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Watford 1 Crystal Palace 3 (30/03/2010) 31/03/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from a numbing evening against Crystal Palace

1- Oh shit.
2- Oh shit.
3- Oh shit.
4- Oh shit.
5- Oh shit.

You want more? Oh I suppose so.

1b- Quite the most depressing ninety minutes I can remember watching at Vicarage Road, for all sorts of reasons. My co-editor disputed the suggestion, whilst conceding that he was nonetheless too fed up to debate the point at any length. The flatter-than-Belgium second half showing will linger helplessly in the memory for the suffocating lack of belief, on the pitch or off it, that we were going to come back from two down let alone three. No less dispiriting, in its own way, had been the first half, where a vivacious, aggressive, purposeful performance to bear comparison with some of the best we saw earlier in the season nonetheless failed to yield a goal (albeit thanks in part to some cruel luck)… whilst yet again, the flimsiest of excuses for an attack from the visitors saw us collapse upon ourselves and concede far too cheaply. One joyless but unusually insightful soul grumbled at half time that he wanted to go home, because he knew how this would turn out having seen this game several times before. Ho hum. Over the whole piece the persistent themes were how tantalisingly vulnerable Palace looked whenever we put them under pressure, how incapable we were to capitalise and how willing we were to offer goals at the other end. Not a great recipe whatever level you’re playing at.

2b- The relative lack of ire emanating from the stands suggested a rare sympathy for the circumstances that the manager has had to work under. Nonetheless the reluctance to make changes at the start of the second half was difficult to understand; not switching things at the break was fair enough, we’d been much the better side before the break. But the early second goal knocked the stuffing out of us, and a bold statement of intent was needed earlier than it was delivered. Whilst trying to resist the temptation to treat the untried newby as “the answer”, the failure to give Ryan Noble’s pace and confidence a run out against a largely veteran back line was disappointing.

3b- A silver lining? Will Buckley. Both of your co-editors missed Saturday (the first time in a LONG time that we’ve both missed a game at Vicarage Road, hence no thunks; we’re trying to work out when the last time was, as it’s more tolerable than thinking about our current predicament…) so this was the first we’d seen of him. Bright, willing, clever, mobile, quick…. he pulled Palace’s defence all over the place and gave our forward line much of its early vim. He could do with being stronger in possession, and occasionally ran into blind alleys but having someone confident enough to run at people constituted a very welcome something different. Honorable mention too for the incendiary John Eustace, without whom one suspects we’d already be considerably worse off.

4b- It just had to be Palace didn’t it? I mean, if you’d been given the scenario, the context, the bare facts without identifying the protagonists you’d have known. And, partly as a nod to their erstwhile manager’s favoured menagerie, the side featured any number of gnarled old boots that our side, in its early season pomp, would have played around for fun. Shaun Derry is old enough to be my grandfather. Claude Davis is a blathering old woman. And Stern John. Do you remember the time, when GT tried to bring him in from America, when we were pondering whether he even existed? Yes, he exists, he’s still lumping around and he’s still scoring against us, despite having failed to find the net for Palace previously since he joined them in the summer.

Prefix 1 to Thunk 5b

At the start of the 2000/01 season your two co-editors travelled up to Huddersfield to watch a particularly fortunate victory. On the way up we stopped in the August sunshine at a service station, as one does. On the way back to the car we were accosted by an oily, smartly dressed man next to what looked like a salesman’s car who seemed desperate to engage us in conversation about the game we were on our way to see and football in general. As if unable to help himself he informed us that he was a professional referee, beaming with pride at the revelation. I can’t remember our response, but Loz was with us so I doubt it was as nonplussed as I now imagine it. So, I’m predisposed to think of Paul Taylor as a pompous twit.

Prefix 2 to Thunk 5b

For the reasons that we lost the game, see Thunk 1b.

5b- Paul Taylor is a preening, fawning ineffectual excuse for a referee. Playing advantage rather than awarding a penalty? Not noticing a defender palming the ball out of play? Booking John Eustace for headbutting his marker’s forearm (presumably) ? Last night was miserable enough without his help…



1. somerset 'orn - 31/03/2010

It’s the unwillingness to change that is most frustrating. We have failed to change our tactics away from home despite a run of 13 terrible results that is clearly down to more than bad luck.

