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Watford 2 Doncaster Rovers 2 (11/09/2010) 11/09/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from a see-saw match against Donny

1- Very difficult, in such particularly draining and familiar circumstances, to take a detached view that doesn’t focus on the last thirty seconds or so and their consequences. Nonetheless, the galling defensive fragility that saw us ship yet another late goal (and one shouldn’t be using “yet another” in September…), and the two points dropped as a consequence shouldn’t mask the fact that a draw was the very most we deserved from this one. For the first half and a fair chunk of the second we looked pedestrian and limited in possession, lacking the wit to beat Donny’s offside trap or the brute force to bully the game into another shape. Add to this an unhelpful susceptibility to Donny’s counterattack and you are left looking at a pretty soft touch… a game quite different to Leeds and yet horribly similar loomed into view at that point.

2- The change in script owed everything to Marvin Sordell, whose contribution and its implications set the afternoon aside from the joyless misery that was the Leeds defeat. Here is a genuine reason to be cheerful… because to my mind, this afternoon tips the balance as far as young Marvin’s concerned. He’s got lots of potential, even those of us who don’t see the stiffs or the junior teams in action will have heard of him before we’d seen him play. And yet…. well, here’s the old fart coming out in me again, perhaps. This week I was asked to list my favourite twenty albums; nineteen of them are bloody old. I’m no longer young, I no longer have my finger any near any kind of pulse (not that I ever did), and I no longer get stupidly carried away by young strikers with bags of potential before they’ve shown that they’re going to exploit it. I remember Wayne Andrews, Theo Robinson, any number of others. But now, now, finally, I intend to get excited about Marvin Sordell. We knew he had pace, we knew he could strike a ball. Now we know he has so much more. He came off the bench and changed the game, his two goals displaying strength, awareness, confidence, an ability to get the ball out from beneath his feet. Good call, Malky.

3- I wasn’t convinced by the widely accepted view that we needed to recruit a left back. Lloydy’s got his faults, but you wouldn’t have a Watford team without him, I certainly wouldn’t. But Andrew Taylor showed us what we’ve been missing… a thoroughly solid, competent, left-back display from a player who immediately looks as nailed on in his preferred position for the rest of his loan as the number on his back suggests he should. On this evidence, Lloyd will be in at right back when he recovers, young Hodson needs a break.

4- There’s nothing more tedious than whining about a refereeing performance, and as above I wouldn’t argue that we merited any more that we got. But three plausible looking penalty shouts waved away in the first half alone? The first two for me were clear cut… McGinn had knocked the ball clear and was tripped, the tackle perhaps so late as to have fooled the referee completely. Martin Taylor’s marker had more yellow shirt in his hand than Taylor was left wearing shortly afterwards… and if the third would have been harsh – I’m not convinced that O’Connor wasn’t fooled by the path of the ball, he had no reason to handle it – you’ve certainly seen them given. My father argued that a second half free kick awarded on the edge of the area was well inside – any better views than ours from the Rookery appreciated. The point was… even at this early stage it felt unlikely that we were destined to win. (My co-editor would also want me to mention, on the subject of officials, that whilst female officials aren’t a problem at all, twelve year old female officials probably are, even on family day)

5- Ten years ago, one wouldn’t have put money on John Oster reinventing himself as a ball-playing central midfielder. Disappearing up his own backside in the conference with Wrexham or someone was my punt… “in prison” was a marginally less charitable suggestion. Nonetheless, there he was… and impressive with it in a tidy looking Donny side.


1. Nick - 11/09/2010

It’s nearly two years since our last home penalty (boxing day 08 I believe) I’m beginning to think we’ll never get one….

2. James - 12/09/2010

I’d agree with all of that, apart from the last sentence, describing Donny as tidy.
They’re by far the dirtiest side we’ve played so far. If it hadn’t been for such generous refereeing they’d have been down to 10 men at some point in the second half.
In possession they tried to pass it around a bit, but without much success, and mostly ended up hitting over-ambitious cross-field balls into the lower Rous. Which makes it all the more disappointing we weren’t able to kill off the game and take all three points.

