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Barnsley 2 Watford 1 (15/11/2008) 16/11/2008

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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“So Pete shouts out ‘Sean Dyche, you’re the least gay footballer in history’. And Dyche turns around and says ‘I dunno, your mate’s quite good looking….'”.

Meldrew is clearly proud of the implied compliment.  Dave’s Mum’s car bounces happily onwards towards Barnsley.  The intention of all four of the car’s passengers is to have a good day out, and not to permit any goings on on the pitch to obstruct this objective as far as is possible.  To the same end, certain topics upon which the car’s passengers differ in opinion somewhat have been banned from the agenda.  The subject, instead, is the formulation of a team of Watford players past and present based on recitable anecdotes.

The relaxed atmosphere persists all the way to Yorkshire, and by the time a hostelry has been relieved of several pintsworth of Guinness (me, Meldrew and Dave), a couple of vodka and oranges (Anna) and a red bull and vodka (Meldrew again) it is cemented in place.  “If we see Michael Parkinson interviewing Dickie Bird…” promises Meldrew, “we’ll come back here and I’ll buy you all a pint before we go back”.

Malky had named the same starting eleven that had seen off Swansea in the week.  Having conjured up that most elusive of targets, a clean sheet, in that game it was of particular interest to see whether our defensive play had improved significantly.  Within minutes it became evident that no steel wall had been erected, no leadership conjured up, as a ball whipped across from the lively Jamal Campbell-Ryce found its way across the box with the minimum of attempted interference.  A more concerted Barnsley attack to the cross, and we’d have been behind very quickly.  So the pattern was set for the opening exchanges.

That’s not to say that teenager Ross Jenkins, touted as the much-needed shield to the defence on the Official Site, didn’t do his part.  His first half was hugely impressive, retaining the ball well and on more than one occasion snapping into a challenge that neither left the opponent with the ball nor threatened to take the opponent’s leg off at the knee.   Nor, of course, has our attacking threat dissipated, and its worth noting here that whoever comes in to sort this lot out does have stuff to work with.  There’s not a lot wrong with our attacking play really… you wouldn’t say that we’d be challenging for promotion again with a bit of leadership in defence, but comfortably mid-table wouldn’t be beyond us. 

So after another another worryingly easy-looking Barnsley attack ended up with Lee blocking with his legs, we were up the other end and both Williamson and then Harley had fierce looking shots blocked by a massed Barnsley rearguard.  Back towards us again, and Campbell-Ryce, nominally playing on the right flank but actually wandering around all over the place and bringing problems with him, found Jon Macken in space; the former Preston striker’s shot beat Lee but rebounded at the crossbar.

So whilst we possessed some attacking threat, the start of the first half was Barnsley’s and as so often recently, far from deflating the home side’s attacking intent with a show of resilience our defending continued to look nervous and tentative.  Doyley, for the most part, coped surprisingly well on the left;  always hard for a wide player to operate on the “wrong” flank of course, but with Doyley’s attacking impact kinda limited anyway you could see the thinking here and but for one lovably embarrassing moment when the weight of touch on a well-intended cut inside offerred the ball to his opponent, Lloydy did OK.  So too Leigh Bromby, so often at the centre of any defensive calamities but not today, for the most part reliable and competitive.

But alas Jay Demerit.  Reports from Swansea had spoken of reawakened leadership in the team captain, and good performances in both games.  Today he had one of those matches where every decision he makes seems in error, a determination to do something outweighing the need to do the right thing.  “Get your chequebook out Mackay”, bawled Meldrew, in a final attempt to suppress frustration with humour.

As the half wore on, however, and having rode our luck a little we began to punch our weight.  Williamson, ably abetted by Jenkins, took hold in midfield and suddenly we were pushing Barnsley back.  Priskin, as ever an unsummarisable tombola of diffidence, indolence and elegance, was already getting stick behind us for not looking awake enough on the halfway line as we defended a corner, which seemed a little harsh.  From the corner, a good break from Smith found Harley on the gallop.  His pass inside found Williamson who, having failed to get the shot onto his right foot, came respectably close with a low drive with his left.  Shortly afterwards McAnuff slipped a ball inside to Priskin who turned his defender and slammed a fierce shot towards the near post which Muller did well to get down to.

As we gained in belief and purpose Jenkins was twice involved, once getting on the end of a far post corner to head over, and then feeding Harley to crack in a drive which appeared to come off the woodwork.  We were on top now, but should have expected what came next.