Last night in the second half we failed to change a line up that included a desperately tired/slow/out of form Helguson and left the ineffectual Cowie on until it the game was up. And we DID have options to make changes from the bench.

One thing is clear: this team, playing this way, with this sort of luck, WILL take us into division 3. So unless either our personnel, tactics, mentality or luck changes between now and the end of the season, we are down. In three of those four categories, Malky has it within his power to make changes. It’s time for him to do so.

2. jmmagick - 31/03/2010

At least there was a relatively good atmosphere. Palace’s fans were phenomenal last night. Maybe we should adopt Sankt Pauli’s chant and a siege mentality?
(I’m not naïve enough to suggest that wins games, but it’s better than the modicum of noise created by a single “Yellow Army” chant)

Tim Turner - 31/03/2010

You wouldn’t be quite so positive about the Palace fans if you’d had to share an overcrowded train back to Clapham Junction with them, as I did. The chants were funny for five minutes, then it just got tedious, and occasionally scary. There was one bloke in particular who was like a hyperactive teenager with Tourette’s – I’ve never heard swearing or abuse like it, and I’ve been watching football for nearly 40 years. Lord only knows what they’re like when they lose.

As for the football, I agree with thunk 2b. Malky doesn’t seem to understand that sometimes, a change – any change – is necessary to lift team and fans alike. Swapping Helguson for Noble might not make logical sense when you look at their relative experience, but something like that just might have provided the spark we needed to get back into the game.

jmmagick - 02/04/2010

No, I’m sure I wouldn’t. I’m always wary of opposing fans on trains, but I thought they were good in the ground.

3. Adam J - 31/03/2010

Last night for possibly the first time ever I wish I had not turned up. Even on dire nights at The Vic, or Leicester away, or travelling to Cardiff (no, not THE Cardiff), I have never thought or wished that I hadn’t been there. Yes, many a time I had wished that I hadn’t seen that Watford performance, or lack of. But last night was the first time where, if I could do it all over again, I’m not sure if I would have bothered. I’m sure I would have, but thoughts still linger.

As soon as the first goal went it, it was all over. Our fight disolved. That first half hour was footballing bliss. But until the last 10 minutes, we had no fight. We lost it. Everyone on and off the pitch went quiet.

I too don’t understand why we didn’t change it earlier, or why we’ve signed Noble for him to just sit on the bench. Give him a go, throw him in; can’t hurt, especially if we’re 3-0 down.


We’re still outside the relegation zone, we still have a game in hand, and we still have time to turn this around. Yes, yesterday’s loss was heart-wrenching, soul-destroying, morale-wrecking. But we’re still here, and sit, with 7 games left, outside of the drop-zone. If we stay up by one place, by one point, by one goal, even only above a team who were deducted ten, Ill still be happy. It’s still in our hands. Roll on Preston, oh how we love Lancashire!

4. markymark9 - 31/03/2010

We may as well now start tallking about who we should offload for life in division one.
To make up for the £2 million we will lose from not being in the championship we should sell Loach who again last night flattered to deceive.Lee is surely good enough for Div 1 but I would still prefer a taller,experienced keeper.
Demerit,Hoskins,Harley & Sadler will all leave on a Bosman. Eustace is championship standard,as proved last night so he will be off to someone like PNE.
There is no way we can afford HH now plus on last night’s performance is he really worth pushing the boat out for?
No chance of getting Cleverley or Lansbury back on loan as a div 1 club.I fear Cleverley will be loaned out to Sir Alex’s son at PNE.
Mariappa and Taylor surely are good enough as a CB pairing in a lower division and its worth keeping Doyley as he is versatile despite having a weak left foot.
Graham,Cowie,Buckley and McGinn should all be easily good enough but what type of players should we be looking to bring in?

Matt Rowson - 31/03/2010

The fact remains that we haven’t been in the relegation zone all season. It feels a bit previous to be having this conversation, despite last night.

Thank you for restoring a bit of my inner “fight”…

PDF - 02/04/2010

Neither were Millwall in 1996 until the last weekend!

Matt Rowson - 02/04/2010

Well we’re obviously screwed then. Silly me.

