi would be the weekend after Blackpool. My brother gets married on the Saturday…

14. Dave Hart - 16/03/2008

Aidy was praising the fans for cheering on the team. I said before kickoff that playing Demerit at right back would be an inspired choice by Aidy, particularly with Stoke having a big & strong team, and I thought he played really well. He also provides us with another big lad to throw forward at set pieces. As decent a player as Marriappa is, he just doesn’t have the presence to play at centre half, and his positioning at right back is questionable.

The Eustace tackle happened tight in front of me. Styles couldn’t get his red card out fast enough. His foot was nowhere near their no 9’s head (if anything it was foot to foot). What upset me was that when Gallagher came on as sub, he spend most of the time laughing and joking with Styles. His tackle, also right in front of me, was the worst tackle I have seen since Wayne Brown’s dangerous tackle in the Hull match, yet the ref bottled it on both occasions.

Styles also seemed determined to stop Bromby taking his long throws. He also ordered all the balls to be collected after one ball was thrown on the pitch. Ridiculous.

15. Back from Hammerau - 16/03/2008

Matt, was it that we were stronger than them?
It wouldn’t explain why Jobi had at least 2 players to beat each time he had the ball and on both sides our full backs felt able to come forward.

Having just seen The Championship on ITV, the penalty decision looked even worse than it did from the Rookery.

16. billyo - 16/03/2008

Jamie, It’s slightly ridiculous to blame Styles, despite his track record of incompetence for not consulting with his assistants. Which referees regularly do? The only time assistants are consulted is when they are the only ones to have spotted an incident.

Referees consider themselves to be “in charge” and the media attention given to them and their performances massively inflates their egos and makes the situation much worse. We don’t need more referees on the pitch, we just need the existing four we already have work together as a team. And that does not require new legislation it just requires new directives from the referees association. And that is down to Keith Hackett; who was the first ego of refereeing.

17. Mark - 16/03/2008

Excellent performance and really we should have won.

Stoke only came for a point even when Eustace got sent off.

At least other results went our way.

18. Greg - 16/03/2008

One of the best performances I have seen at the vic for a while quality football with Mcanuff running the show agen. Also why doesnt Williamson play more surely he is more useful than O Toole. Still lacking killer touch though and no matter how well Hendo holds up the ball he cant hit a barn door.

19. Holly - 16/03/2008

Just seen the challenge on TV, definate RED CARD. I slaughtered Styles yesterday, but I have to eat Humble Pie, the ball had gone and Eustace done him !

I felt thoroughly entertained yesterday 🙂

Only worry is two goals from open play in 9 games, other than penalty we didnt trouble their keeper

20. Matt Rowson - 16/03/2008

BfH, we matched them for strength as they attacked. Fuller’s never going to do well chasing balls over the top but even if playing against a high line he can normally hold the ball up well enough, and is clever enough, to bring supporting players into play. He didn’t win enough of the ball to do so because Shittu was just stronger than him.

21. Chris - 17/03/2008

And there was me thinkning the first thunk was directed at Glenn Whelan

22. Nick B - 17/03/2008

Holly – strongly disagree. TV coverage was inconclusive; sometimes you have to trust your own eyes on these.

He mistimed it, definite booking but not dangerous or malicious.

Refs are running scared over the Eduardo thing, but need to differentiate between honest attempts and jump type tackles with studs showing

Styles just loves it, though

23. DC - 17/03/2008

Although DeMerit played well – won his headers, strong in the tackle, and a presence in both boxes at set pieces – I thought that it was clear he doesn’t play right-back every week. On a few occasions up against their left-winger he committed himself early and got beaten too easily (admittedly on one of those occasions he was able to get back and make a trademark sliding tackle). He was more than willing to get forward and support Smith, and was given plenty of opportunities to do so, but never really looked threatening. He swung in a couple from deep but they were hopeful diagonal balls rather than delivered crosses.
I understand Aidy’s decision to play him above Mariappa against the giants of Stoke, but I felt that our attacking play down the right suffered as a result – Mariappa will regularly link up with Smith and is the only full back we have who will overlap and get to the touchline. As impressive as Sadler has been since joining (almost by virtue of not being Jordan Stewart) I’d like to see his delivery (impressive almost by virtue of not being Stewart’s) from open play more often.

