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Watford 3 Derby County 0 (15/01/2011) 16/01/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from yet another victory…

1- In the pub beforehand, the fear was that this would be the one. Derby… OK, on a poor run, but won the same fixture a year ago with similar key men when also on a poor run, and in a fashion which might be expected to be fruitful should they try it again. They did try it again, kinda, although this was a far sloppier, shoddier Derby than that which won here last season (see Thunk 4), and yet we managed to fashion another flavour of three goal victory. A slight variant on last week, in fact; it took us a while to get the breakthrough, but then the goals flowed like water through a hole in a dam. Our visitors contributed to two of them, but the second was a brutally beautiful, clinical exploitation of an opposition that was reeling. There are so many goals in this side at the moment it’s not true, and 22 in 7 games – 7 games in which the incomparable Graham has netted at least once – is just silly. The second half was almost as impressive as the goal rush… pantomime dame Robbie Savage on 606, whilst conceding our superiority, asked our caller how many shots a supposedly magnificent Watford had had in the second half. He missed the point. Derby were chasing the game, had most of the ball, and precisely no shots on target. Our game, from the moment we took the lead.

2- Is it wrong to eulogise Martin Taylor twice within a fortnight? Sod it, I’m going to do it anyway. At times today he looked like a tolerant Dad playing with a bunch of kids in the park… trying not to humiliate or hurt anybody, but clearly, physically, on every level effortlessly superior to what was going on around him, and just too competitive not to make it count. The bollocks.

3- Referee Gavin Ward might have to toughen up slightly if he wants to make the Prem list. His role in the day’s events was incidental, but a footnote to the afternoon was him becoming possibly the first referee ever to be swayed by the cacophony of noise (ahem) that is Vicarage Road. At the end of the first half, Kris Commons received a cross field ball inside the area, and brought it down brilliantly with his chest/shoulder. “Handball”, yelled the Rookery… not the yell of conviction borne of a clear misdemeanour, but a sort of ripple effect prompted by one or two shouts and several others thinking “yeah, worth a try” and joining in. And Mr.Ward acquiesed, to Commons’ fury. the winger’s half that far had suggested that a superb first touch tended to be let down by no pace whatsoever and little end product – a suggestion perhaps shared by Clough, who withdrew his charge at half time. In any event, he wasn’t going anywhere, so not a major turning point, but one for the history books nonetheless.

4- For all his surliness, it’s hard to dislike Nigel Clough or the approach to rebuilding the Rams that he has undertaken. Nonetheless, this looks a precarious position for the Derby manager… his side looked thoroughly miserable. Three bookings for dissent (a tally that looked a little lenient from our viewpoint), appalling body language… this isn’t a ship that’s about to be steadied. The first half told the full story of the two sides’ recent history… for whilst Derby should have exploited the openings provided by instances of poor communication at the back (but weren’t positive or lively enough), we mercilessly punished mistakes at the other end. Above all, Derby’s selection bore plenty of evidence of the fiddling borne of a lack of ideas… Robbie Savage, not the most mobile any more, alongside Miles Addison, just back from a year out, in central midfield? Quite an optimistic ask, that. With a more than passable midfield engine, Paul Green, at right back whilst a right-back spends a half at centre-back? I suspect the clock may be ticking for Mr Clough.

5- You know this, but I’m going to say it anyway. There have been better Watford sides than this in the past, and teams that have achieved more (although there’s time…). But this little spell bears comparison with the most illogically enjoyable of our past (and there have been plenty of those). We’ve not battled and scrapped for these results, although the work rate is there. We’re comprehensively too good for people, week after week. It would be prudent to reserve final judgment perhaps until we see the squad at the end of January. But at the moment, being ten points from safety looks, extraordinarily, irrelevant. And this with a first team with an average age of under 24, and a subs bench with an average age of 20. Truly, glorious fun at the moment, and not to be taken for granted.


1. Israelhornet - 16/01/2011

Never commented b4, but I thought I would point out that when we are doing well, Matt posts his thunks first thing sunday morning, but when we are doing badly it often takes a few days and sometimes never actually appears! May you continue to get up early on sunday Matt, for the rest of the season!

Matt Rowson - 16/01/2011

🙂 So well yesterday that I did it in the middle of the night!

You’ll always get thunks if Ian or I are at the game… we’ll only skip games if neither of us could make it.