Of course it’s possible that we’ll go down… quite possible. Also possible that, like Millwall in 96, we’ll drop in right at the end and be left without a seat when the music stops (although, unlike Millwall in 96, we haven’t been top of the table this season…).

But we ain’t down yet. That’s all.

5. Ian Grant - 31/03/2010

My memory of the meeting with Paul Taylor was that a) he demonstrated a vibrating linesman’s flag as if showing the Internet to cavemen and b) he described Andy D’Urso as a “good old boy”. Tosser.

wfcsteve - 31/03/2010

A vibrating linesman’s flag!! The mind boggles! That makes me view the often given advice about where they should put their flag in a whole new, and not at all pleasant, light.

Ian Grant - 31/03/2010

Sorry to leave you with that image, Steve. To clarify, the flag had a button that caused the referee’s headset (or something) to vibrate. Paul Taylor himself provided a superb demonstration of this technology last night, when he ignored a linesman’s flag for about a minute until someone pointed out that his colleague was starting to get arm-ache.

6. The Great Big O - 31/03/2010

We’re in serious trouble.

Palace now know they can win a big big game when the chips are down.

In contrast, we know that even when we play bright exciting football week after week, we still lose, week after week.

Not a great psychological state in which to fight a relegation battle. We’d be in a better place mentally if we’d been playing terribly for weeks on end.

Something needs to be changed – if only to get the players believing their efforts will be rewarded by the change.

I believe we’ve got good players. I believe we play good football most weeks. I don’t believe we have a winning mentality. Some kind of change is required to instill this mentality.

7. Jon P - 31/03/2010

OK, it was not pretty, but I would not describe this as the worst performance ever as I’ve heard some people say. Remember Palace put five past us a few years back. For what its worth, Forest just before Ray Lewington left was far more depressing. Indeed, I probably felt sadder when Roger Milford “did us” against Liverpool so many years ago.
You could not fault the effort but, from the moment Speroni saved Taylor’s header, it felt as if it was going to be one of those nights. Of more concern was the nagging thought that even if we’d scored two in the first half, we’d concede two in the second.
Finally, Eustace appeared to be booked for retaliating to a clear elbow in the face. How the linesman chose to miss it I don’t know, but Mr Taylor would doubtless have ignored hime anyway.

8. JohnF - 31/03/2010

Well done Matt, this must have been a difficult one to write. I jsut wanted to focus on something entirely different to forget about it all. Most of it has been already said more eloquently than I could but 3 thoughts.
1. Some of our most experienced players are those at the back and they aren’t doing the team any favours at the moment. Rather than criticising Loach I feel sorry for him in view of the lack of protection in front of him. I still think they look more organised without Demerit. We look better with Jenkins in midfield to take some defensive load off Eustace.
2. Why doesn’t anybody follow up when we shoot? We hit the bar or post or players so regularly we should be expecting a rebound.
3. We need a confidence booster of some sort and I agree that at the moment it is the Sunderland lad or one of the reserves who is full of confidence, which is sometimes infectious.

I just dread to think what West Brom will do to us and the game in hand is away!

simmo - 01/04/2010

I agree with most of your comments JohnF but I do feel that Loach fails to command the box. This leaves the whole defence jittery.

That being said how many more times are we going to concede a goal like Palace’s first. I have lost count of the number of times we have conceded when our left or right back are outjumped at the far post with Loach stranded somewhere in the middle. I think we should look at putting De Merit at right back and Marriappa in the middle just to stop this sort of goal constantly occurring.

9. Paul Wiggins - 31/03/2010

Hugely depressing last night. At half time I felt quite hopeful till my son said that once Malky gives them the usual team talk they’ll stop playing. Malky has looked really forlorn lately, is anybody at the club actually mentoring him, giving advice?
Reminded me of a match some years back when we lost a crucial relegation match at home, opposition – Blackburn?? – scored three, the fans tried to riot and stormed the directors box. Relegation looked certain and we ……stayed up. There’s always hope.

