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28 April 1970 27/04/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
11 comments

April 1970. Watford had just survived their first season in the second tier, an achievement amply garnished with a run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

Elsewhere Diana Ross had just left the Supremes, Concorde had just flown its maiden supersonic flight, Black Sabbath had all but invented heavy metal. In the days building up to April 28th Apollo 13’s oxygen tank exploded and the Beatles split up. Something crazy was clearly going down.

On Tuesday 28th April 1970, it did.

Happy Birthday ig, you old bastard.

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Watford 3 Reading 0 (24/04/2010) 25/04/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
44 comments

Five thunks from a relieved Vicarage Road.

1- Well thank heavens for that.

2- Before the game, agitated assessment of scenarios led one regular BHaPPY visitor to ponder that Crystal Palace, playing at home on Monday against a West Brom side with half-an-eye on their summer holidays, potentially knowing that a victory would keep them up, had the cushiest number. This, he asserted, was the most nailed-on result of the “weekend”. In our nervousness, the parallels with our situation completely avoided us. So… the first thing to be grateful for was that Reading, too, didn’t quite have their minds on the job. We wanted this an awful lot more.

3- It could all have been so different, though. It does rather feel as if the pivotal refereeing decisions have stacked up against us this season… even when allowing for the fact that sides with limited creativity tend to need to focus rather more on pivotal refereeing decisions in assessing their results. In any case, a clear redress of balance today as Martin Taylor allowed Shane Long to get goal side of him in the box and, apparently in slow motion, grappled him clumsily to impede his clear route to goal. We cringed and waited for the whistle. Which didn’t come – the most significant instance of a bizarre refereeing performance. Had Reading scored… well we’ve seen that game so many times this season aready. Instead, Danny Graham’s opener came in the next attack, and we were never in danger thereon.

4- And neither of the above caveats should detract from a Watford performance that was very far from that of a relegated side. At our opponents’ throats from the off we were dominant in every area of the pitch from Aidy Mariappa’s commanding showing at centre back to Jon Harley’s unusually focussed aggression in the centre to Graham and Helguson flaming on together to devastating effect up front. Danny Graham could easily have netted the first Watford hat-trick at the Vic since 1996/97… that would have been the icing on the cake.

5- Special mention for John Eustace, who was every bit a captain today and drove the team on despite again appearing to play on with an injury. A turnaround from twelve months ago that was difficult to anticipate, I can’t have been the only one slightly disappointed that his contribution didn’t see him closer to the top of the Player of the Year awards. If he leaves in the summer, our very best wishes should go with him.

Watford 1 Plymouth Argyle 0 (10/04/2010) 10/04/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
33 comments

Five thunks from a very satisfactory afternoon all round.

1- It’s difficult to overstate the value of that result. The final reappraisal of our situation outside the pub at lunchtime returned unerringly to the conclusion that the game was make or break… and we won the game. We won the damn game. A win on a Saturday for the first time since November, and defeats for the precarious looking Sheffield Wednesday, Palace, Scunny…. as it turns out, defeat of any realistic magnitude would have seen us still outside the relegation zone, but wondering where three points were going to come from and with Plymouth back in touch. We’re not safe yet by a long chalk… but can afford to be bullish once again. Thank goodness.

2- And it’s a good job that points count infinitely more than performances at this stage, because that wasn’t a classic by any means. A grim window into what next season could still be like… two limited sides kicking the ball at each other, making mistakes, bereft of invention and confidence. Yes, that’s what Division Three was like, that’s what it’ll still be like. We were the better side; Eustace’s drive, another fine outing for Bennett, plenty of guts from Graham and Helguson the highlights. But that really wasn’t saying very much… Plymouth were the most forlorn bunch we’ve seen visit for a very very long time, justifying the furrowed brows of our Argyle correspondents. Good job, too.

3- Must confess to being utterly baffled by the introduction of Henderson for Helguson in the second half. Leaving to the side for one minute the question of Henderson’s contributions so far, which have been limited… the game was screaming out for a bit of pace up front. Plymouth were committing forward and we were being given ample chance to break, chances that went begging due to the complete absence of pace in our attack. It doesn’t feel quite natural to be advocating Hoskins… but either he or Noble would either have taken advantage of the holes that Argyle were leaving, or forced them to keep a closer eye on the back door. Henderson, whilst possibly the closest like-for-like replacement for Helguson, is far too slow for what the game was demanding.

4- I have been juggling with lucky rituals during our recent barren run. I must note down the successful combination of parking location, choice of half-time chocolate, choice of replica shirt, timing of adornment of replica shirt and several other vital considerations without delay, before I forget…

5- Utterly hypothetical as it seems, ending our winless away run at Leicester next weekend (yes yes, I know…) could see us all but safe via several combinations of other results. Wednesday going on to lose the Steel City derby the following day is one, but with Palace and Wednesday meeting on the last day of the season, a poor result for Palace at Derby and a draw between the Sheffield sides would mean much the same thing. Cripes, it’s amazing what a bedraggled three points does for your confidence, isn’t it? Winning at Leicester of all things…

Watford vs Plymouth – Lowdown 09/04/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
1 comment so far

Courtesy of Plymouth fan and occasional visitor to BHaPPY Jim Benton-Evans, the lowdown on our battle-weary troops’ opponents tomorrow….

We’ve haven’t won a single one of the so-called relegation six-pointers, and our form is a bit all over the place. The team is unrecognisable from when we played you at ours so some background might be of interest.

GK – David Stockdale – keeper on loan from Fulham. Despite one or two high-profile howlers, he is generally light years ahead of Larrieu, who is rumoured to be joining the coaching staff next season.

