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Watford 1 Crystal Palace 1 (01/02/2011) 02/02/2011

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. At this level – well, at any level, but especially at this level – the transfer window is an utter absurdity, one of those momentary brainwaves that backfire spectacularly when confronted with the real world, like introducing locusts to keep the lawn trimmed. Rather than bringing stability, it cleaves the season in two: build a team for August, build another team for February. A frantic game of musical chairs: replace the loan players handed back with new ones needing to be bedded in, weigh up potential offers from Premiership clubs with cash flapping around, hope that some of whatever you had before the upheaval might survive.

Aside from Sky Sports News, tabloid newspapers and players’ agents – the cornerstones of the modern game, of course – it’s hard to see who gains. Hell, the cost to the country’s economy of people checking Twitter for deadline day news when they should be working could probably cover Fernando Torres’ wages for at least an hour….

And so, as the second act begins, this feels very much like a new team. It isn’t, not really…but there are two new loan players to figure out, plus another on the bench. Even some of the familiar faces are seen slightly differently in the light of a rumour or two, relief that they’re still here mixed with knowledge that they won’t be forever. You’ve had a pretty good idea of what you’re getting from this Watford team over the last few months; suddenly, you’re not so sure…

2. And then there’s John Eustace, bringing a dropping ball into that majestic chest trap in the centre circle, turning away to look for a pass, drifting a chip into the channel for someone younger to chase…and you know where you are again, like catching sight of the first landmark on the outskirts of your home town…

3. Briefly, as Andros Townsend wriggled through on the left and Andreas Weimann swivelled to score, this promised to be rather fun. But Palace are nothing if not a damp squib: that was as much space and time as they were prepared to afford us, and our attacking efforts were increasingly frustrated by the two holding midfielders wedged in front of the defence like a chair under a door handle. That’s the way to play us, no question. It’s dull as a muddy puddle, but it works.

This was a very different Palace to the nervous, patchy wreck that somehow beat us at Selhurst. Nothing we were allowed to do played to our strengths, leaving Danny Graham contesting high balls that he couldn’t win and Will Buckley without a meaningful kick for much of the second half. It was a long evening’s toil for all.

Of the loan players, Weimann impressed most immediately: he was hungry and aggressive from the off, although lack of service ultimately meant that he was just plain hungry. Townsend…well, I feel as if I’m being asked to judge a Best Steak Pie contest after twenty years as a vegetarian. All silk and sass and flash and panache, he appears so emphatically not my cup of tea that I’m wary of passing comment at all; suffice to say that those of us who rather miss the days when flair players had to earn the right against full-backs who could clout them into the surrounding streets without fear of punishment might have their patience tested. That said, I’d have forgiven Stephen McGinn for the error that set the equaliser in motion; it’s only fair that I do the same here. He’ll learn.

4. All of this, of course, refers to the opening forty-five minutes. Thereafter, it was very much a game of two halves: the half of the pitch you could see and the half that was completely obscured by fog. Once the ball went over the halfway line, it simply disappeared; you could get a vague sense of where it might be as the indistinct silhouettes moved to pursue it, but nothing more. And then it would appear again, sailing back into view through the blank curtain of mist.

A rather surreal half of football, then. It’s remarkable how completely the dynamics of the game change when you can only see one team’s attacks, when everything else is imaginary. I could comment on our nearly moments – Martin Taylor’s header scraped around the post via a goalline deflection, Stephen McGinn’s desperate stretch at a cross – but I’d be doing so in the knowledge that I have no idea whatsoever what might’ve happened at the other end. For all I know, Scott Loach saved a last minute penalty, they had three goals disallowed, and there was an unusual incident with a badger. Shrug.

5. At the end of it all, you can’t help feeling that we owe Palace a bit of a hiding. But then, I suspect that the whole of football feels as if it owes Palace a bit of a hiding. Inevitably, as every season, they’ll somehow escape relegation and be around to haunt us – or is just me? – again next time around. They will not go away. I have a metaphor about flushing toilets all ready and prepared, but it’s lunchtime and I won’t do that to you.

For us, you rather wish that the fixture list was a bit more forgiving. We could do with some time on the training ground to fit it all together, to forge the new team for the second half of the campaign. Once more, we’re a work-in-progress. One wonders – and with anticipation as well as trepidation, which is an achievement in itself – what’ll emerge at the other end of February…


1. NickB - 02/02/2011

Pithy, funny , spot on accurate and thought provoking. Absolutely nothing to add.

Except you probably need to see a shrink about the whole Palace thing.