10. Johnny Boy - 31/03/2010

What a depressing night and I can only echo some of the sentiments already expressed. Though I agree with your statment Matt re Buckley – ‘Bright, willing, clever, mobile, quick… ‘ he is not, at the moment putting the ball in the net which is what we desperately need. Frankly I don’t care who Malky puts in as long as they score goals although I should caveat that remark as I might have concerns if he resorts to his old favourite Liam Henderson who, to be fair, did score a hatrick for the reserves.
He should never play H for a full 90 minutes as he is better as an impact player. MM has got enough ‘potential’ goal scorers on the bench – Graham, Hoskins, Noble – to change things round because the best way to avoid relegation is to win all our remaining matches!!!!

11. Flippo Galli - 31/03/2010


I can’t add to the thunks* that you have posted. Brilliant. Summed the game up for me (and others I imagine) in a nutshell**.

I really, really fear for us. Both Norwich, Sheff Weds, etc colleagues at work have said “if you go down you’ll enjoy the first season.” Yes, granted, but what about the seventh or eighth because we aint coming straight back…

* Both the actual thunks and appendix thunks!

** A rather large nutshell, but nonetheless.

12. Kev - 31/03/2010

Two thunks about this blog
1. Well done to Matt for expressing in such a concise way feelings about a match which left so many of us inarticulate & utterly depressed.
2. And thank God (or whoever your chosen deity is) for a sane group of posters on here – able to see it as it was – and make sense of it all.

And a my thunk about the game – or rather the game after the first goal (which was a totally different matter to the preceding 30 minutes). You couldn’t fault the team for effort or commitment (with the possible exception of HH). It seemed to me that they were trying too hard and the more they tried, the deeper the hole they’d dug for themselves became…..
…. which leads back to Matt’s Thunk 2b

13. SteveT - 31/03/2010

My word, this thunk business is getting complicated – 1b, 2b, 5b subsection 2 ?

To pick up a couple of those thunks:

“2b- The relative lack of ire emanating from the stands suggested a rare sympathy for the circumstances that the manager has had to work under.”

The lack of ire hadn’t really occurred to me until it was mentioned on the radio last night. Quite honestly I think those that were left were just exhausted and exasperated. It is fair to say that that players had given everything and maybe that was appreciated. I for one did not feel like applauding the second half effort and just shuffled out quietly! Of course the flip side of this is that I’m wrong, it means the assembled masses have given up the fight as well.

“4b- It just had to be Palace didn’t it? …. the side featured any number of gnarled old boots…”

As unattractive as it seems, we could do with a few of those gnarled old boots. And even more frustratingly the ones we have aren’t stepping up to the plate. Taylor, Demerit, Eustace and Helguson are all experienced enough to be the solid spine of a decent side. Unfortunately only Eustace is stepping up to the mark (and a little too far over it on occasion).

14. leedscf - 31/03/2010

the reason he didn’t get the booing deserved thats malky was because most fans had left-seriously what was the point of getting noble on loan if your not going to play him, and buckley played decently-but missed too many chances as striker -and looked much better on the wing- because guess what he is a winger.

also i’ve been saying this for a long time now-loach is nowhere near the finished article -he simply does not get off his line – and he has cost us so many goals this season doing exactly that -and yes marriapa was definitely at fault for 1st goal – but loach could have cleared the ball out -punched it or moved into a position to save the ball – he did nothing and just stayed on his line facing the wrong way-added to that some awful kicks-and a cock up for the third goal- and in general not a great run of perfomances lately- i seriously thing richard lee should be back in goal-loach does not command his area- and his communication with defence is piss-poor – he doesn’t inspire confidence in the defence- he has got potential -he’s a good shot stopper but needs to be pulled out of the heat of battle now. im not saying the defence is at fault but they’ve not helped by a goalie who is nowhere near the finished article

ok it wasn’t an awful performance but teams go down because they cant score and concede easily-and thats us at the mo

also to me there are signs that malky is losing the dressing room-did you see the row he had with martin taylor-and how taylor reacted to be taken off.

i too dont see why malky doesn’t change it till its too late, and its getting to the stage im losing faith with him – yes we have had bad luck,and rubbish referee- but despite that yesterday- it wasn’t the ref who lost us the game yesterday it was us- and i just wish malky would finally own up to that-rather then making excuses. – to be fair to malky i think he’s lacked an experienced no.2 which would make a difference – boothroyd had burkinshaw lewington- burton, taylor-john ward and then latterly blisset and jackett -and rodgers frank lampard sr – unfortunately all malky has is someone who is even more of a novice then him-sean dyche.

