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Coventry City 2 Watford 3 (25/04/2009) 26/04/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Five thunks from the win that confirmed safety at the Ricoh Arena

1- Glad I bothered. Nearly didn’t, but my brother’s assertion that the most fun is had at such games where expectations are lowest won the day. A thoroughly chaotic, inept, enjoyable second division game.

2- Even at two-down, and even during the spell in the middle of the first half when we appeared totally lacking in conviction or oomph or knowledge of what the hell we were supposed to be doing, Coventry looked truly awful and the game was never lost.  Much as confirmation of our place in next season’s division feels overdue, on this evidence the Sky Blues (Browns) must be slightly relieved that the season isn’t a couple of weeks longer.

3- A smashing cameo from Danny Rose.  Finally an inkling of what he’s supposed to be all about… far from the lightweight deputy for the unfortunate Ross Jenkins we’d feared, Rose showed no small tenacity and benefited from the options afforded by a central role.

4- “One day Lloydy will score”.  Well it should have been today… after one cut inside and dragged shot ride, the sort of thing that’s become almost passé over recent weeks, we suddenly had Lloydinho following up (following up!!!) Priskin’s first half shot.  Not quite an empty net but the keeper was grounded, almost predictably Doyley’s excitement got the better of him and the shot went over.  Probably a good thing, not sure I could have taken the excitement.

5- Rupert dressed as a shark attempting to coax the crowd into a “Ronnie, oh Ronnie Ronnie” chant by waving his flippers around isn’t a memory that will fade quickly…


Watford 0 Birmingham City 1 (18/04/2009) 18/04/2009

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. A touching send-off for Mike Keen before kickoff, with the Birmingham fans adding their applause to that of everyone connected with the club he once managed. I wasn’t around in any meaningful sense back then, I’m afraid, but Simon Marchant was and you can read his tribute here.

2. Football matches happen pretty regularly, once every week and sometimes more. In that respect, they’re not necessarily noteworthy per se; five thunks is frequently more than such a commonplace event really deserves. A shot from Lloyd Doyley, on the other hand…well, that’s an event. A shot from Lloyd Doyley that whistles a yard past the post with the keeper scrambling…heavens. Heavens above. It’ll actually happen one day and everyone’ll remember where they were when it did. You better hope it’s not somewhere other than the scene of history being made: you really don’t want to be in a queue at Tesco’s when Lloyd belts a last-minute winner into the top corner….

3. In less unusual ways, the defence did sterling work here. We were again sufficiently lacklustre in midfield – and against hungry, confident opponents – that they bloody well needed to. A particular nod towards Mike Williamson, who appears to have been bought the box-set of Colin Foster’s Guide To Looking Imperious to point him in the right direction. That’s a hard act to emulate, but there’ll be plenty of fun in watching the attempt on this evidence.

4. Birmingham were, of course, another proto-Middlesbrough, cobbled together from a well-thumbed copy of The Who’s Who of Ho Hum. It’s like finding a new panel show on BBC3, another vehicle for the same old faces to pick up their appearance fee for churning out lukewarm banter; a tedious game of musical chairs. They’ll take nobody by surprise next season: anyone who’s surprised by, say, Stephen Carr has presumably had their head in a cement mixer for the last ten years. Or doesn’t like football. Or both, to be on the safe side. Actually, watching Stephen Carr, you have to say that they might be onto something. Anyway, let’s not pretend that they weren’t better than us by some distance, but there was a spell in the second half when we hinted that something else might be afoot. That would’ve been awfully good fun.

4.1 Quite long for a thunk, that. Sorry.

5. Dear, Brendan. It’d be really nice to be properly safe, wouldn’t it? Perhaps that could be arranged at your convenience, ideally at Coventry.  Much obliged, ig.

Watford Legends v Watford IFC 16/04/2009

Posted by Ian Grant in Thoughts about things.

We don’t usually do this sort of thing…but, y’know…

A team of Watford FC Legends, led by the man who has started more first team games than any other player, former Hornets Assistant Manager Nigel Gibbs, will be back in town on April 19th to take on a team from Watford Internet Football club at the Met Police Sports Club in Bushey.

The game is being played in aid of DebRa, a charity close to the hearts of the WIFC squad, which provides specialist nursing, counselling, welfare and respite to sufferers of a condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa. DebRa also funds extensive medical research into the condition, which affects the children of one of WIFC’s founding players. EB is a genetic condition which causes the skin to break at the slightest touch, causing painful, open blisters and wounds. EB can mean a life of extreme pain, disability and, at its worst it is fatal in infancy.

