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

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

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…


1. Vic Road - 11/04/2010

If the other clubs remaining fixtures panned out logically we could actually be safe without gaining another point ….. however, I don’t want this theory tested 🙂
I’ll stick my neck out and say another 2 points will be quite enough barring some absolute miracles from both Palace and Wednesday.

2. JohnF - 11/04/2010

Nerve-wracking and blood pressure raising afternoon. After we hit the post and had a couple of near misses I was thinking here we go again. This time Graham’s confidence stayed high and a patched up side stayed in control. Positives were to be had with a number of reasonable performances. Young McGinn looked busy and tidy and an good prospect, particularly in his first full game at this level. Jenkins and Eustace looked reasonably comfortable together and Cowie had a satisfactory afternoon. The defence looked solid with Bennett leading them until DeMerit and Mariappa started to wobble late on.

Matt, I absolutely agree about the Henderson substitution and why wait quite so long as Helguson could barely trot he was so tired. As you say, we are far from safe and we are going to need an away win or a couple of away draws and a home win against an in form Reading.

3. Wrighty - 11/04/2010

Us beating Leicester may just be a step too far, however Leicester beating themselves….!!

4. kris - 11/04/2010

What a HUGE relief. Especially as other results went our way. I feel the boost to our confidence winning with such a depleted side is as important as the three points themselves.

Great to see our young home-grown players making names for themselves. Along with Jenkins and Hodson Bennett is getting lots of praise. Bennett is only contracted until the summer I think but surely he’ll get an extension?

I feel a lot more confident now than before Saturday’s game. I think we’ll survive and that will be a great achievement even if the last few months have been horrific.

5. Wolery - 11/04/2010

Re thunk 4: We changed our lucky half-time chocolate to Curly Wurlies. Sure it was that wot won it.

There was a period mid-way through the second half when our energy levels suddenly dropped. Plymuff put on two subs, and we seemed to be crying out for a change ourselves to freshen things up. What seemed an age later, on came Henderson, and I thought ‘be careful what you wish for’. I’m a big fan of Malky, but he does create no little brow-furrowing with his subs / non-subs.

Anyway, we won the damn game as you say. Thank Toutatis.

6. rousman - 11/04/2010

The Henderson sub was strange & he gave away a needless free kick just in front of me 3 mins in to injury time (sorry to the lady in front of me for my words of frustration) I agree that one of the other 2 forwards on the bench would have been better. Close for MOM between DB & JE.

7. Luke Fairweather - 11/04/2010

An utterly tedious game of nerve wracking, error strewn, clueless football, enlivened only by a completely over the top celbration for a HH tap in. Not exactly goal of the season but probably one of the most vital. The walk home was a joyful affair as news of other results filtered through and the discovery that we had suddenly risen to a vertigo inducing 19th place. Let us stop staggering and now swagger on to seasons end in a more confident mood. Bring it on, someone said…


8. Tom - 11/04/2010

Can’t disagree with the points raised here.

I was also very disappointed with the sub to bring on Martin Taylor. Although he was literally on for injury time it was a poor tactical judgment as we were actually under the cosh and bringing on a fifth defender was only going to worsen that situation. Still, as you say, the 3 points are the most important thing.

9. Pete Bradshaw - 11/04/2010

Pretty telling that one thunk is about rituals and another about what might happen next. This was a truly dreadful game so reminiscent of 1996-7.

As you say the result was everything though and how much did it mean to the players. Some goal celebration,

Can’t see why Henderson came on rather than “the answer”. We clearly needed someone to link up midfield and attack. Let’s hope Henri’s as up for it as the others. And let’s hope Leicester have one of their off days. They are prone to them.

10. Paul Caruso - 11/04/2010

As the great man Ollie Phillips once said, victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan. This was a victory in the truest sense of a Vicks Vaporub, sticky and not particularly pleasant on the chest hair , but nonetheless we are all breathing a little more easily this morning.