O’Toole was fantastic – completely bossed the midfield from start to finish – not just his best performance of the season but one of the best by any player this season.

24. Matt Rowson - 17/03/2008

Agree re Demerit DC. I think he was also helped by Stoke’s formation lacking wide midfielders (preferring two wider strikers playing off Fuller – Bothroyd and Cresswell). I can’t see Demerit as RB long term for the reasons you describe.

25. Peter Lee - 17/03/2008

As I have said before, I sit next to the dividing line between the home and away support. It was interesting to see how the Stokies’ frustration with their team and Pulis grew and grew as the game went on. Even the pen. miss only cheered them up up briefly as they (logically) expected their team to press on. One of the features of this season is that nearly every other team to vist us at the Vic has “had a go”. City never showed any ambition whatsoever.

Couple of other thunks

1. Is it just me or did Williamson have an absolutely barnstorming game in the second half?

2. Unfortunately, seeing it on TV Eustace had to go. We would have demanded nothing less.

3. Mentioned Styles to a W. Ham supporting colleague “He bloody hates us!” Is there any team without a list of gruges against him?

26. Colin Wiggins - 17/03/2008

When we heard Styles’s name on the tannoy ( I think the announcer rather deliberately pronounced it as ‘ Mr Arse Tiles’…did anyone else notice that? ) we all knew there would be at least one red card. The speed with which he got out his red card (and later pointed to the penalty spot) shows that he never considers a decision, he simply blunders in. Compare, for example, a cricket umpire, who can take up to 10 seconds considering a decision in order to be absolutely certain before raising, or not raising, the finger. Styles reputation goes before him and so from the first whistle the only sensible approach was for each player to consider himself as already on a yellow. Eustace was careless, and there’s no point in appealling.

27. East Stand Man - 17/03/2008

Coming in late on the Rob Styles debate and having seen the Eustace incident on the TV imo it warranted a Yellow Card not Red. I think what incensed me and the crowd is the way Mr Styles brandished the card without a seconds hesitation, right in his face as though John Eustace had just gone and shot the player. Incredible. Perhaps he was just trying to even the game up as the first 20 minutes were so totally one sided and the midfield was being run by Eustace.
It didn’t work as Stoke only came for a point and seemed incapable of upping their game. JJ took over the Eustace role and bossed the midfield as though he owned it and was ably assisted in the second half by a great performance from Williamson.
This was possibly the worst performance I have seen from a visiting side this season and they are now top. Compare to say Colchester’s visit back in the autumn , a team with verve and attacking ambition and a great game. It says everything for the current game – winning above anything else.

I thought Watford played well Saturday and if that is kept up for the rest of the season then promotion is ours. pity it will co-incide with the rebuilding of the New East Stand.

28. stephen hoffman - 17/03/2008

if Eustace’s tackle was a red card, then why not fuller’s when he kicked Lee . There were worse tackle’s on watford players , yet that only received a yellow card. It was a clumsy tackle , not a malicious tackle , much as i love robbo , he does a worse tackle than that monthly and he didn’t get sent off . the only reason Eustace got sent off was because Creswell decided he would pretend to be shot.

29. stephen hoffman - 17/03/2008

* i was talking about paul robinson at West Brom

30. Joe Richardson - 17/03/2008

When I saw the tackle ‘live’ I felt it was a harsh decision, that Eustace had just left his leg in and they clipped each other and both span around.

Having seen the replay once (a brief flash on Sky) it looked much worse – he ended up with his studs in the Stoke player’s guts! I now think the ref’s decision was the correct one, although he certainly didn’t waste his time making it.

