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Watford 1 Leeds United 1 (10/12/2011) 11/12/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from an afternoon of mixed emotions at Vicarage Road…

1- Let’s put the final exchanges of the game to one side for a minute.  They constitute an incontrovertibly key detail, of course, and we’ll get to them but they shouldn’t be at the front of our minds when looking back on today, not once the seething frustration has died down.  For this was a monstrous Watford performance;  not always pretty, and self-evidently not perfect, but vigorous, confident, bullish and single-minded.  Quite comfortably the best display of those witnessed by your BHaPPY correspondents this season, irrespective of the result.

Having bitched endlessly on these pages about Sean Dyche’s decision to ditch the attacking, youthful ethos of last season, it’s only fair to acknowledge that last season’s side wouldn’t have coped anything like as well with the physical challenge that the visitors provided;  they didn’t in fact, in the corresponding fixture early in the last campaign when Leeds took the lead early and bullied us out of the rest of the game.  That didn’t happen here; we started on the front foot and were the better side throughout.  That we bossed it physically will in particular be no small satisfaction;  Jonathan Hogg was phenomenal in midfield, catapulting himself into challenges, emerging with the ball at his feet and almost thriving on the lack of space in midfield, receiving the ball in tight positions, moving it on, moving it forwards.  Each of the defenders played well… Mariappa’s arrogantly dismissive Bobby Moore tackle on Becchio meant that half the home crowd was already on its feet for Kightly’s fine goal, Nosworthy’s vital header prevented a rare Leeds chance, Hodson was irrepressible, perhaps his best performance for the ‘orns, and Dickinson, after an iffy 20 minutes, comprehensively won his duel with Snodgrass, who drifted into irrelevance…

2- …but the key change in this performance was up front.  I’ve defended Chris Iwelumo on these pages, I don’t think his contribution is as black-and-white as has been painted.  There’s no denying the startling impact that Troy Deeney had on our forward play, however.  Defensively we were again solid enough – if we were to give away late chances we nonetheless limited Leeds for the most part;  with Deeney’s mobility and focused aggression we suddenly had a forward line to speak of too.  He’s gently and indirectly appealed to be played in his preferred position in recent interviews; it’s difficult to see any other forward pairing bar Deeney and Sordell for the foreseeable future on this evidence.  I don’t think it’s fanciful to draw comparison with Deeney’s erstwhile Walsall teammate Tommy Mooney, who learned to focus his power and enthusiasm to mature as a player over the seasons after his arrival

3- Having said all of which, you could sense the equaliser coming.  Not through Leeds’ creativity, which was all but non-existent;  their pressure as the game closed was all urgency and no guile. But we’d missed chances, good chances… Sordell’s penalty on being felled by Kisnorbo, pushed onto the post by McCarthy;  the same player had wasted a fine opening after being put through, betraying his inexperience with a bad decision and pressured finish, over the bar, when the supporting Deeney was in space.   Kisnorbo making amends for his error with the penalty with an astonishing clearance under pressure as we pushed for that crucial, conclusive goal.  Leeds’ chances were all of our creation;  Becchio twice being given the ball in a dangerous area, threatening to ruin all our good work.  Both chances spurned, the second prompting my co-editor to hope that no more gifts would be forthcoming.  Sadly there was one last parcel at the foot of the stocking… Nosworthy might have gotten away with his challenge on another day, it was a harsh award from an increasingly erratic official.  Stupid, needless challenge though, and got the visitors out of jail as their fans were keen to point out.

4- For a side with such an impressive recent record, particularly away from home, Leeds looked surprisingly mundane;  admittedly they’d lost two senior members of their midfield, Michael Brown relegated to the bench and Howson out altogether after injuries last weekend.  Nonetheless, they looked blunt and clumsy, and once again you’re asking yourself whether they were just having an off day, or whether the fact that so many sides have played badly against us is more than mere coincidence.

5- If you’re braving Bloomfield Road next weekend, all power to you.  BHaPPY will not be represented;  as such have a splendid Christmas and we’ll see you with Turkey sandwiches (or your own choice of seasonal equivalent) at midday on Boxing Day…


1. Jon - 11/12/2011

Nothing much to add, but can I refer you all to a Bsad report of a 1-1 draw with Wolves around 2003/2004? Pretty much the same thoughts here, to all intents and purposes it felt like a win and we should enjoy the performance as if it was.