By the way does anyone else think that Danny Graham is the spitting image of Johnny Williams from Furphy’s ’69 team. All he needs is a couple of lambchop sideburns and hazaar!

11. NRC - 11/04/2010

Thanks Matt. First time seen Bennett, makes you wonder what else may be emerging from the Academy – he was immense, as was Eustace. A battling performance but hopefully the rest is in our hands now and the hope has to be that more of the same spirit will prove enough.

12. MartinG - 11/04/2010

Terrible game but the important thing was the 3 points. Thought Eustace and McGinn were good in midfield. McGinn grew into the game and played some nice little passes. On the performances I’ve seen Henderson is a liability. He always seems one step behind and gives away stupid fouls in stupid places. Must be red hot in training.
Good to see JDM burst back into life in the WBA game and carry that into yesterday. Also thought Graham played better without HH in the WBA game than yesterday with him.

13. Dan - 11/04/2010

A much needed three points, and I felt reasonably confident throughout the game. While it was scrappy, we were clearly the superior team and Plymouth’s defence looked very unlikely to hold out for 90 minutes (er, much like ours for most of this season).

Re the introduction of Hendo, I think that the logic probably was that we needed his height – more at the back than up front. The one thing that Plymouth did have were a bunch of big lads who could come up for set pieces, and other than Taylor Hendo was the only relatively tall guy we had on the bench. I am in total agreement that he is, generally speaking, utterly useless.

14. nick - 11/04/2010

The performance wasnt as bad as many people are saying, we had a makeshift midfield completely bereft of pace however we stayed very solid never really looked in trouble and could have scored 3 or 4.

Cowie looks in dire need of a rest.

McGinn, Eustace and Bennett were fantastic yesterday.

15. SteveT - 11/04/2010

A scrappy game indeed, although if our pitch is anything like the one I played on this morning, you can forgive the team for not playing slick football on the ground – ours was full of lumps, random bounces and bobbles.

There’s no doubt the result is a crucial one – but my over-riding concern is that the players think the job is done and end up needing a positive result at Coventry to secure our status. This is not over by any means.

16. drewoneone - 11/04/2010

Good summary again Matt. You could hear the collective sigh of relief when the final whistle went. Full credit to the whole team for their fighting spirit. Plymouth looked like a team resigned to relegation even though they still have a chance to escape. I am starting to share your emerging confidence about the outcome of this season. We could be effectively safe by next Sunday – all we need to do is beat Leicester and Wednesday lose to United (our goal difference will see us through). I too (and everyone around me yesterday) wondered about Henderson’s introduction – there were calls for Hoskins to replace him! I have to trust Malky knows what he is doing. First time I’ve seen DB in action live and I was mightily impressed. Good to see so many home grown lads doing well yesterday.

17. Sequel - 11/04/2010

Difficult to add anything to those thunks, Matt, except to add my own little pat on the back to lads for finally producing the scrappy 1-0 win we’d all been waiting weeks for, and to say what a truly immense performance Eustace produced.
By the way, did anyone else notice that the players didn’t come out until gone 3 o’clock, and that we kicked off at nearly 10 past? We’ve been late starting on several occasions recently. Do you reckon “Betfair” are laying odds on the lateness of kick-off times!?

18. Lesley-Anne - 11/04/2010

Re – the late kick off, it would have been nice if they’d explained at the ground that it was due to an injury to the referee!!

Nick, i have to disagree about Cowie; I thought he was excellent yesterday and McGinn showed signs of promise for next season. That and the likes of Bennett, Hodson, Jenkins, Buckley etc show we have the basis of a team that we can build on with some additions from the lower leagues and probably Scotland. We need some experience though and perhaps John Eustace can be persuaded to sign a new deal for less money.

All the players gave everything in that match and for once the effort was rewarded with 3 points. It was great to see passion from Jay DeMerit when applauding the fans in the Rookery too. We need to keep up the effort for the remaining games as we are not out of it yet, at least Lansbury will be available for Leicester. A point would be a great result there especially if other results go our way.

straightnochaser - 12/04/2010

I thought Eustace HAD signed a new contract, on reduced terms, last Summer. Matt usually has a handle on these things & will clarify I hope. Is it right that Dale Bennett is out of contract this Summer too?

