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Watford 1 Doncaster Rovers 1 (08/08/2009) 09/08/2009

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. Fizzle. It should, of course, be remembered that there have been less auspicious starts than this to very auspicious seasons; we all crave answers, but these early season games often raise still more questions instead. It was a bit of a non-alcoholic beer of a match: the same fizz as the bottle’s cracked open, but some bite missing from what’s inside. This tight, well-drilled Donny side – atypical of the Championship in terms of their patience, but not in terms of their organisation – should remind us how badly clubs without financial clout require stability and continuity. That process has to start somewhere, auspicious or otherwise.  There’s plenty of hard work ahead.

2. For the two debutants, a mixed afternoon. Danny Graham was excellent, visibly growing in confidence after Tommy Smith’s cross-shot dribbled his way for a Scott Fitzgerald-style tap-in; a centre forward can’t ask for much more than that in their first game. Even as the service dried up in the second half, he showed an encouraging combination of work-rate and touch, a bit like Darius Henderson with the volume turned down.

In midfield, Scott Severin also had a fine game: he clearly has the ability to pick out a pass and to pop up in convenient places at convenient moments. However, technical problems meant that he was a couple of seconds out of sync with everything else, as if beamed in from another continent via a ropey satellite link. You hope that he’ll come up to speed quickly: there are times when you can afford one or two failures in the transfer market, and this decidedly isn’t one of those times.

3. Elsewhere, it was hard to avoid the impression that selling Tommy Smith would be utterly disastrous, much as you’d try to take it on the chin like a grown-up if it really had to happen. For without him, there’s just a whole bunch of fairly pedestrian huffery-puffery: Don Cowie’s limitations would be severely exposed if he were required to become a creative force; Jobi McAnuff is much too prone to days like these, days when nothing goes right, days when he’d find a winning lottery ticket in the road and get hit by a bus as he picked it up; Will Hoskins still looks like a decent player and plays like a decent looker. Smith, on the other hand, add so much energy and so many ideas, bringing the game to life by trying to make something happen every time he picks up the ball. Heaven knows what we’d do without him, frankly.

4. The good news, Danny Graham aside, is that the defence looked like something you might be able to rely on for more than ten minutes, something that might not require constant, fretful attention. Mike Williamson picked up where he left off: willowy, elegant, Foster-esque for those who still hold that memory dear. Bar one slip in the first half, superbly covered by Ross Jenkins, Jay Demerit was all power and muscle alongside him; they complement each other superbly.

It’s not to everyone’s taste, I know, but I rather like Demerit’s insistence on attempting to play implausibly ambitious defence-splitting passes from deep within his own half; the memory of those deathless early games under Brendan Rodgers, when it appeared a crime to even think about trying to score without constructing an elaborate forty-seven pass move first, is still fresh enough to treasure a bit of good old fashioned up-and-over.

5. Is it not time that someone tackled the issue of time-wasting substitutions? Given that the number of allowed substitutes and substitutions continues to grow, I imagine that we now spend the equivalent of a full ninety minutes every season watching players – theirs and ours – amble towards the touchline like sulky teenagers being dragged around the clothes shops by their mums on a Saturday afternoon, barely able to put one foot in front of another for sheer ennui. I hereby propose the following simple measures:

  • If you’re not ready to make the substitution – fourth official lined up, player stood on the halfway line – when the ball goes out of play, tough toffee. That also applies to instances where the player being substituted finds that they’re suddenly and temporarily deaf and blind, unable to hear the call of the touchline and unable to find their way home.
  • Between them, the four officials on duty ought to be able to count to twenty-two. Why should several thousand people have to wait for one player to wander off, shaking the hands of everyone along the way and applauding all around, before the other one enters the field of play and the game re-starts? Send ’em on and get on with it.

Lecture ends.


1. Dave - 09/08/2009

It should be simple. Refs allow 30 seconds per sub. So time 30 seconds from the board going up and play continues ready or not. That’s speed ’em up.

2. Wat4Steve - 09/08/2009

1 I agree difficult to judge opening games of the season and yes many more questions than answers. The heat, the hard pitch, the fitness etc none of this helps and u always get surprise early results. Question is who will be more disappointed to have dropped two points?

2 For me the game lacked quality. We had no guile in the last third of the pitch. I fear we may revert to the hoofers days of ‘if in doubt kick it further up the field’ to Danny Graham when all else fails.

3 Tommy Smith the reason we sold Priskin I am told. With his refusal to join Sheffield WFC were sort of dosh they had accounted for. For me Tommy played like he wanted out and I understand he will force a transfer through before the window closes. Yep you guessed it Reading cant see WFC letting his contract expire can you?

