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Watford 2 Portsmouth 0 (19/11/2011) 19/11/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from – whisper it – a third consecutive home win…

1- …and in its own way, as remarkable as the last two.  Not the dramatic flourish of the Peterborough game, three points when three points were absolutely required, no-negotiation, no-compromise.  Nor the satisfying relief of the win over an unlikeable Brighton.  Instead, a thoroughly mundane victory.  All wins are good, of course… but the fact that this was never in doubt from the first minute, that we were never threatened, that’s significant.  The first time this season that we’ve made winning look easy, crucially, at least at home, and I must confess to having wondered whether that would quite happen, whether we’d pick up three points without being fully extended.  We’ve deserved wins before now, but none have been entirely comfortable, as this was, and if Pompey were pretty pathetic after a brief early flourish, it’s difficult to avoid an emerging pattern:  many of our opponents (with one or two significant exceptions) have looked rubbish.  Now that’s either because the division is pretty mediocre, which can only increase our chances of staying up by default,  or we’re doing rather well at making teams look limited by stifling their effectiveness.  Without, increasingly, ruining it all by giving away silly goals, and suddenly with a goal threat to boot.  Perhaps a combination of the two possibilities.  Either way, it’s all good.

2- An early goal always helps, of course, and as we’ve noted before this Watford team, increased potency or not, particularly benefits from having its nose in front.  Michael Kightly, having occasionally spluttered into life before now, suddenly looks like the top flight winger that Mick McCarthy surely hoped would re-emerge from his long injury absence; bold, aggressive, competitive, running at defenders and committing them.  Marvellous. We can only hope that his injury absence will persuade McCarthy to extend that loan.  Elsewhere…  Jonathan Hogg continues to flourish in being able to concentrate on his natural, breaking up, fetching-and-carrying role without having to pretend to be an attacking midfielder – irrespective of fitness, Eustace on the bench was the right call, and I never thought I’d be writing that.  Mark Yeates and Carl Dickinson put in more compelling performances than of late, admittedly against an opposition not offering much in terms of pace.  And Adrian Mariappa.  My word.  Player of the Season thus far by an embarrassing distance, he’s reached a plane where it just looks painfully easy for him.  Just don’t tell anyone… Swansea’s summer interest is unlikely to be the only offer we fend off for Aidy, he was simply fabulous again today.

3- Notwithstanding the trend noted in Thunk 1, one can only wonder at quite what the basis was for Forest to opt to poach Steve Cotterill.  Half of the team comprise the sort of detritus that sides are left with when they go bust in the top flight;  the sort of player on too much money, the sort that even the most desperate vultures won’t take off your hands.  Tal Ben Haim, that’s you that is.  But then…  Cotterill’s apparent preference for carrying a relatively small squad of “name” players – he might have called it quality over quantity – has left Pompey with a squad FULL of that sort of player, half of them signed since relegation.  Benjani, Dave Kitson, Luke Varney.  Uninspiring, indolent, undeserving of the remarkable, relentless support of the travelling Pompey fans.  Michael Appleton has a job on his hands.

4- I appreciate that something with nostalgia value is of no interest or value to those who weren’t around to experience it the first time around.  For those that were, though… I can’t be the only one whose spine tingles at “Chariots of Fire” as the sides warm up.  I’m on the north west terrace, it’s the early eighties, standing on a green upturned bucket.  The old scoreboard is still there, the Main Stand still has folk in it, Dad is smoking Marlboro next to me.  As with everything else, today’s experience is amplified – by the new sound system.  Not as crackly, distant and ethereal as it was across that open-topped terrace.  But my word it’s good to have it back.

5- Important, at the end of a divisive and difficult couple of weeks at Vicarage Road, to have something of a show of unity at the end there;  not universal, none of the Bassini questions have been answered.  But the extended, heartfelt celebration in which Sean Dyche made a visibly more drawn out effort to connect to each of the home stands in the post-match love-in, helps to woo us all back again, doubts and concerns or otherwise.  Much needed.


1. Mike Scofield - 19/11/2011

Yes amazed. Not the slightest doubt that we would hold-out in the second half. Cant quite believe that some people are putting messages on the boards suggesting that Buaben was anything less than excellent today. I guess when things are going well, you have to work hard to find something to moan about.