Matt Rowson - 12/09/2010

dirtier than leeds? let’s not get carried away…

3. Jon - 12/09/2010

Marvin Sordell has got “something”. I’m sure there have been many that have been putting the knife in , especially after the Notts County game. But the point is, he was still getting in positions (in that game) to miss even in the very last minute. He’s not a natural goalscorer, but he’s got that knack of being there at the right time. He’s probably going to miss a hat full of sitters, but he’s going to score as well. Remind you of anyone? Whether it’s for us or in the Conference only time will tell, but there is starting to be the air of expectancy when he gets the ball. Fingers crossed, but don’t let him take a penalty, if we ever get one!

4. rousman - 12/09/2010

The referee got the second half penalty shout right, (one of the few things he did get right all afternoon)although you could say he was the last man red card ? I was to far away to see the first half ones although the Mcginn one looked from the other end of the ground a good shout.The first half performance was not good, things did get a lot better in the second half due to Marvin & the change from the diamond formation to 442.Buckley is a wide player not a central striker, as was proved when he went wide right. As you say we should not be saying in September the word Again with regard to last minute goals. Andrew Taylor has one thing Lloyd has not a decent left foot he will be much more at home back in his old home on the right.

5. Mike S - 12/09/2010

Good call on Marvin, Matt. I was having the same debate about whether to get excited about him. Also, wondering if I can seamlessly change my cat’s name from Marlon to Marvin without him noticing…

Re: Penalties. First one I thought was nailed on, until I saw the lack of reaction from the players, and to an extent, from the Rookery. The shouts from both for the second were far more vociferous, although I suppose that could be a cumulative thing. But the second one also looked nailed on; the only slight doubt for me was whether Taylor had a similar amount of the Donny guy’s shirt on my blind side – I was low down, right behind the goal. If not, it seemed so obvious that there can be little excuse for the ref not seeing it.

As for the third, I thought it hit the guy in the face, and by that stage, the players and fans alike were likely to scream for anything. But I’ve been known to get things wrong from time to time…

6. Jimbob - 12/09/2010

Your father was wrong Matt – from someone who sits almost level with the 18yd line in the Lower Rous at that end of the ground. Just a case of a player being bundled over and momentum (or to a cynic, opportunism) carrying him into the box.

7. Pete - 12/09/2010

I didn’t see Donny as dirty. Tidy is a good word. I thought of them as NuCru. But let’s face it, we lost the toss, kicked the ‘wrong way’, against a team in sky blue, on ‘family day’… when do we ever win in ANY of those circumstances, let alone all of them.

PS Adam Lockwood truly is awful. Compared to him our defence was decidedly rock solid. Actually I thought Mariappa was…

8. The Great Big O - 12/09/2010

I was already excited about Marvin. Then, after the second strike, my teenage son casually said: “That turn reminded me of Marlon King”.

I’m now, permanently, very excited about Marvin.

9. Dave Jackson - 12/09/2010

Perhaps the shambles that led to their equaliser stemmed from our late substitutions and people not being clear who was meant to be marking who.
What is the reason for them? To waste time that the ref will add on anyway?
After such a great recovery it was painful to see it chucked away.
While I’m whingeing, I don’t see Sordell coming on as a good substitution, more as finally getting the shape right 55 minutes late. As someone said above, Buckley is clearly a better wide option and the balance better with 2 up and him wide. Hopefully that is the way we’ll start from now.

Matt Rowson - 12/09/2010

very harsh Dave. It was a good substitution, irrespective of whether it corrected a wrong that you would have perceived at the start of the game. For me the substitution didn’t involve a change in shape… Buckley was playing up front with Graham, Sordell coming on meant a player more comfortable playing as a wide option was put in McGinn’s position but we were playing the same formation.

