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Watford 0 Peterborough United 1 (13/03/2010) 14/03/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from a ghastly afternoon against Peterborough

1 – Worth remembering, first of all, that this is what this season was supposed to be like from the start. Or from the end of August, at any rate. Having sold off our most sellable assets in August the real surprise is not that we stumble to a clumsy defeat against Peterborough but that this season has lifted expectation levels to an extent that made this look like a home banker beforehand, even given our recent form.

2 – All of which makes the manner of the defeat and the gradual, desperate erosion of the side’s belief all the more galling. We know that they’re better than this. We know that much as talk of the play-offs was always fanciful, we really shouldn’t be troubling the relegation places either – to Malky’s great credit (see 1). But the recent home fixtures have served to accentuate our limitations, to bring them into focus. Today for the first time we looked lifeless rather than merely a bit limited.

3 – The greatest limitation is the lack of options. We’ve done well to fashion a Plan A that has delivered excitement and a reasonable amount of success for much of the season, but have very little to throw in from the bench (the first person to mention Will Hoskins in dispatches gets three minutes on the naughty spot…) and critically neither brawn nor pace with which to vary our approach. If there is any scope to bring in some such options on loan then one hopes we’ll be exploiting it.

4 – Peterborough, for all our failings, look somewhat better than a side cast adrift at the foot of the table. That said, the sight of Exodus Geohaghan thundering into view as a sort of special-team expert, lumbering around midfield and doing what he could in between the monstrous throws that were his one reason for being was one of several factors grimly reminiscent of much of Kenny Jackett’s season. We flailed haplessly along, unable to make much of our strengths or overcome our limitations during that campaign, too.

5 – One wonders, in the circumstances, how many of our painfully small squad are fully fit. Mariappa and Demerit were two reported to have picked up and subsequently overcome knocks at Derby, and both have struggled since (albeit Mariappa’s relentless positiveness is to be cherished for as long as those who’ve singled him out as the next boo boy allow him to retain it). With the games still coming thick and fast, such considerations may be put more sharply into focus.



1. rous man - 14/03/2010

Mariappa fair play to him he is getting the boo boys on his back but is still wanting the ball and is happy to go forward with it. H looked tired yesterday I thought & DG is not having the best of times at the moment Hoskins should start on Tuesday. Some of our so called supporters are never happy unless things are going wrong booing does not help at all. Get behind the team !!

Matt Rowson - 14/03/2010

rous man gets the three minutes. See below…

2. Weymouth 'Orn - 14/03/2010

I’ll happily spend three minutes on the naughty spot…….if someone can tell me why Danny Graham was taken off for Hoskins when Helguson had contributed practically nothing all afternoon – except for the inevitable note in the Ref’s book?? Is Malky afraid to sub Heidar?? Also, did anyone else notice that when Danny went off – after the obligaory clap to the crowd – he tore off his shirt, threw it down and clouted his seat. Frustration at the chance that he had just blasted over or anger at Malky’s decision???
I’m afraid that it used to be said that anyone could beat anyone in this League. Sadly, now it seems that anyone can beat Watford.

3. SteveT - 14/03/2010

Now here’s a first – if I type quickly enough, I’ll be first to comment. To take your thunks in turn:

1 – completely agree

2 – unlike the Swansea game where we looked clueless in the second half, I actually thought we responded well once we had gone a goal down. Up to that point there was no focus or ambition. After that point the team did at least respond and try different options, albeit with increasing desperation.

3 – I’ll take 3 minutes for this.. Hoskins might not be the answer but at least he provided something different. He added a bit of guile and movement around the edge of the box and all of a sudden the likes of Cleverley and Lansbury had someone to push through balls to along the ground.

4 – Yup – agreed

5 – This thunk worries me. If some of the starting 11 are carrying knocks then they should be rested – even if its one by one.

A few thunks of my own:
– Mariappa is currently the bete noir of the Rookery and unfortunately its beginning to make him look like Jordan Stewart.