2. Luke Fairweather - 16/01/2011

Agree… and that this splendid form continues despite our loan players departing and without Eustace and a not quite there Cowie is truly impressive. What a batch of kids we have here.
Sunday breakfast is so much tastier when you have match reports like these to gloat over.
Happy days

3. Dave Jackson - 16/01/2011

Great analogy about Taylor!
Also great to see Jenkins growing in confidence as the game progressed,useful to have such good cover for when JE not available.

4. MartinG - 16/01/2011

We seem to have periods each game at the moment when the turbo charger goes on and we overrun the opposition. The second goal yesterday was really well worked.
Taylor was fantastic and I thought Jenkins and McGinn were quality in midfield. Difficult to tell if we lost momentum when Cowie went off or we just knew the result was in the bag. Great stuff.

Matt Rowson - 16/01/2011

Definitely the latter for me. We took Cowie off and let Derby huff and puff… they needed to chase the game, and yet we didn’t give them a shot on target. Contrast this with our nerves in trying to protect (admittedly narrower) leads against Cov and Donny earlier in the season….

5. JohnF - 16/01/2011

Great result against a physical side on a dreadful soggy pudding of a pitch. A different approach needed but the same sort of result. The side is growing in experience as well as confidence. A pleasure to watch an assured performance with young Jenkins really looking the part and linking so well with McGinn who increasingly looks like a very good signing. Everybody played well and unlike Derby we looked like a team. Long may it continue and let’s hope for an end to the transfer window with the squad intact.

6. rousman - 16/01/2011

1st half performance was top draw, lots of shots on target even before we scored Cowie was about 75% fit (thats how good he is) Derby were poor. Second half there game plan was not to get beaten by a big score. Martin Taylor how good was he ? could be a suprise window target he is top draw.

7. graemeb - 16/01/2011

For me one of the most gratifying factors in our recent success has been the way in which fringe players have been stepping up to the mark. We’re all painfully aware of the lack of depth in this squad. The departure of Mutch and A Taylor, plus several injuries, has brought this into sharp focus.

So welcome on stage Messrs Jenkins, Bennett, Whichelow and Mingoia, with not one league start between them this season until the turn of the year. None of them have looked out of their depth and I think Bennett in particular has slotted into the defence without giving rise to any concerns for those around him.

We certainly need a couple of loan singings before the January window closes, as further injuries, particularly in defence, would leave us very stretched. But it’s been great to see these youngsters playing their part and knowing that each game will leave them stronger.

Matt Rowson - 16/01/2011

Bennett’s done pretty well, but I wouldn’t go quite as far as you have. He made mistakes against Hartlepool, including the one that gave them the goal, and we look a hell of a lot less secure since the reshuffle for me (although, you know, you’ll take 4-1 and 3-0 with a few wobbles no problem!). Mariappa doesn’t look happy at RB either for me. Bennett’s done some things very well… but there’s a bit of Dan Shittu about him in that he reacts very well to situations but with a bit more nous wouldn’t NEED to react quite so dramatically…

8. Roger Smith (aka Rookerynook) - 16/01/2011

Whatever else you say about Savage, he clearly leads by example. Not only should he have been sent off for multiple dissent, his team mates have clearly got the message too!

Matt Rowson - 16/01/2011

kinda depends what he said, doesn’t it. But you’re right, he sets an example which others follow. no chance of him pulling a teammate away from a confrontation.

9. Snorebens - 16/01/2011

A text I sent to a friend after the game said: “It may just be a fleeting moment in our history but I’m floating on air leaving the ground!”

It’s a rare occasion I regret getting a ST in the second row but missing out on some aspects of our multi-facted play is bringing forward a rethink. Have said that, you are up close to play and incidents and that ball was taken down by Common’s upper arm.

Matt Rowson - 16/01/2011

🙂 Fair enough Snorebens, I called that one wrong. But I still get to enjoy the multi-faceted thingy…

10. Nick - 17/01/2011

I disagree about bennett, for me I think he is much better than mariappa at centre back. He’s quicker, better in the air, stronger.

Absolutely loving watching this team play football.

Matt Rowson - 17/01/2011

Bennett’s got a lot of promise, and does some things very well… but Mariappa hasn’t gone thirty seven thousand games without missing one for nothing. Our central defence has looked pretty damn solid but there have been holes and mistakes in the second half at Scunny and in the couple of games since. Not a coincidence. The Taylor/Mariappa combo is one of the strongest elements of the team, albeit it’s the goals that are grabbing the attention. Bennett might become a better player, but isn’t at the moment.