Matt Rowson - 11/12/2011

Rumbled. Eastenders recycles storylines much more frequently, in fairness… 🙂

Jon - 11/12/2011

Not in any way meant as a critisism, just a point that it was a similar game and that the same thoughts apply. Also a thought that Sean Dyche’s style is heavily influenced by Ray Lewington. No bad thing really.

2. Leggatts 'orn - 11/12/2011

Some excellent festive thunks. Bet when Malky sees the video of that game he will be rapidly writing plan B and possibly plan C. I got a feeling Boxing Day could be a right nice little treat.

Have to say for all his unfussy graft, penalty aside, I am fast becoming a big Nyron fan. What an unfussy, sort it out, don’t bother me, sort of defender. If rumours about our stand in captain heading off to Swansea come to something in January, a centre back pairing of Nosworthy and Taylor could be a lot of fun, unless of course you ply your trade as a Championship striker. Will be interesting to see what happens when the loan period comes to an end. Based on his recent performances, If Martin O’Neill wants shot of him, a lot of clubs would be very interested in Nyron.

Matt Rowson - 11/12/2011

agree on most counts, although we’d be a bit short of pace with Nosworthy and Tiny together at the back

3. Tim Turner - 11/12/2011

Sadly, the image from yesterday’s game that will stay with me is of Marvin Sordell crouching in the centre circle, head in hands, as Leeds celebrated scoring their penalty. I doubt anyone in the ground was being harder on him than he was being on himself.

Because he’s become such as essential part of our attack, it’s easy to forget that Marvin is still only 20, and still learning the game. He blasts the ball over the bar from promising positions far too often, which suggests that he needs to work on his technique, and his decision-making at key moments is often poor.

I’d also suggest that he’s not as good as he thinks he is – fannying about with your penalty run-up is only permissible if you’ve got the technique to score every time, which his last few efforts have shown is not the case. (Last week’s at Ipswich was weak, too.)

I hope the clubs that are sniffing around Marvin are aware of these defects, and that we can hold on to him for another season at least, so that we can watch him make the most of his undoubted talent. It would be a shame to lose him in January – though I fear the club’s financial position will mean that we’re not in a position to refuse any decent offer.

SteveG - 11/12/2011

From the moment the ‘fannying around’ started, it just never felt as if the ball was going to end up in the back of the net.

So was it that:
A he is a bit full of himself and needs taking down a peg or two;
B he’s only 20 and he was actually nervous about taking a critical penalty with only two minutes to go;
C he was just knackered after doing rather more work than he is sometimes accustomed to and didn’t have the energy – either physical or mental – to do the job that was needed;
D all of the above?

It must be easy – Michael Gove tells us that multiple choice questions represent a dumbing down in education.

Steven Resco - 12/12/2011

E. He just thought he could fool the keeper.

For all the talk that the penalty against Ipswich was weak (and yes it was), the strength of the shot doesn’t necessarily indicate the brilliance or otherwise of the penalty.

I thought the Ipswich penalty was excellent as he seemed to get the keeper to commit to going the wrong way and then calmly slotted it in the opposite direction.

And Tim Turner is absolutely right – I couldn’t believe some of the reactions. He’s only TWENTY years old. He’ll get better and he’s already good…

Matt Rowson - 12/12/2011

Best case for the defence is Heidar Helguson, a brilliant penalty taker despite that his shots tend to roll gently into the bottom corner.

4. MartinG - 11/12/2011

If you could get a combination of Troy’s graft and Marvin’s touch you’d have a right handful to deal with. Thought Buaben played better than recently and that helped the flow forward. Mariappa was immense again. I think we’ll struggle to keep him, which would be a real pity.
I also think the much maligned ref helped make it more entertaining by not constantly breaking up play. It was a throwback to the style of 10 years ago. He might have made a few mistakes, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed the game.

5. Hornetboy84 - 11/12/2011

1. Well played Watford
2. Well played Watford
3. Well played Watford
4. Well played Watford
5. We all hate leeds

Quite definitely a magnificent performance and harked back to better times. I am still reeling in frustration.

I will forgive sores the miss but we were so in control we just forgot to shut the game down

With 60 seconds to go deeney is by the corner flag and loops a cross to their keeper. We get it back and with 30 to go sordell gets an opening and I’m screaming at him to run to the corner. His. Tame. Shot is in the keepers hands and with 13 secs to go it’s. A penalty. We just need to be nastier.

