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Watford 3 Middlesbrough 1 (25/09/2010) 25/09/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from another win. “Crikey”, would be the first, take that as read.

1- As anyone’s who’s supported us at home this season will surely testify, if the devastatingly clinical first twenty minutes was tremendous in itself, the seventy that followed were all the more pleasing. After twice losing winning positions late in the day at home (and a couple further home games, Leeds and Notts County, that were just as worrying in their own way), we faced a side that far outstripped our own in terms of experience and who gradually gained in composure as the game progressed. But if the visitors enjoyed vastly more possession in the second half… we didn’t let them do a lot with it. One rather unfortunate goal and one more clear cut chance isn’t a lot to show for Boro’s travails, for which the entire Watford side from front to back takes credit. Aidy Mariappa though… he da man in defence this season and no mistake. Rather inappropriate that his was the own goal, an heroic performance.

2- As for Boro… what an unlikeable rabble. Kris Boyd, Barry Robson and, in particular, Scott McDonald appeared to believe that they were still playing for the Old Firm in the SPL; we’ve all watched our own side, shorn of confidence and ideas, resort to taking a tumble in search of a set piece and a foothold on occasions, but this lot seemed to expect that falling over was the only necessary requirement in earning a free kick. Unfortunately they frequently were indulged by a criminally lazy refereeing performance that might have been more consequential and aggravating for it on another day. Fortunately they proved completely rubbish at taking advantage of several questionable set piece opportunities.

3- Julio Arca at left back. And you’ve just loaned us Andrew Taylor? Ha ha ha ha ha. Tell us another joke Gordon. What, punting the ball high to two tiny strikers for thirty minutes, when we’ve got Martin Taylor at centre back? No, stop, you’re killing me.

4- Danny Graham started last season like a train too. This time, I don’t find myself doubting how long his form might hold out. For starters, if the goals dried up for a spell last time, his performances nonetheless justified his selection. This season he’s on a whole new level in terms of confidence, fitness, contribution. He’s a leader up front, the attacking component of a suddenly imposing spine, and was absolutely tremendous today (and rather disappointed to be removed, it would appear, and with two goals against the side where you started you career and who then let you go, who can blame him). He benefits also from Sordell’s liveliness – a different threat to Helguson, more obviously a compatible foil. And Troy Deeney’s cameo shouldn’t be overlooked… if he’s yet to impose himself on the side, his attributes and value are gradually becoming evident. He came on today, held up the ball, bullied Boro’s forlorn back line and gave them a new problem.

5- As my co-editor observed, players will and have played much better than Will Buckley did today, and get booed off rather than applauded. I think Swash is tremendous…. and I noticed this week that he’s not even 21 for goodness’ sake, the same age as Michael Bryan essentially. And I’m all for encouraging youngsters. But he had a bit of a stinker today.


1. The Great Big O - 26/09/2010

We often start matches playing well without scoring. I often think ‘we could be 3-0 up by now’ – and suspect we’ll regret it that we aren’t.

Yesterday was definitely not another of those days. Our customary bright start delivered goals. Hot on the heels of the New Den, this could be a very pleasing trend.

There were moments in the first half when I thought John Eustace was the point around which the whole universe turned. I loved the way he made himself available, played quick accurate passes, or held onto the ball comfortably until an opportunity arose to deliver it with penetration. And the movement up ahead of him was excellent.

Also, with those laser-like long passes, is Martin Taylor actually Glenn Hoddle in disguise?

2. Joons - 26/09/2010

An interesting game at the Vic. It’s never boring watching Watford, is it? Dominant display from Mariappa, incredible work rate from Graham and the Don, and Captain Johnny running the show, as ever. Marvellous Marvin might be raw, but he’s our raw and is having a really bright start.

Saying that, have to agree that Boro were a petulant shambles in the first half: McManus and Wheater defended like clowns. Julio Arca was once bought for ¬£3.5m….laughable.

Lastly, a lovely set piece move for the second goal…..and a superb finish from Mutch.

3. SimR - 26/09/2010

I have to disagree with thunk 5 – Buckley didn’t have the best of games but he continued to offer us something different. The fluidity with which him and Cowie regularly switched flanks, their willingness to cut inside, and eagerness to run at Boro’s clueless fullbacks was a joy to watch. Cowie was clearly doing a much better job at this but Buckley played his part.

One other thing, I know it’s futile to rant at referee’s performances but I have to say this probably ranks as one of the worst I’ve seen. The number of soft free kicks he gave just outside our area was laughable. Against more deadly opposition the result could have been completely different.

4. PDF - 26/09/2010

Can we stop it with the Swash? His fan-name must be Jeff. End of.

It was great that we didn’t fuck this up and Joan got to rid herself of the sort of voodoo curse that an 18 month old should not have to deal with. I think this was her 6th attempt to get a win and had it not been for the silly o’clock equaliser for Doncaster, we could have sorted this out a few weeks ago.

