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Barnsley 1 Watford 1 (17/09/2011) 17/09/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from South Yorkshire

1- The weather was quite remarkable.  We arrived in Barnsley – after a joy-sapping slog through M1 tailbacks – and trudged through cold drizzle to arrive at Oakwell just in time for kick off.  By the end of the game warm sunshine beat on our backs as we climbed back up the hill above the ground towards the town centre.  And on the way home under blue skies through the Yorkshire hills we received a call from home warning of hail back down south which preceded some serious biblical shit hurtling up the motorway towards us.  Blue sky met black cloud with the immediacy of a Tom and Jerry cartoon weather front, water flooded down the carriageway.  And then it stopped, we crossed an invisible line and it was fine again.

If you’ve got this far, well done.  You may have guessed where the anecdote’s going.  The weather was remarkable, the game was anything but;  a mundane scrap between evenly matched but limited sides.  Barnsley finished the game the stronger and had the better of the chances but a draw was about right. As the away team we should perhaps be happier with a point, but I’m not convinced that this Watford side is going to find wins easy to come by at home.  If you’ve watched football at this level for any length of time, you’ve seen countless games like this.  The weather opens the thunks because it will live much longer in the memory than the game will.

2- Defensively, we look pretty sound.  Barnsley piled everything down their right, asking a lot of former loan-Tyke Dickinson, questions to which he largely presented competent answers; if their winger got past him too often in the first half, it was in part reflective of dogged and incessant doubling-up by the full backs, and a rather insipid performance from Forsyth further forward, the weakest I’ve seen from him since his summer arrival.  Loach was at fault for the equaliser, failing to claim a cross from the right which permitted Gray to nod in at the fair post;  frustrating, but in fairness the home side had come close several times, the custodian making adroit stops to foil a couple of chances.

Going forward however, we still look cumbersome and deliberate.  A better performance from Yeates for an hour today, and Hogg was visibly pushing further forward than on his debut, albeit helping our play along rather than driving it.  A side with a solid defensive base and limited creativity, however, needs to be able to break, and when we broke it took far too long for support to arrive for either Weimann, who ran his nuts off, or Sordell, who crowned an almost completely anonymous first half with a well-taken goal.  In the second half, perhaps with a view to closing down the game, we appeared to switch to 4-5-1 with Weimann glued to the left wing and Forsyth tucked in.  Barnsley were reasonably disciplined defensively and had done their homework, double-marking Forsyth for every drop-kick or free kick from our own half.  Nonetheless, creating chances looked like very hard work.

3- Limited they may be, but there’s a lot to like about this Barnsley side.  Match sponsors are notoriously swayed by self-interest and the subsequent potential photo opportunity in their Man-of-the-Match nomination, but there was no arguing with the call of the diminutive David Perkins, the game’s outstanding player;  as our attacks foundered on smothered space (and insufficient options), Perkins frequently dealt the killer blow, nipping in to steal the ball when Yeates/Forsyth/Hogg/whoever had run out of space and getting the home side moving forward.

As mentioned above, the energy of Barnsley’s full backs in supporting their attack was phenomenal, Bobby Hassell in particular overlapping in a fashion that Dad saw fit to compare playing down the line in rugby (or something. not being a fan of minority sports, I wouldn’t know). Fortunately for us, their attacking threat was pretty limited;  if we now have options centrally but not enough loading of the gun, Barnsley’s gun comes loaded but unfired.

4- Chris Iwelumo came on for the last fifteen minutes; having missed Reading last week it was encouraging to see a greater mobility and threat from the big man’s contribution than pre-his spell out of the side – even if his most memorable contribution came from an eye-catching lay-off to nobody on the left wing.  Unfortunate for Iwelumo – he’d been entitled to expect someone there, and stock moves – of the sort that created the first goal – will take time to develop in a very new attacking set-up.

5- The sheer volume of new players is obviously a key factor – the same thing happened after the last major overhaul in 2005 – but I’m finding it very difficult to warm to this Watford side at present.  Hopefully that will come… but it appears at the moment that, unlike in 2005, the stronger characters are the older faces, by and large.  Andi Weimann is, as was observed by DM at half time, almost the archetypal Watford player in his quite lunatic “I’mnotgoingtoreachthatbutbollocksI’llchaseitanyway” approach, but he stands out simply because he’s rather unusual in this respect.  There’s no lack of professionalism, not even a lack of effort, but there’s a lack of hunger and certainly a lack of risk-taking.  An away point is always a good thing; if the match that accompanies it is bobbins then, well, that’s the risk you run in taking in away games.  I’m still, as you may have gathered, rather concerned.


1. Andy White - 17/09/2011

Good read that mate.
As a Barnsley fan, I understand your thoughts about us totally. You have summed us up there, better than most of our fans would.
Well played son.