Thought the performance was excellent though – Fuller gave Danny permission to run the ball from our 18 yard box to the halfway line for the entire game, and his distribution from there was phenomenal.

It is very worrying though that for all our efforts and possession, we never looked like scoring (fortuitous penalty and one early save aside) – I’m praying that John, Ellington and Hendo find their shooting boots soon. This division will be won by teams who score (WBA), not those who play well and draw.

31. Delboy - 17/03/2008

According to Wikipedia, Rob Styles is now 44. That means that he has to retire in four years time. Looking on the bright side he should only get to ruin at most another five or six of our matches.

I thought the whole team played really well on Saturday. Since the arrrival of John Eustace we retain posession so much better. My concern at the moment is that we are not creating that many chances.

32. Apperley 'Orn - 17/03/2008

Having seen the Eustace tackle several times now, I still can’t decide whether it was a red or not. What is clear though is that ArseTyles was not in the best position to judge how bad a challenge it was but nonetheless wanted his moment in the spotlight.

Twat is nowhere near a strong enough word Matt…

I assume the club have had similar difficulties in judging it as they have decided not to appeal and risk being further penalised for “frivolity” whatever the hell that is supposed to mean.

33. Esp - 17/03/2008

I read on the train tonight something which for the first time made me agree with Matt who has been saying for weeks now that we will go up automatically – I was more pessimistic and (before the heroic Stoke performance) would only have had a tenner on the play-offs; nowt on first or second

Boothroyd said in his post match conference on an evening when other results went our way, we were 3 points behind the leaders, 3rd in the league and with a game in hand:-

“I don’t think there is another club who are in this situation, whose fans are behind them, whose chairman, board and staff are together and whose players are desperate to win and play for the shirt. We’re 11 unbeaten now and have 15 clean sheets. We’re in good shape”

I’m with Rowson and the boss; glass firmly half full – Plymouth, Hull and even West Brom are winnable games – it may all be over by the time we hit the Golden Mile

34. david c. (watford) - 18/03/2008

With eleven men on the pitch I’m sure we would have beaten Stoke, who looked very ordinary even when playing against ten men. Leicester looked more effective playing against our ten and they could hardly muster a shot. We should be encouraged by Saturday’s result, just like the Leicester game, Stoke will drop points playing as negatively as that and we can go straight up this season without having to endure the lottery of the playoffs.

35. Dave Jackson - 18/03/2008

I love your optimism, Esp, but who do you see scoring the goals? Can’t leave it all to big Dan.

36. Pete B - 18/03/2008

Maybe now’s the time to unleash Kabba and Henderson. Maybe SK can be this season’s Mooney…. scoring for fun in the run in.

37. stephen hoffman - 18/03/2008

ive seen the foul , his studs were no where near his guts , it was much lower down , the only reason he was sent off , was because Creswell went down like he was shot

38. stephen hoffman - 18/03/2008

just a thought but maybe give kabba another run , from what ive seen in the last couple of months he’s been better then both john and ellington .

39. Matt Rowson - 18/03/2008

Kabba’s got more oomph Stephen, and is a better “pest” than Ellington or (as yet) John. He hasn’t really looked like scoring very often though, for all the terrific celebration against Wolves. John has quality, he needs games for fitness, whilst Ellington has scored (and come close to scoring on other occasions) much more frequently than Kabba despite performances of otherwise varying quality. I’d have Kabba on the bench, but not starting.

40. NRC - 19/03/2008

The manager’s dilemma! Hendo needs a partner he can feed off (or more accurately, feed) and the signs so far suggest this isn’t the Duke it may be in time, but time we don’t have). Kabba is a menace as you say Matt, but somehow seems not to put the ball in the back of the net. CJ looked promising for a while on Saturday, he and Hendo seemed to work well together and it could come good all of a sudden but it’s a gamble. A lot of our success earlier in the season came from having competition for places on the bench so yes, I agree, use three strikers a game but as for the starting pair … its a lottery.