Matt Rowson - 19/11/2011

Really like Buaben. Thought he was splendid, but as discussed ad nauseam just having SOMEONE making those runs makes us a different team.

2. Roger Smith - 19/11/2011

“All wins are good, of course… but the fact that this was never in doubt from the first minute, that we were never threatened, that’s significant”.

What game were you watching? Their movement around the box opened us up more than once, but they couldn’t find the finishing touch. If they’d nicked one ten minutes from the end, it would have been the usual nail biting finish.

All that said, though, Watford now look dangerous every time we go forward, and someone soon is going to catch a packet. Donny away, or another caning for James?

Matt Rowson - 19/11/2011

never in danger, Roger. They weren’t lively enough in the box, and didn’t have a shot until the second half. of course a two nil lead is always vulnerable to a nicked goal, but in that sense a 2-0 is never “comfortable”. We were always the more likely to score.

Making empty, disparaging statements like “what game were you watching” doesn’t actually add any weight to your argument, btw

Nick - 20/11/2011

The only time portsmouth looked dangerous was when they swung in a free kick. There were a couple in the first half where it bounced off mariappa and went wide or they couldn’t direct their header.

That said we were well worth the 2-0 victory.

Buaben and hogg were excellent today. I also thought hodson was very tidy.

hornetboy84 - 20/11/2011

If it helps I was definitely at the same game as Matt.

3. JohnF - 20/11/2011

At last a competent, combative and solid performance that perhaps should have been rewarded with more goals. The positives were several but there are some concerns. We only have one attacking midfielder with any experience until Stephen McGinn is back, Two of the stars, Nosworthy and Kightley are loanees and remember what happened last year when the loanees went back, finally big Chris just looked out of place and pretty ineffective again. However, with regard to the loanees, we need to make hay while the sun shines. Another loanee on the bench didn’t even get on the pitch and one wonders why.

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2011

don’t think Chris was anything like as ineffective as you suggest. He gives away too many free kicks, but had a decent second half.

4. hornetboy84 - 20/11/2011

1. I’m actually looking forward to the next game already – so something is definitely positively right that wasnt before Peterboro.
2. Hogg and Mariappa – marvellous
3. Hodson and Bauben – sometimes you need luck to make you change and do something different – I suggest in future we nip down to the changing ground to nobble certain players just to make sure we get that change. Eustace is worthy of a place in the team but we its him or Hogg and at the moment he needs to bide his time.
4. Dare I say Big Chris had more than a half decent game and a goal might have made him a contender for MOM
5. Kightly. Someone like Buckley but not Buckley as discussed before. An appearance vs. Middlesboro the other week and we might have been in cloud cookoo land by now.


Ps a bought a liitle book for £3 last week called Watford on this day … and was able to confirm that a) My first Watford game was 16th April 1977 (Mike Keens last) but b) still not sure of the date of my 2nd game which was a Divvy 4 6-0 win over Doncaster …. which if repeated next week would be a nice symmetry!

Nick - 20/11/2011

I guess big chris is the type of player to polarise opinion. I thought apart from a couple of things he did nicely yesterday he had a poor game.

For me he doesn’t get in enough shots, is poor with ball into feet, isn’t mobile enough and never looks like getting on the end of a cross.

However, is he a good foil for the forward thinking sordell, buaben, kightly, yeates? Does he give us another option when in danger? Does he take the defenders focus away from other players at set pieces? Maybe but in my eyes he’s a poor player.

Contender for mom yesterday. Not on your nelly

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2011

Not MoM. But he did his job well. He occupied defenders, worked hard, made space. He’s not mobile and probably could shoot more, but that’s not why he’s in the team. It’s like the old Jason Lee argument – he didn’t score many, wasn’t terribly mobile, but we didn’t half look more effective with him in the team.

Hornblogger - 20/11/2011

6-0 v Donnie would’ve been 28 Jan 1978 and you were one of 11,816 there. I’ve got a spreadsheet with all the League games on. Email we at hornblogger.comment@gmail.com if you want a copy.

hornetboy84 - 20/11/2011

Brilliant hornblogger. Will do just that.

