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Watford 1 Millwall 0 (05/03/2011) 06/03/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from a most welcome win against Millwall

1- It’s all about the points, quite obviously. However theoretical the threat of relegation had been before kick-off, the winless run will have had many glancing down the table and calculating our margin of safety. Malky’s assertion that many of the dropped points can cite mitigating circumstances and stout performances wasn’t inaccurate, but with a young team and a small squad we were always at risk of building downward momentum.

In spite of which, and in spite in particular of the blows to our midfield this week (see below), this was a fine, spirited performance. Millwall contributed in no small part to a game that was far more watchable than a 1-0 home win in a mid-table encounter might suggest… they played an open game, which suits us now as much as it did at the New Den at the beginning of the season. In reality the result could easily have gone the other way but the best move of the game won it, the incomparable Graham applying yet another effortlessly ruthless finish to Cowie’s visionary pass.

2- Lots of good performances throughout the team – Loach made some vital stops, the maligned Hodson was under less pressure at left back than he has been but responded with a very positive performance, and Deeney justified his selection on the right, his additional physical presence provoking the obligatory spat with Darren Purse.

It was the midfield that was particularly impressive though, in the light of the absences of the injured Drinkwater, suspended Eustace, and most tragically Stephen McGinn who we’re seemingly not going to see again much before Christmas at best. It’s easy to look back at the selection and call it inspired; in reality we had so few options that the central pairing of Jenkins and Cowie almost selected itself.

They were magnificent, both as individuals and as a pair. Such a performance was closer to standard fare for Cowie, whose tireless, selfless contribution and range of passing has been a feature of our best runs of form. He brought a devil to the centre of midfield that we’ve not seen much of since Mutch left.

But the platform was provided by Jenkins. After his eye-catching run alongside Jack Cork in Brendan Rodgers’ season two years ago he seemed to have stalled somewhat, never recapturing that form and often struggling to impose himself positively in spasmodic runs in midfield. From the start of the following season his “problem” was fairly clear; John Eustace, who returned from loan at Derby to unexpectedly and decisively relaunch his Watford career. As much as Jenkins and Cork complemented each other, Jenkins and Eustace just didn’t work and it was inevitably the junior partner who was relegated from the side.

But this was terrific stuff. Uncomplicated, unfussy, snapping into tackles, supplying Cowie, keeping himself and the game moving. A reminder of what this lad has to offer, and why he was being cooed over two years ago.

Sorry, that was a long thunk. He deserved it tho.

3- Whilst it doesn’t make the slightest difference to my decision (or many others’, I would guess) to attend or otherwise, I am greatly enjoying the half-time parading of Watford Legends that has become a feature this season. This one was deemed “Legends’ Day”, and so Dennis Bond, Alan Mayes, Keith Mercer, Brian Pollard (who just about pre-date me), Tom Walley, Luther, Cally, Les Taylor, Neil Price, Steve Palmer and Tommy Mooney were all trotted out at the interval. Deserved as their ovation was I can’t have been the only one disappointed that the visiting manager, whose 300-odd games for us in the eighties make him more than worthy of the implied status, wasn’t acknowledged by the home crowd. It’s not as if the visiting Lions, present in good number, didn’t give us the opportunity, pointing out just how many Kenny Jacketts there are on several occasions.

4- You’ll have noticed that we don’t have a particularly wide range of targets at set pieces; as such, nobody is under any illusions as regards where to focus when we send a corner or a long throw into the box – least of all our opposition. Millwall, as is becoming traditional, double-marked Martin Taylor in such circumstances; they’d have been daft not to. It’s not unreasonable to expect the referee’s attention to be similar; if not as focused, then at least conscious of where the action’s likely to be. As such, his missing of the early foul on Taylor in front of the Rookery was extraordinary. Taylor’s assailant presumably didn’t intend to hoist his shirt quite as high as he had – virtually round his neck, if not over his head – but given that he had it was kinda hard to miss. Unless you were looking in completely the wrong direction. G.Salisbury must have been the only one who was.

5- To revisit thunk 1, the lingering memory of this game will be of a gripping, if not quite rip-roaring, afternoon of second division football. Two sides better at attacking than defending (despite the scoreline), drama at both ends, a slightly volatile subtext that didn’t quite boil over and the odd pantomime villain to boot (hello again, Darren Purse), this was thoroughly enjoyable stuff. And the last time I remember penning a thunk like that was after Leicester… a similar run in the wake of this welcome victory would do very nicely.