Any chance of fast tracking thunks so that we can read them on the way out of the ground? Would certainly lighten the mood on nights like that one. Only joking, for now…

2. Tim Turner - 02/02/2011

I actually approve of the transfer window, on the basis that at least the nervousness about losing players is restricted to a single month. Remember the days when your key player could leave at any time, derailing a promotion push at a stroke or precipitating a plunge down the table? At least now we know we’ve got Graham, Loach and co. until the end of the season, and can plan accordingly.

Having said that, I had exactly the same thought about the destabilising effect of swapping one bunch of loanees for another. It can’t be particularly good for morale, either. For example, Troy Deeney might reasonably have thought he was due a start with Sordell injured, only to find himself pushed down to 4th in the pecking order of strikers by Weimann’s arrival. Mind you, he is presumably still ahead of Liam Henderson…

Jeremy Clarkson - 02/02/2011

Jc here

But you fears arent over re transfer window. The transfer window is made a mockery of the loans window that goes on for ever and ever (actually end of March)and loans can be supported by a one of payment during that period..i.e. Melchster Rovers gives us £1m peanuts for the services of DG until end of season…its a pure and utter farce as it generates panic buying and the sacking of managers so they can react in the window.

Pete Bradshaw - 02/02/2011

Yes, farcical. Witness Forest’s 93-day ’emergency’ loan of pin-up and England international Paul Konchesky arranged before the loan window opened.

3. JohnF - 02/02/2011

That is one of the weirdest games I’ve ever attended. Well Ian, it certainly sounds as though it was more lively at your end than ours in the second half. Young Hodson struggled at full back and Mariappa was getting a bit desperate against Vaughan who is a big lump. Mostly there wasn’t too much to worry about but the team certainly need time to get back on an even keel and get to know each other again. Agree about Townsend but the unforgivable bit was that when he lost the ball he just gave up and didn’t chase back.

4. Harefield Hornet - 02/02/2011

Superb. You’ve summed up perfectly the discussion some fellow Hornets and I had walking back to the car after the game. I am already grieving for the “first half of the season” team. Those wonderful fluid movements down the left from Taylor (A) through to Cowie and such like. Sordell scampering into space behind opposition defences (The perfect partner for DG) and Much’s strength in Midfield alongside Captain John. Ah, that wonderful side that were for 7 glorious games the best team in this division by a mile. But now thats over – the pitch is lumpy and it’s crash bang wallop again! OH F***!

5. Matt - 02/02/2011

I’d agree with JohnF on Townsend – not overly worried about the flashy stuff itself it was the lack of effort that worried me. People called Priskin lazy, Townsend would’ve made him look like Andy Hessenthaler last night!

Ian Grant - 02/02/2011

I’m less worried about that, to be honest. There’s a very clear work ethic around the club, standards set by the manager and senior players; I wouldn’t expect lack of effort from Townsend (or anyone else) to be tolerated, simple as that.

6. Old Git - 02/02/2011

I don’t like the way the new clock shows time running backwards. You shouldn’t meddle with the fabric of the universe or you’ll be plagued with things like Neville Southall slipping through from another dimension. Someone make it run forwards please.

7. Jeremy Clarkson - 02/02/2011

JC here

Why all the pointy fingering at Townsend for the goal conceeded, cracking pace of foot to make the first (and only)goal

Why was Mariappa left one on one (and lost out to Vaughan)
Why didnt Loach narrow the angle once Mariappa had forced Vaughan slightly wide of goal
Why didnt Loach get off line quicker but back tracked
Where was the pass for Townsend to make in first place

IMO the goal happened so quickly on counter we were caught with our knickers round our ankles, a replay may proove me wrong

and as for Weimann, petulant little irk..hope he is made to stay after school and do 100 pressups as a punishment. He not only got booked, then substituted but lost a good 90 seconds at a critical time of the match when we were pushing..now who is the posuer?

’tis quite funny sitting down at pitch level just how one views the game differently, apart from the Mariappa tackle in first half that was penalised near corner of area, and the possible handball at the end of the wall I thought the ref got most things right, including the Eustace “push” late on.

On saying all this it was good end to end game of football, the future looks bright and we nearer the 52 mark.

8. Gerry - 02/02/2011

“An unusual incident with a badger” – wtf?? You can’t get away with a tease like that, Ig – what’s with the badger? And if you want badgers, go off to http://www.badgerbadgerbadger.com and turn your audio on :o)

Ian Grant - 02/02/2011

I don’t know what happened with the badger. That’s the point: I couldn’t see anything. At this stage, it’s all just speculation and rumour….