There’s an element of 20-20 hindsight in your comment. If you genuinely wouldn’t have tried Buckley up front before the game then I apologise in advance… but for me, Sordell hadn’t been totally convincing, Buckley had looked more effective up front, where his movement could be exploited, than tied to the flank. As it turned out of course, Buckley wasn’t clever or alert enough with his runs. I’d still suggest he’s an option up front in a different kind of game though, particularly where we’re counterattacking.

10. Southbourne Sid - 12/09/2010

From my seat in the Rookery the first two penalties looked nailed on. McGinn was clearly tripped. For the second one, think back to Coventry’s penalty a few weeks ago. From the TV, that looked like the ref gave it for shirt pulling. Compare that with Saturday when the defender was trying to remove Taylor’s shirt.
For our first goal, it just shows what can happen if you can move the ball down the wing and send in a good cross. I think that so far this year we’ve not used the wings enough.

11. SteveG - 12/09/2010

We may not have deserved to win, but given the times when we have deserved to win and didn’t, I think we’d all have settled for the three points on a day when we had at least dragged ourselves back into the game after what I agree was a poor first half performance.

And if destiny had really been against us the referee would surely have found a way to disallow the goal because Danny Graham jumped in a vaguely threatening way in the general direction of Neil Sullivan. There wasn’t a lot he got right, but at least he allowed a fair challenge on a keeper, an increasingly rare occurrence these days.

Matt Rowson - 13/09/2010

both fair points

Gin n Tonic - 13/09/2010

IMO it was a foul on the GK it happened in front of me DG made no attempt to play the ball instead choosing to jump into Sullivan. Watch if again his eyes do not go anywhere near the ball.

We then rolled onto him preventing him from getting to his feet quickly. The ref was poor but poor for both sides

12. Tim Turner - 12/09/2010

On the Buckley issue: when I heard the line-up before the game, I assumed he was going to play ‘in the hole’ behind Danny Graham, as Rooney did for England in midweek – using his pace to break into space created by Graham, and generally to confuse and distract the Donny defence.

So playing him alongside Graham, and then instructing Scott Loach to boot every goal kick in his general direction as if he was Emile sodding Heskey, seemed just plain perverse, and a complete waste of his speed and nimble footwork.

So fair play to Malky for putting it right in the second half, but I really hope he doesn’t try this experiment again. IMHO, Buckley has to more to offer on the wing than McGinn or, on form so far this season, Cowie.

13. Alex Thompson - 13/09/2010

On the subject of officials, how at least 1 of those wasn’t given is beyond me. If the trip on McGinn wasn’t a penalty then why wasn’t there a booking for diving, as that would be the only other explanation? The shirt pulling was on our side of Taylor and so could arguably have been missed by the officials (it shouldn’t have but you could see how it may have been), and regardless of what the ref might have thought about the players intentions for the handball, a defender shouldn’t be raising their arms in the box. We’ve all seen each of those types of penalties being given against us with little reason for us to complain, so how we failed to be awarded any is a bit perplexing.

However, I have to disagree about the comments of the ’12 year old’ female lino being a problem. I too thought that it might be a problem initially, but whilst she looked young, and probably was, I don’t think she got a decision wrong all afternoon. She was the wrong side of the pitch to intervene on the penalty decisions (perhaps the handball being the exception) and got her offsides correct as far as I could see. To be honest, I’d rather have her running the line than an ‘experienced’ older man who thinks the ball has gone in the goal when it’s gone for a corner.

14. Steve T - 13/09/2010

One of the advantages for me of family days at the Vic these days is that I spent most of the game trying to keep my son focused on anything to keep him still during the game.

He’s 5 and I’m quite proud that he knows the “Yellow Arnie” (sic) chant and is turning out to be a fine judge of a game; chanting “Hurry Up, Watford” when he realised there was about 20 minutes to go until he’d be able to go to Nana’s house and play lego.