Matt Rowson - 12/04/2010

No, Eustace renegotiated his current deal I think. He’s currently out of contract in the summer. Bennett also.

19. Purple Ralph - 11/04/2010

The game started late because the original Ref injured himself in the warm up. This was a good thing as I noticed he was quite chummy with one of the Plymouth trainers during the pre match run around. Maybe the Watford camp noticed this too and made ‘sure’ he injured himself.
Spot the difference
1.Ashtray on a motorbike
2.Chocolate teapot
3.Liam Henderson
(I didn’t spot it either)

20. DW - 11/04/2010

I thought we played much better than the team sheet suggested, it had to be the slowest Watford X1 ever to have taken the field but we dominated in every area of the pitch. Betty B has rightly taken much stick along with Cashton and Simpson for puting our future at stake but Eustace (an AB panic buy) was outstanding yesterday. IMHO he has often been the difference this year between us accepting our fate and pushing on for more. I do hope he will be around next year.

Sequal, nothing sinister I’m afraid, there was a late change of official, resulting in unexpected warm up by the fourth official.

This is not a day for thinking about tomorrow but let’s all hope that some of the wages freed up from Hoskins, Sadler, JDM are spent on some genuine pace.

21. Esp - 12/04/2010

Nobody has yet mentioned the fans (in all 3 sides of the ground) who played a great part in Saturday’s victory

Much (unfair) criticism was leveled on fans’ forums last week at the Watford PR department’s decision to send out personalised e-mails from players to fans on the database about getting behind the team and becoming the “12th man” but I think they had the desired effect – it was great to see the yellow and red tickertape and the yellow balloons back at the Vic. Created a real cup tie/play offs atmosphere and added colour, fun and spectacle to a rather turgid match

Finally Paul with comments such as the one comparing our victory to “Vaporub – sticky and not particularly pleasant on the chest hair” I would like to nominate you to write the match reports for games when ig and matt are absent. You have a touch of their surreal style and charm 🙂

22. GraemeB - 12/04/2010

Since we are used to seeing critical comments about referees, a point should be made about this one. Warren Atkin had never refereed a football league match before — and only two in the Conference, the most recent of these last August. But he came off the line after the injury to Colin Webster and had a fine game in my view. Well done to him.
Dale Bennett was tremendous and brings some much-needed pace to the back four. He should certainly be offered a new contract before someone wakes up to the fact that he could be available free in the summer. And he should keep his place against Leicester — though I suspect that Taylor will return as he’s now obviously close to full fitness.

23. Lloyd - 12/04/2010

Gutted that my team completely justified my morose outlook pre-game. If ever you needed to play a side lacking any sort of belief, commitment, leadership or guile it was on Saturday, and we duly provided the goods.

I have to disagree with Esp – the atmosphere was fairly woeful from where I was sitting. No amount of tickertape is a substitute for passion and support from the stands, and I don’t think it’s sour grapes to say that there wasn’t much of that on offer.

I share the view that Henderson’s introduction was ill-judged. There were massive, humongous spaces in our half that would have suited a quick striker who’s all ego. Instead you had to continue pumping in down the flanks for Cowie and McGinn (?).

On the substitution of ‘Tiny’ Taylor, I thought that it was so late on that all it aimed to do was waste precious seconds. That it did along with all your other shenanigans, but time-wasting is endemic in the game, not just at WFC.

Best of luck with avoiding the drop.

Matt Rowson - 12/04/2010


not much passion by normal standards. You’ve not been here on a bad day, clearly…

Disagree with your interpretation of the Taylor sub. Defender for a striker isn’t a straight timewaster, however late on, particularly with Taylor “held together with sellotape” according to one account. Covering your extra striker (Cooper?) seems more plausible. And I didn’t notice us wasting time, we’re just really slow…

24. DM - 12/04/2010

A few thoughts on some of them..