I’m very much in love with this team. It seems right in the context of who we are. I’m sick and tired of listening to people trying to objectify Watford. We are an entirely subjective entity and should always be regarded in the way we individually choose to see them. If anyone sees us as potential power brokers at the top table, then they’re clearly mentally ill.

I love who we are.

Steve Bristers Yellow Army – and a big shout out to, to Ed Messenger.

Matt Rowson - 26/09/2010

Jeff. yawn.

The Great Big O - 27/09/2010

“We are an entirely subjective entity and should always be regarded in the way we individually choose to see them.”

We? They? Who? What?

5. StevieT - 26/09/2010

It’s perhaps symptomatic of our season to date that I never felt we had this match won until the final whistle was blown. Surely it’s only watford fans that think “We need a fourth goal to close a game out.”

That said, for all their individual talent, ‘Boro were a poor team and quite laughable on occasions. They didn’t appear capable of putting pressure on us – although we didn’t let them play much either.

6. Nashinho - 26/09/2010

Buckley had a stinker? Really? I don’t get to too many matches, but I saw a guy who could stop the ball dead with one touch and then appeared to have it at his feet 10 yards away before you could blink. He has obviously set a very high standard in previous matches. However he is a someone of slight build and may appear light weight under more robust pressure I will concede.
I also thought Sordell did not do himself or the team too many favours in the second half. He maybe felt that he should have scored, and dwelt on that fact when decision making, rather than choosing to distribute the ball as well as he had done so in the first half.
Don’t get me wrong. He is great, and will obviously become an even better asset than he is now.
So much to marvel at in this current team!

Ian Grant - 27/09/2010

Quite so, Jim: that was a brilliant moment, the absolute essence of Buckley. Now, tell me something else he did…? (I should point out that while I think he needs to make his presence count more and to pull his weight when things aren’t going his way, I’m quite happy to keep him in the side: our midfield looks a lot less pedestrian with someone who can ghost past people in an instant, even if he only does that once in seventy minutes….)

Nashinho - 27/09/2010

OK Ian – I do get the point, but possibly a bit harsh. I do believe he had a part in players receiving the ball in the opposition box on a number of occasions, but hey, I was watching the match with 3 under 9s in tow and it’s not always easy to follow exactly what’s going on in those circumstances.
It would be lazy of me to ask which of them did anything after 30 minutes so I won’t. Eh? Oh!

7. stephen hoffman - 26/09/2010

the performance of mutch makes a big difference in midfield. It means we have two midfielders playing at the top of the game, rather than one. This means often we win the midfield battle like we did today.

8. Sirhornet - 26/09/2010

A great result yesterday but was I the only one thinking at half-time. “How are we going to cock this up?” Old habits die hard. Whilst the ref was indeed poor, from my vanatge in the Vic Road end I can’t beleive he missed the bear hug Taylor was giving his marker before we scored the second. Never mind, about time we had some luck!

The particular stand-outs for me were Mariappa’s display and the fact that Eustace and Mutch appear to have agreed that Mutch will do all the running whilst Eustace “Quarterbacks” the game.

Seriously, if Mariappa was six inches taller, form like this would see him in the prem in no time.

9. straightnochaser - 26/09/2010

I’d just like to add to thunk 1 that Mariappa was ‘ably assisted’ in his OG by a blatant but unpunished shove in the back by the blunt instrument that was Kris Boyd. But then this “criminally lazy” ref was the same one that disallowed DG’s perfectly legitimate headed goal at Barnsley last season.(“Red” Fred Graham?)
And while sympathetic to the suggestion that Danny Graham deserved to stay on to try for his hat-trick, saving him for the next instalment kicking off only 70-odd hours later seems eminently sensible management to this observer…

10. Kris - 26/09/2010

If I meet Malky one of these days (highly unlikely in Copenhagen I know) I will demand an answer to the question “what is this team he is fielding and what has he done to my beloved Horns?”…

I am struggling to keep my usual pessimism/realism – I fear I will soon be one of those loonies who – after a win or two – proclaim we’re a shoe in for promotion. But it is difficult to keep the enthusiasm reigned in when we suddenly seem to be the real deal, that the old fella we got from Stoke whose legs had gone, that our front duo consisting of a no-skill/all pace youngster and a player who’s good for a half season tops – they suddenly seem to be the best striking dup in the league. Our Scottish winger who got stick for being no flair and all work rate – he is now universally praise for being no flair and all work rate (M. Rowson in the guardian). Our central defensive pairing used to be poor. Oh – ad our Brummie loanee who used to be crap and would never be as inmportant to us as Lansbury and Cleverly – well that 18yo fella has 2 in 2 and suddenly might be…

This doesn’t feel the way I had expected. We’re not struggling yet – and while I firmly believe we are still amongst the relegation favourites – right now, I’m dreaming of the playoffs.


11. SteveG - 26/09/2010

Didn’t get to the game, but listened on the radio as we went three up with a mixture of excitement and the sort of foreboding that Stevie T and Sirhornet clearly shared. Then settled down with a cup of tea and the Labour conference on the TV and the football on the laptop for an anxious last half hour.