That leaves my view of the game as being slightly distorted, but overall, after going down 1-0 with such a miserable first half performance, dare I say we should be happy with a point?

Defensively I didn’t think we did too badly. I saw our biggest problem as the midfield which was missing on too many occasions. McGinn can’t play on the left, Cowie can’t play on the right, Mutch is struggling to settle in (although I thought he did better than against Leeds) and Eustace can’t carry the midfield on his own.

The lack of quality possession meant that Buckley and Graham struggled up front. For all that he looked great in pre-season, I’m not convinced Buckley is suited to the second striker role – he looks much better on the right wing, although thats possibly not a luxury we can afford if the rest of the midfield is as weak as it was on Saturday.

Unfortunately I think Malky is going to have to tinker with the precise roles of the players for a few games. I’d like to see him try McGinn at the head of the diamond – in pre season he was good at hitting the box, following up on rebounds and showed that he can head a ball well. If he can’t play there then I think he’s going to struggle for us.

Cowie has to play on the left – all his best work has come from that side. That leaves a space for Buckley on the right and the option of Graham on his own with another midfielder, or with Sordell/Deeney (I don’t mind which at the moment).

Ho Hum.

15. AJC - 13/09/2010

A fine five thunks as ever, but the one thing that I haven’t seen raised recently is the question of why we bring everyone back to defend corners?

I remember Boothroyd being asked the question when he deployed these tactics and he said that it allowed us to break quickly and unexpectedly. Am I the only one who sees no evidence of this?

I don’t think we have cleared or kept posession from an opposition corner in any of our last three home games. The only corner where we didn’t actually give the opposition a shooting opportunity was this week when Eustace got fouled as their guy headed over.

With 11 men in the box it makes it impossible for Loach to come and claim the ball, and with no one on the posts they’re all in active areas even though 3 or 4 of them are never going to win a header. Even where we’ve won the first header the ball has dropped to the edge of the areas for the other team to whip another cross in or to have a shot.

To my count 4 of the last 5 goals we’ve conceded at home have resulted either directly or from a second phase of play following an opposition corner.

I see so many things about this side I really like but this feels to me like a deliberate tactical choice to shoot ourselves in the foot.

This may be another reason why I’m not the manager of a professional football club but please can someone explain to me what I’m missing?

Moralee Reprehensible - 13/09/2010

Also as regards our defending of corners, if you leave one man up, the other side will generally keep two players back. Therefore you will alter the ratio of players in and around the box in your favour.

Equally when you have a corner, it seems obvious to me that you should always bring a second player across, whether or not you actually plan to take it short, because it will drag out two defenders to man-mark the two attackers. Otherwise no defenders will go out if there’s just the man taking the corner-kick. Once again, this affects the men-in-box ratio.

Correct me if I’m wrong Matt, but it’s simple arithmetic, isn’t it?

So if Doncaster had two men out by the corner flag (which they generally did) and we brought everyone back (which we do) the ratio of men in or near the box is affected in their favour by two players. That’s pretty significant.

Matt Rowson - 13/09/2010

Hmmm. Absolute numbers, rather than ratios, are important I think, unless you’re zonal marking in which case you deserve what you get. On that basis, most teams keep one player back by default, but two if an opposing attacker is left forward. So the absolute difference between number of markers vs attackers is unaffected. What it boils down to I guess is who those folk are… perhaps the lack of height in our squad means that Malky thinks it’s better to congest the penalty area and deny anyone space for a header. It becomes more of a lottery of course, and sometimes you lose them as well (see Saturday)

16. marcus - 13/09/2010

“I’d like to see him try McGinn at the head of the diamond – in pre season he was good at hitting the box, following up on rebounds and showed that he can head a ball well. If he can’t play there then I think he’s going to struggle for us.”

That is quite right about McGinn – he’s hardly a complete player but can “ghost” into the box.

How long before Dale Bennett makes the team? In place of or alongside Tiny Taylor?

