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Watford 2 Millwall 1 (27/09/2011) 28/09/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

No, it’s not him.  It’s me.  Tough.  He’s busy seeing a man about some pigeons.  Seriously.

1- Better.  Obviously.  Clearly.  Forget the result – we’ll come to that.  In comparison to Saturday… there was a bit of vim, a bit of life.  Some movement in front of the ball – not enough, perhaps, but better than the horrid, turgid rigidity that made a breakthrough against Forest so unlikely.  Jonathan Hogg continues to look like a decent player signed to do a job that didn’t really need doing… but last night he pushed forward to support the attack, overcoming what appears to be a natural instinct to sit alongside Eustace in front of the back four;  the effect was dramatic, like kicking your heel into an icy, frozen puddle and watching the cracks ripple out.  We had options going forward, we unsettled Millwall’s defence, made them think, made them move.  If our attacks still felt unnatural, as if we were doing something that forced us out of our comfort zone, we were at least applying a reasonable amount of pressure, and were worthy of the three points.  Most of all, if Feeney’s bizarre goal for the visitors was absolutely the last reward that our display needed or deserved, our guts in retrieving the situation and turning it around – and if our goals owed something to bad defending then we were at least applying pressure, giving the Lions the chance to make errors, and there to capitalise – once again demonstrated a resilience that hasn’t really been in question all season, despite the apparent limitations of the side.

2- And there are still limitations.  Yesterday was a step in the right direction, a more positive performance, and the result something to build on.  But there’s no avoiding that we’re desperately short of quality in wide positions, that our attacking play is nothing like incisive, inventive or interesting enough.  We’re looking solid, it’s true… many of our opponents have looked truly shocking this season, last night not least, and our ferocious determination to keep our defensive shape plays its part by making average opponents without a great deal going forward look very poor indeed.  But above and beyond that, a Millwall side shorn of all it’s forwards by injury were, with the exception of the impressive keeper Forde, a shocking mess last night and much as their goal was a fluke, we weren’t really very far from not winning the game despite the paucity of the opposition.    The greatest concern remains the obsession with defensive shape – if the dropping of Loach for Gilmartin, who looked a little nervous but was scarcely tested – demonstrated that Dyche isn’t scared of a big decision, it’s depressingly unsurprising that it was our defensive problem, rather than those at the other end of the pitch, that provoked the decision.  Forsyth has talent but is horribly raw and only occasionally effective.  Yeates, better last night, is still erratic and delivers far too little.  We know that we’re looking for loans, but we have youngsters capable of providing competition in these positions, if they’re allowed to.  Looking at the bigger picture, in nine games thus far we’ve faced seven of the eleven sides currently sharing the bottom half of the table with us and only two from the top half.  We’ve won twice, both times deservedly, but only once with any comfort.  I don’t see our current approach being more successful against more confident, potent opposition.

3- I suspect I wasn’t the only one who was a little surprised, having looked around the ground before kick-off, that the crowd came back in five figures.  Lots of factors come into this of course, not all of them dependent on the way the side is playing… but the approach being employed is hardly going to woo fans back.  It’s interesting to look back at our attendance figures to find the last time that a home crowd dipped below 10,000 for a League game.  Surprisingly, significantly, it was a game that everyone remembers vividly, that seemed to precipitate so much of what’s happened since, one way or another, in twelve years.  The chaotic, marvellous victory over Tranmere Rovers on Easter Saturday 1999, attendance 8682. The run that followed, the subsequent promotion, was utterly remarkable and helped attract supporters who’ve not (all) left us in twelve turbulent years since.  They wouldn’t be easily won back if lost though, one suspects.

(See that, Grant?  That’s a proper, fact-based thunk that is.  None of your flowery metaphor-based frippery here, no Sir!)

4- Martin Taylor’s form thus far this campaign has been perhaps less effortlessly dominant than it was last season;  nonetheless it was hugely heartening to see him take on the responsibility of a senior pro, more than once bringing the ball out of defence and throwing a challenge to an opposition who had marked up, ready to cover the inevitable lay-off or hoof that Taylor wasn’t going to oblige them with.  He evoked memories of Colin Foster, swaying out of defence like a willow tree bowing in the wind.  Splendid stuff.