Very memorable for me as I was standing on the NE corner and went to run down to the front after goal 5 (I was 12) and smashed my knee into one of the terrace barriers. After that I was an early advocate of all seater stadium !!

That was my first GT game…. not hard to see why I got hooked.

SimonF - 21/11/2011

Has your little book got the date of a home friendly against QPR in the 1970s, that I think we lost 3-0? It would be nice to know the date of my first Watford game!

Matt Rowson - 21/11/2011

Trefor Jones’ book (“Season by Season”) will contain this info but I HAVE LOST MY COPY. AND MY “WHO’S WHO”. IT’S DOING MY HEAD IN…

…so I can’t help you at the moment, but anyone with the book will be able to

David Hemel - 21/11/2011

I don’t know if this is the friendly you’re thinking of, but Watford hosted QPR in a Testimonial match for Ian Morgan and lost 6-0. The date of that game was 10th March 1976.

SimonF - 21/11/2011

Thanks David, that was the one. I was only 11 at the time, so must have lost count once we went 3-0 down!

Harefield Hornet - 22/11/2011

Blimey that brings back a memory – the first time i ever attended Vicarage Road with some mates instead of family. We got lost after the the game and couldn’t find the right bus stop to get back to Harefield! I also remember eating a burger in the ground which made me so ill I had to take the next day off school!

5. MartinG - 20/11/2011

Since Nosworthy has arrive the defence has looked far more organised and solid and as you say Mariappa has been brilliant. With the injection of pace and attacking intent with Hogg and Buaben all we need now is a speedy right winger with the delivery of Yeates and we’ll give someone a right battering. Though I still think Iweulemo is a weak link. A number of promising moves broke down when he got involved. However good 3 points yesterday.

6. Red - 20/11/2011

Once again lots of plus points-scoring early instead of conceeding. Scoring late instead of conceeding. Scoring from a set piece. By the way anyone heeping count of which end we are scoring goals this season. As a Lower Rous seat towards the Vicarage Road end it’s getting embarrasing. The players acknowledge my contribution to their wages by doing their celebrations in front of just me!

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2011

we noted this yesterday. We’ve scored at the Rookery End against Millwall and Brum… but there haven’t been MANY home goals at all really.

7. scott_01@madasafish.com - 20/11/2011

Please forgive me Matt for starting with the comment “what game were you watching”. But of course my comment is aimed at Roger not yourself as I fully agree with your assertion that we were never in danger of conceding. Loach has one save to make in the entire 90+ minutes of the game. We know from our own early season performances against Derby, Forest and Palace that possesion in and around the box means nothing if you don’t finish it off with goals.

I’d also like to add that I believe the injury to Taylor has been the crucial to our recent improvement in form, as it nessecitated the signing of Nosworthy. Big Nyron has been an absolute Rock in recent weeks, which is amazing when you consider the lack of football he had prior to signing. He is a player I think we should seriously look at signing permanantly.

Going forward we look to actually have some confidence now, Buabens runs are creating spaces for others to exploit. Iwelumo is looking far more mobile and even Yeats has actually starting taking on players rather than swinging in a cross as soon as he nears an opposing defender. Now if only someone can persude young Marvin to lift his head up occasionally when on the ball we’d be looking really dangerous. Good days.

Roger Smith - 20/11/2011

Maybe I’ve seen Watford lose too many games to sides that posed no threat!

I accept that Portsmouth never found the telling pass, or their forwards couldn’t control it when they did, but if they had… Then there were several chance-saving tackles – which I accept is evidence of a much more solid defence.

Matt, I apologise for the “What game” remark, but clearly we saw it through different eyes.

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2011

nobody’s arguing that we’re suddenly looking up the table (except my Dad, who has gold-tinted specs welded to his head…). All I argued was that we were comfortably the better side yesterday, the win was never in doubt. Yes, had Pompey not been rubbish they might have exposed a bit of defensive wobbliness; it might have been a different game. But they were, they didn’t, and it wasn’t.