41. Johnny Boy ( formly JohnM, but there are too many of us) - 19/03/2008

Missed the last game so cannot comment on performance/foul but re the ongoing debate about where the goals are going to come from what about – Smith up front with either Henderson/John/Ellington – Ainsworth or Williamson on the wing, maybe Jodi on the right . Reason, Tommy Smith used to play up there, has scored 5 goals so far, tends to score in the second half of the season. What do I know.

42. Esp - 19/03/2008

NRC wrote: A lot of our success earlier in the season came from having competition for places on the bench ”

I strongly disagree with that statement because early in the season imho we did not have many options on the bench

Our success was due to winning games against much inferior opposition (we haven’t beaten any of the top sides) and due to a certain person called Marlon King scoring WELL over half of all of our goals

It is NOW that we have compettion for places due to the signing of Eustace, Bromby and Sadler

How many would have said in September that Doyley, DeMerit and Stewart would not i Aidy’s first choice 11 by the time March came?

Johnny Boy I think is correct about Smith (not the first time I have read someone advocating a striking role for him) but there are 3 reasons Aidy won’t play him next to Hendo: Ellington, Kabba and John

On either wing Smith is better than Ainsworth and McAnuff but like many I would like many more goals from wingers and midfielders whilst Hendo’s partners are firing blanks

Scoring is our biggest problem right now and the only question mark over automatic promotion

43. EMC - 19/03/2008

ESP, have to disagree with your reply to NRC. King, Hendo, and the Duke were all pushing for starting places, and there was competition on the bench for wingers in the form of Jobi McAnuff, Smith and Johnson. This gave Aidy the option of some smart tactical changes, and also created a hunger for the players to prove they’re worthy of their place.

44. Paul Wiggins - 20/03/2008

Eustace faces further punishment – incredible.

45. Wrighty - 20/03/2008

Can we now make point 1 plural?

46. scotshorn - 20/03/2008

Ashley Coles reckless challengs on Hutton was far worse than Eustace’s – but the stars get awaty with yellow and the Styles adds to his list of scalps by giving out a red – anyone think that FA will act?

47. Apperley 'Orn - 20/03/2008

Yes scotshorn, they will probably act by extending Eustace’s ban to 5 games…

Styles – what a ****

48. stephen hoffman - 20/03/2008

Ellington has played many more games than kabba this season . when kabba has played he has more of an effect than ellington . as for John i know he isn’t match fit , but there’s only 8 games left he needs to get match fit soon.

49. Esp - 21/03/2008

I fear the FA won’t act scotshorn for the reason that every incident is unique and different and each ref’s grasp of the laws is different to suit their own interpretation (or, dare I say it, purpose and ego)

That still doesn’t make Mike Riley correct (who should have branished a straight red on Cole) OR that c*** Styles who is the embodiment of the oft repeated terrace chant “You’re not fit to referee”

We get the referees I fear that the referees federation (or whatever they’re called) think we deserve – and the myopic journalists like Mick Dennis of the Express don’t help either!

50. Esp - 21/03/2008

..and Ashley Cole’s foul wasn’t just reckless it was WRECKLESS as in “it could have wrecked Alan Hutton’s career”

OK it might have been mistimed but it could still have been far worse; rather like the drunk driver not being convicted of murder (as in no intent) but being banged up for manslaughter all the same

51. Dave Hart - 22/03/2008

I couldn’t help that Styles refereed the Nottingham Forest game last night. Guess what? He sent off a Forest player after 20 minutes, and then gave them a soft penalty. Coincidence, huh?