Fortunately the chance came to Kayode Odejayi, a striker who, goals against us and Chelsea last season  notwithstanding, positively reeks of lack of confidence.   Demerit’s error and Odejayi is clean through, running straight at Lee down the centre of the pitch from the halfway line. Discussing previous encounters at Oakwell on the way up we fondly remembered Paul Furlong dragging Gerry Taggart the same distance to score an unmerited but badly needed last minute winner in 1994.  Furlong never missed one-on-ones.  Odejayi isn’t Paul Furlong though, and Lee did well to stick out a glove and paw away his dinked chip.

Nil-nil at the break, and though we’d ridden our luck at the start of the half we were now very much in the game.  Indeed, the Tykes were there for the taking.

And take them we did at the start of the second.  The ferreting Smith sent an ambitious ball out to the right flank; McAnuff did well to cushion a header back to Mariappa from the touch-line, before receiving the ball back and advancing on Malky’s old mate Rob Kozluk.  Smith ghosted into the near post, and directed McAnuff’s accurate low ball into the inside netting of the far post with a neat touch off the inside of his heel.  A lovely goal all round.

We could have done with shutting the game down at this point, but instead it opened up completely.  Lee made another fine save at his near post, before good work from Smith saw Harley take a shot with his weaker right foot that flew narrowly wide.  Malky brought on Rasiak for Priskin.  And then it all went to pot…

By this point, albeit the game was open, we were on top.  The better side.  In the ascendancy.   But you can’t legislate for defensive stupidity.  Fittingly, the ubiquitous Campbell-Ryce was involved in the move down the right that saw a ball work its way across the box to unmarked sub Miguel Mostto.  Without pausing to ponder where his defence had gone, Lee came charging out and made the Peruvian striker’s decision for him. 

Immediately, it seemed, the game had been turned on its head.  A corner led to a scrap in the box and Barnsley, sniffing blood, hit our defence, reeling, shellshocked, and badly in need of five minutes’ respite but not getting it, with a second, Foster prodding past a hapless Lee.

On the pitch, we rarely looked like recovering the game.  From a winning position we’d given Barnsley the initiative and they weren’t about to relinquish it, barely giving us a sniff for the last twenty minutes.  Hoskins came on for Harley and buzzed around enthusiastically, our best chance of grabbing a point back coming to him after a carefully worked move across the box but he fired narrowly over.  O’Toole came on for an exhausted Jenkins, who hadn’t as much tired in the second half as gone to bed and hidden under the duvet.  A fine, fine prospect, beyond doubt, but still a prospect.

Off the pitch, the mood in the away end had turned predictably.  Meldrew unleashed his hysteria at Richard Lee and later remonstrated at the “hateful” McAnuff for apparently accepting the team’s fate.  With startling idiocy, a “Simpson out” chant emerges from the back of the stand.  The club’s up for sale lads, don’t you read the papers?

And that was that.  The afternoon had one more shock in store… a light shower on the motorway on the way up had caused Dave to employ his headlights; bright sunshine on the way into Barnsley meant that he had neglected to turn them off.  No jump leads in evidence, so once the crowd had cleared, with some help from the local constabulary, we bump-started the car on the sloping track down the centre of the visitors’ car park towards the ground.  As Dave bounced away in second gear into darkness, rolling away from our push, it was difficult not to fear for an ugly conclusion against the brick walls of Oakwell below.  Instead, the engine kicked in, Dave rolled the car around and we jumped into our seats.  By the time we were out of Yorkshire, with further precautions having been enforced so as not to keep the mood low, we were in better spirits.  By the time Meldrew was bemoaning the state of his love life (“it’s like going out with bloody Ian St. John”) on the way back into Watford the rest of us were in stitches and the stupid five minutes that had threatened to ruin a perfectly enjoyable day left long behind.

And there’s a crude analogy there of course.  Much as it was hugely frustrating to have a perfectly accessible three points chucked away by more asinine defending, much as there’s plenty for the new guy to do when he comes in, this isn’t beyond salvation by any stretch.  We’re not a car crash yet.  Whilst it’s natural to focus on the problems that are costing us point after point, that will continue to do so and may well relegate us unless they are sorted, there’s an awful lot that remains right with the team.  The problems aren’t a mystery, nor are the solutions.  Getting there might require painful decisions to be taken, but there’s a long way to go yet.

