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Watford 1 Burnley 3 (12/02/2011) 13/02/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from what is becoming an annoyingly dependable defeat to Burnley…

1- Well that was very odd. Like a match that had been cut into pieces and put together in a random order to inappropriate bits of soundtrack. Danny Drinkwater being effortlessly put through on goal in the opening seconds surprised everyone, not least him… like a cliffhanger in the opening minutes of a TV episode. He did a reasonable job with it, steering the ball wide of Grant, a significant obstacle all afternoon, if narrowly past the post. Then the frankly ridiculous own goal, which looped back into the net over Loach’s head painfully slowly as if time was bending to allow it to drop in whilst presenting the illusion, observed by my neighbour, that any of us had time to trot down to the front of the Rookery, step over the barrier, and amble around to block it on the line. Dale Bennett’s nerve seemed to rather decimate at this turn of events, perhaps contributing to a an extremely nervous first half which saw our defence creak and rattle and yet somehow not concede any more goals despite Burnley flinging bodies at any number of crosses… we got away with 1-1 at half time. The second half… from my vantage point we tightened up an awful lot. And yet lost two goals. One of these, just as the home crowd was up and riled and behind the team in voice for the first time following Danny Fox’s crude hack on Buckley. Fox’s last game for Coventry saw him dismissed at the Ricoh against us for a similarly violent challenge, from memory. Justice would have him red carded and Burnley caving in under our indignation. Instead, Burnley took the lead and cantered off. If there’s any consolation, it’s that Danny Fox presumably lives near Burnley.

2- My first view of several of the new faces. Drinkwater’s horror show at Forest was widely reported and commented upon, and he had a number of dodgy moments in the first half but for me settled down well and was a force for good in the second. We’ve seen enough of young midfielders coming in on loan and needing a couple of games to bed in, and enough encouragement here, not to pass judgment just yet. Townsend, off the bench, was pretty much as advertised, a talented unpredictable whirligig without quite enough at the end of his twists and turns, albeit in challenging circumstances. Weimann looks decent; sharp, deft, hardworking and clever. We could probably have done with his 1-on-1 going in, if not with a view to salvaging this game then in maintaining his confidence. We’ll see how he moves on from that. And Thompson looked anything but tentative, a bold League debut for the youngster, plenty of encouragement here.

3- Chris Eagles’ first half showing illustrated why he’s still in the Championship. Whatever destabilising impact Mariappa’s shift to left back had on the rest of the back for, he was never in trouble in his new position as he anticipated each of Eagles’ twists and turns, winning any number of “Bobby Moore tackles” without making any contact with his frustrated opponent. In the second, Eagles showed why he’s nonetheless still spoken of in Premiership terms, taking the game by the scruff and winning it for his side. It’s lazy to blame the newly installed left back Hodson, switched in a half-time reshuffle, for developments; Eagles upped his game, and deserved the ovation he received from all sides on his substitution.

4- Danny Graham currently looks like Watford’s best player in every position on the pitch. Dropping back into midfield frequently, even clearing from the edge of his own area more than once, he was nonetheless on the end of everything at the right end of the pitch and merited being on the scoresheet. A gem.

5- Something of an aside, but the frustration of having lost three (three!) hats this winter was compounded by the pathetic lack of stock in the Hornets Shop as I searched for something to protect my head from the icy rain. Those who know me will recognise that I don’t set the fashion bar terribly high; my standards aren’t challenging on the whole, and I was well prepared to spend over the odds on tat to keep my head warm. But there are limits…



1. JohnF - 13/02/2011

Frustrating afternoon with some decent entertainment from both sides. If we had converted our two early chances this would have been a different story as I am sure that Burnley would have caved. Instead they grew in confidence. The pitch did not favour our style but the youngsters will have to get used to it.

Individual performances varied, Bennett, who knows what was going on in his mind but I wonder about weight of expectation and desperation in taking his opportunity. Eustace looked like a player trying to get back to match fitness. I agree about your other assessments, I have been a fan of Thompson since I first saw him…and he is quite tall. It was noticeable that we struggled to cope with a tall centreforward who intelligently moved around so he always managed to be marked by a much shorter defender. There were plenty of chances and it was encouraging to see the young full backs having a go at goal. The fat lady isn’t singing yet and there will be more twists and turns. Only 9 points needed!