52. tim wells - 23/03/2008

POST PLYMOUTH 1another draw we are battling and hard to break down, but not winning for so long is a worry.2 esp is right to say scoring is our biggest problem , currently our strength seems to be the back four, and the covering side of midfield.jj o’t looks like the midfielder with the best attacking instincts, lee williamson apparently got a cracker yesterday most of the others with the possible exception of francis look more happy covering than attacking, which means we are likely to struggle to create thru the middle.3 what do other fans feel our best options upfront are, im really not 100 percent sure, but for now id persist with john and henderson. 4 can we do it not sure home games will be crucial

53. JohnF - 25/03/2008

Tim the extended ban for Eustace means that the currently available midfielders are what we need to rely on for the next 3 games. I agree that this limits attacking options but JJ and Lee Williamson lokk capable of doing well together. My concern is the tactical side of things as we aren’t actually creating too much. Mostly it is coming from set pieces and percentage play hoping something will fall in the box. Henderson is now out for 2 games so it looks like Ellington and John. If we play the ball on the ground to feet then I think we can do well. Lumping it in the air and just helping the ball on will not bring success. Stoke showed what we can do let’s hopw we can do that again with more cutting edge.

54. scotshorn - 25/03/2008

Nice one Styles – I can’t remember anyone else ever getting an extended ban for the same “offence” – so that’s a first for us – if he ever returns to the Vic …..

55. Apperley 'Orn - 25/03/2008

Well whatever our best options are Tim, they can’t include Hendo for the next 2 games as he is suspended after reaching 10 yellows…

Oh, and by the way, Mr U Rennie will be centre of attention on Saturday – they really don’t like us very much do they?

56. Alan Ambler - 26/03/2008

My five thunks, or two-pennies worth if you will for the Plymouth game…
1 – Lee Williamson…ran the midfield well in Eustace’s absence.
2 – Collins John…hum…need I say more?
3 – Nathan Ellington…ditto
4 – Both sides looked particularly poor, and neither deserved to win it on performance. Will we get slaughtered next year in the premiership? I believe so, I think West Brom are the only team equipped to give it a real good go, but the irony is they still might not get there to try!
5 – Still a point gained, and its so tight up there that we can yet put some wins back to back and go up as champions…

57. Matt Rowson - 26/03/2008

Alan

if West Brom were all that they’d have run away with a very poor division. We’ve looked convincing a handful of times this season and are fourth. Albion can score goals but can’t defend and are too inconsistent. Not that this is enough to stop them getting promoted from this division, naturally.

58. Alan Ambler - 26/03/2008

Matt, I agree about the poor division, it is, the way I see it is that to survive in the Premiership you have got to be able to play some football on the ground, keep posession and have good movement. I look at the top half of the league and the only ones who are able to do that consistently are West Brom, however that tactic doesn’t get you out of a more physical, direct game in the Championship, as West Brom are showing. That is not a dig at the Championship as it is a much more enjoyable league than the Premiership. I just feel that we cannot keep the ball enough, nor pass and move well enough to compete in the Prem. Our tactics are generally to play a more direct game. I happen to think that is perfect for the Championship as we are proving, winning games and certainly not loosing that many. But if we play like that in the Premiership the experienced top division players are able to deal with that all day. Its what happened to us last time, and the times we did play some alright football we got some joy, i remember Young’s first goal in the home game with Fulham (the 3-3) as a memorable piece of passing football. Can we do that now? I would argue no.

59. Esp - 26/03/2008

In answer to Tim Wells’ 3rd point “What do other fans feel our best options upfront are?” – our suspensions and discipline are of course a concern

I am beginning to warm to the calls for Smith to be given a striking role as I think a loan signing may not get sanctioned

O’Toole and Eustace have picking up cards for dissent and both Darius and Eustace are suspended

My solution (minus Darius) would be to recall a rejuvenated Priskin who is scoring at PNE but as this and a loan signing are unlikely I would go 4-3-3 playing Kabba plus Smith and John up front and try a 3 man midfield of Williamson, O’Toole and McAnuff

The back 4 currently picks itself of course

WITH Darius back I would keep to 4-4-2 (and, again with no emergency loan or Priskin recall) I would have Darius and Kabba up front with Ainsworth and McAnuff as wingers keeping Smith and either Williamson or O’Toole in the middle