Big concern is that lightly and norsworthy will leave in jan and sores and a magnificent Maria pa also leave. What then?

Hornetboy84 - 11/12/2011

Oops sorry about the iPad typos. Left handed one fingered as daughter asleep on my right arm !

6. Fran - 11/12/2011

I’ve only missed a couple of games this season, but that was far and away the best performance that I’ve seen. At last, a team playing exciting, attacking football. Our goal was one to be treasured. The fannying around by the corner flag at the end was very irritating, though.

Felt very sorry for Marvin, who appeared inconsolable.

Re Thunk 4, I’ve felt all season that the division is very poor this year. West Ham are the only decent team that I’ve seen. But I’m becoming increasingly convinced that is our doing.

More of the same on Boxing Day, please.

hornetboy84 - 11/12/2011

Disagree Fran. If we had done just another 15 seconds of fannying around instead of Deeney and then Sordell trying to force a second – we would have won.

7. Harefield Hornet - 12/12/2011

What a cracking performance – Hogg is officially now my favourite player in this side and I kicked every ball with all of them throughout. The disappointment at the end has to seen in context with the bravery of this display – thoroughly proud of them all.

hornetboy84 - 12/12/2011


8. Mike Scofield - 12/12/2011

Not a lot different from the previous four home matches really. Pretty good, based upon organisation & sweat. Deeney definitely contributes more than CI but overall our game plan is pretty much the same.Good stuff.

Matt Rowson - 12/12/2011

You could argue that it was much the same when we were playing with, effectively, two sitting midfielders and (pre-Kightly) two wingers of at-best spasmodic effectiveness also.

But you can’t divorce the system from the personnel available to apply it. Hogg was nominally the attacking midfielder previously and whilst he contributed energy he was ultimately ineffective in that role, flourishing when Buaben’s emergence allowed him to do what he obviously wanted to do all along. Kightly gave us a genuine outlet, and some pace, and made Yeates’ limitations less obvious. And Deeney made the whole thing hang together more reliably. So… “not a lot different” only in the sense that an old banger with clapped-out suspension and a top-of-the-range sports car are “not a lot different – both still have four wheels”.

Mike Scofield - 19/12/2011

I think, to keep the analogy going, that 10 games ago or so, we just changed from a solid Ford Escort to an Escort Special Edition, which is really just the same but with a few pretty, Princely & Kightley bits added. Its essentially the same car. Then after one of the shiny Kightley bits fell off for a couple of weeks, we put it back on using stronger glue & that makes us look a lot nicer although our gameplan hasn’t changed at all. Auto analogy ends.

9. Andy - 12/12/2011

And a Merry Christmas to you and your family Matt. Best footie blog on the web.

10. Johnny Boy - 12/12/2011

As with all above, enjoyed the game till the last seconds but – c’est la vie.
Have always liked Deeney so was encouraged by his performance. He is obviously helped by having a very chantable name – Deeney,Deeney , as Matt pointed out, not unlike – Mooney,Mooney.
Re the possible departure of Aidy Marriapa, do we not have a built replacement with a certain Lloydinho who started life as a centre back, who might have a job getting back in the team re Lee’s performances?
Nice cameo from Eustace – good to see the boy is keen

Matt Rowson - 12/12/2011

Lloyd’s a great marker, but hasn’t the height to play CB. And his heading is a bit rubbish…

hornetboy84 - 12/12/2011

Good point on Hodson. He is playing superbly and whilst defending well offers something going forward as well.
For a side tipped for relegation its concerning t hat we are talking about the threat to our better playerss leaving. But Lloydio is not a Mapps. when we were in the Premiership we played him out of position and I still thought he looked quality. Its strange its taken so long for anyone to notice. Or is this the weakness of having 2 managers in Mackay and Rodgers fully understanding the quality at Watford. Including Sordell. (The last U21 striker sold to the Premiership went for £9m – so we shouldnt be shy in demanding a lot!