The match is open to all, and there will be a number of fund-raising activities taking place during the day, with the fixture itself kicking off at three o’clock. Players already confirmed for Gibbsy’s squad include Watford ‘s all-time leading goalscorer Luther Blissett, double promotion winner Steve Palmer, all-action midfield star Andy Hessenthaler and former player of the season Marcus Gayle. The team also features BBC Three Counties co-commentator and FA Cup Finalist Neil Price, and his team-mate from that magical day at Wembley in 1984, Steve Terry. The team of legends also has the full support of Graham Taylor, who has already given Gibbsy a huge vote of support on the charity event’s web-page, which can be found on-line at http://www.justgiving.com/wifc.

For more information about Watford Internet Football Club, a team of Watford fans who play in a National Supporters league, can be found at www.watfordifc.com.

Watford 1 Barnsley 1 (11/04/2009) 11/04/2009

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. A telling memory of How Things Used To Be from the recent Clough documentary: Forest players in the centre circle, turning to greet and be greeted by each of the stands before kickoff. We used to do that too, a line of players in the middle of the pitch. It meant something. Now, it’s not until we’ve had a pedestrian parade of players and officials across the full width of the pitch, followed by an extended mingle with nibbles and a free bar, that we get to applaud and be applauded by our team. Or the first two or three of our team, to be precise: by the time you get halfway down the line-up, everyone’s got bored and the remaining players just wander into position rather than bother to sprint purposefully towards the Rookery. Something essential has been lost here…and for what, exactly?

2. A reminder to those of us – well, me – who are sometimes guilty of over-romanticising the more elemental end of this division’s rich spectrum that for every game like Tuesday’s, it throws up (in every sense) a dozen or more like this. It was forgotten as it happened, when it happened…and it happened very little.

3. We’re about ready for bed, by the look of it. In Jack Cork and Ross Jenkins, we have two (one borrowed) extremely fine young midfielders who don’t need to play any more football for a while. The lack of back-up in that area is terrifying for what it says about our finances, our manager’s common sense, or possibly both. Or perhaps we’re trying to reduce Cork to a broken, shattered physical wreck in order to bring the asking price within the pint-plus-crisps range that we might just about stretch to. Elsewhere, we just look stale and stodgy; Danny Rose’s thoroughly random cameo at least added some colour to what was otherwise a great grey smudge.

4. Was Adrian Mariappa wearing Lloyd Doyley’s boots?

5. Barnsley: Jon Macken and Darren Moore, plus an apparently inexhaustible supply of ineffective pale, thin types with lank shoulder-length hair;  they merged into one after a while, to the extent that I’m not completely certain they didn’t bring a substituted player back on after a rest. In the relegation stakes, they looked dead certs, ready for shooting, in comparison with that lively, upbeat Southampton side. It doesn’t work like that,  though: but for a flying save from Scott Loach to prevent a doubling of their lead, they would’ve won this; that wouldn’t have made them any good or anything, but it wouldn’t have made us look too clever either.

6. For all that, first one to complain about the season petering out into nothingness is a complete plum.

Watford 2 Southampton 2 (07/04/2009) 08/04/2009

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. Feisty and frenetic, this felt so much like a cup tie that it was a little disappointing not to get another half hour’s worth and another bunch of chances to decide a winner. You simply can’t play football at such a frantic pace without there being mistakes everywhere, but that’s hardly the point: it’s what football at this level is all about, on a good day.

2. One can’t help but admire visitors prepared to give it as much of a blast as Southampton did, swarming all around our distinctly jaded midfield and dragging Tamas Priskin into a physical battle in which he was heavily out-numbered, especially in the first half. We weren’t comfortable with any of it, whatever the scoreline might’ve been if we’d taken our countless chances. It’s almost impossible to believe that they won’t go down: on the pitch, this kind of high-scoring bedlam isn’t going to return enough points; away from it, there’s an obvious choice for the authorities between a run-in with just one club and potential legal challenges from about half a dozen. But there are plenty of more willing, more hopeless candidates for the chop on this evidence. You hope they keep fighting, at least.

3. The failure to build upon a lead has become a bit of a recurring theme, with far too many counter-attacking opportunities wasted by poor decision-making, wayward finishing and a general lack of ruthlessness in the final third. Plenty more of that here, even before Danny Rose failed to convert and win the game from barely a yard. A measure of progress under Brendan Rodgers, perhaps, that we need to worry about sealing victory rather than avoiding defeat…

4. And besides, nobody’s keeping that free kick out. We’ve conceded some truly farcical, utterly avoidable goals at Vicarage Road over the last couple of years. That wasn’t one of them.

5. Having rightly come under considerable fire in his early days, the manager has done a remarkable job of steering the ship away from the rocks since dropping his hardline allegiance to possession football. Bolstered by some extremely timely signings – Mike Williamson and Jack Cork particularly, but Don Cowie too – and aided by a transformation in the likes of Jobi McAnuff and Tamas Priskin, he’s managed to create a perfectly functional, thoroughly mid-table Second Division outfit. And a team that’s suddenly quite easy to like again, that seems comfortable with itself again. As ambition goes, that ain’t Aidy Boothroyd. But it’ll do just fine for now.