8. StevieT - 20/11/2011

Personally I take issue with one observation: “undeserving of the remarkable, relentless support of the travelling Pompey fans.”

Why do I get the impression that the Pompey away fans just follow their team for the chance to have a mass singalong? Yes it’s relentless but I would call it support; the match seemed to be a side issue. There wasn’t much encouragement for their team and there was certainly a lot of boo-ing at half and full time.

Maybe I’m just a bit more irritated by them as I was in the family end for this game and all I could hear was Pompey fans for the first 70 minutes.

All in all though – a very good win against a side that does contain a lot of quality. I don’t think there was one Watford player who played poorly and it’s not often you can say that.

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2011

Having a sing-along irrespective of goings on on the pitch? Damn their eyes…

9. The Great Big O - 20/11/2011

In summary:

Goalkeeper – very good. Defence – excellent. Central midfield – excellent. Wide midfield – very good. Attack…. er….

Remembering that Danny Graham used to play where Iwelumo now lumbers about makes me want to cry. His role seems to be to try to win freekicks via 50-50 wrestling contests. He offers no support to Sordell when Marv has the ball – which is why Sordell feels he needs to get his head down and do everything himself.

Great comedy moment in added time when Big Chris toppled backwards into a defender, falling like a giant Redwood, and still didn’t get a freekick.

Now the rest of the team’s working, it’s time to get the front pairing right. But who…?

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2011

Compare Iwelumo with Graham and of course you’re going to be disappointed. That’s a bit like saying that Hogg lacks Cleverley’s vision, control, effervescence and writing him off as a consequence. Iwelumo is not the same standard, and not the same sort of striker.

10. Simo - 20/11/2011

Chaps, come on….seriously…Big Chris!
Ellington aside it is hard to find a worse striker upfront for Watford in recent years. He does not win headers, he cannot control a ball and yesterday more importantly did not have one shot on or off target. Now I know he is a target man but come on, even T-Roy managed to hit the ball harmlessly in the vague direction of the Pompey goal.

Overall however we are starting to build something, but please stop happy clapping Chris Iwelumo…the man needs a rocket!

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2011

“polarises opinion” was right from Nick above. I’m in danger of starting to try to argue that he’s our Van Persie. That’s somewhat ridiculous, of course, but no more divorced from reality than this assessment…

Nick - 20/11/2011

Perhaps he should be nicknamed Marmite.

BHappy is definitely the best post match Watford debate online.

scott_01@madasafish.com - 20/11/2011

Sorry Simmo but Chris is very effective at what he does. If he wasn’t, opposition managers wouldn’t feel the need to double up on him at every corner, free kick and even in the last couple of games when he’s lining up to challange for goal kicks/clearances. It may not be pretty and you don’t have to like him, just accept he does his job and creates the space for Marvin to be greedy in.

The Great Big O - 20/11/2011

I take your point about occupying defenders. But I didn’t see it benefiting us at all yesterday. Mainly because balls into Iwelumo so rarely end up with us retaining possession. (Love to see stats on this.)

So I’ve seen little to suggest that the job he does helps us. And there are definitely other jobs to be done. The word ‘striker’ contains a clue as to what one of those jobs is.

Twice yesterday, in the first half, dangerous crosses were whipped into the box. Iwelumo was in the right place to strike, but simply didn’t move. He has no instinct, no anticipation.

On another occasion, Marv broke down the right, looked up to check Big Chris was in the centre ready to strike and.. and… people shouted at Marv for being greedy and holding onto the ball.

So frankly, he’s not a striker. Wrestler, maybe. Is that really a job we need doing?

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2011

For someone who’s “not a striker” he’s made a reasonable career of it. More headed goals than anyone in the division for the last few years? Can’t remember the stat, saw it quoted somewhere. Lack of supply from the flanks (until now) perhaps contributes to lack of goal threat.

11. KrishPK - 20/11/2011

I Love Big Chris!!!, why because he does his job and results have generally improved since his return to fitness, and when our pitch resembles a ploughed field in January, I think his effectiveness and attributes might win us points that marv and danny failed to do towards the tail end of last season…

12. Simo - 20/11/2011

Matt, I have re-read my assessment and have to be honest, i do agee with your reply.