 Lee 2, Mariappa 3, Demerit 2, Bromby 3, Doyley 3,  McAnuff 3, *Williamson 4*, Jenkins 3 (O’Toole NA), Harley 3 (Hoskins 3), Smith 3, Priskin 3 (Rasiak 2)

Anecdote eleven:  Coton, Doyley, Harrison, Dyche, Terry, Thomas, Spring, Johnson, Holden, Ngonge, King

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Comments»

1. JohnF - 16/11/2008

Only got back from the US mid-Saturday morning but was looking forward to hearing the commentary. Wish I’d gone to sleep. They will raise your hopes but the tension as you wait for the defensive debacle that will lead to the opposition scoring is really a health hazard. I agree Matt, there is much to work with and we have a decent squad but we always thought that the defensive options were too thin. I can see us being driven to playing one or more of our midfield in defence. Currently you can only rely on a defender to have one good game and you cannot rely on all of the defence to have a good game (in the league) at the same time. I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t think that we should hold our collective breathwhile waiting for a takeover and an injection of capital. We have spent a heck of a lot of money over the past couple of years with limited value for money. Now I think we just need to get behind them and although they frustrate the hell out of all the fans, abuse ain’t going to help and might make it worse. Maybe Saturday but then Gavin may also come to haunt us.

2. Tim Turner - 16/11/2008

Thanks for the perspective, Matt. I was at Oakwell too, and bitterly disappointed at the way the game turned out, but I can’t disagree with most of what you say.

One thing you haven’t mentioned, though, was Richard Lee’s woeful kicking, which I saw as a contributing factor to the loss of our lead. Maybe he was kicking into a force 10 gale in the second half (though I didn’t notice the Barnsley keeper having the same problem in the first), but barely a clearance made it across the half-way line, so the ball just kept coming back at us. The three goal kicks he sliced straight out of play had the same effect, only more so. At a time when we needed to keep the ball in the Barnsley half, Richard’s efforts ensured it rarely left ours for long stretches.

I do think Richard Lee is an excellent shot stopper, as we saw again yesterday, but the combination of his woeful (and totally one-sided – is it beyond the wit of a professional goalkeeper to teach himself to kick with his ‘wrong’ foot?) kicking, his lack of command of his penalty area and his lack of communication with his defenders (has anyone ever heard him shouting commands at them?) reluctantly leads me to the conclusion that if Mark Tyler can (a) kick, (b) move off his goal line without the application of a cattle prod and (c) shout, he should get the goalie’s jersey for the next game.

Phew, I feel better now.

3. Sequel - 17/11/2008

Oh boy! I can’t wait to take my seat in the Rous Stand on saturday and listen to the sparkling wit of the bloke next to me. He left before Blackpool’s winner the other week, so he’ll have plenty of ire stored up. A few examples of his shouted “encouragement” are: “Not backwards, forwards!”, or “Pass the ball!”, or “Tackle him!”, or the only one which got a response: “Collect your P45 Boothroyd!”
It’s going to be like The Royal Variety Performance, I can’t wait!

4. Meldrew - 17/11/2008

Whereas you stayed to the end and clapped them off after that memorable defeat to savour eh Sequel? What a wonderful man you must be.

5. Matt Rowson - 17/11/2008

Meldrew my friend, you are a parody of yourself.

6. Simon in Oz - 17/11/2008

Bonser IN

7. Esp - 17/11/2008

Didn’t get to Oakwell so thanks for the fans’ perspective Matt

Seems to me MM’s substitutions seem to be a bit suspect; I’m not having a go at him for MAKING a decision as NO decision is not an option but rather like Tuesday (which he got away with) he does seem to be in a habit of taking off players who are playing well (Priskin in Saturday’s example)

I don’t have much more to add (not being an eye-witness) but I am extremely proud to say that I have THREE of the BHaPPY Anecdote players’ names on the back of home shirts and can prove it if necessary; Do I win a prize?

Finally I thought it would be a jolly wheeze last season (when King left) to get the Buzz store to add the name “Aidy” at the bottom of that shirt so it then read “King Aidy”

What the feck do I do with it now??

8. Ed - 17/11/2008

Excellent match report. I was tempted to go to this, but instead elected to spend the whole day in the freezing cold helping a friend wire his self-build house. At the moment the favour bank seems the safest investment, well done to the bhappy team for your four-in-a-car frugalism.

