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Watford 2 Blackpool 2 (22/08/2009) 23/08/2009

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. After a relatively quiet start, a really tremendous game of Championship football, culminating in a breathless, nerve-wracking final twenty minutes of end-to-end mayhem. None of which should distract the coaching staff from taking a clear, sober look at the reasons why we didn’t win it…and that isn’t to ignore the part played by an enterprising Blackpool side with chances a-plenty, merely to recall that there was a point when it looked like we were going to put them to the sword. And it was exactly then that we conceded a scrappy, incomprehensible-from-the-other-end, oh-for-heaven’s-sake equaliser. That kind of nonsense will get us into a lot of trouble if we’re not careful.

2. A very enjoyable home debut for young Tom Cleverley, not least because of his complete refusal to be bullied or intimidated by the physical stuff that came his way. One walloping challenge under the Rous in the second half was something that many would’ve thought better of, preferring to keep all of their limbs intact; he won that and many others too, scrapping wholeheartedly throughout. And that’s the point about sending your players down to this level: you find out whether they can stand up for themselves, whether they can turn that training ground talent into something tangible.

Oh, and I’ll always love a wide player who’s prepared to make a lung-bursting run to the far post to get on the end of a cross from the other side. A splendid moment, that one, as you realised that Tommy Smith’s cross wasn’t just going to whistle through an empty penalty area, Danny Graham having been drawn wide in the build-up. More of that, please.

3. Of the recent acquisitions, it’s Scott Severin who continues to struggle. The post-Premiership conundrum was neatly summed up by a very decent cameo from John Eustace, who did the basic stuff rather well and added some of his old-fashioned, oddly slow-motioned bootery too. The absurdity is that you have to buy players to replace those you can’t afford to keep…and yet you might have to keep them anyway if nobody else wants to pay their wages, in which case you didn’t need to replace them. Regardless, it’s hard not to like Eustace…and it would’ve been even easier if that last-ditch drive had drifted into the roof of the net rather than against the underside of the bar. It was a game good enough to deserve an ending like that.

4. And it contained some of our best attacking football for a considerable time. A delight to watch four intelligent, bright players moving so well around the final third: Danny Graham as the fulcrum for it all, Tommy Smith darting into the spaces around the centre forward, Tom Cleverley and Don Cowie offering a genuine threat from the flanks. We were mobile, positive and really rather lovely to watch, and we should’ve made it count for more. It was that kind of afternoon, I suppose, summed up by Don Cowie’s one-two with Tommy Smith and glorious chip from twenty yards, hitting that spot on the underside of the crossbar for the first time. That would’ve been goal of the season, right there.

5. Of course, there was more than a hint of sadness as you watched those four link together so beautifully and so effectively. We won’t get to see that come to fruition: the meal’s been served up, the silver cover’s been lifted from the plate, we’ve picked up our cutlery and inhaled the mouth-watering aroma…but the waiter’s about to come along and tell us that we’ve been given someone else’s meal by mistake. Your bread and water is on its way, sir.

There are lots of things to say about Tommy Smith’s second spell with the club, but the key one is this: that he’s been an utter credit to himself. It seemed like a curious move at the time, but he’s made it work better than anyone could’ve imagined. The player who always struggled for a defined, established role as he emerged from the youth set-up – neither productive winger nor reliable goal-scorer, often lost in the grey areas in between – is now so influential that he can career around wherever he bloody well likes, making his mark above and beyond that defined role. I’ll freely admit that I hadn’t ever been convinced by Tommy Smith; no malice, no real criticism to make, just a feeling that there’d always be someone more useful, if less talented, ahead of him in whatever queue he’d lined up in. He’s changed all of that…and he’s done it himself, by force of will as much as anything else.

You’ll be sorely missed, Tommy.