2. RGW - 18/09/2011

Must agree about Barnsley weather usually being more memorable than the game. I particularly recall the scorching weather in our last away game in 1999, the b0ll0cks-freezing weather at Xmas-time a few years earlier, and the time when the entire annual rainfall of South Yorkshire fell in one evening so that we all got invited off the terraces and into the main stand – still one of the best gestures I can recall by a club to visiting fans.

3. Brian - 18/09/2011

Sorry Matt, I’m not Loachs’ biggest fan but having seen their goal on the telly I think even Schmicel would’ve struggled with that one.

Matt Rowson - 18/09/2011

we’ll have to agree to disagree. A high ball into the box like that across the egde of the keeper’s area is absolutely his to deal with.

4. lukefairweather - 18/09/2011

“…but I’m finding it very difficult to warm to this Watford side at present”.
Quite possibly the most worrying words I have read about us so far this season.
I too am unimpressed at the dance of the headless donkeys and wonder if a season of youthful, risky, glorius failure from our acadamy kids might restore the love? Works for me!

5. Scully - 18/09/2011

A new team like ours of which SD had little choice after the departure of key players needs, a few games before any type of judgement should be considered.
Otherwise your comments were spot on.

Matt Rowson - 18/09/2011

Thanks Scully. Don’t dispute that a new team needs time, but not sure I made any damning judgements… just made observations about this game, and things that concern me at the moment?

6. rousman 2 - 18/09/2011

I think we would all have taken 4 point’s from 2 away games a week or so ago. Good report as alway’s but a bit harsh on Loach for there goal I think ,the defending was not good. The Division may be a bit like last year’s Premier I feel ,2 game’s to go 8 team’s involved in relegation.

7. Stephen Hoffman - 18/09/2011

I arrived 20 minutes late thanks to the aforementioned traffic jam, alongside my life’s belongings as I was going back to Leeds Uni. Having been to the Reading game -we were not as good. In the reading game Hogg and Eustace controlled the midfield with crunching tackles and accurate passing- both were not doing this yesterday. Forsyth won everything in the air against Reading -and had his first bad game for me in a watford shirt. Yeates who also had a good game today was even better against Reading where he scored a great goal and made the other. Our defence did look solid- Llloydy for me was excellent today. Just as last year though -it was another drab draw against Barnsley-who I reckon will finish midtable like us.

Matt Rowson - 18/09/2011

20 years since I first went to Leeds Uni. Sigh…

Agree with most of that. Would take mid-table now, mind.

8. Roger Smith - 18/09/2011

I thought we showed great resolve to hang on for a draw. The summariser on Football Focus was convinced that, having scored, Barnsley would go on to win.

However, Dyche’s comment that a second goal would have sewn the game up was equally off the beam. It was exactly that attitude that cost us two points at Burnley.

Overall, I’m rather more optimistic about the potential of this team when they get to know each other’s play. We also have a variety of formations to choose from, and how to make best use of that is something that Dyche will learn over time.

Matt Rowson - 18/09/2011

we didn’t draw at Burnley because we took our foot off. We’d been under the cosh for much of the game, and they kitchen sinked us to get the draw.

Don’t agree that we have a variety of formations to choose from. We have very samey central midfielders (with McGinn out and Buaben untried) and aren’t getting anything from wide. We have options in terms of personnel in several positions, but I don’t see a variety of formations.

Roger Smith - 18/09/2011

I was thinking of Sordell and Weimann, both ball players against Yeats crossing for Iwelumo and/or Forsyth.

9. Lesley-Anne - 18/09/2011

I can’t comment on the performance at Barnsley as I wasn’t there but I was at Reading last week, where I thought we really played well as a team and I did warm to them, Matt! So it’s disappointing to hear that that wasn’t so this week. Still we got a point and it sounds as if we did well to get that.

Hopefully a blip and we will be performing well in the next 2 home games and hopefully you are wrong Matt about them finding it hard to win home games!!

10. Kris - 18/09/2011

Matt, as always an interesting read. I too am a little worried about your comments regarding the team but I can understand it completely. We’ve brought in new faces who have pushed our young talents out the door – loaned to lower league clubs to gain experience.

For me, us playing our own youngsters is part of why I love Watford so to see them discarded (to an extent) for newcomers is a little hard to take. However I think the new faces need time to gel and I do believe we have potential.

For me McGinn coming back and the potential emergence of the bisquit price is important factors in our possibly succes this season. I think we have good options up front but we lack the players to create then chances and McGinn will be just the ticket if he returns in the same form and ability as before his injury. Thing is it’ll take a while before he’s ready and we need to find a solution sooner rather than later. Dyche certainly has his hands full.