– If Hoskins might not be the answer then Henderson definitely isn’t.

– It was good to see Taylor trying to take the game by the scruff of its neck. For all his size and experience, I’ve been disappointed that we’ve not yet seen him bossing the defence

– For the next game we have to break up the Helguson and Graham partnership, even if it means going 4-5-1 and getting runners from midfield to support a central striker.

Matt Rowson - 14/03/2010

Sorry Steve, not quite the first.

re. 3. He offered something different, yes. And then when he had a chance to fashion a genuine goalscoring opportunity chose instead to go for the marquee finish, an impossible flash volley from an angle that would have been terrific if it had worked but was never likely to. Bad decisions are just one reason why three very different managers have jettisoned Hoskins, we know there are others. He’s the best alternative we’ve got up front and that really is a problem.

Would be against a 4-5-1, although Ipswich are short on centre-backs (Delaney sent off yesterday) so might not be the right time to switch.

Agree about Taylor – this was mentioned during the game; I can’t help but feel that much as we want him to boss the defence, a big bloke just doing his thing is a better option than what we had before.

RGW - 15/03/2010

Given all the criticism about the side being shot-shy, it’s then a little harsh to criticise someone who actually went for goal

Matt Rowson - 16/03/2010

no it isn’t. he makes bad decisions over and over again. nothing to do with willingness to go for goal per se.

4. rousman - 14/03/2010

some good points matt, but when you look at the fixtures to come it will be a close run thing

5. DM - 14/03/2010

I certainly agree on the Hoskins front Matt – but the one I am struggling to understand is the reluctance to give McGinn a better go. Once again, he was thrown into a desperate situation with about ten minutes to go. Cowie, among others, is out of form and McGinn is the one player outside the starting XI that could and probably now should be given the chance to provide the spark that’s gone missing.

I still firmly believe it will just take one little moment of inspiration to get us going again. Had Graham scored that chance yesterday, I think the boost it would have given the team would have seen us win the game. They have not become bad players over-night, just lost the confidence that made us such an irresistible force at the Vic for most of this season. It’s up to Malky to make a switch or two and try to get things moving again.

The situation is not desperate yet – a win on Tuesday would brighten the mood considerably…

6. JohnF - 15/03/2010

Good thunks Matt under difficult circumstances, hard to be objective at times like that. I was disappointed with the way we seemed unable to give Peteborough something different to think about. They had done their homework and made sure that Cleverley was disrupted by what seemed an excellent full back (pacey). So why weren’t he and Cowie changing wings and at least tryng to provide movement, which was sadly lacking I guess as a result of falling confidence. I am not sure what the answer is up front but Graham looks completely devoid of any confidence and needs a rest. Helguson needs some decent service. Whatever happens, we need to change things for Tuesday. Perhaps bring in Jenkins and play one up front with Cleverley, Lansbury and Cowies providing the support and movement.

What about McGinn and Buckley? I’d be happy to rest DeMerit and move Mariappa back into the middle with Hoskins on the right. Oh and they need to spend some time with Lloyd’s left foot, Peterborough had that one sussed. We need to make our own luck and just lumping the ball into a crowded box is not going to bring it.

7. Nigel - 15/03/2010

Live in Oz so great to see some rational thinking when my only other source of feedback seems to come from the WO.
So bearing that in mind, here are some questions for Matt & Ig (and then lets open it up to everybody else of a sensible mind)
1. Does MM still seem to have the support of the players?
2. Is MM blinkered with his team selections in that he seems tostick with the same 11 week in week out, or is it that we have such a small squad there really are no other options?
3. Is the pitch so bad that it hinders our playing style?
4. How many points do you think we need to be safe this season and where do you think we’ll get them?
5. and heretical it maybe, but would relegation actually be good for us this year as we would then have to lose many of the ‘big’ names and force us to play the youngsters and rebuild with less pressure and expectation?