1. Sirhornet - 06/03/2011

This was a triumph for the character of what is still a young team and manager. For once we rode our luck in front of our own goal and took the only real chance we created.

Couldn’t agree more with thunk 2. Far and away Jenkins’ best game in a yellow shirt. Was it only me or did Mariappa win nearly everything in the air aginst Morrison and Trotter, both of whom are at least 10cm taller than him.

Nick - 07/03/2011

Sir hornet, might be only you. I thought he lost everything and looks a liability at centre back.

Still that might just be me but its a very welcome clean sheet

Matt Rowson - 07/03/2011

Sorry Nick, you’ve got to be kidding. Mariappa and Taylor at CB has been working a dream all season, Mariappa is far more comfortable defensively here than on the right; much as he can be a threat going forwards, his positioning at RB is all wrong.

2. JohnF - 06/03/2011

Good thunks Matt. I agree about Jenkins, amazing he is still only 20, and I hope that some of the negative types in the crowd can cut him, Hodson and Loach some slack. Fantastic performance considering the disruption to the squad since Christmas. A dry spell and no rugby probably helped but let’s hope for the same again Saturday and wouldn’t a point on Tuesday be good.

3. NRC - 06/03/2011

Seeing as my last sight of Deeney was in the FA Cup where he had a stinker, expectations weren’t high when saw he was playing but thought he played a significant part in a solid team performance. Serious doubts remain about him as a no.9 (he just doesn’t seem to have the pace or striker’s nous) but he did a good job yesterday in the role he was asked to play.

Also, watching from the Vic end yesterday Loach made some excellent saves, but boy, if only he could sharpen up his kicking and what appear to be ‘panic button’ boots out when the defenders pass back to him. Thunk 5 sums up the game well I think, there’s some more wins in this team this season but I doubt enough to trouble the Top 6, but not too sure that’s such a bad thing. It’s been a fun season all in all …

Matt Rowson - 06/03/2011

I think Deeney’s biggest issue up front is not quite knowing how to use his strength. He either gives too many fouls away, or looks cumbersome. Plenty of strikers have made decent careers without pace tho, his old mentor at Walsall for one.

NRC - 06/03/2011

Cumbersome, perfect.

Matt Rowson - 06/03/2011

To qualify, I still think he’ll be a top player. He’s got a lot about him.

4. Mike & family - 06/03/2011

1 – Good write-up but pity no mention of Adam Thompson who we thought stood out, doing everything he was asked to do yet remaining cool and calm throughout. An excellent display from one so young.
2 – When will someone realise that all the “Legend” and other interesting half-time activities take place a million miles away from those of us located in the Vicarage Road end … and are not even covered live on the big screen (that reminds me – most of us in the Vic can’t see the big screen either).

5. Scott - 06/03/2011

Hiya peeps, first time posting on here so be gentle with me.

Have to agree this was the performance we desperately needed to make. All the team put in a performance, and backed each over wherever needed.

It was a good win against a good hardworking team, but crucially for me we got our luck back in this game. The ball finally bounced our way in the awkward 50/50 situations, when in recent weeks its gone the other way. You have to have luck alongside quality to get anywhere in this league and we benefitted from having some yesterday.

I’ve said all season that Cowie’s best position may be in central midfield. He’s got a superb footballing brain, works incredibly hard but just lacks the pace to be a really effective wide man. Lets hope his fine form continues in a position where we can get the most from it.

Finally, have to disagree about the Rookery ignoring Kenny Jackett. You obviously missed the choruses of ‘Kenny is a Hornet’ and ‘Kenny, Kenny give us a wave’ (which he duly did) early in the game. The fans then to be fair actually concentrated on getting behind the team for a change.

One last thing, can I say what a breath of fresh air the reasoned debate is on this site, it’s so much better than the trash talk on the Observer site.

Matt Rowson - 06/03/2011

Hi Scott

you’re right about the ball bouncing for us; we got the breaks on Saturday, and I suspect that the performance, viewed objectively, wasn’t particularly superior to recent ones that haven’t yielded three points. I guess what was impressive was that we were still bright and positive, in the face of injuries, suspensions, a bench with almost no experience on it at all and that long run without a win.