5- I never met Dennis Gibbs, but it’s worth highlighting that the fact that the club sees fit to honour someone like this with a minute’s silence – a “loyal servant”, to employ a lazy but accurate cliché, not a star, not someone whose name was ever sung from the Rookery, just someone who was an important part of the fabric – is significant and special and something to love about being part of Watford Football Club.  Kudos to the travelling Millwall, who respected the tribute to someone they’d surely never heard of and shouted down the one moron who initially opted otherwise.  Dennis was part of the family;  so too Steve Brister, who passed away a year ago yesterday.  RIP both.


1. Harefield Hornet - 28/09/2011

I think a mention for Mariappa who I thought was superb again last night is in order. Bearing in mind the wholesale changes in back-room staff and the influx of new players I think we all need to exercise a bit of patience as this side learn to play together. Some of the comments after the Forest game, not so much on here but on the WO site, were bordering on hysterical. Next Saturdays performance and result will give us a clearer picture.

Matt Rowson - 28/09/2011

Mariappa was excellent, and has been (almost) flawless since the summer.

The rest… sure, a new side needs time. Can’t help but read signs that are scrawled in big black marker pen tho.

2. Ian Grant - 28/09/2011

Re: #3. Facts are just metaphors without any make-up on.

Re: #5. Well said.

Matt Rowson - 28/09/2011

Make up? If our mutual friend PDF were here, I doubt he’d express surprise.

PDF - 30/09/2011

Leave me out of your lovers tiff

3. Stuart - 28/09/2011

There’s nothing like a good reminder of that Tranmere game Matt. What a day that was, down to 9 men etc etc. I love being reminded of it, thanks!! Now I’m going to read the BSaD report, again….

4. Ben Shelton - 28/09/2011

Missed last night but loved the re-read of the BSaD report from that day in ’99. The penalty – scored on the rebound – will long stay in the memory, if not the Watford career of Alexandre Bonnot (wasn’t he quite good for a couple of games??)

5. Jimbohornet - 28/09/2011

I was encouraged by the increased intent of last night’s display only to be deflated by the fortunate deflection which was Millwall’s goal. However,unlike Saturday I felt that we would score and both goals were well taken.
I am slowly beginning to warm to Dyche’s team, This season was always going to be difficult as the division is stronger this year.and 10 new players will take time to bed in. Hopefully the young players we relied on too much last year will return from their loans better prepared to add their youthful legs to the run in.
Annoying to see how Forest were so easily beaten though – we could have done with those 3 points Onward to St Mary’s.

6. Roger68 - 28/09/2011

I wonder if dropping Loach was Dyche demonstrating “competition for places ” in action? Not just a message to Loach but to the whole team–“I can make a tough decision, and do not take your place for granted” .Even you Marvin. Not much change in formation or tactics , but when we plays collectively at a high pace, and press the opposition we will get a few results, despite the lack of flair/goal scoring potential in the team. And provided the defence does not make silly mistakes.

In truth Millwall were very poor going forward , and their defence was physical and simplistic–hoof the ball into touch and rely on the “one ball rule” to give them time to regroup. Bring back the multi-ball system! The ref was quite good and managed the game sensibly.

Forsyth looks more like Priskin with every game–tall, skinny, quite talented and frequently off-side.

7. Lesley-Anne - 28/09/2011

The thunks are slightly less positive than I envisaged for this match though I do admit to feeling far from positive after 70 minutes!

It certainly hasn’t been easy this season but I do feel we are beginning to gel as a team. It isn’t going to happen overnight but you would hope after 9 games we would be seeing some signs so I am optimistically hoping that is what I’m seeing!

I do agree that some of our youngsters are good enough to be competing for places but I am beginning to like this team. I think Carl Dickinson will become a Watford legend; his likeness to Paul Robinson and his rapport with the fans will surely see to that. And goals won’t hurt either. Mark Yeates is going to be one of those inconsistent players I feel, who when he’s good, he’s great but will also be frustratingly poor at times. We seem to have had a few of this type of player and we know that if they were consistently good they wouldn’t be playing for us!