Mariappa – another strong performance but I reckon as he can and does dribble past people he could be a RB (although he doesn’t seem to like that position) or even a MF player as well as CB.

Thunk re Andrew Taylor is spot on – first game and not a wobble. Sadly every oppo team is punting it high to Hodson who looks to have lost confidence to me.

Matt Rowson - 13/09/2010

Bennett’s going to be ace, but no case for replacing Mariappa or Taylor for me. Mariappa, certainly, has demonstrated over the years that whilst, as you say, he can move with the ball, he gets pulled inside as a full back. He’s a centre-back now, and is becoming the leader at the back. Wouldn’t go messing with that.

Gin n Tonic - 13/09/2010

Taylor continues to look frail to me he is the experience in the back four and needs to play like it or be dropped. Mariappa is the best defender in the team why move him from his best position.

Bennett far to early to tell has not looked overly impressive to me when I have seen him. I prefer the lad Oshodi or whatever his name is and think he will a much better player.

People seem full of praise for Mariappa, Reluctant to criticise Taylor, think Doyley is God and Hodson is a good talent so please tell me why we cant defend, either people are mistaken or the results are lying! Or maybe it’s the Goalkeeper?

McGinn what’s the point? ~ He goes missing can’t tackle and wont challenge for 50/50 balls. We seem to have an abundance of central midfielders and we are simply playing the diamond to accommodate them all.

Matt Rowson - 13/09/2010

“people” are entitled to their opinion GnT. Hodson is a talent, but is struggling at the moment. Taylor, as I’ve said here before, needs to be nastier for me, more of a bully… but I don’t want to criticise him more harshly because frankly we need him to work out.

Mariappa has been probably our best player this season for me, and I wouldn’t have a team without Doyley so shoot me. I wouldn’t put our late capitulations down to bad defending – for the most part the team defends well. If we’re short on anything it’s leadership and nerve… in the former case, we’ve a very young side. Mariappa is growing into that role. Mackay implied as much with his comments afterwards – needing someone shouty in there in the last few minutes. That’s the biggest single problem at the back.

I’ve not seen much of Oshodi but Bennett is very very quick, I like him a lot. We need Taylor’s height at the moment though.

Gin n Tonic - 13/09/2010

For a tall lad Taylor is not very good in the air. He needs to win more balls for me MT needs to be that leader and is not

ATM we need to score 3 goals to win a game that is poor defending. something is wrong, very wrong be it confidence communication or whatever we need to sort it out

17. Simmo - 13/09/2010

Sorry Matt but please track back to the Coventry game and I was saying “Again” in August. Do I win any prizes for beating you by a month?

Very good thunks as always.

18. marcus - 13/09/2010

Oshodi from brief appearances looks v comfortable on the ball and may grow into a talented defender. But Bennett is big, strong, fast, fearless and already somewhat experienced in comparison. Taylor (M) can’t or doesn’t jump so his height doesn’t help as much as it should; Mariappa can leap as high and Bennett much higher.

I had hoped Taylor’s arrival with his experience and size would “solve” the defence issues…but while it has improved to an extent it’s not there yet and I doubt there is much further improvement to go with him.

I think Taylor’s contract is up at season end so I am pretty sure DB will be blooded as our large CB in the 2nd half of the season.

@ GnT: “Or maybe it’s the Goalkeeper?” He doesn’t dominate the box or organise his back 4 (but Gilmartin looks worse).

Matt Rowson - 13/09/2010

Taylor merely being there draws a couple of bigger markers. He’s not a bully, but we’re an awful lot better off than we were before he arrived. Bennett is 5’11”, so hardly a custom-made replacement.

Johnny Boy - 14/09/2010

It is my perception that M Taylor plays much better when Watford are in front. Against Donny in the first half his headers were going nowhere and he never settled on the ball. Once we were ahead his heading was more penetrating, he ran with the ball( he is quite good on the ball for a big man but still slow) and I actually heared him shout – a rarity. If he is a mood player they should get Loachy to give him a extra big cuddle before the kick off.
Re midfield, is Ross now a lost cause. I know Mr Tourettes in the lower rouse thinks so but I think the boys still got potential.