Mounting anxiety as the live text came in and the Boro pulled one back. But relief that it all came out right in the end. Bringing Ed Miliband off the bench to snatch the winner in added time was an interesting tactical move. I know there are those who feel that he drifts out to the left wing too much rather than stamping his authority in the centre, but he’s clearly one for the future. The 2014-15 season will prove crucial, I think.

The return of Rodgers on Tuesday will clearly prove controversial – those of us with long (if perhaps fallible) memories still think he should never have left to join the SDP with Ross Jenkins, Brian Owen and Shirley Williams back in the 1981-82 season.

Back in the real world, we do seem to be hitting the back of the net and converting chances in a way that we threatened so often last season but so rarely achieved. The last Swansea game was a classic for one of those that got away…we could have had that one wrapped up by half time with a bit of luck and a bit more sharpness in the area. Wouldn’t it be good to get revenge on Tuesday?

marcus - 27/09/2010

Bill Who?

12. Capt'n Toddy - 27/09/2010

It was unquestionable reported to me that when the third goal went in, a certain person in North Norfolk was singing ‘Yellow Army’ whilst lying painfully on his back in a high sided bed… I challenge anybody to tell me a more inspiring story than that….. Oh! and by the way, he and I both love you all.

PDF - 27/09/2010

A great man passes.

13. Jamie Parkins - 27/09/2010

Strangely I felt very confident in this game. We bossed it and were never really under the cosh at any time. If anything the crowd can play a part by not worrying and panicking. I’m sure it translates to the pitch.

Really enjoy the football and the verve being displayed on the pitch at the moment. It’s exciting stuff. The division is still extremely tight, as I expect it will be all season. Another 15 points by Christmas and I’ll start to feel comfortable.

14. Joe Richardson - 27/09/2010

My first game this season and the first game I have taken my girlfriend to since the awful Palace game last season (we hit every post on the pitch before losing 3-1).

I mentioned to her before the game that we had been starting quickly and the best possible start would be a goal in the first 10 minutes. Well…

I’ve not seen the team looking so confident moving forward in a long time, terrifying defences into mistakes, winning every ball with their back to the goal before managing to turn and start a fresh attack, and (crucially) getting something at the end of it (the complete opposite of the above Palace game).

Graham seemed to be limping slightly towards the end of his contribution, so I was happy to see him removed and rested, and certainly we had slowed down dramatically in the second half so needed a bit of new energy up front. The loss of verve in the last third of the game angered a few of those around me in the Upper Rous. In fact, that was the low-point of the afternoon – after the Mariappa OG somebody behind me screamed “disgraceful” and turned to their friend and suggested they “walk out”….granted, the second half was pretty flat compared to the first 30 minutes, but I couldn’t believe a Watford fan would leave before seeing the first home win of the season, and a resounding scoreline as well. Maybe he had voted for Ed Balls.

Very, very happy about the spirit at the club at the moment (even if it’s not shared by all the fans), the toilets had hot water and even the veggie samosas were good!

15. NickW - 27/09/2010

Fantastic result, very happy days to be a Watford fan.

The attendance was appalling though, what can the club do to get people through the turnstile?

Kris - 27/09/2010

Continue winning I suppose…

On a longer term – get the stadium re-done so it is less of an eye-sore.

Nashinho - 27/09/2010

Hi Nick,

1) have another family day – see attendance Vs Doncaster.
2) Get promoted.

The traditional answer might be to play flowing attractive football whilst scoring lots of goals and winning successive matches, but hey……

16. Luke Fairweather - 27/09/2010

RE: NickW

What can the club do to get people though the turnstile?

Allow at least one turnstile to be pay on the day, instead of all of this advance booking, loyalty club, demographic analysis, smartcard, swipe and wipe nonesense. A process which actively turns us from being a community club into an electronic elite. Just what is so wrong with hard currency?


17. sam - 27/09/2010

SteveT – love the political inferences – brilliantly high-brow. Malky has a shop steward / old Labour air to him, must be pleased that Ed got in on the block vote. Is Ashcroft our own Berlusconi without the blondes on the side?

18. Adam J - 28/09/2010

i would love to know both the average number of comments on wins as opposed to losses. I would also like to see the ratio of comments to goals scored in the game. Anyone who has a spare afternoon or two…

19. Harefield Hornet - 28/09/2010


Not directly relevant to any of the above but has anyone noticed how Mr Rodgers has gradually been cranking up the forthcoming tension this week relating to his acrimonous departure? His soundbites are appearing in every paper or website that will listen. This snake is even trying to disguise it as a belated apology to all of us ” I should have stayed at Watford etc” – what he is really doing is diverting the pressure off his team that haven’t won on the road this season onto himself in the hope they will sneak a win. We all need to be have our wits about us tonight, any overdone venom is his direction will spur on his team.

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