4 Doyley not sure what he did for the goal. Well I am, he did nothing, he should have at least challenged for the ball at least. I maintain the guy can not read the game. Loach was in no mans land again I am really the only one to think for one of the best young prospects in the country his positional sense is incredible poor.

5 Of the newbie’s I wont judge one swallow doesn’t make a spring. I believe we have a decent core to the squad but need to add some quality through the loan market. Lets hope Malkey has picked up some good contacts from Rodgers.

3. rod - 09/08/2009

Time wasting and time keeping. I think a much better solution is for the ref to stop the clock whenever he thinks fit with a signal to a timekeeper – who stops the clocks visible to the whole ground. Any time he thinks a team is taking too long with a sub, corner, throw or whatever, everyone can see that he’s stopped the clock. The timekeeper restarts the clock when play resumes.

Then the concept of time added on disappears. When the clock reaches 45 minutes, that’s the end of the half. Rugby has been doing it for ages, and I’m not aware of it causing any problems.

This wouldn’t remove the ref’s power to book players for excessive time wasting; but I don’t think it would happen so much anyway if there was obviously nothing to be gained from it.

4. stephen hoffman - 09/08/2009

i think you must have been watching another match ian severin did not have a good game by any stretch of the imagination he was too slow his tackling was inconsistent his passing piss poor and no creativity- he is an older version of jenkins just a bit slower- it was painfullly clear we lacked creativity in midfield. severin was misplacing passes and off the pace. dont get me wrong i will give severin a chance i just think the pairing of jenkins and severin wil not work due to a lack of creativity from both.

5. Jamie Parkins - 09/08/2009

Even simpler. A player has 15 seconds to leave the field when subbed. If he fails to you book him. Even the idiots can work out that one eventually…

6. Ian Grant - 09/08/2009

@ Stephen: That’s sort of what I said, if you bother to read it properly.

@ Rod: The problem is that time added on isn’t the whole story. You can stop a team’s momentum completely by well-timed and well-executed (in a gamesmanship sense) substitutions, regardless of whether the referee adds all of that time on. “Managing the game” as I believe a certain young manager used to call it…

Mostly, that’s achieved by fannying around on the touchline – usually, the substitute emerges from the bench area several seconds after the ball’s gone dead – and the departing player taking an age to leave the pitch. If you restrict the amount of time allowed for a player to leave, it’ll just become another of those laws that are never enforced. (Is a keeper still supposed to release the ball six seconds after it’s come into their hands?)

Much easier, I would’ve thought, to say that you can’t make the substitution if you’re not ready and waiting. And to go back to a situation where the substitute can run onto the pitch without waiting for their colleague to cross the white line. Both of those are things that obsessive officialdom has allowed to become weapons of the time-wasters, and that could easily be changed.

7. Lesley-Anne - 09/08/2009

Wat4Steve, re: point 3, the club have stated that the reason Priskin was sold was purely his refusal to sign a new contract and was not directly related to our financial position. I also question your comment about Smith playing like he wanted out; doesn’t he play well because he’s a great player?!! I don’t believe he does want to leave Watford and if he goes it will be purely because we need the money from his sale, which may not count for anything if we end up in League 1 next season.

I wholeheartedly agree with Ian’s comments on the subject and think the original point (are they not “thunks” this year?!) 3 should be emailed to Julian Winter and Jimmy Russo because selling Smith could indeed be the worst thing the club could do.

rous man - 09/08/2009

I agree with you Priskin was offered not 1 but 2 new contacts & was not interested it then comes down to common sense. Lets face it this time last year most of us would have driven him to East Anglia for the money the club were offered. As for Tommy Smith 100% as always, although I still think he may go B4 the window closes

8. Wat4Steve - 09/08/2009

Lesley dont believe every bit of corp spin coming out of the club. If TS wants to stay he will sign a new contract, one the club can afford will he not?

TS is trying to force a sale to Reading this is a game of call my bluff. I fully expect both TS and JMc to be gone but the close of the window. As I dont believe watford can afford to miss out of fees for either player.

And based on yesterdays performance both have gone in spirit if not in person.

If you you dont like my point then dont comment on it. LOL, it is relevant to a lack of quality IMO but yes unless we get a replacement either on loan or by shopping around we will struggle.

9. Kris - 09/08/2009

On the subject of Smith – I agree with Ian and Lesley-Anne – without him we’re doomed. I firmly believe we’ll go down if he leaves.

So even if he won’t sign a new contract I’d keep him if Reading won’t pay what we want – 1.8mio. Think about it – 800k from Reading and Tommy leaves and we go down og 0 from Reading as tommy stays and we stay up. Simple maths really – how much will relegation cost us?

