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Watford 2 Darlington 1 (aet) (26/08/2008) 27/08/2008

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Five thunks from the very long evening with Darlo.

1- Fourth division side at home, should be straightforward, yadda yadda whatever. But a fourth division side dropping deep and attacking neatly is still an awkward opponent….

2- …particularly if you’re fielding what might have been the lightest Watford line-up in history. Scott Loach and Damo might have let the side down a little, but two relatively slim centrebacks, a beanpole in attack and two wingers who probably weigh half of Dan Shittu between them was always going to struggle against a deep-sitting physical defence.

3- That said, it was bloody ghastly for the most part. And for all of Young’s endearing nipping and darting, and Ross Jenkins’ obvious promise, it was the midfield’s almost total failure to either supply the attack or protect the defence that was the root of the problem.

4- Lionel Ainsworth suggested a hitherto unadvertised ability to pass the ball a long way quite accurately. That aside, he continues to resemble a ping-pong ball in a pinball machine, bouncing around at high speed with very little control over direction or purpose and no presence whatsoever.

5- Scott Loach. For those whose views of Loach have been restricted to first team outings, this was the first suggestion of what the fuss has been about. Visibly grew two inches and broadened his shoulders after his fine low save in the second half.


1. Dave Hart - 27/08/2008

If the fella from the Rookery who helped me find the ground from my car last night is reading this, thank you ever so much, I was totally lost!

I owe you a pint!

2. Jamie - 28/08/2008

My concern with Loach to date is

1. He likes to punch the ball. I like my keepers to catch.

2. He can’t kick the ball very far. They seem to go up like well lofted 9 irons. Compare and contrast that to the luminous monster in goal for Darlington who kicked the ball with real relish.

3. DM - 28/08/2008

3. The defence had little or no confidence in him.

4. He was rooted to his line at times, specially in the first half.

This said, he did pull off that terrfic save Matt mentioned towards the end of 90 mins. His time will come, but not yet.

Same could be said of Young, Jenkins and Henderson. All had impressive moments to underline their potential, but also showed just as much proof of why none of them is anywhere near to challenging for a regular place yet.

I’d put Ainsworth in this category as well. Some decent runs, and the kid can cross when he gets the chance, but he really must start to build some upper body stregnth to make it in this division.

Tuesday was my first look at the feted new style of play. The team certainly looked to get the ball down and play a lot more in the first half, but it went to pot after the break, and we returned to the stock tactic of aimless hoofs. They clearly still need to work on this as a team, but the first half signs were encouraging.

4. bob - 28/08/2008

Quite agree with the five points.
but re; Jamies point above about keepers having big kicks, i dont really go for that, would rather he just tapped it to the wing and we play it out, keeping control of the game ourselves.

First half was comfortable but also totally insipid and uninspiring. A whole world away from the same youngsters who played with such gay abandon against Bristol rovers.

Did anyone else stay until the end on Tuesday? I did, but only because no one woke me. One or two glimmers in the first half (literally), but the second was totally devoid of any structure, skill or desire to kill off the game.

Oh and the ball spent more time in the air than an albatross.

Any sense of purpose going forward was lost when Hoskins left the field. Any sense of leadership was lost when francis left the field. Doyley did his job. Imagine going into extra time knowing your most sure chance of scoring is a midfielder only turned pro last season and who hasn’t even made the pre-season bench. Still, one in the eye for all those who assumed JJOT had burnt out already.

Priskin and Hoskins looked capable and had some nice individual moments in the first half. Both deserve a game on Saturday but it has to be one or the other, not both together, yet.

On the second half performance Darlington thoroughly deserved to be through.

There was no structure going forward whatsoever in the second half.

We are not big enough to dismiss the worthless cup as two bob. I don’t doubt he’ll dress it up as an essential process to blood youngsters as he did last season but, in my humble opinion; Boothroyd is taking a massive gamble showing this sort of disrespect to lesser opposition. No one on the board can decry the shameful attendance when this is what we have to watch.

It is not the youngsters that need to play this sort of game at the moment, it is the likes of priskin and mcanuff. They need these sorts of nights with a full compliment of first teamers surrounding them to knock a few in past league 2 opposition to get their confidence up.

5. Harefield Hornet - 28/08/2008

Fair play to the dedicated band of Darlington supporters who had made the long trip in the middle of the week to watch a 2nd round tie in a much undervalued competition. They supported their team with great gusto from the near empty Vic Road end and what they lacked in numbers they certainly made up for in spirit!

A tedious game in many respects which only livened up a few minutes before extra time and then slumbered further before JJOT supplied the winner.

I was ready to head for the pub when they equalised and decided to sit in the Upper Rous to watch the extra time just for a change of view.