I am not sure that Craig Forsyth is really a winger and wonder if with his height, he would not be better employed up front. As I mentioned after an earlier match, he wins a lot of headers but we don’t seem to benefit much from it. I do think he has a lot of potential to be a good player for us (though he didn’t play well on Saturday, I feel some criticism of him is harsh and he was much improved last night) and it’s worth remembering how long it took both Cowie and McGinn to really show their worth. Whilst conceding he could, perhaps should, have had more, his contribution of 2 of our 9 goals has been vital given our strikers lack of success. And I’ve got his name on the back of my shirt so I have to stick up for him!

I left the ground feeling very happy, despite my mood 20 minutes before the end. If nothing else the fact that this team have clawed their way back from 1-0 down, especially after Saturday’s performance, has to give them a boost and hopefully one they can carry into the game next Saturday.

Oh, and I agree wholeheartedly with Thunk 5!

8. Matt Lovett - 28/09/2011

No mention of the quality of Dickinson’s strike? When the chance came to him it seemed to take for ever for the ball to come down, and I was fully expecting it to be blazed/scuffed high wide and handsome. However, he watched it perfectly and timed it beautifully. Unstoppable. Having a proper left back after the mix and match in that position over the last couple of seasons (barring the loan spell of Andrew Taylor) is probably the biggest plus point of the Dyche era so far.

9. Simon - 28/09/2011

A much needed win but still a reasonably turgid game for which the match report could, but for the final result, could almost have been photocopied from previous games. You just rather felt that, although we scored twice and had other sniffs at goal, the chances presented themselves almost in spite of our play (both goals, although brought about by pressure and finished well, came about as a reuslt of penalty area skittles which inherently owes something to luck).

To take one point in particular, however, which has been alluded to elsewhere, the problem for me is as much what we do when the opposition has the ball as when we do. There’s no doubt that we conceded a lot of goals last year by chasing after opposing midfields that proceeded to pass through us. This season, we have much more shape, get behind the ball well and are tougher to break down… but…. remember back to last year and the number of goals we scored by winning possession from the opposition in their own half (or even the final third) and starting a counter attack from there. It’s devastating when it works as the opposition get no time to regroup and so you seldom need ‘a bit of magic’ to create a chance.

I don’t think we won possession (and by that, I mean win it from the opposition as opposed to winning a second ball or a 50:50 once we’ve lost it) in the Millwall half once. Now that’s fine as far as it goes but if you’re winning the ball back midway inside your own half, there’s a lot of space and, more often than not, a lot of opponents between you and the goal. You get round this either by playing the ball long to a target man to whom the ball sticks and playing off him (we don’t have one) or by getting through the massed ranks by way of exceptional movement (very hard) or by having a number of players with the guile or individual skill to beat a man with a trick or some vision. Sordell has this creativity but has been rather isolated, Yeates has the potential to but it’s distinclty hit and miss (and often lacks end product) and Forsyth, although a very capable player who does a decent wide midfield job doesn’t look like the type that will beat a couple of players en route to a cross or shot.

We’re starting to commit a few more forward when we’re in possession (Hogg and Eustace both seen in front of the top two at points on Tuesday) but I think we need to take a few more risks when the oppo are in possession. Individuals just seem a little nervous to commit for fear of being beaten/taken out of the game.

One further point – the number of crosses that flash unmet across the face of goal suggests that the forwards/midfielders aren’t gambling in the right areas or that there’s a problem in knowing when the cross will arrive. I’m not sure I know which is the case.

Sorry – bit long that.

10. JohnM - 29/09/2011

Reminders of past times? Replaying the Notts game I enjoyed the little half time reprise of the ‘Golden Years’ Such memories. But did they really wear those dreadful moustaches? And those hairstyles! Some of my memory cells curled up and died.

11. Jeremy Clarkeson - 29/09/2011

JC here

better, much better..10/10 for effort…at one time it looked as if the handbags may come out.

I would like to see a replay of the Millwall goalie vs Garner incident, from my Up Rous vantage point it looked as said goalie ran straight into Garner back

12. DW - 29/09/2011

i share the sentiment expressed a couple of weeks back by someone who said they were finding it difficult to “bond” with the latest team. Tuesday night went someway to remind me that i still love football at Vicarage road. Worthy of note was Lloyd who ran 80 yards in the second half to support an ineffective winger only to miss place a 5 yard pass by knocking the ball out of touch. Note to self: Any team with Lloyd deserves support and affection.

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