Watford 0 Scunthorpe United 1 (26/04/2008) 27/04/2008Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
Five thunks from the latest capitulation
1- To get the painfully obvious out of the way, we played against a relegated side missing several of its top players and never looked like scoring. If we were to get through the play-offs (see point 2) what chance against United, Chelsea and the rest?
2- Given that you wouldn’t back us against anyone at the moment, it’s difficult to know what to hope for next weekend. Not through any misplaced desire to see Watford fail, but through not wishing to shell out more money for the inevitability of seeing us getting dicked (or, more likely, huffing and puffing to defeat) in the play-offs.
3- John Joe O’Toole. A favourite theme of recent weeks, admittedly, but whilst he remained one of few players prepared to bring the ball down and look for a pass, and whilst he has the potential to become a terrific midfielder, rarely has a player looked more in need of a rest. Whatever the outcome of this season, we are in danger of ruining him in the longer term (see also Theo Robinson, much better off scoring for Hereford than being barracked by our lot for not being the finished article)
4- Speaking of barracking, thought that most of the crowd was fairly restrained yesterday; there was a horrible inevitability to Scunny scoring just as the first suggestions of bloody-minded defiance emanated from the rookery.
5- Seeing as it hasn’t been mentioned thus far, the lack of belief in the side is extraordinary. Whilst we’re not a Premiership side by any stretch, and perhaps not even good enough to be at the top of this division, we’re not as bad a side as current form would suggest either. The lack of leaders in the side is again evident, to the extent that John Eustace again stood out in this respect, even during what was probably his worst 90 minutes yet in terms of his own game.
Watford 0 Crystal Palace 2 (19/04/2008) 20/04/2008Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
Five thunks from Palace
1- More depressing than Barnsley, if anything. No lack of effort this time, not really. We probably edged the first half, and were much the better team at the start of the second. And Palace still mugged us painfully easily. This is what we were doing to teams two years ago, of course.
2- With a forward line almost completely devoid of movement, whatever other positive characteristics it possesses, we really are rather dependent on the ball bouncing for us. A fit Marlon King, or the Collins John or Nathan Ellington we thought we’d signed wouldn’t half make a difference. Speaking of whom…
3- I wonder how many of those who mockingly cheered Ellington’s belated introduction were the same who cheer his replacement when he starts again and fails to deliver (again). The Problem is not that Boothroyd mistimes his substitutions, it’s that he’s painfully devoid of useful options on the bench. Not that this isn’t his own fault to a large degree, naturally.
4- McAnuff’s substitution. After a decent enough first hour or so, the winger had disappeared, and critically failed to capitalise on his opponent’s early yellow card. Given that we so rarely look like scoring from open play, effectively bringing in a player who does occasionally put in a decent dead ball didn’t seem like such a bad shout to me. Stewart on the right and Smith on the left, however, I struggled to understand…
5- It had to be bloody Palace, didn’t it? Was a side ever so neatly summarised in one individual than Palace are by Clinton Morrison?
Thunks from the Hawthorns
1- Well that was much better. Whilst we still lack any sort of convincing punch, we were steady and remarkably disciplined; honorable mentions to the the central three at the back, all terrific, and to the returning skipper. Shame we needed to win the game really, otherwise it was a big tick.
2- Tamas Priskin. If he were a chef, you imagine he’d cook up an extravagant recipe, adding his own personal twist, a creative masterpiece. Then use sugar in place of salt and forget to switch the oven on… crikey moses.
3- The Albion. Despite being popularly “the best side in the Championship” (TM) our fragile side didn’t half find them easy to play. You imagine that the bloody-minded team that saw off Ipswich at Portman Road would have finished the job. For all the passing and movement we kept them comfortably enough at arms length for the most part, and even our currently flimsy attacking options made the centre of their defence look like an accident waiting to happen.
4- Perhaps the most enjoyable chant of the season, “One-nil to the football team”, was also the briefest, being misheard as the more traditional “One-nil to the Golden Boys” by the majority. Shame.
5- Luton. Bothered.