When Eustace returns from suspension I would put Smith back on the wing drop Ainsworth and keep Williamson or O’Toole in central midfield with Eustace

In all scenarios I would definitely have Ellington, Bangura, Stewart (or O’Toole) and DeMerit on the bench as they can all, on their day, help turn a game

60. Matt Rowson - 26/03/2008

Alan

wouldn’t dispute any of your concerns with respect to our team. But Albion score goals on the back of a very attacking midfield. And as the table suggests, they’re not as consistently good at it as you imply. Defensively, however, they’re wobbly at best, despite have nominally four very good defenders (Hoefkens, Albrechtsen, Cesar, Robinson) and an experienced keeper. Which suggests that the way they play would need revamping if they aren’t to get beaten out of sight in the Premiership.

61. david c. (watford) - 27/03/2008

Deja Vu
Did anyone notice that Mr Styles gave James Perch, a Forest player, a straight red after twenty minutes and then gave Forest a dubious penaly in the second half at Sixfields (Northampton) in his very next game. Perhaps he will be demoted to the Blue Square Premier if he keeps this level of performance up?

62. Matt Rowson - 27/03/2008

i dunno David. It’s not hindered him up until now.

63. NRC - 27/03/2008

ESP – Priskin can’t be recalled for an initial 28 day period anyway at the end of which Doris would be back.

64. Nick B - 27/03/2008

Smith is an interesting conundrum; distinctly useful in his normal position, but adaptable. Second striker has been suggested and has merit, but his goals to chances ratio has never been great and he misses a fair few sitters.

I thought he was very impressive in his short spell as JE’s replacement before half time in the stoke game and I’d be inclined to try him there for home games at least until JE comes back. We can then unleash Ainsworth, who can get to the byline and cut crosses back to feet, rather than hanging them up from tight spaces near to the full back, as Smith’s lack of pace restricts him to.

Have to say that the front two remains a tricky call, however…

65. James - 31/03/2008

I went to Hull. That decision was the first of many errors on Saturday.
The second mistake was getting lost in Hull and missing the beginning, although that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Still, my incompetent navigation paled into insignificance compared to the incompetence displayed on the pitch.
Five thoughts:
1. Nathan Ellington gets more inept and less interested with every game. We’re getting into Dominic Foley territory now.
2. The sending off was a joke, but the game had been long lost by that stage.
3. Hull weren’t great, but they were organised, and they wanted it a lot more than we did.
4. McAnuff was our only real threat going forward. Kabba and Smith worked hard but achieved little. Williamson also worked hard but didn’t really get forward. Shittu was ok, although he might have been at fault for the first goal. Everyone else looked inept.
5. I just hope we can stay in the play-offs.

66. Matt Rowson - 31/03/2008

Don’t go dissing Dom Foley, James. That’s yet another old can of worms that doesn’t really merit revisiting…

67. Stuart - 31/03/2008

Has anyone noticed how the last three seasons (2005/06, 2006/07 and now 2007/08), have been – not exactly – but quite similar to 1998/99, 1999/00 and 2000/01? Not just in league positions but also by signings. i,e Ellington a new Espen Baardsen? (I know they play in different positions but try to understand my comparison here!). The final piece of the jigsaw is for us to quitely slip out of the playoffs and finish 9th just like we did in GT’s final season, and in that season we were clear with Fulham at the top for a while. I hope it doesn’t happen but it looks like history is kind of repeating itself. Expect us to finish about 13th next season.

68. Wrighty - 31/03/2008

I was mocked at work today by a Hull fan. Yes, that’s right mocked by someone who comes from Hull.

Not good

69. Dave Hart - 31/03/2008

What about Devon White’s overhead scissor kicks? In the centre circle. Brilliant… For those who are unaware, he missed the ball.