My other source of Watford game info, is ITV’s The Championship. The seven-second highlights of the hits and misses is like a tiny desert.

It’s a very simple TV format: no studio and simple script. Must be very cheap to maintain, except for the opening credits. These show the briefest of clips of players and fans from Championship teams, and must be a pain to maintain. Start of the season there was no Watford representative, now there’s Marlon King taking a shot. Each week I’m tempted to go through previous shows on the hard disk recorder to see the evolution (and mistakes) over the seasons. But it’s Sunday morning, and I’ve 7 seconds of action to watch.

9. Old Git - 17/11/2008

So who is the most gay footballer in history? And how is it judged that Sean Dyche is ‘the least gay footballer in history’?
And are there degrees of gayness, where footballers are concerned?

I think we should be told.

10. Steve C - 17/11/2008

Esp, how about adding – Fuc – at the beginning and -‘s gone – at the end?

11. Back from Hammerau - 17/11/2008

Esp – Why not have a 23 put on the “King Aidy” shirt?

12. Pete - 17/11/2008

It was actually Meldrew who shouted to Dyche that he was the least gay man in football. The retort was, of course, to Meldrew himself.

Time – and too many unresponded heckles – have muddled his mind.

13. Royston RoF - 17/11/2008

Message to Ed for you conumdrum

Just add a simple ” F’ “‘ before the “King”

14. Esp - 17/11/2008

Back from Hammerau 23??

Trouble is there’s a great big fecking “9” in the middle of the shirt, so if you or any BHaPPY readers can solve that conundrum you can help me out AND possibly apply to take over from Carol Whoor-derman when they shoot the new series of Countdown

I do love Steve C’s suggestion of FEC KING AIDY’s GONE though 🙂

Finally could Messenger Jr maybe buy a set of jumpleads? There may not be a brace of helpful coppers or 3 car passengers around next time – shall we start a whipround?

15. Dave Hart - 17/11/2008

Esp,

Can you add Marriappa underneath the word Aidy?

16. Matt Rowson - 17/11/2008

esp

two of the car passengers did the thin end of bugger all on this occasion in any event… one of them said something about his hernia operation…

17. Esp - 18/11/2008

Dave H – thanks for the suggestion; you get Malky to change Aidy’s squad number mid-season and I’ll do the rest; there is room on the shirt I’ve checked

I only hope the Buzz store don’t charge by the letter (especially as you added an extra letter to his name!)

Esp (English Society of Pedantry)

ps: Matt – Hernias? I’m in my late 40’s and I thought you, meldrew and DM were young whippersnappers many years away from hernias, trusses and prostate problems – I’m exempting Anna of course

18. Back from Hammerau - 18/11/2008

How about buying a patch of yellow material that’s large enough to cover the ‘9’?

19. Meldrew - 18/11/2008

I had a hernia back in 1998 at the age of 24 which is a bit odd I suppose ESP, I think I got it from having sex with a fat girlfriend.

Anyway, the doctor said I shouldn’t strain myself afterwards, hence the lack of pushing the car.

20. Old Git - 18/11/2008

Darren Bent?

21. Matt - 18/11/2008

How fat was she Meldrew? I think there’s a couple of members of WIFC that should be warned of such dangers.

22. Ed - 18/11/2008

BfH has the best idea, as West Ham have shown.

23. Tom - 18/11/2008

Esp
Buy a new shirt, the club needs any money it can get.

24. Pete - 18/11/2008

10 years is a long time to be rolling out the hernia excuse Meldrew, especially as you went to a gym 3 times a week for 3 years!!!

Amazing the things that stop us exerting oneself!!

Matt – She was very fat. Ate Rupes pudding and everything.

25. Mike Peter - 18/11/2008

“Priskin, as ever an unsummarisable tombola of diffidence, indolence and elegance”

Glorious description, Matt.

And I think a second blog needs to be publishing detailing these anecdotes. Unless some of them aren’t even suitable for the internet.

26. DM - 19/11/2008

Only a couple ??

27. Esp - 21/11/2008

If I won Priskin in a Tombola I would hand him back and choose the pineapple chunks or the mulled wine instead…..

After meldrew’s fat girlfriend comment do I now win the BHaPPY prize for taking this thread as far away from the Oakwell match report as humanly possible?


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