1. Mozzallero - 23/08/2009

I have to agree with you IG. As pure entertainment goes, that was as good as you get in this division. I thought the the result was fair considering how enterprising Blackpool were. Our mpvement of the front four was as good as I’ve seen for down here many years. My one concern is that our play is a bit hare-um scare-um, and we are unable to keep the ball for any length of time for a breather. The opposition will always have enough posession to conjour up a chance or two.

Two honourable mentions.
John Eustace – I’ve always beena fan. Poorly treated last year. Great to see him back.

Tommy Smith – Keep him and let him go for free if he wants to. I’d rather see what I’m seeing and stay in this division. He is a Golden boy.

2. Sirhornet - 23/08/2009

Some thunks of my own…
1) Is it just me or is Jenkins showing himself to be the new Dom Blizzard rather than the slightly better player we had hoped. 2 or 3 “air shots” at the ball did not inspire confidence.
2) We have two left-backs who are left footed. One of them must play vs Leeds on Tues. No-one is a greater fan of Lloyd than I but the rock-munchers’ second goal was mainly due to his lack of a left foot.
3)Sevrin. Whilst he is probably the only WFC player whose name features in the literature of the Marquis de Sade and a song by the Velvet Underground, I feel we have been sold a pup here, particularly in the light of Jenkins’ poor form.
4) Cleverly by name and nature.
5)Tommy. If you have to go anywhere but Reading please.
6) The PA – totally inaudible in the Vic Road end- do we still come out to Z cars?

3. rous man - 23/08/2009

He might not be leaving after all ! In the case of Priskin we were told he had been offered a new deal has any one ever mentioned the fact that TS has ?

4. Winslow 'Orn - 24/08/2009

Sir hornet – I agree with you on all points. Perhaps Lloyd and Ross could do with a ‘rest’. For all that I admire in Doyley, he looked ponderous in possession and stood off Adam for the second goal, which is all the more baffling as Adam cut inside onto his favoured left foot and thus onto Doyley’s right side which I thought would have been playing to Lloydinhio’s strengths….
Saturday was good fun but I couldn’t help but feel that Blackpool were there for the taking when we were 2-1 up.

5. JohnF - 24/08/2009

Good thunks IG. I think this was a game we had to step back from to properly analyse once the disappointment had subsided.
I agree with all you said and I too am concerned about the defence but how much of this is due to poor defending and how much due to a rather porous midfield? I’m not sure but perhaps it is a combination. However, if we continue shipping goals then it could become a very difficult season, even if we manage to keep Tom and keep scoring goals. However we are 12th and we do have time to settle down.

Let us not get straight on young Jenkins’ back. He hasn’t played badly most of the time and is settling in with a new structure to the team. It is always a little diffcult for young players to show the consistency of seasoned pros and he isn’t even 19 for goodness sake.

Severin I think is finding the higher pace and gtreater physicality of the Championship difficult. I always thought it would take 10 games to adapt and he was an excellent captain at Aberdeen.

I think patience will be required and if we get entertainment like Saturday (and Tuesday) and manage to stay in the division then it’ll be a good season with no real complaints.

6. NickB - 24/08/2009

Great report, good comments back and a superb, fully deserved tribute to Tommy.

Thought TS, TC and DG looked great, vision, skill and determination in spades. Concerned though that we are playing two holding midfielders at home (big difference between Severin and Cork in that respect). Jenkins seems half the player of six months ago.

Afraid that teams are targetting Doyley and he looks a weak link right now. Harley would also give a real overlapping threat: whilst LD lifts the crowd with his bullocking forward runs, they’re pretty haphazard and rarely lead to much.

Finally, what a difference without McAnuff. Let’s hope he’s history

7. Lesley-Anne - 24/08/2009

Re Sirhornet’s point 6, the PA isn’t as good as last season even in the Rookery. I am also not sure if we still come out to Z Cars; haven’t heard it in either of the home games.

Looks like Tommy’s gone, sadly. You do have to wonder about our team without him especially after Tuesday and Saturday’s performances, not sure we would have got the 4 points without him.