Matt Rowson - 12/12/2011

Mariappa is one of the stars of the team but you don’t stick a kid in for a prolonged run at centre-back normally. Physically youngsters need to develop, that’s why we finished the Prem season with Maps at RB and Lloyd at CB. And I’m not sure “taken so long” is quite fair… Mariappa always looked OK at right back but got pulled inside too often for me, as is often the case with players used to playing CB moving wide. Since established at CB (i.e. since the start of last season) he’s been excellent, and has not been short of plaudits.

re your other point, it’s far from unusual that clubs who struggle will see their better players picked off. Lest we forget, the year we went up we signed a striker from each of the relegated clubs… King from Forest, Henderson from Gillingham and Junior from Walsall, even if the latter didn’t stay long.

And Hodson has done terrifically well. But isn’t as good defensively as Doyley, not even close. Great to have competition tho.

11. Roger68 - 12/12/2011

Yes–our best performance over 90 minutes this season. We were aggressive, quick to close down and always a threat going forward. Deeney added so much mobility to the front line that Iwelumo must certainly be relegated to the bench from now on. When this team was assembled by Dyche it looked competent, but without the one or two outstanding players needed to be properly competitive in this division. Now with Kightly providing the creativity and –yes–Nosworthy the defensive reliability it DOES now look like a competitive team. If only we did not do silly things when in winning positions. That back-pass! That foot-up challenge! Two wins thrown away! Kightly did seem to lose focus in the excitement of scoring his goal, and Bauben often gave the ball away , so neither was perfect over the whole game, but neither can be faulted for effort–in fact no-one could.

I never like it when we try to defend a winning position by faffing about by the corner flag in an attempt to waste time in the dying minutes–it rarely works and often backfires. I was predicting a Leeds goal from a breakaway from the moment we missed our penalty. Inevitable.

Matt Rowson - 12/12/2011

I agree with you in general. I’m not sure Nosworthy has strictly brought defensive reliability… he’s done exceedingly well to render the loss of Taylor all but unnoticeable, inconceivable beforehand. But the reliability was there already, save the odd gaff and as you describe they’ve hardly gone away.

And I’m not sure it WAS a case of just needing a couple of special players, the problems were more fundamental than that. But I’ve said that above already.

12. straightnochaser - 12/12/2011

While I can’t deny that Lloydy is better defensively than Lee Hodson, notwithstanding Hodson’s superior attacking contribution, it should not go overlooked that he is getting beaten on far fewer occasions than last season & stops more crosses than previously. Evidence of real improvement in the young fella.

Departing rapidly on the final whistle for another engagement I overheard one of the first Leeds fans to exit onto Vicarage Road remark to a policeman that he wanted “to report a mugging”…

Matt Rowson - 12/12/2011

There’s no doubting Hodson’s strength of character. His return to form last season after he stayed in the side following his wobbly spell was proof of that. Yes, his defending has improved but I’d still dispute that he’s better defensively than Lloyd, which I took to be the original suggestion.

13. Johnny Boy - 13/12/2011

The reason Marvin missed the penalty is simple – it was taken towards The Rookery End.The only goal I can remember being scored that end this seasom is a Taylor scramble against Birmingham. Also, all the major misses are occuring at that end re Marvin on Saturday. Get the whitchdoctors out or something to cure the curse,or better still, lets stuff a few past Cardiff that end on Boxing Day – A game I am now rather looking forward to

Ian Grant - 13/12/2011

We scored twice against Millwall too. But, yes, goals at the Rookery end have been extremely rare…

NickB - 13/12/2011

And last season too, if I recall.

Was paying a rare visit to Radio 4 yesterday, just as they were announcing their annual Christmas guest Editors week.

After Tracey Emin (only on the Beeb), Seb Coe and Mo Ibrahim (who he?), I nearly drove into the ditch when the name Aidy Boothroyd was announced. Only the supplementary ‘former Speaker of the House of Commons’ clarified that the first name was ‘Lady’…

David Hemel - 13/12/2011

Yes, last season we had a run of 8 league games (after Eustace’s overhead goal) without scoring at the Rookery End. The present run is 6.

14. Marcus - 13/12/2011

Great match report as always.

What struck me was obvious (Deeney + Sordell provides hugely more mobility than Iwulemo + Sordell or Beattie + Sordell; and, unlike Garner, a target man who can jump for all the hopeful upfield punts) – and perhaps not so obvious re Denney’s fitness.

He looks like he has lost a stone in weight. Last season, he was blowing hard before half time and having to preserve his energy for “vital”runs; and was completely knackered requiring to be subb’d at 65 mins whenever he started. On Saturday, by contrast, he galloped around almost like Danny Graham the whole 93 minutes.

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