Christ – what a miserable bunch frequent that part of the Vic! It reminded me of being in the library when I was a kid and being told to SSShhhh every time I spoke. (even though I didn’t) Still I suppose it serves me right for scabbing half an hours better view for free.

Someone mentioned a young player being raw after a previous game. Liam Henderson takes it to a new level but my god didn’t he get stuck in!

A lesson learnt for the future!

6. Matt Rowson - 28/08/2008


agree that the youngsters are promising but shouldn’t be in first team action yet. However I suspect that they’re a lot closer to the first team than either of us would like them to be. Given Rasiak and Robinson’s injuries, it’s difficult to see how a bench for Saturday won’t include at least one of Ainsworth and Henderson, possibly both of them.

the hoofing… yeah, true, but I think it’s got to be forgiven in the pretty exceptional circumstances. As mentioned above, we were on the skinny side of lightweight, particularly in midfield where Francis, big though he is, has never really been one to put himself about. That being the case, against a big, deep-sitting Darlo team it was very difficult to get a foothold. Had it been the first team it would have been more irritating.

and you still owe me a tenner.

7. Tim Rose - 28/08/2008

Interesting comments but I think we all have sligthly short memories. Cast your minds back 12 months.

Our supossed fantastic reserve team including Priskin, Hoskins, Bangura, Avinel, Parkes, Macca, Campana and at the time Lee produced a great display against the Gills before being completely undone by Southend a week later.

I think fair play to these guys for digging in and getting a result even if at times it was difficult to watch and all these guys will have learnt from it. For me they’ve gone one better than last year.

With the injuries we now have all our goal threat is going to come from midfield runners, and Tommy. I think Aidy needs to get either JJ or Francis into the team just to add to goal threat or at the very least coming off the bench.

If we finish mid table we new owners who allow Aidy to buy next summer I for one will put that down as a real success.

8. SteveG - 28/08/2008

But we won! We may have been fortunate, but sometimes what divides a successful season from a poor one is an inordinate amount of luck. Think back to how easily we might have been out of the play offs by half time in the first leg against Crystal Palace a few years ago.

Re: team selection, and Bob’s comments. I think it was right that Priskin and Hoskins played (for the reasons mentioned) and presumably McAnuff was injured after Saturday. The back four was almost first choice, and Mariappa has had significant first team experience (although it might have been more solid with Mariappa at RB and Lloyd in the middle). So that leaves the midfield, which was, as we all agree, problematic. But surely this was an ideal opportunity for Damien Francis to reassert his authority and build confidence against lesser opposition – instead of which he looked a liability by the time he came off. Maybe Harley should have started in place of Young, but arguably he’d earned a start.

And in the end, JJOT got on the scoresheet which will have hopefully have done wonders for his confidence.

Also agree that the Upper Rous does seem to be populated by pessimists – rather than continually berating Priskin for not being Helguson/Henderson in the air, wouldn’t it be a better idea to play it more to his feet, when he actually looks pretty good to me.

9. DM - 28/08/2008

Haha ! You were supposed to Email me a reminder !!

Back to the matter at hand. Agree on the first paragraph. Taking as read that Loach, Mariappa and Francis will be on the bench, I’d go for O’Toole ahead of Ainsworth, simply because he is a little nearer being an effective option. Agree that Henderson is likely to be on there, by default.

Agree on the hoofage front – and would add that at least it was only as the second half wore on that we degnerated. But, as the main culprit was a first choice centre half, it’s a little bothersome that we resorted to it so readily.

10. Dave Hart - 28/08/2008

Not sure I agree with you about playing the first team in the cup, at least this season. This our squad is distinctly lacking depth this season, we can’t afford to pick up injuries in key positions, i.e. centre back or up front.

Sadler seemed to pick up an ankle injury in extra time. I doubt that he’ll make it for Ipswich. Who will play in his place? Harley? Parkes? I suspect that O’Toole may have played his way into the team on Saturday, with Harley at left back. What other choice do we have?

I still don’t think that Young should have played. He’s just not ready yet, physically at least. Glad to see Henderson given his chance, although I would have liked to have seen Priskin play off him instead. Playing Priskin as the spearhead of the attack is doing nobody any favours.

I thought that Marriappa played poorly.

11. markymark - 29/08/2008

There will be a riot if WFC allow Tommy Smith to leave before the transfer window closes.
I expect this post to be deleted as its shi*t

12. Esp - 31/08/2008

I have the record for the most deleted posts..
ANOTHER one that won’t be published!! 🙂
Nice to see that MacAnuff and Eustace got the plaudits yesterday (Ipswich game) – Smudger can’t win every weekl!!

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