Good to be able to have this discussion though – good that we have a central defence with two youth products presenting strong options.

11. Esp - 17/01/2011

For someone who enjoys the odd stat or two I am sure your birthday weekend was made all the more enjoyable after that match and a continuation of this potentially record breaking run.

I was not as pessimistic as you were in the pub beforehand Matt as my expectations were buoyed by reading the predictions of a Derby fan interviewed by a member of a WFC forum I subscribe to. He correctly predicted that Savage’s legs had gone; the Derby defence were not at all confident in front of Bywater, Clough is playing players “out of position” and finally he correctly predicted a 3-0 defeat for his boys. Their fans are not at all happy at the moment and could soon be revolting!

To add to your plaudits for our defence I am sure I witnessed Dale Bennett’s finest game in a Watford short he was brilliant in the 2nd half and in one storming tackle in the first he single handedly prevented a goal for Derby when he tackled near the line after a defensive mix up, if that had gone in who knows what might have been?

Our defence looked pretty frail and shaky last season (and at the start of this) and if we ignore a certaion Daniel Graham for a moment, this is the main area of improvement for me. My only slight concern is with Aidy at right back; central defence is my favoured position for him and a natural left back with Doyley at RB would be preferable. However with only 2 goals conceded in our last 4 matches whatever back 4 we have in front of our superb goalkeepers are doing a fine job.

Re: thunk 3 Matt you may well have picked on the only error Mr Ward made in the game but if the mark of a good referee is one you hardly notice then we had an exceedingly good one out there on Saturday. I think he let the game flow and didn’t make any controversial decisions apart from perhaps not yellow carding Savage for dissent when he was moaning far more than even the 3 Derby players who WERE booked for arguing. I am also pleased that he didn’t book us for timewasting when we deliberately take our time taking throw ins and celebrating goals. At 3-0 up it is an unnecessary tactic to deploy imho when we really can’t afford suspensions to key players.

Finishing the match wirh EIGHT home grown players on the pitch was great to se and it can only be a matter of time I suggrest before we satrt or finish a match with 10 outfield academy or home grown players and there are not many Championship sides who could boast such a feet.

If I was being disingenuous I would say that many goals in our last 3 home matches have been the result of opposition defensive blunders but winning matches whilst not having to play at our best is far prefereable to losing matches which we totally dominate!

Finally (after this particular remark by Hansen having the opposite affect) I would like to tell Malky if he’s reading this “You Won’t Win ANYTHING With Kids!

Matt Rowson - 17/01/2011

wouldn’t disagree with any of that.

Jeremy Clarkson - 17/01/2011

JC here

Ive always found Derby fans revolting so nothing new here….

12. Bob - 17/01/2011

comments regarding tiny are the thunk of the season for me. has to be our most consistent player so far.

i thought savage’s experience and in your face stlye would test jenkins and mcginn, but nothing doing.

Harefield Hornet - 17/01/2011

Savage had a nightmare – he’s a busted flush as far as I could make out.

13. NickB - 17/01/2011

Random thoughts –

Going to be a hell of a contest for POTS: Graham, Eustace, M.’Der Kaiser’ Taylor and plenty of supporting candidates…

Thought Loach was slow to read play and leave his line a couple of times; shades of earlier in the season. This may be because of the reshuffle, but I wish he’d patrol higher up the box and do the no-nonsense clearance bit a bit more.

Nice to see Bywater proactively applaud the Rookery – is this a first?

Derby would be better without Savage, who’s like Competitive Dad off The Fast Show: every move has to go through him, however much it slows things down. Not sure how McGinn got away with that early whack, mind you.

Matt Lovett - 18/01/2011

I think Savage over egged the pudding on that one. Yes, he went down like a sack of spuds, but as soon as he realised that the referee had seen it for what it was (2 blokes jousting for an aerial ball with no malice of forethought), he got up, had a brief moan and got on with it. Your comparison with Competitive Dad is absolutely spot on though – I can just picture him on the beach in Barbados, packing the land side with fielders then smacking the ball into shark infested waters and muttering ‘chase that you c***s’ under his breath!