8. rous man - 24/08/2009

Doyley is the weakest link, he has now gone from being one of the worst right backs I have ever seen play for the club to the worst left back, Harley must play.

9. David - 25/08/2009

Re Lesley-Anne’s comments on Smithy – spot on, and I also wonder if we’ll regret dropping two points on Saturday with him still in the side. This makes getting the midfield balance correct even more important – the loanees will need to step up because there is no-one in the Watford squad to fill Tommy’s shoes.

And Rous Man – sure Doyley had a very poor game on Saturday but one of the worst/the worst right/left backs???

10. Nashinho - 25/08/2009

Hello Rous Man.

I really do not mind you stating your opinion that harley may be a better option than Lloyd at left back, but I do feel that such shrill and derogatory comments about a wonderful servant of the club should be confined to the Watford Observer site!

Please let’s keep the comments here positive, meaningful and thought provoking.

I would add that Lloyds performances do appear to have taken a dip. Harley did look good during his short outing on Saturday.

rous man - 25/08/2009

he always gives 100% that is not in question Harley came to play just in front of Doyle he is not a left sided midfield player another observation I have made before, but the facts are other teams have attacked us down that side & I feel a right footed player on the left is not the answer, almost all of the Blackpool attacks came down that side more so in the second half.

11. SteveG - 25/08/2009

There has to be a balance between searching for continuity and stubbornly sticking to something that isn’t working – the England cricket selectors arguably got it about right in the end.

So it’s fair to give people a run in the side and not make drastic changes on the basis of one poor performance, to which it must be added that there were a lot of positives on Saturday, but while a draw probably was a fair result overall you still come away feeling that we should have won.

So, much as we all love Lloyd Doyley, it’s not surprising to see questions being asked (especially having seen the video replays). There have always been doubts about his distribution, but you always felt he could be relied on as a rugged defender, and it’s that aspect of his game that now appears to be being exposed.

It was also difficult to see exactly what Jon Harley did wrong for much of last season, and with Tommy now on his way it would be strange if he didn’t figure somewhere in the starting line up a little more often. I thought we also looked very lopsided without a natural left footer in the team.

The programme notes suggested that Scott Severin is more used to playing at centre back than centre midfield – perhaps he will provide some cover there in the event of a departure at the back. But if the current level of performance continues and I were John Eustace I might be asking a few polite questions of Malky about why I was still sitting on the bench.

And of course we will miss Tommy hugely, but let’s not forget that we have been here before – many predicting that there was no life after Helguson either. 12 months ago we were scratching out heads wondering where the goals were going to come from in a team without King and Henderson (it was far from self evident that Tommy would score as many as he did, or that Priskin would be worth £1.7m by the end of the season).

Saturday was a very entertaining game, and the contributions of Cleverley, Cowie and Graham among others suggested that this side should be able to stay up and aim for mid table. And maybe, just maybe, in a year’s time we might be in the luxurious position of debating whether we are about to let Hoskins, McAnuff or Ellington go for less than their multi-million pound valuations following a 20 goal season that propels us into the playoffs.

We can but dream…

12. markymark - 25/08/2009

Smith ( departed ) – Ellington ( on his way out + injured ) – Graham ( injured at half time tonight ) – McAnuff ( always ill/injured + probably off ) = A POWDER PUFF ATTACK
Although Sorvell scored as soon as I heard Henderson was on too I knew we would not win.
MM better bring in at LEAST 1 striker ( more if Duke & JM go ).

13. Johnny Boy - 27/08/2009

Well Markymark you got one of your wishes – McAnuff off to Reading and good on Tommy choosing Portsmouth. Old Brendan seems to lack a bit of imagination in buying Jobi – a player who only performed spasmodically for him – and showing an interest in Rasiack – ditto. Think he needs to pull his finger out or he won’t be at Reading long.
More worrying is the dreaded ‘club statement’ on Williamson because once we start losing our defenders we really are up ‘ rue de merde’.(See my thoughts under ‘Season Preview’)

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