As for the result, I am not too disappointed. Donny aren’t a bad side and we’re still learning (I hope). Better than Ipswich and Tamas losing away to Coventry :o)

10. rous man - 09/08/2009

Doyley on the goal well watch it again wrong side of his man (makes a change) as for Loach he will not be happy with his part fast feet half a step back he makes the save young goalkeeper still learning his trade, He is still the best keeper at the club & the second half save got us a point.

11. DM - 09/08/2009

I thought the decision to start McAnuff, with little if any game time in pre-season, was a poor one. He was off the pace from the word go and should have been subbed much earlier than he was.

That minor quibble aside, I agree about the defence and about Danny Graham. A solid enough start to the campaign.

12. Simon - 09/08/2009

There seems to be quite a lot of doom and gloom about following Saturday (and, indeed, some booing at the end of the game).

Severin, I think will come good – he did look half a yard slower than the game but it was his first appearance in a league that is generally acknowledged to be quicker than the SPL. It’ll take a couple of games for him to adjust but, for me, he showed enough quality and and eye for a pass to suggest he’ll be more than OK.

The wingers were a concern but we know McAnuff is prone to games like that. Cowie, with a bit of luck, will start to hit the form he displayed before his injury last season. He’s a tidy player that doesn’t give the ball away often and has a knack of timing a run from deep which should prove very useful again this year.

The main worry is the strength of the squad, particularly with the threat of McAnuff and Smith going before the window shuts. The situation for both seems the same. Both would be happy to stay but are only being offered contracts on reduced terms as the club can’t (and, it can be argued, could never really) afford the wages they’re on. I can’t blame them for looking around and looking after their own interests. I remain to be convinced that any of those in the crowd that question loyalty etc… would offer to take a pay cut if a pay-rise was on offer else-where. THey are presently under contract though and so the club has a decision to make if offers come in. In my view, it may well be worth keeping hold of Smith as he may well be the difference between staying up and not.

A lot may well happen to shape our season in the next 3 weeks !!!

13. stephen hoffman - 09/08/2009

i disagree for a start – we can survive without tommy we’ve survived without ashley young and we will survive without smith if it happens. stop joing the we’re all doomed brigade.

we have one of the most solid defences at watford for a long time and that is why we wont go down.

if tommy leaves we stil have cowie, brian(who looks a great prospect), harley, lewis young on the bench -and im guessing we will use the money from priskin

As for your whole talk about smith not looking interested im sorry are you a psychological mindreader- can you read faces because if you cant your just making an ill educated guess- tommy created the first goal and looked like he gave a damn.

and after rereading article – i realise i misread what you said ian -fair poin.

14. Nick - 09/08/2009

This may not be a popular thing to say but I would rather we sold smith than let him leave on a free. Also the sooner mcanuff goes the better.

I don’t think Doyley was to blame for the goal. Loach should never have been beaten from there..

15. Old Git - 10/08/2009

Let’s lay off Loach shall we? How old is the kid, for feck’s sake? Better judges than those who snipe at him (both here and on the WO site) consider him to be a fantastic prospect. In case you weren’t watching, he did actually save a point for us in the second half.
Last season it was ‘let’s have a go at Demerit’ time. I even remember someone on this site saying ‘close the door on the way out’ after a particularly nasty attack on him.
If we want to undermine a promising young keeper’s confidence, then fine, let’s all carry on carping.

16. Johnny Boy - 10/08/2009

Kinda agree with Ians first comment – the game lacked ‘fizzle’ – but then given the amount of draws in the championship, so did some of the others.
Positives – the defence, Danny Graham,TS the fact that he is still here, and Cowie who I felt had a reasonable game given he had missed some pre season – one run from deep was a reminder of what we saw last season
Worries – Scott needs to get up to speed because Eustace could play there and he’s got championship experience.TS because he might not be here in the future.
Re Tommy – I understand that he is ‘mates’ with Malky so hopefully he might stay until the January window.
Back to the first point. We are going to need someone to put ‘fizzle’ into the team. Is it someone coming thru the ranks like Ross, or an established player suddenly blooming a la Lloyd last term. Maybe both?

17. Hornetboy84 - 10/08/2009

We played to counter Doncaster. Hence McAnuff starting (for shape) and in the first half we were looking to break down their off-side trap which we nearly did 4-5 times via Graham, Cowie and Smith running in… in the 2nd half they played deep to counter us – they were happy with a draw and we lacked the invention to break them down.

What concerns me is that Mackay did not put Hoskins (or Ellington) in earlier as we needed a hole player to eek out something – I feel he got caught between not wanting to lose his first game. He needs to be brave going forward – even throwing on a 16 year old kid can inspire the crowd and get new energy and in the longer run (or at S.Utd or Forest) then he has nothing to lose really.