70. Lincoln 'Orn - 01/04/2008

1.We’re
2.So
3.Shite
4.It’s
5.Unbelievable

6. So is Uriah Rennie by the way. Somebody should tell him you should be in relatively good shape to be a top class ref.

71. scotshorn - 01/04/2008

Our last 8 games and 7 points from a possible 24 does not bode well for us – anything but 2 wins in the next 2 home games and I think we have had it – hopefully the team will find its way again. We need to raise the roof again on Saturday to play our part.

72. JohnF - 01/04/2008

Didn’t go to Hull! Good call. We now need to have a proper rethink. Lack of confidence up front and desperation and a lack of passing ability at the back mean we aren’t creating much at all. Bromby’s long throws are one of the symptoms. A little imagination would help. Movement off the ball, making themselves available for the pass, passing to one of our men and to feet would mean that we would be a little less predictable. Why don’t Smithy and Macanuff swap sides occasionally just to mix it up? I would be happy to stay in the championship (nicer class of people) but I do have concerns about the money now with the new ground developments and a significant wage bill. Not the end of the world yet but not happy times. Still a couple of good wins could change it all.

73. East Stand Man - 01/04/2008

Stuart (67)

I kinda made the same comments earlier in the season (see trackback on Hull City game 20/10/07). I believe we should still make the play-offs though and trying to be optimistic.

1) We now have a relatively easy run-in. Our last few games have all been against Play-Off or Title Challengers

2) When we have been tonked before this season we have always come back strongly

3) Er….That’s about it

74. Joe Richardson - 01/04/2008

At least Kabba’s red card has been over-turned, just like JJ’s from Leicester.

They don’t do this lightly, so to avoid future embarrassment perhaps they could stop telling refs that we need to be ‘made an example of’. That is the only reason I can think of that would explain the referees we are assigned, Rennie’s rash decision and the speed with which Style’s sent off Eustace.

75. James - 01/04/2008

Ah well, at least Kabba’s red got rescinded. Finally a bit of good luck.
Hopefully he’ll start alongside John on Saturday.

76. GraemeB - 02/04/2008

Stuart, you’re not the first to draw such comparisons. What surprises me is that so many optimistic Watford fans have been assuming the current lapse is temporary and that we will shortly regain our pre-season form.
Just to set the record straight, since the loss to West Brom which started the slide back on November 3, our results have been as follows:

HOME:
Win 2, draw 6, lose 5.
AWAY:
Win 5, draw 6, lose 3.

33 points from 27 matches.

This is equivalent to a seasonal tally of 56 points. 52 points is normally just enough to avoid relegation.
Remember that the team we have now is not the one which put us nine points clear at the start of the season. Of the side which beat Palace away (the match before the WBA defeat), Doyley is languishing in the reserves for no apparent reason, Demerit is playing out of position, Stewart is dropped, Mahon and King sold, Henderson suspended and Johnson back at ‘Borough. It can be argued that some of the replacements are better, but unfortunately this has not been reflected in the results. The only thing which has saved us from sinking without trace is that most of our rivals have also lost form. It is likely that 80 points will now be enough for automatic promotion — the lowest since 1996/7.
With four of our last six games at home, all is not lost. But who’s going to get the goals? For a club that has owned more than £10m worth of strikers at some stage of the season it is remarkable that we haven’t scored in open play for five games.
And why on earth are we having to rely on Kabba who has scored just once in his last 40+ appearances?

77. Nick B - 02/04/2008

The Duke – sorry Aidy, no juice left in that particular orange, only pith, which is what he’s taking….

78. Jimbo - 02/04/2008

Re original point 2 , two and a half weeks on, the guts of two months and 8 games in total without a win…what’s your assessment now Matt?

79. Colin Wiggins - 02/04/2008

I greatly enjoyed the trip to Hull. It was cold, wet, miserable and made me remember many other utterly abject performances over my many years. The night we lost at home to Cambridge and took up the honourable position of 92nd in the Football League. The night Walsall (or was it Wrexham?) sent us down to Division 4. And thinking of those times made me realise who the Duke reminds me of. No, not Dominic Foley (his last minute winner against Barnsley combined with his comic awfulness redeems him for me) but…wait for it……Brian Greenhalgh!

