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Watford 1 Barnsley 0 (23/04/2011) 24/04/2011

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. There’s a large glass of Pimms within arm’s reach as I type this. Which should tell you several things: that it’s still Saturday evening, that the quality of this report may deteriorate by the time we get to thunk #5, and, crucially, that it’s not sodding winter any more. Strolling through Cassiobury Park in simmering, hazy heat on the way to the game, it barely felt like football weather at all. Truly, the end of a hard but hugely rewarding season. The sense of satisfied calm – for the sake of the peaceful image, we’ll ignore Malky bellowing urgent, demanding instructions from the touchline, still every inch the leader – is prize enough. 2010/11 has turned out very all right.

And for five minutes, the game of the season. Exhibiting a vulnerability at set pieces that made us look like Stoke, Barnsley came perilously close to conceding the game altogether during a period in which the ball only seemed to leave their six yard box in order that they could kick off again. In all of that, John Eustace belted home after Troy Deeney’s looping header had come back off the bar (from a short corner, fans of groaning at short corners) and was almost immediately denied by a sprawling save; another header was sliced around the post by a defender as full-scale panic started to set in. The pressure was relentless, a seemingly irresistible force. And then Dave arrived and it all stopped as if we’d been caught doing something naughty.

2. It would be inaccurate to suggest that we played no further part in the game…but not unfair to observe that the part played rarely extended to their side of the halfway line, let alone the six yard box over which we’d briefly claimed such dominance. Recent games have taught us much about the value of striking early; with the goal to back us up, we seemed almost determined to test the first-goal-wins principle to its absolute limit. It was quite hard work.

As if the adrenaline had suddenly left our system, we looked tired, leggy and in need of some time spent doing something else. We conceded ground to Barnsley until, by the second half, only Scott Loach stood before them on several occasions. This Watford side has sometimes been found wanting when opponents have blocked up our whirring cogs with bog roll and occasionally it’s been out-played too; it’s rarely looked quite so laboured in the face of, frankly, thoroughly mediocre opposition. The attacking threat all but evaporated, taking most of a lightweight midfield with it…and a complex formation (approximately 4-1-2-(x-y)2-√z or something) was rather reduced to six-against-the-rest. Odd to use only two substitutes with so many absentees, young and established alike.

3. If Troy Deeney eventually blended into the anonymous blur, he took an awful lot longer than most. Often up-and-down in a rather Jordan Stewart kinda way – undermining a positive and encouraging contribution one moment with a distracted, infuriating error almost immediately (although never quite to Stewart’s peerless level) – his first half in particular was jam-packed with consistent, varied contributions. Strong headers, hard work, neat touches, bright vision. In a forward line featuring Danny Graham and Marvin Sordell, his was the star turn, the real source of impetus and momentum.

So evidently a player who likes a good measure of pitch in front of him, it’s not immediately clear where he’d fit into a side featuring Don Cowie and Stephen McGinn. But no matter, for now: it’s enough that he’s shown us who he is, and that’s a great deal more than the rather lost, slightly downcast figure who’s frequently paled into insignificance alongside Graham’s massive presence since his arrival. He deserves a goal or two.

4. The atmosphere at Vicarage Road has become distinctly odd over the last couple of months. Let’s be quite clear, for a start: the Yellow Order‘s attempts to inject some passion into proceedings are commendable and very welcome indeed. Well done, you. The problem is that gathering all of those interested in making some noise in one far-flung corner of the Rookery means there’s no-one to carry the chants across the rest of the stand; all of the singing is over there. For one particular bit, the Rookery has never been louder or more passionate; for the rest, it’s never been quieter or more dominated by idle chit-chat.

Maybe the Yellow Order needs an appointed representative in each block to get things going. He said, ducking swiftly out of sight to avoid pointing fingers…

5. The new owners’ first noticeable contribution to the club appears to be a covering for the dug-out area…which is essentially a large pre-fab car-port made of corrugated perspex. Just the thing for the spring weather…if you’re growing tomatoes. It looks as if it’d blow away if John Eustace shouted at it. A disappointing start for Mr Bassini, who could’ve won hearts and minds by investing in something more elegant: some yellow, red and black retractable awnings would’ve looked very smart, I reckon….

6. Finally, a plug for From the Rookery End’s ‘Wear a Vest’ Day against QPR next Saturday. Get down to Primark pronto!


1. Andi - 24/04/2011

Pretty sure the flimsy dug-out cover’s been there all season. Hard to pin that one on Bassini!

Ian Grant - 24/04/2011

Maybe you’re right and I’ve only just noticed it. Regardless, I think we should blame Bassini just in case…

2. DM - 24/04/2011

Yep. As we strolled down Cardiff Road and heard the roar, I remarked upon the likelihood of that being the highlight…

As step towards the top half finish this team so richly deserves..

3. Tom Sayer - 24/04/2011

Left the Lake District at 11am (much later than planned), perfect run down the M6 and M1, pulled into Cardiff Road dead on 3pm, threw the keys to my wife and legged it up Occupation Road with the kids. Just outside when the game started (couple of minutes late?). Missed seeing the goal by seconds – but quickly in place to see the rest of the afternoon’s goalfest……

4. SteveG - 24/04/2011

1. Having been drawn, addict-like, back to the Watford Observer website and wondering every time why I’m still reading these daft comments that pass for debate, it’s good to get back to sanity – thanks, ig! The fact that we have had a full season virtually free from any concern about relegation is in itself a huge achievement. And, OK, we may have been a bit lucky to get all three points, but there have been other occasions where we’ve played well and not got anything out of the game – so let’s enjoy the points (and the memory of those first five minutes!)
2. Agree that the midfield looked lightweight but on balance this was probably as good a game as any to give Mingoia a full run out – a young man with promise, I think. Let’s not forget that Ashley Young looked very lightweight on his first few outings, and he didn’t turn out too badly in the end.
3. Fitting in … for much of this season this team has been more than the sum of its parts, but we are of course missing a few parts and have some spares where we don’t necessarily need them. Sordell did look out of sorts and out of place yesterday, although I can see that this might be part of Malky’s masterplan to get him to work a bit harder. If (when?) Danny moves on, Deeney and Sordell might be a more natural combination up front. Arguably we didn’t ‘need’ Weimann, but he’s been a useful acquisition, and did manage to combine menace with work rate when he came on. It may be a statement of the bleeding obvious, but if we can get a natural left sided player or two, this would give us more flexibility to deploy players in their best/preferred positions.
4. It was quiet, wasn’t it? I’ve only been to one away game this season but would venture the opinion that Barnsley home fans make even less noise than we do.
5. And I’m glad I’m not going mad…I’m sure the perspex has been there since the start of the season as well. Greenhouse effect – helping to accelerate the development of the youngsters?

5. NRC - 24/04/2011

Re. Thunk Five, on a serious note surely a big opportunity missed to not even have something in the programme from the new owners?

Was the first time I’d noticed the awning though, must admit. Maybe it was the sunshine and a slightly different view?

6. JohnF - 25/04/2011

This was two tired sides toiling in the midsummer heat; who’s for summer football? The farcical start (John Eustace carried the ball into the net on his stomach, if he’d stopped on the line it wouldn’t have gone over) was followed by increasing lethargy through the ground. The only thing that contributed to any second half was, I think, Mark Robins blasting of his defenders. Thank goodness someone woke up Loachy before they went out but even then there was good natured banter between him and the Barnsley forwards. Neither side looked to be convinced this was anything other than an end of season mid-table run out in the sun, only fear of two highly competitive managers stopped them taking a rest at regular intervals. Presumably the ref booked three players primarily to keep up his quota.

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