15. MartinG - 31/03/2010

Hugely depressing? Notwithstanding the result I actually enjoyed a lot of the football though the defence is an abomination at times. We are making plenty of chances. But we are far too slow up front. No idea what Noble is like but HH is running through water so I can’t see what we’ve got to lose playing him. Haven’t worked out the stats since JDM came back from injury but I don’t think they’ll be pretty.

16. Sequel - 01/04/2010

Martin G: In 20 starts since coming back from injury, Demerit has enjoyed 3 Watford victories. JDM must only take part of the blame however. After all, we did go five and a half weeks without playing at the Vic at a time when our home form was among the best in the league (from Boxing Day to Feb), and we missed out on 3 easy points at QPR when they were at their nadir.

17. markymark9 - 01/04/2010

Leedsscf : Rodgers had Frank Lampard Sr ? You cannot be serious.
If ever there was a waste of money then it certainly was Frank Lampard senior!
I agree that as a combo MM & SD are ridiculously inexperienced but I do find it incredible that we have those two at the helm yet our defence is so awful.What makes it even worse is that all the back up players defensively are not up to scratch either.
Richard Lee is Watford through and through but that does not make up for his lack of height and thus inability to command the area something Loach also fails to do.
Hodson needs to improve defensively and the likes of Bennett,Parkes,Travner,Oshodi are just not good enough and probably never will be!
I feel that we should go into the PNE with a nothing to lose attitude and why not bring Harley in at LB ( I know he’s not a strong defender but at least he has a left peg ) and switch LD to right back for the woefully inept ( at RB ) Mariappa.
Employ Buckley as a winger with a goal threat and start with Graham and either Noble or Hoskins.
We’ll still probably lose but its worth a gamble given our dreadful away record!

18. Weymouth 'Orn - 01/04/2010

I haven’t worked out the stats either,but you are quite right about JDM.
Earlier in the season we looked much better and more composed with Mariappa and Bennett/Cathcart at the centre. We played some good (passing) stuff – remember the home games against Barnsley/Wednesday/PNE/Scunny/QPR??? It seems an age ago.
Mariappa seemed to revel in being skipper,too – it upped his game. Jay doesn’t seem to “lead” and I’m not sure that Malky rates his leadership skills either. Team instructions on the pitch increasingly appear to be passed on through John Eustace – someone who always gets stuck in and gives 100%.
With Jay’s return, Mariappa’s game at right-back has deteriorated alarmingly and he has recently had to fight to keep his nerve amidst growing “unrest” amongst sections of the crowd. We also seem to have reverted to the long, ineffectual punt upfield – mainly in the direction of a clearly out-of-sorts Helguson.
Like Leedscf, I too am concerned about Malky’s hold on the dressing room. Taylor didn’t seem too chuffed to be taken off and Danny Graham was certainly miffed at having to come off against Posh the other week.
The signing of Noble appears to make little sense. When is he going to play? Why sign him if he is only going to sit on the bench? Does this mean that Malky is intending to push Will Hoskins and Danny Graham down the pecking order for the rest of the season? Apart from the two obvious quality players – Cleverley and Lansbury – I’d rather our fate rested NOW in the hands of our own players, not loanees who owe us nothing and will be gone in a few weeks time.
But, after Tuesday, I fear the worst……….

19. NickB - 01/04/2010

One of those ‘Stomach churning from minute one’ games, had a sense of foreboding all through our purple patch and somehow knew they’d score with their first meaningful attack. Felt intensely depressed and without hope at the interval to an extent I can’t remember before and I imagine that the players probably felt the same. Whatever uplifting message Malky had planned probably went in one ear and out the other.

The defence formally underwent the final stage of transition from barely adequate to comically inept and must undergo drastic surgery. I know posters on this site is are in the vanguard of the Doyley is God movement, but in truth as a left back at least he is an absolute liability, The other four, Loach included, have also deteriorated alarmingly. The anonymous Cowie apart, I thought the midfield did well, they must get dispirited by the colander behind them and the lack of finishing in front. I don’t pretend to know the answer to the latter, but it certainly doesn’t involve Graham or Helguson, who has managed to tarnish legendary status in the small matter of half a dozen games characterised by a complete lack of interest.