RB – Karl Duguid/Richard Eckersley – Duguid will probably get the nod, to the dismay of the Green Army, who continue to be mystified as to why he’s anywhere near the team. Eckersley is ex-Man U, now Burnley, doing the loan thing, but has been injured and may be somewhat off the pace.

LB – Onisimor Bhasera – Joined three weeks ago from SA side Kaizer Chiefs. Easily the best left back we’ve had for twenty years: has pace, awareness and strength. He’ll be off in the summer then.

RCB – Bondz N’Gala. Another loanee, this time from West Ham. Big unit, strong in the air and the tackle, looks a bit suspect on the ground.

LCB – Reda Johnson. Benin international whose been an instant success. Makes occasional alarming forays upfield, under the delusion presumably that he’s Franz Beckenbauer’s long-lost cousin. Strong, committed – and still only 22.

LM – Yannick Bolasie. Returned from loan at Barnet, was thrust into the first team when Craig Noone was injured and has been something of a hit. Has a tendency to trip himself up whilst turning full backs inside out, but has pace and trickery and a venomous shot.

RM – Chris Clark/Alan Judge. Clark is Mr Dependable, puts the shift in, does the wood-and-water carrying bit. Judge has a bit more about him – pace and drive. Neither of them can cross a ball with any consistency.

CM – Carl Fletcher. Thought his season was over after 5 mins against Barnsley. Has made a fantastic recovery and hopes to start. Our captain and player of the year.

CM – Damian Johnson – Signed from Birmingham in the transfer window and has brought some class and stability to the midfield.

CF – Jamie Mackie – The perennial paper bag chaser is rumoured to be off in the summer. For all his effort, the end product still leaves much to be desired.

CF – Bradley Wright-Philips/Joe Mason. BWP is still returning from injury and is taking things a little too easily for the Home Park faithful. But has probably the best conversion rate of all the strikers at the club bar Mason, who’s 18, come through the ranks and is a better prospect than Dan Gosling. Has been playing wide right with some success.

Subs: Larrieu, Fallon, Chris Barker, Yoann Folly, Kenny Cooper (amiable but useless MLS player) plus those from above who don’t make the starting XI.

We’ve won our last two away (at Ipswich and Doncaster) so I’m hopeful. Haven’t got much choice, really. To be honest, I think the most likely scenario is the two of us meeting again next season in L1…….

A cheerful assessment Jim. Either way, a lot will hang on tomorrow. Recovering from defeat would be difficult for either side, for slightly different reasons…

Watford 1 West Bromwich Albion 1 (05/04/2010) 06/04/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
7 comments

Five thunks from an eventful Easter Monday

1- Sometimes, as you may have noted, it’s difficult to distill five worthwhile “thunks” from a performance, particularly as themes tend to repeat themselves over a series of fixtures. Not after this one, which leaves a number of considerations clamouring for attention. Thunk Number One, nonetheless, has to reflect a quite terrific effort by the boys in yellow in the face of an opponent whose squad was so much stronger than our own that any of their seven subs (except – and only arguably except – Dean Kiely) would have been a certain starter in the Watford line-up. There was a point in the second half where the floodlights came on just as the sun came out. “What an odd day,” was the instinctive thought, which lead to the reflection that an odd day might be required in overturning our fifteen-year league hoodoo against the Albion. It didn’t quite happen, although the rueful “I’d take a draw from here” sentiment as Jon Harley departed was severely tested…

2- Speaking of Harley, and whether or not his second yellow might be interpreted as a little harsh, what a bloody idiot. A herculean team effort had restricted Albion’s ability to knock the ball around, and much as we hadn’t looked much like scoring ourselves we had reduced our visitors to chucking balls in the vague direction of Bednar (“a lump with eyes” – TBBM) which the impeccable Bennett and ferocious Demerit were coping with just fine, thank you very much. That all changed as we went down to ten… the fabulous, fabulous Graham goal, just reward for a selfless and industrious individual performance, was very much not on the cards as Albion suddenly found the space and stretched us as they’d not been permitted to up to that point. A silly, unnecessary foul from Harley; much as we’ve often welcomed his brand of nastiness in a side that is suddenly rather too nice on occasions, nastiness and stupidity aren’t a great match.

3- We’ve kinda gotten away with it this season up to now… such injuries as we’ve had have been brief and largely innocuous (Jay’s scratched eyeball notwithstanding). So we’ve managed to survive on a very thin squad… up until now, when it appears that we get all of our injuries at once. Most critically of course Tom Cleverley; it seems inconceivable that we’ll be seeing him in a yellow shirt again which is a crying shame and potentially disastrous for our chances of survival. Buckley and Doyley also off injured, Eustace and Bennett both moving gingerly by the final whistle, Harley and Lansbury suspended for Saturday and Taylor and Helguson already missing in action. If none of these are available on Saturday (and you’d bet against any of the three removed in this game being involved), the mind boggles as to what sort of side we might be able to field in the vital tie with Plymouth.

4- Good work from Harry the Hornet, whose spasmodic appearances with a drum at different locations in and around the Rookery and Lower Rous relieved the tension no end. Being made to sit down by the stewards was presumably a first, and probably not welcomed by the poor sod sitting behind him, but irrespective of his beat-keeping ability (and maintaining a rhythm as sound travels across a stand is, one suspects, next to impossible anyway) his was an unusually valuable contribution.

5- We suggested before the game that, given our fixture and those of our rivals, finishing the day outside of the relegation zone would be a result, however it turned out. I don’t think that we’d allowed for every eventuality (see 3), but we’ve come through a difficult weekend boasting, frankly, two more points than I thought we’d get and it’s still in our hands… staring up out of the relegation zone, as we would have been had Wednesday not shipped a late goal to Bristol City, would have been psychologically far more difficult to reconcile with the injury onslaught. We’re still fighting, albeit on one leg…