We clearly did not have enough shots (1st corner in 75th minute?) and so the crowd energy and passion which was there at the start slowly dissappated. How many on your feet moments to galvanise a “COME ON” opportunity. Not enough.

McAnuff not fit, Cowie and Severin off the pace ….. so we have to see a priority as another midfield option. we need a ball runner (a Cummings or Cork type player – or seriously could consider Smith playing in there).

On TS. He owes it to us to sign a new contract even if he still leaves in January or next year. If he wants £14k and is on £10k a week now – thats only £200k a year and it would help us hold his value at £1.5m plus rather than a £800k firesale later – so it makes sense. Priskin would not have re-signed so that made sense and is a good deal. We would have taken £500k only 12 months ago. But Tommy should be looked after by us – if we do the right thing by him and he by us .

For me – that first game was disappointing as I didnt see a semblance of Rodgers style at all …. and I though Mackay would infuse a good blend. Too much long option when we had shorter patient options on…. but its too early to judge.

Jury out. But I will “Keep the Faith” and get behind the team whatever. The boo boys need to wise up. It wasnt Norwich !!

18. GJ - 11/08/2009

Substitutes. I have long thought that a simple rule would be: After any substitution – no more substitutions allowed (from either team) for another 5 minutes. The fourth official can keep time. This applies even if an injured player goes off. A team can live for under 5 minutes with 10 men and it would prevent cheating by feining injury. Allow any number of substitutions from both teams each time, but no more for 5 minutes. That would stop the annoying habit of managers running a game down at the end by putting someone on every time the ball goes out.

19. Nick - 11/08/2009

It wasnt an attack on loach (I think he will make a good goalkeeper) rather than a defence of Doyley.

Better judges than the people here consider him to be a decent player. Often dropped for one or two games but always comes back.

20. Nigel - 18/08/2009

I know this comes up every so often, and i realise that this is not a site for match reports but is rather is a blog for Ig and Matt but is it possible that when there is a Watford match that neither of you attend e,g Barnet, Sheff Utd, you just put a title up and then let your devoted followers comment?
Living in Oz this is where i come for nearly all things Watford related. Mature and reasoned reflections on supporting the ‘orns are rare to find apart from on here. I check the Watford Observer but the comments in the blog sections soon drive me away (Ig, often wondered is your alter ego VoR?).
I know that your stock standard response is that there are many other sites which can inform me but frankly where are these? i search but i can’t find them. I click on all the links on your page and half of them have not been updated for a couple of months.
Of course, if you brought back BSAD…Looking forward to another season of insightful and witty comments from the whole community.

21. Matt Rowson - 19/08/2009


having just become father to a second child and with the responsibility of 3am feeds i can confirm that there’s about as much chance of BSaD restarting any time soon as there is of me swimming to the moon (or indeed anywhere).

As for open headings for unreported games… my feeling is that this isn’t really a messageboard and if we’re not in a position to say anything then the blog should probably reflect that, but I’ll discuss with ig…

22. Nigel - 19/08/2009

i understand your concerns and i realise that BSad will never return (call it a flippant comment). I suppose what i’m trying to say is that whether you (and Mr Grant) like it or not, this site is much more than just a personal blog from you two, it is the website of choice for many people from around the world who like what you both say, who have spent the last x number of years following Watford via BSaD and now here at bhappy, and who still use this site to follow and discuss the continuing adventures of Watford FC.
One of the reasons why this site works is (in my humble opinion) not just your thunks, but the responses as well. Lets be honest, if the previous season it had only been pictures of you and Ig smuggling in vegetables to matches than the phrase “sad b*stards” would readily spring to mind, instead thanks to the contributions of others it was actually fun.
I am not trying to create additional work for either of you but maybe we could experiment for a couple of games this season to see whether people embrace the idea? of course if you just forced Ig to get off his arse and go to all the matches then the problem is solved…
Just a thought. As valid as everybody elses, no more no less. Maybe you could have a vote and see what people think? i’ve been wrong before and happy to be wrong again. Regardless thank you for the site.

23. Ian Grant - 19/08/2009

Fair points, Nigel, and fully understood. Matt and I will talk it through when we get a chance and reach a management decision, which will be final. 😉

(I’m tempted to attempt an air of mystery, but I must admit that I never set foot in the blogs section of the WO site nor have I any kind of alter ego. To be honest, I feel slightly disappointed myself…)

24. Nigel - 19/08/2009

I shall, like a true gentleman, respect the decision and never complain nor bring the issue up again.
Well until next season at least…

25. sam - 20/08/2009

Some of the contributors on the Watford Obs is a damning indictment of those that may surround us at Vicarage Road; pre-neanderthal. Bhappys quality is accentuated dramatically by the alternatives.

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