Cowie – he was great, no doubt. I think you’re a bit harsh in your assessment of his value out wide – he’s certainly not a winger as such, but works bloody hard, has extraordinary stamina and so will always do his bit at both ends, and puts in reliably good balls. A big asset wherever for me, but still think he’ll play more games wide, particularly if/when Mutch does come back.

Jackett – ignoring is an overstatement, and I didn’t miss the Rookery’s chants but it was a bit tame – a few voices, all power to them. That Jackett was so eager to respond given any encouragement spoke volumes.

Scott - 07/03/2011


Don’t get me wrong, I think Cowie is a top player and I’m not putting his input as a winger down at all, he’s been immense playing out wide for us. I just think we would get more out of him if he played center mid regularly. Rather than being out wide where we have other options who could benefit from his passing and footie brain.

6. DM - 06/03/2011

The Deeney-Mooney comparison is a fair one.. It took Mooney time to learn how to best use his strength.. If Deeney can do the same we’ll have some player…

jeremy clarkson - 07/03/2011

bet Deeney will never play left back though 🙂

7. Kris - 06/03/2011

What a massive win. Being on a winless run, missing quite a few regular starters and being forced to bring academy players in of whom is still fighting to earn a pro contract and we somehow manage to battle to a win. It must build so much confidence in our squad to beat a tough Millwall side without Eustace, McGinn, Doyley and playing a regular winger – Cowie – as a central midfielder and a striker who has been out of the side for a long while – Deeney – as winger. The win takes the edge off our injury situation – we’re safe (yes I dare say it and that is so out of character for me). We csn now build for next season just like – as Matt or maybe Ian said in a previous set of thunks – Malky did last season for this one. Our youngsters will be able to develop with a little less pressure safe in the knowledge that there won’t be a catastrophic consequence of an off day. Malky can try out new things to prepare for life without Danny Graham who will surely be sold as he is too good for this level (on a side note I can’t Wait for the helping hands bit for this season), and without Loach on whom we need to cash in. This has been one of my favourite seasons ever because it is so Watford.

8. Bob - 07/03/2011

a) Bringing bennet on for thompson was absolutley the right thing to do and paid off. Hopefully this will elastoplast his confidence for the next game he is called upon.

b) Cowie as centre-mid – wether inspired or forced upon us, I just dont’t care, it works so leave him there with eustace, and use buckley and deeney or marivin wide when we are at home next. The thought of tiny taylor/mariappa, eustace/cowie and graham through the centre/spine of the team suddenly fills me with confidence. DOink. It’s like an annoying jigsaw left for months when you’ve just realised where the spare piece goes.

c) Full credit to malky for his management of our subs through the game. he got each one absolutley spot on for this game.

d) Regards Kris’ comments, if as we all expect, loach has to go this summer to part balance the books, how soon before malky starts ‘blooding’ gilmartin in preparation for next season?

e) Off the pitch comments – what a disgrace! I cannot beleive that you can’t see the screen from the vic road end. I can’t see it from the rookery, so WHO can see it then?

9. Harefield Hornet - 07/03/2011

A great result but my day was spoilt by the anger I felt after witnessing a few morons among the visitors throwing plastic seat backs over the divide into the parents and kids in the Vic Road End. Will these idiots ever grow up?

10. Johnny Boy - 07/03/2011

A very welcome result and once we went ahead the whole team seemed to relax, in a positive way which I think just shows how recent results have played on their minds.
Agree with all the comments re Jenkins,Deeney, Loach and Cowie.
An interesting developement because of the injuries is the developement of Adam Thompson because when Lloyd returns who goes Hobson or Thompson? Hobson, one year older, more experienced, good on the ball, defensively -okayish.Thompson, less experienced but has come on and looks imho better defensively and has a long throw.Nice problem for Malky although the return of Taylor would be the best.
My other thought is that, ‘fast becoming a legend’ Danny never gets a break and at the end of games looks absolutely knackered.Rightly so Malky swaps Sordel and Wiemann, younger etc. but we need a fresh Danny, not just now but next season aswell.

Kris - 11/03/2011

I doubt Danny will be with us next season. I’ll go as far as to say we should sell him now as he won’t increase in value at Watford. Of course IF we go up we MUST keep him.

Oh and imo Danny has already achieved legend status.

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