2. Tim Turner - 13/02/2011

Re thunk 3: you really thought Mariappa coped well with Eagles? For the whole first half, crosses were raining in from that side of the pitch, which suggests otherwise. True, there was one sublime moment when Mariappa took the ball from him, but it was notable for being the only time he stopped him. Indeed, Mariappa seemed to get caught out of position much of the time – understandably, given it’s not his regular position.

I agree, though, that Hodson wasn’t to blame for the goals. As someone near me said, it’s sod’s law that we had to face the best right winger in the division (on his day, at any rate) at a time when we don’t have a left back in the squad.

Matt Rowson - 13/02/2011

No Tim, he stopped him many times. Although I agree that Mariappa’s positional sense is exposed at full back (right back also).

3. Dave Jackson - 13/02/2011

Frustrating afternoon. Perhaps we were overly defensive. They had a dodgy right back on a yellow after about 20 minutes. Wouldn’t it have been a good idea to attack him on one side with a creative left footed player (Townsend, for example) while having Buckley attack down the right? That would also have had the effect of the opposition not being able to double up on Buckley as they took it in turns to hack him down. And the ref…clear cut red. If that wasn’t dangerous play, I’d hate to be on the end of his version.
Agree that Thompson looks assured defensively, well done to him and be good to see his career progress.

As for the subs, it seemed wrong to take off Drinkwater who seemed to be getting to grips with midfield rather than the lacklustre Mcginn.

Matt Rowson - 13/02/2011

We discussed this yesterday; Malky does seem to like to have one “proper” winger and one side tighter (often Cowie). Two wingers really does ask a lot of the central midfield pairing. We don’t have Jackett and Tiger Les any more, good as Eustace is…

Wouldn’t agree with your suggestion that McGinn was lacklustre though. Thought he had a decent game.

Harefield Hornet - 14/02/2011

Has the Palace “fog” descended again in front of the Rookery – McGinn ponced about like a tart throughout.

4. MartinG - 13/02/2011

We’ll play worse than that and win. Three one on ones not converted, and Danny missed that sitter at the end. Plus we over elaborated on more than one occasion when we should have had a pop. So plenty of chances created. The defence was all over the place at times though.
Agree with DM’s Palace comments that Cowie is really missed. Be glad when he’s back.
And that pitch is garbage. Destroys our flow.

5. Matt Lovett - 13/02/2011

I feel very sorry for young Bennett. Last season he played a few games and looked very promising. This season each time he’s had a chance he’s looked nervy from the outset, and gone downhill from there. He looks like he’s so desperate to impress he’s lost his footballing brain. Yesterday had been coming all season for him unfortunately. That aside, Burnley deserved all they got. They were clinical with the chances they got and we weren’t, simple as.

Matt Rowson - 13/02/2011

My fear is that Bennett is very quick, very strong, very good at reacting to things, but isn’t really a very good defender. Hope I’m wrong.

straightnochaser - 14/02/2011

The new Jerel Ifil?

IaYS - 14/02/2011

Matt, thats a better description of Bennett than I could ever come up with.

I’ve been impressed with his speed and reactions, but never put much thought into why he was having to do so.

6. Harefield Hornet - 14/02/2011

I can’t believe some people are actually saying Burnley deserved what they got. A) We gift them a bizarre OG. B)They should have been down to 10 men after the mental challenge by Fox which put Buckley into the Advertising board, It was such a bad decision the officials didn’t even have the nerve to book Will after his crude retaliation. C) Eagles scores after 66 minutes with practically their first shot in the 2nd half. D) The man who’s done absolutely nothing except set up the first goal gets a gift at the far post to nod in – IMO they deserved nothing.

7. Stephen Hoffman - 14/02/2011

very like Jerel Ifil who had a couple of good games to start his career and then went down from there, was a great athlete, but was prone to bouts of no confidence.

8. Dave Jackson - 15/02/2011

Matt, I agree that Malky clearly prefers to only have one winger but would argue that with our attack having a much better season than our defence, perhaps we should play to our strengths and go for it – take the game to the opposition like we really mean it.
Wouldn’t you agree it’s less frustrating when we drop points if we’ve used all our attacking talent in an effort to win?
Buckley has certainly shown a great willingness to track back and get stuck in and I’m confident Drinkwater and Eustace can be an effective central axis. Credit again, to whoever is sorting these loans out.

9. NRC - 16/02/2011

Is it me, or does Drinkwater look like Cleverly? – if only he could play like him.

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