80. The Rock 'N' Roll Oatcake - 02/04/2008

Stoke fan here!
Yes we can err be a bit physical but then you need this to get resulst this year at times. Hopefully ourselves, Watford & Bristol City can go up. Anyone but West Brom 🙂

Glad Eustace is doing well for you. Great player, superb attitude on/off the field but damn shame he had bad injuries at Stoke. Good luck for the rest of the season.

81. Matt Rowson - 03/04/2008

Jimbo – i stand by that comment. if we play (had played) like we did against Stoke we’ll go up. We haven’t done yet, obviously…

Oatcake… wouldn’t argue with any of that. Stokies were by far the most amiable supporters at the Vic this season, would be well pleased if you go up (hopefully with us, although as you’ll have gathered the prevailing mood isn’t optimistic)

82. plbaxter - 03/04/2008

CW- it was Walsall that sent us down to Div 4. 2-3 if I remember correctly, and I think that the game was almost unique in that Brian Greenhalgh scored a goal for us. For some reason he performed like a hero at Cambridge but gave amongst the worst performances as a striker for Watford during the 40 years I’ve followed the club. Whilst The Duke is not performing (and his control at Hull was abysmal) he’s probably half a step ahead of that at present.

Let’s hope Hull was a low point. I can’t remember us being so outclassed by a side outside our Premiership experiences since we lost 4-1 at home to a Notts County side a division below us in the cup and that must have been the mid 70’s!

83. SteveG - 03/04/2008

The remarkable thing about this division is that, despite the distinctly mediocre form that we’ve shown for most of the season, as documented by Graeme, if the two penalties had gone in we would, even now, be top of the table.

Of course, this does make it difficult to imagine how any team promoted this year will manage to fare any better than Derby – it looks as though no Championship team is going to manage to win even half their games this season.

If we did go up, I don’t think we’d disgrace ourselves in most matches, but at the moment the best we could hope for from encounters with premiership sides would be a series of 0-0 draws, which self-evidently wouldn’t be good enough. We may be better off where we are, watching Stoke, Bristol City and Hull coming staight back down again.

I bet Wigan and Reading fans are happy, though.

84. James - 03/04/2008

Ha ha, Phil Brown just got manager of the month, so that’s Hull scuppered!

Oatcake & Matt – I agree, Stoke were the best away fans of the season. Although having a common enemy certainly helped. It’s always a heart-warming moment to hear the opposition fans giving Styles a thorough booing before the game’s even kicked off.

85. Ian Lay - 03/04/2008

Hull have the momentum and at this time of the season that’s cruical. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are champions. Unfortunately they don’t play again until 12th April.

On Saturday Bristol City are away to Southampton who are fighting for their lives. We have Coventry at home (which you have to expect to win if you want to be promoted). Stoke are at home Palace on the Monday which will be tight.

Then we play at home to Barnsley (our game in hand I think) and West Brom are away to Backpool (who have lost only 3 times at home this season).

If, and I stress the if, we can win these two homes games it is entirely possible that by the 9th April we could be sitting top of the table again. Then the momentum is with us.

Positive thoughts people, positive energy, oooze the good karma! 😉

Cheers,

Ian

86. simon w - 03/04/2008

Colin – it was Walsall.
2-3 wasn’t it? Dennis Bond scored – irrelevantly – with our last kick in Div 3.
A night to compare with any of our blackest – but there was a grim optimism as the (comparatively) huge crowd descended on the Vic that night.
“Blimey”, said someone, surveying the throng, “what do you reckon: 7,000, 8 maybe?”
“Oh I dunno,” came the reply, “I’d be happy with 2-0.”

87. Simon in Oz - 03/04/2008

Colin Wiggins – I am mightily relieved that you consider that the Duke reminds you of Brian Greenhalgh. For a moment I thought you were going to say Trevor Senior.


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