11. Harefield Hornet - 19/09/2011

Thunk 1 reads horrifyingly like a Stuart Hall intro on 5 Live – Thunks 2-5 sound horrifyingly like the Championship in general!

Matt Rowson - 19/09/2011

Stuart Hall? Horrifying? How very dare you, Sir….

Harefield Hornet - 19/09/2011

The last two sentences of the first para in thunk one are classic Hall! – read them again out loud to yourself and imagine his dulcet tones!

Joking aside – your report worries me. I was quite pleased with the result until I read this today. Lets hope we get a grip in the next two home games.

Matt Rowson - 19/09/2011

I don’t mind the comparison with Hall. I despair at you calling him horrifying…

A decent result, sure. But I’m worried at how we’re playing. And not to sound too much like a stuck record, I don’t see our home record being terribly imposing, we’re just too easy to defend against.

12. Dave Jackson - 19/09/2011

I agree about the lack of risk taking in general this season. With Forsyth and Yeates’ lack of pace and inability to get to the byline, it makes the approach play lumpy and predictable. Also, as pointed out nearby, Lloydy and Dickinson aren’t much help with their distribution.
So, why not whichelow? And, more controversially (and predictably)was it really worth flogging the unpredictable but talented, speedy, and still young and improving Buckley?

Matt Rowson - 19/09/2011

Buckley – unpredictable, speedy, yes. Talented sometimes. Improving….?

13. The Great Big O - 19/09/2011

Like others on here, I wasn’t at Barnsley. But I was at Reading – a win I’d describe as comfortable but workmanlike. So I know what you mean, Matt, about finding it difficult to warm to this side. There seems to be a lack of charisma, and a reduced sense of creative possibility.

Of course, the side isn’t much changed from last year. Of the players that have left, I wouldn’t say Cowie was charismatic – I’m not sure I ever quite warmed to him – but Danny and Swash definitely were. Danny was a hard-working, ever-improving, goal-scoring line-leader whom you could only love. Swash was a maverick. Both took risks – and they succeeded often enough for us to love them. It was this risk-taking that gave the team a sense of possibility. As did the arrival in the side of youngsters and loanees – especially Mutch, Sordell, Thompson, and Whichelow.

Their replacements? Yeates and Forsyth aren’t yet exuding possibility. Weimann seems a ‘trier’ rather than accomplished enough yet to make things happen. Hogg looks exceptionally proficient, but not a game-changer currently.

And both of our regular full-backs are full-on defenders rather than exciting occasional contributors to attack (e.g. Andrew Taylor, Thompson, even Hodson).

This matters, I think. When we follow a team like Watford – considering the club’s recent history and its current resources – our expectations of the team are tempered by realism. We have one of the smallest playing budgets in the division, so we should expect to finish low. And that’s exactly why a sense of possibility is so important – to lift our hopes. If the team is workmanlike, it’ll probably only do as moderately as we’re expecting. We warm to a team’s potential.

Of course, the other way we’ll warm to them is when they’re scrapping manfully and characterfully in a relegation battle. But we don’t want to wait for that to happen.

So I’m hoping for a creative spark to ignite. This might involve a re-briefing of Hogg in midfield. Or a combination up front that allows Sordell to unleash his undoubted creative talents more frequently. Or Whichelow returning from Exeter match-sharp.

Meanwhile, of course, home wins at The Vic help. Especially when they’re on the telly. Roll on Saturday.

Matt Rowson - 19/09/2011

Don’t disagree with any of that; but re the scope for a home win, see my reply to Harefield’s coment.

14. hornetboy84 - 19/09/2011

Matt. I agree with you and think everyone is missing the point. I went to Reading, loved the archetypal away performance (but boy they were poor) and it really was a job well done. But on monday at work I told everyone that we just lack any quality. And in home games I do not see how we can craft chances against teams that sit back – we will revert to long hopeful balls and if we go 1-0 down anywhere its a challenge. I personally miss Buckley and we desperately need his ilk again. His end product and choice of option was flawed but he opened teams up, went past people to create space elsewhere and we need something like that in midfield desperately

Matt Rowson - 20/09/2011

Completely agree with your assessment of our chances at home. re Buckley… well we certainly lack invention, wit and width. Can we agree on something a bit like Buckley in some respects but not necessarily Buckley per se?

15. Paul Caruso - 21/09/2011

May I start a ban the ginger goatie lobby, no one takes facial hair seriously in that form do they? In saying that Lawrensen still isn’t taken seriously post-tash.

Matt Rowson - 21/09/2011

you may be onto something, but I wouldn’t want to be the one to suggest this to SD.

Lawro doesn’t prove or disprove anything. He’s a “special case”.

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