19. PDF - 13/09/2010

I think McGinn is wasted out wide. He is not quick and doesn’t seem to take on players as much as a traditionally wide player needs to. Bring him inside and forget about Mutch as a starter. He is taking a lot of crap on wml, but let’s be honest, he isn’t very good on the basis of what we’ve seen.

But I did enjoy the game in so far as my expectations are so bloody low on these family fun days, that anything other than a defeat or a dreadfully boring draw are my expectations. I predicted 0-0 and it should have been 4-2.

But we’ve consistently failed to beat Doncaster who are always well organised, spoil the games and pass the ball. To continue to underestimated them as “just Doncaster” is to put us in a category which says we are better than they are. We’re not.

Gin n Tonic - 14/09/2010

Hes not playing out wide…

He tucked inside in a diamond formation unfortunatly he is far too leightweight and can not tackle. Actually he just looks like he doesnt like physical contact

20. Sequel - 13/09/2010

AJC: from my position in the Lower Rous (level with the penalty spot), at 1-1, I noted that we defended a corner with all 11 players within 12 yards of goal. If that’s not inviting trouble then my name’s not Lloyd Doyley

21. somerset'orn - 14/09/2010

Thanks Matt, always good to know that when I miss a home game there’s somewhere I can go to find out what REALLY happened.

I’m not joining in with the Mutch-bashing – I saw him against Leeds and whilst he certainly didn’t impress, we did see a player who gets involved in everything and has a knack of being in the right place – that may yet come good for us if his ball playing develops.

However, it’s Bristol City away tonight, and I can’t help hoping that Malky takes him out of the firing line – the line-up that worked so well at Norwich is now available to us again and I can’t see any reason to deviate from that for tonight’s game.

22. Gin n Tonic - 14/09/2010

What has Martin Taylor and a Vindaloo got in common?

There dangerous at box ends!

Gin n Tonic - 14/09/2010

both ends even

23. marcus - 14/09/2010

@ Matt ” Bennett is 5’11″, so hardly a custom-made replacement.”

I am not calling you a liar or even doubting your word but when I saw your comment last night I dashed into my son’s bedroom and consulted the Watford FC calendar on his wall only to find……Dale Bennett is indeed 5’11″ !

I’ll swear he looks to be 6’2″ on the pitch this season and wonder if he has enjoyed a late growth spurt! Either way, I am v impressed how he quickly attacks the ball, gets in front of the opponent and jumps up to head it. If it’s him versus Tiny Taylor to get a high ball into the box, my money would be on DB 8 times out of 10!

Fingers crossed for tonight anyway…..

24. Dave Hart - 14/09/2010

Towards the end of last season, Taylor had an achilles injury which he tried to play through (hence why he kept on being out jumped to the ball). It wouldn’t surprise me if it is still troubling him, although not to the extent of last season.

Having seen both Bennett and Oshodi play, I would say that the former is far more ready for first team football than the latter. Bennett has made tremendous strides in his game, probably as a result of his loan spell at Kettering. Playing a dozen or so games in a couple of months, and an FA cup match with Fulham would have done him the world of good.

Bennett is a very good at jumping and heading by the way, a bit like Marriappa. I seem to remember one team last season trying to take advantage of his lack of height and not getting away with it.

Rob Kiernan is supposed to be a huge, two footed, prospect, so it will be interesting to see how his current loan at Yeovil helps his development. He can play both at CB and midfield.

I thought it was pretty obvious from the Notts County game that Sordell was knackered with 20 minutes to go. Had Graham not gotten injured, I suspect that Sordell would have subbed, and rested for the Leeds game four days later. He played through necessity, and it showed last week. I thought Mooney was way over the top in his criticism of him after the Leeds game.

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