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Watford 1 Notts County 2 (24/08/2010) 25/08/2010

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. So much a game of two halves that using more than a pair of thunks – good thunk, bad thunk – seems a little wasteful. Unless you count this as a thunk in its own right, of course. Ah.

2. Anyway, we were thoroughly luxurious for forty-five minutes. Improbably luxurious, given the combined price tag (Troy Deeney’s slightly incongruous signing aside). One year on, Malky’s managed to surprise us again: whatever struggles inevitably lie ahead in the winter months, you have to applaud the bravery of trying to assemble another team to play fast, energetic, absolutely bloody charming pass-and-move football when everyone else just phones up Neil Warnock and asks what he’d do. Under this manager, any success feels like a genuine reward for endeavour.

But you do have to claim that reward. Our second-choice – then, anyway – strike pairing combined touch, strength, pace and awareness with a comprehensive inability to stick the ball in the net; our midfield flicked passes hither and thither happily, making the most of the smoothly grassed pitch before it all turns into a battlefield again. At various times, County’s six yard box resembled a rugby try-line, forwards attempting to force themselves over by sheer weight of numbers. We looked like we could score at any moment…and we very nearly did…and we didn’t….

3. The rest was so predictable that you shouldn’t get depressed about it. What happened is what usually happens: our opponents spent the interval transforming themselves from a bewildered shambles into a vaguely competent football team, whereas we’d have been much happier carrying on without a break. County were galvanised by an early set piece goal; we discovered that glossy football is much easier when you’re not under pressure, physical and mental, and looked around forlornly in the hope that John Eustace would pop up out of nowhere to shout, point and kick things until it was all right again. He didn’t. You half-expected to see Malky striding over towards the County bench to open negotiations with Jon Harley…

4. A slightly undignified exit, then…but with a squad that already feels stretched, it’s hard to have too many regrets. The youngsters will get more than their fair share of first team experience by May; forty-six league games will last quite long enough.

5. As if to demonstrate the point, Danny Graham’s injury during a short and questionable substitute appearance was the real low point of the night, a reminder of the thin ice that separates us from drowning. You can only do so much with these resources before you have to trust to luck: lose two or three of the core first team to injuries and no amount of tactical tweaking or desperate pleas for whoever fills Will Hoskins’ boots would be able to save us. The manager would still get the blame, everyone would pick out a scapegoat to howl at…but there’d be precious little anyone could do.

It’s going to be a long season. We’re going to need some good fortune. But cling onto this: if fortune does indeed favour the brave, then we have every right to put our hands up high.


1. JohnF - 26/08/2010

An exhilarating ride in the first half and an uncomfortable second half. Difference from normal was that we didn’t wait until the last 10 minutes to concede. Cracking free-kick though. I thought the ref was a little lenient on some of the two footed lunges from County but some of the more experienced players, Mariappa and Doyley, didn’t really step up to the leadership plate at the back. Thought the youngster at right-back looked very promising, and taller than 5ft 5ins. Deeney got off the mark and maybe will now stop trying too hard. The real worry is Danny. A silly injury and a risk too far perhaps.

Harefield Hornet - 27/08/2010

I too was bloody annoyed Danny was thrown into this so late and with the resulting and almost predictable injury but I suppose Malkey was trying to undo the damage that had been caused by not starting him in the first place. Big blow if he misses tomorrow or even more games.

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