Ian Grant - 15/03/2010


1. Yes, I think so. The reaction to going behind on Tuesday night would suggest that there’s still a flame there, albeit that it’s wavering a little in the breeze. There was no lack of effort on Saturday either, just the absence of the kind of creative spark that comes from confidence.
2. Blinkered? I’m not sure about that: we’ve achieved an awful lot through fielding a settled side this season rather than chopping and changing all of the time; changes can be entirely counter-productive sometimes. Besides, I’d suggest that this is the first time in the campaign that it’s really started to fall apart: our away record’s been fairly dismal throughout, but the postponement of home games followed by the last two results mean that the picture’s suddenly changed. I wasn’t surprised to see the line-up on Saturday, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t some changes for the Ipswich game.
3. It is, yes. Earlier in the season, we beat teams by the speed of our passing and movement. Very hard to keep that going when the ball’s bobbling all over the place and every first touch needs to be watched rather than taken for granted. It’s not the only factor, but it’s definitely playing a part.
4. Pass.
5. You’re having a laugh, sir! We’re talking about a club that’s barely kept its head above water on Championship turnover; the idea that life in the league below might offer the opportunity to rebuild is fanciful in the extreme. It’d make financial chaos of the last season seem like a relaxing holiday, I imagine.

8. Sequel - 15/03/2010

Matt, for 3 minutes on the naughty step, who is the only Watford player to have scored in the last 4 games?

9. Moralee Reprehensible - 15/03/2010

We still have over a quarter of the season left, so there’s plenty of opportunity to get back on track.

Helguson has never been the most mobile of players; he looks unfit to me. Too many games perhaps? He thrives on crosses, but we’ve stopped doing those.

I like Mariappa. In the second half against Swansea he seemed the only one prepared to try anything ambitious. His reward from the crowd was shameful.

Doyley: a first-rate defender. If he could pass the ball accurately or use his left foot, he’d be a Prem regular. But the lack of a left foot is now a problem – all our attacks down that side lose momentum. Maybe it’s time to bring Harley in and switch Doyley to the right, with Mariappa going back to add some pace in the middle.

My loan solution: we don’t have too many older, wiser heads. We need someone to contribute to the forward play. Is Tommy Smith fit? A word with Portsmouth’s administrator could be in order…

10. mattp - 15/03/2010

as a Watford fan for nigh on 30 years I have seen some dross in my time and equally had some quite wonderful memories thanks to our club. I am unable to attend every game but have been to a few this season.On Saturday I was left really really angered and embarassed by many of the “fans” around me who decided that booing, criticising and sitting in silence was a good way of supporting the team. Especially the bloke behind me who, in reply to my attempts at getting people to be positive, said “i’m a paying customer”..NO! YOUR A FAN/SUPPORTER. Why would a young player want to play for us if they’re going to be booed for trying something that doesn’t work..or play in front of 15,000 spectators who sit in silence. Watford fans need to have a look at their own performance as well as the teams and ask themselves if they are doing enough to stay up.
Football wise, it was poor but HH and DG don’t work together especially when there are no crosses being put in for them to get on the end of…lansbury disappoints still and cowie disappeared far too easily..but we can escape still..

11. Johnny Boy - 15/03/2010

Not a great afternoon and very hard to find some positives but I will try and eek a few out.
Our first half performance was a continuation of our second half v Swansea , not good. Our second half performance was an improvement and there were a couple of incedents where we strung some passes together and looked quite good, well better than Peterborough. So, hopefully our first half against Ipswich will be a continuation and we might score which would hopefuly lift the team.
OK, so now we are 1-0 ahead. How do we keep it as we have been lately letting in at least one goal a game. I like the look of Taylor and friends at Birmingham tell me he is a good sort but too slow for the premiership . Mariappa has been coming in for some stick but the guy was originally a central defender. Demerit plays, I believe, at fullback for the USA so why doesn’t Malky swop them around and give Jay some practise before the world cup – he’s going to need it. I know, I know, Jay has been tried at fullback before and it hasn’t worked but I am clutching at straws.
Like the rest of you I will be there on Tuesday, fingers crossed, different socks, possibly having taken up religion again, willing the team on – Come On Watford

12. markymark - 15/03/2010

DM : The situation IS desperate! 2 wins in 17; No win away in 11; 3 home defeats on the bounce ;zero confidence in all players;fans turning on the team and the manager etc,etc
Yet unlike nearly all the other teams we have No injuries or suspensions.