Watford 0 Barnsley 3 (09/04/2008) 10/04/2008Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
Five thunks from last night’s monstrosity
1- This week I’ve seen a house purchase fall through, spent any amount of time with a bored toddler in queues on the M1, and my tickly cough is back. I really didn’t need last night’s gutless, passionless, utterly undistracting shower of shit.
2- It’s difficult to single out the most damning indictment of the performance. Was it that substitute Tamas Priskin, of all people, appeared aggressive and purposeful in contrast to what came before? Or maybe that Lloyd Doyley was our biggest attacking threat? Or even that a Barnsley team in desperate need of points away from home against a promotion-chasing side (ha) never once saw the need to slow the game down, take time over free kicks, or resort to any of the other tactics that have characterised several of our away victories?
3- As ever in times of stress, it seems safest to blame ig. Fuelled by a naivety borne of not having seen a game since the (in relative terms) spellbinding performance against Stoke, the prospect of not winning comfortably hadn’t even crossed my mind until ig reminded me of this debacle two days after Chesterfield’s FA Cup Semi final replay defeat in 1997.
4- The starkest contrast between this side and that of two years ago is the lack of leadership on the pitch. Gone, for a variety of reasons, are Mahon, King, Carlisle, Mackay. Without Eustace, the best we have are honest troopers like Shittu and the eternally forgivable Doyley. Even the grotesquely in need of a break O’Toole earns a modicum of respect for not hiding. But nobody on the pitch seemed able to encourage, direct or even influence the course of events.
5- Over Boothroyd’s tenure we’ve seen a fair bit of eye-catching decoration by the manager, from forthright interviews to now-familiar mantras and sound bites to exhortations with a microphone to personal drum-beating appearances in stands before games. Some of it effective, some of it not, all of it no doubt well intentioned. Now we really need to see some substance… on the face of last night’s performance, the floundering suggested by recalls to previously discarded players, the lack of flexibility of the side, this is undoubtedly his greatest challenge to date. From such a summit earlier in the season, to get us to a stage now of qualifying for the play-offs, and going into them with anything other than resignation, would be a huge achievement.
Watford 2 Coventry City 1 (5/4/2008) 06/04/2008Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.
1. Welcome back, Lloyd Doyley. A sudden recall for someone just as suddenly buried in the margins tends to suggest a manager clutching at straws…but nevertheless, an instantly recognisable figure in a team that’s increasingly lacking in genuine character. One very much hopes that when we finally get around to building ourselves a new East Stand, Lloyd will still be here to christen it with a miscued pass into Row P.
2. For all that certain folk have attempted to portray us as some kind of brutalist uber-Bolton, a team entirely stripped of artistry, conscience and human warmth in order to prepare for a future that makes any upstanding fan shudder, we remain something of an enigma. Sometimes, as in the early stages of the first half, we forget ourselves enough to play expansive and attractive football; it’s as if the clouds have cleared and the sun’s shining through. At other times, we become entirely lost in the most basic hacking and thwacking, and one wonders what exactly we spend the week between matches doing. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, it’s true…but it doesn’t follow that if you break a load of eggs, you’ve made an omelette. Especially if you don’t even bother picking the shell out.
3. Personally, I suspect that we have this in common with virtually all of our peers; the winner is the one who wins, simple as.
4. We reached the low point of the campaign here, pretty much. Seventy-eight minutes, and a Coventry winner is as inevitable as the equaliser was. Our football has disintegrated into atoms, one event entirely separate from any that might precede or follow it; you look to the bench and find no cause for optimism, no sign that anyone knows how we might change it for the better. We’re resigned to our fate.
5. You wonder, therefore, how significant the next few seconds might turn out to be in a month’s time. As if to emphasise the point, the bench suddenly erupts into activity after Tommy Smith’s goal: rarely can a series of substitutions have been quite so utterly and understandably negative, boarding up the windows and jamming the doors to protect our ill-gotten gains. We were, it was very clear, fully aware of how fortunate we’d been and how little we could afford to throw it away again. It has come to that: eleven men behind the ball to hang on grimly against a team in the bottom half. But if that’s what it takes….