Buckley at least showed pace and a desire to take people on, and we got to the byline more than in most recent games.

Matt Rowson - 02/04/2010

Doesn’t need to be said, Nick, but I disagree with your take on Doyley. He’s our most reliable defender at the moment, much as he didn’t have his best game the other night.

20. Lloyd - 01/04/2010

An apocalyptic defeat for sure, but as people have said, you’re still outside the bottom three. We (Plymouth) aren’t going to trouble you, so it’s a straight knockout between yourselves, Palace and Wednesday.

I do however think our game next Saturday may play a significant part in the outcome…

A word on Paul Taylor. Absolutely in agreement. We had him in a home game against Donny in November and he was truly AWFUL. Somehow we won the game, but only after the crowd had to remind him that he’d already booked a player once and thus had to send him off. A real fusspot who seems to have a bit of previous judging by the quick Google search I made to check on his ‘credentials’ after that game.

Matt Rowson - 02/04/2010

Cheers Lloyd. Kind of encouraging to read you dismissing Plymouth’s chances… in the depth of our depression I’d been imagining a fightback coming up on the rails. We certainly need to win next Saturday, of our remaining games it’s an absolutely vital three points, particularly coming after two difficult looking games this weekend.

21. rookerythoughts - 01/04/2010

Can we please ban the use of the following phrases;

“Lost the dressing room”
“Tactically inept”
“Why not bring on Hoskins”


Hugely encouraging first half which gave way to an ugly second. A rather neat encapsulation of our season I thought.

Relegation, whislt certainly not confirmed, would be catastrophic. It is entirely feasible that 7 or 8 out of the starting 11 from Tuesday won’t be with us come August and whilst some may argue this is no bad thing, quite how prepared we’ll be for an assualt on Division One (Three) remains to be seen.

Anyway, how silly we’ll look after beating PNE and WBA in the coming easter weekend…

NickB - 02/04/2010

So ‘Comically inept’ is OK?

22. SteveG - 01/04/2010

Wasn’t there on Tuesday, but the radio commentary was very effective at painting a depressingly familiar picture:

1. I know that complaining about bad luck sounds a bit lame, but we really haven’t had much going our way … think back to another game on another day against the Palace. A few years ago we could very easily have been out of the play offs at half time in the first leg had they had a bit more luck, but we went in at 0-0 and then destroyed them in the second half… almost a mirror image of Tuesday? In that promotion season, quite a lot went our way, and this season very little has. You’d think it would even out over a season, but this time it really hasn’t.
2. I know that we don’t have many options here, but we do have some, and it must surely be worth trying a few variations on a theme that isn’t working.
3. In particular, we seem to have got locked in to Jay DeMerit as captain being untouchable. Agree totally with ‘Weymouth’ about Mariappa, who has looked vulnerable at RB, but did well earlier in the season at CB and as captain. JDM has never convinced as a leader.
4. Whatever his faults, Doyley CAN defend, and while none of these combinations is an obvious ‘winner’, a back four of Doyley, Mariappa, Taylor and either Harley, Parkes or Travner might have a chance of being a better organised and better balanced defence than the leaky and lacking-in-confidence combination that we’ve had recently.
5. The line between success and failure is so fine – against Sheffield Wednesday we were being lauded for playing exhilarating football – if a few more chances had gone in the first halves against Swansea and Crystal Palace we could easily have won these games by similar margins, and be happily in mid table safety and everyone would be praising Malky as a genius.
6. But we didn’t, and we are in the shit. But I still think those who are calling for a sacking are bonkers. See you on Monday…

23. Pete Bradshaw - 02/04/2010

Can’t we get someone in for a month as football consultant… No, not Dave Bassett, but GT must know someone to help Mackay -Curbishley? Roeder? Mind you come Tuesday it might not be worth bothering… unless we get some points on the board… is it really 31 years since we won at Deepdale??? I remember Patching scoring there but I think that was a draw… not been since, not going tomorrow either… yes I know – lame…

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