If someone had told me back in November that we would be only a point or two above the relegation places in mid March yet with a FULL squad including a new,commanding centre back, I would have laughed at them!

Ipswich & Keane must be licking their lips for tomorrow night and I for one have very little confidence in us getting anything from the game unless we have a huge slice of luck.

13. rousman - 15/03/2010

Hoskins I think ??

14. Weymouth 'Orn - 15/03/2010

Re: Thunk 5
You are right about our painfully small squad, but should we be starting with players who may be unfit? If Demerit and Mariappa are not 100%, why not kick off with Bennett and Hodson, with Jay and Aidy having a break on the bench – to come on if absolutely necessary.Mariappa had his third poor game on the trot and Demerit looked jaded throughout, for example making no effort at all to cover back for Loach when he decided to go walkabout.
Surely there is only a wafer-thin difference between the two players who may be carrying knocks and the two who are not.

15. Esp - 15/03/2010

“(Hoskins) chose instead to go for the marquee finish, an impossible flash volley from an angle that would have been terrific if it had worked but was never likely to….” ?????

I’m amazed that you had a go at Hoskins for shooting from range Matt – despite the fact that the shot sailed over the bar into your lap 🙂

In the last 3 home matches I have attended one of the most depressing facts has been the LACK of many efforts on goal from inside the box AND outside. We are trying to be over elaborate and walk the ball into the net.

Give Hoskins a break – at least he tried; Danny Graham and Heidar please note. You can shoot from ANYWHERE!!

16. Lanterne Rouge - 15/03/2010

I feel that Peterborough are in a false position due to unrest behind the scenes in the mid part of the season. With players like Lewis and Mackail-Smith, a mini-revival was always on the cards once Jim Gannon had settled in – it’s just unfortunate that Watford have been on the other end of this.

17. DM - 15/03/2010

@ Markymark –

Put the stats away – since when was football played by numbers. It’s all about the next game, not what’s gone before.

Desperate would be us in the bottom three, with no games in hand and precious little ability within the team to turn things round. These players have the ability, they proved it as recently as Feb with 2 convincing home wins.

We just need something positive to spark them back into life. The situation is in our own hands and as badly as we’ve played for the last 3 halves, there is still a long way to go till May…

18. tet - 15/03/2010

I don’t know what to do, I’m not the manager, but I do have experience managing people, some but not all players performances are below standard. A few missed kicks/opportunities have sapped confidence. What do you do if someone’s not performing when you know they have previously excelled. You have a word, are there any underlying reasons for example being bullied (booed) at work, your wife/girlfriend has run off with John Terry, having consoled and reassured them you then assign them the next task, Swansea at home seems a good idea. If there is no improvement you may have to put them on more menial tasks, maybe warming a bench, then gradually ease them back into the position they are paid the great wage to do. If that does not work a spell in the reserves could help. As a manager you must be seen to be doing something as you’re judged the same your staff on your performance.

19. Nick - 15/03/2010

Am I the only one who thought that Lansbury should have been taken off instead of Cowie? He disappeared after his booking, and whilst Don hasn’t been in the goals as much as we’d like, he certainly contributed more to the game than Lansbury did.

20. billyo - 16/03/2010

Three minutes for Malky then.

21. Mike S - 16/03/2010

Yes, definitely three minutes on the naughty step if you mention Hoskins… Good call Matt!

22. dank - 17/03/2010

Are we allowed to mention Will Hoskins yet?

23. wfcsteve - 17/03/2010

How much room is there on the naughty step? Can everyone move up a bit.

24. Old Git - 17/03/2010

Obviously not enough. Hence the delay in any thunks from last night. We’d all be on it!

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