14. David - 17/01/2011

Funny how sometimes one see things differently to others…
Mapps has had a fine season at centre half, but he’s half the player at right back where his limited distribution is exposed. He covered well at time for Dale on Sat afternoon and will face sterner tests, but Andrew Taylor’s departure has shown what a difference a left footed left back makes and a specialist right back, too. Dale is a beast of a centre-half but some of his positional errors will get exposed by better attacking teams. He’s a colussus against the long pass in the air though. Tiny’s distribution has imprved beyond all recognition and so has his confidence: he now uses his big frame whereas for the first half last season he was the most timid man of his size I’ve ever seen.

I’ve been disappointed by Ross Jenkins in recent weeks. He sits far too deep, allowing the opposition midfield too much time on the ball. Watch Eustace when he returns: his judgement as to when to protect the centre halves and when to push up and pressure the ball is examplary. That’s what makes him such an effective player. Meanwhile Stevie McGinn looks a better signing every time he plays – I just wish he would get on the ball a bit more and take control of a game. I guess that will come with more game time. As for the Don – we must get him signed up asap, before others realise his work rate and consistency of performance are very special.

Meanwhile, Danny’s goal was stunning – long may his run continue.

15. James Bartlett - 17/01/2011

As a Horn far away in Los Angeles, thanks so much for these reports. One thing though; Danny Graham’s now scored in 7 or 8 games on the trot – is that the record yet? I saw most of Mooney’s 7 years ago, but is Danny there?

Matt Rowson - 18/01/2011

I think that the WO have reported that seven matches the record (the third to do this, most recently Frank “Leftie” McPherson in 1929), but nobody has done more than seven in competitive fixtures. Mooney “only” did six in a row.

Kris - 19/01/2011

Hate to nit pick Matt – nobody has done it in 7 league fixtures (I think most would agree that an FA cup fixture IS competitive 😉 )

On that topic – Cardiff away isn’t the easiest of matches to try and break records.

16. The Great Big O - 18/01/2011

Deep joy. Deep, deep joy.

I remember Graham Taylor once saying that, to win matches against teams that are better than you on paper, you need every player to give an 8/10 performance. I keep seeing 8/10 performances all over the pitch from these Hornets, week after week. The consistency – for such a young side – has been remarkable over the last 7 games.

Deep, deep joy.

Harefield Hornet - 18/01/2011

I can’t remember enjoying watching a Watford side play so much for a very very long time – Cardiff Away will be the biggest test so far, if we can get a result there and the transfer window is kind to us I really think anything is possible this season.

17. DM - 18/01/2011

Yet more flak for young Jenkins.. When will people start to cut him a little slack ? He’s been out of the side on a regular basis for the last season and a half, so there’s bound to be levelling out against his form in the Rodgers season. Also, he’s no John Eustace yet.. but don’t forget, Eustace had to adapt his game to become the player he is. You can only do that with experience. To compare Jenkins to Eustace at this stage of his career is harsh in the extreme. He’s making a decent fist of standing in, we wouldn’t have won all three games he’s started without some contribution.

straightnochaser - 20/01/2011

Hear, hear!

18. smarkymark - 19/01/2011

@NickB : Disagree that its going to be that close.Graham will win hands down if he keeps scoring.He’s on 17 goals already so if he reaches 25 that will be a remarkable tally for a striker in only his 2nd season at championship level.Its not as if he’s a “tap in” merchant either – he’s scored goals from all over the place with right foot,left foot,head.That said,Taylor has improved since he first joined and Eustace has been excellent.Sordell should get young player of the year and possibly as high as 4th in the senior POTY

NickB - 20/01/2011

Inasmuch as strikers of his quality are a rare breed and thus sought after and lionised, I suspect you’re right. However, if the yardstick is contribution/ added value to team performance, I think MT and JE are right in there; your comment about Taylor rather underestimates his increase in stature and importance.
Either way, the three of them give the team a terrific spine.

19. Gerry - 26/01/2011

Thunk 5 is spot on, Matt. This is a young team, much of it home-grown, which cost little more than a fish supper. Anyone know how much the bought-in players cost in fees?

This is very encouraging for the future, and fills this ‘Orns heart with optimism and, yes, pride. Even if results take a slide after the run was brought to a halt in Cardiff, even if the team only finishes a place above relegation, the way it plays, the practical solid brilliance of Malky, and its youth, fill me with confidence for the future. Long may Malky reign, and long may the home-growns keep blooming. I just hope fans, fickle as they are, don’t turn against Malky at the first run of bad form.

Compare and contrast with the Vialli and Betty reigns. The club now has a proper manager who doesn’t spend zillions and doesn’t talk fantastic bollocks.

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