It is ridiculous of me to think Deeney’s shot went in the direction of Pompey’s goal

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2011


13. Paul Caygill - 20/11/2011

Good that Kightly is staying until January – I was impressed with both him and Hogg yesterday, Hogg in particular seems to get better with each game. Great win yesterday, much more defensively solid than in the early weeks of the season.

14. Simon - 20/11/2011

Point 4 – absolutely (didn’t have the old man smoking a Marlboro, but the rest fits)

15. NickB - 21/11/2011

Whilst seeing Matt’s point in terms of the wording of some replies – we need to remember that this is a blog that we’re adding some colour to by way of comment, rather than a free for all forum – I do have sympathy with the general tenor of the Iwelumo comments.

He doesn’t seem to think and react like a footballer to me – no anticipation, never on his toes or trying to steal a yard on the defender. He’s often made some decent crosses seem average as a consequence. The comparison with wrestling made by TGBO seems fair to me.

Matt Rowson - 21/11/2011

…you know what I think, I won’t say it again. 🙂

16. Johnny Boy - 21/11/2011

Loved what, from the Lower Rouse, looked like a superbly timed goal saving possibly penalty inducing tackle by Nosworthy. A few minutes later big Nyron nearly undid all the good work by fafffing around in our half rather than giving it the usual, rather effective, hoof upfield. Love the solidity Nyron has given the defence but would Tiny have ‘faffed’ around.

Matt Rowson - 21/11/2011

There’s more than a little of the Keith Dublin about Nosworthy. Crucially, he has settled the defence when Dubbers… never quite had that effect. But you do fancy he’d run the length of the pitch with the ball if he thought he could get away with it.

wfcsteve - 22/11/2011

That was indeed a superb tackle. If he had mistimed it we would have had a penalty against us and he would have been off. I was just waiting for the ball to hit the back of the net, but Nosworthy seemed to come from nowhere to rescue the situation. Not too often a tackle gets a prolonged standing ovation, but that one did and deservedly so.

17. Andy - 21/11/2011

“I can’t be the only one whose spine tingles at “Chariots of Fire” as the sides warm up. I’m on the north west terrace, it’s the early eighties, standing on a green upturned bucket. The old scoreboard is still there, the Main Stand still has folk in it, Dad is smoking Marlboro next to me”

Upturned plastic toy crate in the Vicarage Road end in the 80s, my poor old Dad had to leave the cow shed so I could have a hope of seeing the footie.

Great stuff.

NickB - 21/11/2011

Watford v Liverpool FA Cup 6th Round 1970, stood from 1.30 to 5.00 on a wall with my arms woven around some railings set on the top – corner of Vicarage Road and Shrodells, kind of where the Rous entrance is now. Went as mental as I could under the circumstances when big Barry’s flying header flew past the (non) Flying Pig. Fortunately, hadn’t discovered beer at this juncture.

18. hornetboy84 - 21/11/2011

Loving this blog at the moment .. especially when we win.. trust Millwall to bring it all back to reality by losing to Bristol City.

Dare I say – 2 massive season defining games coming up.

bring it on.

19. Pete B - 21/11/2011

just re read thunk 1. I have remarked often this season that all teams seem to be rubbish. But I’d not thought of crediting us for reducing them to so much rabble. Maybe you’re right. If So I don’t Feel as pessimistic as I did.

20. Fred - 24/11/2011

@StevieT: “Maybe I’m just a bit more irritated by them as I was in the family end for this game and all I could hear was Pompey fans for the first 70 minutes.”

One of the main tasks of any away support is to irritate the feck out of the home fans by singing lots and loudly. I remember a previous Pompey match years ago, when they were in deep financial ordure and Alan Ball famously had his company car repossessed and had to travel to matches in a taxi. Their fans were magnificent, never stopped singing and making noise, despite being played off the park.

And of course they go to away matches for the sing-song and the craic, with the match often being a distraction – that’s what the travelling ‘Orns used to do, and to be honest when your team’s crap and hasn’t a fart’s chance in a hurricane then you have to make your own craic or just sit there like a bunch of miserable grumps.

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