Bennett was ace, and DeMerit was far, far better than at any point this season. I think he’s had a major arse-kicking from Mackay, resulting in his being dropped at Preston. Doyley’s injury gave him the chance for redemption and he seems to have taken it. Thank goodness. Mariappa and Hodson were decent enough.

I’m with Lesley-Anne on Cowie – vastly improved from recent showings. Granted he was below his pre-Xmas high water mark, but he’s hardly unique there. It’s been a long season for everyone…

Eustace is a must for next season – I dread to think where we would be without the leadership he’s shown, not just in recent weeks but throughout this season. Offer him whatever we can plus the armband – he’s earned it, by George.

Good shifts too from McGinn (looks like he’d prefer to be in the centre to me, loved the battling but a little short on pace for the wing) Jenkins (a season”s best)

Danny Graham was back to the hard-working, hard-running player we saw before Xmas. Also great to see HH on the scoresheet, but he’s another who is pretty much on his last legs for the season. He’s come in for some stick in some quarters, but I do wonder what people expect – we’ve flogged him into the ground, because we’ve had to. He is the only experienced centre forward we’ve got and has had to play far more football than is sensible for a player of his age, and with his injury track record. That he has 11 goals and has made a big contribution to the season, especially before Xmas, should not be forgotten. Once we have enough points, it’ll be time to let him rest and throw Noble into the fray…

Matt Rowson - 13/04/2010

Agree with most of that. One thing I’d dispute is the implication that Graham stopped working or running at some point. I didn’t see that, he’s always put a shift in for me… he’s just playing with the belief and purpose now that leads to him being ready to have a pop, as a striker should do.

As for H… I thought that Graham’s response to his substitution on Saturday was significant, almost imploring the Rookery to applaud him off. I interpreted that as appreciation of the shift that H was putting in despite clearly being knackered and, perhaps, still struggling with that injury.

25. DM - 13/04/2010

I feel that Graham’s work-rate did suffer for a week or two before he was left out.. however he’s come back into the team with a renewed vigour. Perhaps, like most of our players, a short break was all he needed – and it’s a short break he was not previously able to have due to the lack of alternatives…

26. JohnF - 14/04/2010

I notice that Henderson got 4 in the reserves the other night. He clearly seems to know where the goal is but maybe he is a player that comes alive in the box. Coming on near the end of games when we are usually defending isn’t necessarily the right thing for him. It would be interesting to see him when we are putting pressure on and camping in the opposition area. Clearly something of an enigma as even in the reserves 7 in 3 games is impressive.

27. Kris - 16/04/2010

JohnF – I’m no historian or Stat-guru (I leave that to Matt and others) but I bet you can find thousands of players who have scored aplenty for reserve teams and never made it as a first team regular.

Scoring for the reserves means nothing in my book. It may add to a player’s confidence but that is it. While I haven’t witnessed Liam Henderson first hand, the reports I’ve read all suggest he does not have nor will ever have what it takes to make it in the CCC. I think he’s out of contract in the summer and I can’t see us extending it but if we do he needs to go out on loan for a while. Maybe he’ll do a Bouazza and come back a much better player. I doubt it.

28. Back from Hammerau - 16/04/2010

As I’ve been away for the last few games, theis was my first chance to see and be impressed by DB.
I couldn’t believe one of the Plymouth players was wearing gloves.

29. markymark9 - 19/04/2010

Kris : If you read the bible ( Watford Observer ) you will know that MM is having talks with Henderson over a new contract!
No I can’t believe it either.What a waste of up to £5k a week!!
I would much rather give the extra money ( above our wage cap )to keep Eustace at the club.
Back from Hameerau: True DB did play well but we all knew it come to a miserable end at Leicester where apparently he was poor.
The trouble with teenage players – 1 or 2 good games followed by 1 or 2 bad ones!

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