9. Dave Jackson - 02/02/2011

`Call me old fashioned, and people call me lots of things, but if something is working, why change it? I refer to the opening 20 minutes last night…Exciting new left footed player running down the LEFT with Will buckley on the right where he’s enjoyed a lot of success this season. We score a goal from great play down the left and a cross from the left footed player. We are 1-0 up against a limited Palace team with a dreadful away record. WHY change it? For those not there, Buckley and Townsend switched wings not long after the goal ( whose idea?) until half time, by which time all momentum had long evaporated. Or was it all just a trick of the fog? Buckley didn’t look too happy there and often opted to check back and pass to Doyley, while Townsend fared little better on the right.
Final point, why sacrifice the width by subbing the wide players? It wasn’t working too well in the middle, so why not change one of them for the Drinkwater lad to see if he could get the ball out wide a bit better?

10. DM - 02/02/2011

Whew. What a relief to not have to read that chump Rowson’s drivel. God bless you Mr Ig.

One thing to brighten your pessimistic tone.. The imminent return of D.Cowie. Eustace is a fine player and a great captain, but I have long held the opinion that Cowie is the one player who makes a real difference in midfield. Our one dodgy spell of the season co-incided with his earlier injury.. His return sparked our revival in early December. With him our midfield looks fluid, energetic and full of sparkle. Without him, it’s just a tad flat. And having lost the excellent Mutch, we
really need Cowie back.

11. Mike Smith - 03/02/2011

Pretty positive comments all round I’d say. So everyone is not too unhappy. Palace came to do a job and once we’d handed them the equaliser it was always going to be tough. A good accurate and amusing report from IG.
Glad to see you’re still reporting Ian. I missed BS&D when it ceased. Give the loaness a couple of weeks and I’m sure they’ll perform as well as the 2 we’ve had to send back. Remember Much took a while to settle. Pity we couldn’t get A. Taylor here but perhaps Malky will find another good left back enabling dear old Doyley to go to his rightful postion. I too thought Hodson looked a bit out of sorts (and the Brighton game too).
Can’t remember ever seeing such a surreal game in over 50 years at the Vic. Credit to Palace fans for their chant about not being able to see Speroni. BTW I agree with IG’s views on Palace.
Mike (I’ve been supporting the ‘orns for over 50 years) Smith

12. Hornetboy84 - 03/02/2011

Ian. I don’t know what your personal problem with Palarse is… But just to say I totally share this unfathomable total dislike. I think it stems for me from a Good Friday 3-0 home defeat in the eighties where I chose the horns over a date with the school hottie…. An invitation that didn’t come again. Ditto qpr… For a long time I didn’t get the Luton hate thing… It was always qpr and pal arse I saw as our real rivals…. Still is but of course having experienced Lutons fan base a number of times first hand they are in the top 3 also of clubs I don’t care if they disappear. Hb84

Ian Grant - 04/02/2011

For me, it’s something to do with having lived in Brighton for twenty years, I think….

13. Hornetboy84 - 03/02/2011

Forgot to say on Townsend…. I agree with the concern on work ethic… It was the lack of chasing back after he lost the ball that worried me. I have never been convinced by spurs loans. But to be fair to him.for now – it was clear after 20mins that the pace / stamina of the game was too much for him. It may just be a lack of match Practice.

14. Jim - 03/02/2011

A decent report, read from the perspective of a Palace fan. Our away form was absolutely disgraceful under Burley, but we kept winning at home. Under Freedman, we’ve become MUCH harder to beat (6 home clean sheets in a row) and the goals will come us. This time next year you’ll see a completely different Palace side. Our football has been good this season, some nice passing, but your pitch meant we couldn’t do that. You’re certainly one of the strongest teams in the League at home this season, so we played two defensive mid fielders in front of the defence and hoped we could score against you on the break.

On the whole, you were the better side (you were always going to be) but we got a point – it seemed like that was what we came for considering the injuries we had and the quality of the pitch.

Good luck this year, think you’ll need to improve your pitch a bit if you want promotion!
Looking forward to playing you next year provided we stay up (I’m sure we will, our squad is looking very tidy now. Midtable finish, I’ll go for!)

15. rousman - 03/02/2011

Was the second half any good ? from the other end of the ground not much action. Did the fog from the Tyne arrive with Ant & Dec ?

16. smarkymark - 03/02/2011

@Pete B : Re: Paul Konchesky “pin-up and England international” lol.

17. Old Git - 04/02/2011

Mike Smith you might be an even Older Git than me…although well into my fifth decade as an ‘Orn, I’m a few years off that Golden Anniversary yet. And I love your use of the word ‘loaness’. Regular BHappy readers will know how my linguistic pedantry is set off by the vile non-word ‘loanee’ and so ‘loaness’ is a refreshingly feminine variant that is most acceptable in this post-Grey/Keys era. What next I wonder? Linesmaness or lineswoman? Or should that be Assistant Referee-ess?

18. Season Preview Part 2 | BHaPPY (not BSaD) - 04/08/2015

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