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Leicester City 4 Watford 2 (25/04/2011) 25/04/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from an unseasonably sunny (it’s still April, no?) Walkers Stadium

1- It’s easy to be wise after the event, it’s true. Easier, anyway. Occasionally, however, even those of us shockingly incompetent at calling an outcome see a big fat rain cloud lurching overhead and think to grab an umbrella, so to speak.

Our first thought had been that this was the sort of game that might quite suit us. A Leicester side who, like us, had little left to play for boasted a number who have played at a higher level, and therefore might find it difficult to get worked up about an end of season mid-table fixture in the sunshine.

Our second thought was that we might have stood perhaps a better chance of capitalising had the fixture occurred on a Saturday, rather than two days after a sapping chase in the heat against Barnsley. Leicester, after all, had had more than twenty-four hours further rest than us, and a bigger squad to accommodate tired legs in a packed fixture list.

Both suspicions proved well-founded. The first half of one of those games that went through moods like a piece of classical music saw the home side with plenty of possession but far too lazy to do anything with it. Darius Vassell in particular put in a rather shameful display, refusing to chase back, scarcely making a run and making our defending all rather easy. When we went ahead, a fine, bold goal from sub Marvin Sordell, the indolence of the home side bordered on the comical with several suddenly developing limps and aches and quite visibly not fancying it. This suggestion was only strengthened by the quick exchange of goals before the break; the game could have been won before half time, the 2-1 scoreline at this point flattering the home side.

Much as the tendency is to view each game in a Watfordcentric way, the change in tack in the second half wouldn’t have happened but for the home side’s change in approach at the interval. The Foxes game out with rockets up their backsides, something that would doubtless have confused those who criticised Sven-Goran Eriksson for a lack of passion whilst in the England job. Ultimately, we wilted under some pretty relentless pressure – for more detail read on, but we were an utterly spent force, dead on our feet midway through the second half. This squad has achieved admirable things this season, but two such games with effectively the same eleven (after Andi Weimann’s early withdrawal) was beyond it.

2- Which isn’t to say that the result was never in doubt. Graham, who has missed a few of late even as he continues to conduct our attacking play, and the increasingly vital Deeney had chances to put us two goals clear. One has to wonder, in particular, how the afternoon might have panned out had Scott Loach not had quite such an erratic afternoon. Beaten inexplicably from distance by a well-placed but very savable shot for the first, some appalling decision-making gifted Yakubu the second and few in the away end were feeling generous enough to give the custodian the benefit of the doubt for the fourth, defensive confusion allowing Yakubu (again) to lob.

Loach’s man-of-the-match performance on Saturday was vital in earning three points; here, he looked anything but an international prospect. Admittedly a young player will make mistakes, and a goalkeeper’s mistakes tend to have harsh consequences. Admittedly, Loach was playing in front of a tired defence and, equally significantly, a central midfield in which the lightweight Mingoia contributed some decent flicks, perceptive passes, but as much physical presence as a paper bag. But this wasn’t good enough.

3- One of the season’s recurring themes… but Will Buckley appears to be very much persona non grata once again. Saturday’s game had cried out for someone to take the pressure off by running off with the ball, Buckley’s best thing, in the second half. Here, we had players dead on their feet and badly needed a release long before our third substitution, the late introduction of Bennett for the presumably ailing Martin Taylor. Buckley hasn’t featured at all in the last four games, and would appear to need to make the most of any minutes he gets before the end of the campaign.

4- There’s suddenly something of a charm offensive going on at Leicester; the pies are fine, and come encased in a considerate cardboard holder that permits halfway tidy consumption. The stewards are civil, and labelled something deliberately accommodating like “supporter assistant”. Every greeting and welcome across the PA system pointedly singles out the visiting supporters (even if half time compere Alan Birchenall is audibly offering his regards with his arm firmly twisted behind his back). The fox-themed character brings the young Watford mascot up to the away end for a bow and a cheer; there are even shielding nets above and either side of the warm-up goals to protect the supporters behind from wayward shots in the warm up. All very agreeable, and an air of bonhomie that had been fuelled by a pleasant pint in a nearby cricket club beforehand. The cricket club should have been a warning, mind… Burnley and Turf Moor was the obvious comparator, we tend to get stuffed there, too.

5- Following Ian’s comment from Saturday, the very visible and audible presence of the Yellow Order made for an atmosphere that bordered on the boisterous. Goodness, whatever next – actual chanting? At a Watford game? Whilst conceding my own descent towards old fartdom, I have nothing but appreciation for these developments, and particularly the positive tone – happy to take the piss but without descending into crassness. All power to them.


1. Roger Smith - 26/04/2011

Thanks, that’s very much how it came over on 3CR.

In his post match comment, Malky blamed the extra day’s recovery that Leicester enjoyed, but he didn’t use all his subs on Saturday, nor Buckley and Thompson as fresh players raring to go to replace the young Mingoia and Hodson.

Rabbit in the headlights?

Matt Rowson - 26/04/2011

Very harsh Roger… I don’t think so, no. In the case of Buckley, there’s clearly something “gone on”… so not merely a failure to use a fit player, and something that’s harder to comment on (despite thunk 3).

Thompson would only really have come in for Hodson, and Hodson faired pretty well over both games all things considered. With Hodson having overcome his wobbles to display some fine form of late, I wouldn’t remove him from the side lightly.

I’d put it down to lack of viable options frankly… you don’t bring on a defender to change a game, and Massey is still very young. We’re just lucky that it’s taken this long for the cracks to be so evident, but no reflection on Malky for me.

2. Nick - 26/04/2011

RE: 5

Agreed the YO provide a much livelier atmosphere that was much appreciated by most.

However there was some crassness – a couple of chants about HIV and the ethnic make-up of Luton made me want to be elsewhere.

Perhaps you were fortunate to be queueing for your pie and missed them?!

Matt Rowson - 26/04/2011

No, pie consumption was pre-match. I, um, was surely completely focused on the game at the time…

3. Winslow Horn - 26/04/2011

It was a long 2nd half and I feared the worst when Leicester forced a succession of corners after the restart.
Not sure why I go to Leicester as have witnessed a 4-1 in 2007 and a 5-2 hammering under Perryman in 1993. Still the locals are reasonably friendly and the pies were edible. Marvin’s first was almost worth the admission alone.
Concur with Nick’s comments about the singing – particularly as I noticed some Asian Watford fans amongst the away support…..

Harefield Hornet - 27/04/2011

Locals reasonably friendly! blimey things must have changed a lot since the good old days at Filbert Street where a lively day out was always guaranteed! I have refused to visit the Walkers Stadium since they moved the segregation to accommodate more of their own fans and locked hundreds of us outside before the KO after promising tickets were available for away fans on the day! !!!****! (Apologies for being a dinosaur!)

Winslow Horn - 27/04/2011

I know what you mean Harefield but Watford fans were able to mingle freely outside the ground without any issues (that I saw).

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