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Watford 1 Newcastle United 2 (28/02/2010) 28/02/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Five thunks from a sodden Vicarage Road

1- The overriding emotion is one of frustration; dominance in the middle of the park is of limited value if you can’t defend a set piece, and don’t have the guile to unpick a defence. Enormously frustrating to see whatever neat passing we could fashion on what is suddenly a hugely unhelpful surface labour to create chances whilst free headers were being offered to Newcastle in our own box.

2- Newcastle came as advertised, only more so. After so long hankering for a return to the cavalier side of the mid-nineties, the Toon Army currently “enjoys” a team that is as close to the antithesis of that as it is possible to imagine; pragmatism over style, what over how, a kick up the arse over a quick pass, a team of enormous blokes, defensively resolute, aggressive and unpleasant in midfield, crude and direct in attack. A recipe for escape from this division to be sure… and an approach that seemed to have been deliberately exaggerated to intimidate our young and (still) lightweight side. It worked too, until the last five or ten minutes when we got stuck in a bit more, nicked a goal and immediately had United’s charmless goons bickering at the back. There’s a lesson there, I think.

3- Lloyd Doyley. You’d sooner have a defender of Lloydinho’s character and application who didn’t occasionally pass the ball inexplicably into touch, to be sure. But I will happily take Lloydy’s failings in return for his indefatigable readiness to try again next time, his willingness to have a go at Newcastle when others seemed to cower. That over a better player who is at our level because he can’t always be bothered. Every day of the week. I’m hugely heartened to be (apparently) in the majority too – difficult to think of many players past or present whose errors would be greeted with such encouragement and enthusiasm.

4- Experience tells us that you have to be pretty poor to be relegated from this division. You don’t need to be good to stay up, just less poor than three other teams and we don’t look a poor side. You can go down through being unlucky however, by being the mug without a chair when the music stops (witness Leicester two years ago), and with a small squad, a packed schedule and a heavy pitch that no longer permits us to impose our game on opponents as it has done in the past we kinda need to hope that our main men stay fit.

5- If that’s what a mid-season break would feel like, you can stuff it. Sure, we’ve had a couple of midweeks and there have been the away games, but being back at Vicarage Road on a Saturday for the first time since Boxing Day felt somewhat first-day-of-the-seasonish. Apart from the rain, obviously.


Watford 2 Bristol City 0 (09/02/2010) 10/02/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from the first League win over City since Boxing Day 1998, Gifton at the corner flag and so forth. Yes, really.

1- We are seriously going to need everyone uninjured, and the likes of McGinn and Buckley up to speed sharpish if we’re to cope with our March fixture list on that evidence. A deserved three points… but impressive particularly because we kept City largely at arms length in the second half despite their improvement and our utter exhaustion. Saturday being free is probably welcome, but we’re down to play eight times next month.

2- City’s first half was abominable, bearing comparison with QPR’s chaotic visit in December. Flat, low on confidence and ideas, and looking rather stroppy and fed-up all told. The QPR-comparison was sealed by Patrick Agyemang’s reprise, to limited effect.

3- That City’s second half improvement yielded so little was thanks in no small part to our sudden defensive resilience. It’s too early to award Martin Taylor the accolade of having the same dramatic impact as Mike Williamson’s signing had a year ago, but so far so very good; Jay Demerit looks a whole lot more confident and reliable, Adrian Mariappa has been released into a buckaneering right-back, and the challenges just bounce off Taylor, who is immediately an asset at set pieces. We’re not completely watertight, there were nervy moments when a livelier forward line might have capitalised. But a dramatic improvement all told.

4- Liam Henderson. There’s something physically not quite right about him. It might be so obvious that I’ve missed it… maybe he’s got no neck or an extra shoulder or something, but he just looks… wrong. His appearance off the bench was clumsily ineffective; clearly short on pace, it’s difficult to see how he can make a sustained impact without everything else in his game coming together. His continued involvement speaks volumes about both our limited options and Will Hoskins’ low stock. And I’d better credit RW with input into this thunk or he’ll only go all mardy on me again…

5- However desperately short on goals Danny Graham is, we do look a better side with him in it…

Watford 3 Sheffield United 0 (02/02/2010) 03/02/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from a much-needed win at Vicarage Road

1- How very badly did we need to play against a side as accommodating as the Blades. For twenty minutes we looked quite tentative, and then… it wasn’t merely a matter of noting that our opponents weren’t as good as their position suggested. More that a United side comprised of a pick-and-mix of second tier journeymen (many of them ours…) scrawled this in large, difficult to miss paint-spray all over their penalty area every time a ball went anywhere near it. Nonetheless, it took an unchallenged flap from Mark Bunn and a couple of unexploited free headers before we realised that this was there for the taking, and took it increasingly confidently. In the second half United’s penalty area was a coconut shy… the only slight concern being that we didn’t do more damage than three goals all of which, as Kevin Blackwell noted, owed something to United’s defensive deficiencies.

2- Key point of the game was Scott Loach’s fine save from Chris Morgan’s header. That goes in, it’s a different game. It didn’t, so it wasn’t…

3- Compare and contrast our new Premiership-reserve centre-back to theirs. Martin Taylor looked a little rusty, but was essentially just what the doctor ordered. Large, uncomplicated, aggressive and effective merely in his presence… He didn’t NEED to get his head to our attacking set pieces, in attracting two or three markers he was already causing havoc. Nyron Nosworthy in contrast looked like he hadn’t played for twelve months, although a nervous goalkeeper behind him probably didn’t help. He’ll want to improve on a quite comical debut. The only concern re Taylor was an apparent hamstring injury picked up late in the game…

4- Doris and Jordan haven’t changed much. It’s a bit much to chide Doris for his aggressive style, we benefitted from it for long enough; he was at least restrained in his conduct in what threatened to be an inflammatory first half. Meanwhile we saw the best and worst of Stewart… a fabulous, clearing, covering header as a ball came over from the left in the second half, but petulance, misplaced 9-iron passes and the highlight, a flicked backheel past that went straight to a yellow shirt. Don’t think he was worth the half-hearted booing that he got, but can’t say I miss him.

5- Lloydy, through on goal on the penalty spot. Yes, really. Getting your head to a cross/shot was once thing, but that would have been truly mighty. Although the keeper’s reaction and a slightly heavy touch saw the chance disappear, the incident confirmed that the second goal won’t be any less fun than the first…