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Watford 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1 (27/01/2012) 28/01/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from a cup night at Vicarage Road…

1- In the past week there has been much discussion over the varying attitudes to the tie.  The concerns varied from the widening chasm between the top of the top flight and everything else to our own limited firepower and prospects in the context of our own division;  ultimately, a number of folk had reservations about spending an evening watching us get royally stuffed.  It’s much easier to be smart after the event of course (which is why it’s surely the best time to make a judgement?)…  but in the days when Cup upsets were part of our regular diet, well, we didn’t expect to win then either.  Nobody anticipated a 7-1 second leg win over Southampton in 1980 to overturn a 4-0 deficit.  Nobody expected us to spank the European Champions in glorious style in the next round either.  Ditto Manchester United in 1978, Leeds in 1992, Pompey in 2004, Liverpool in 1970, Wolves, United again, West Ham, and so on, and so on.  That’s why they’re called “cup upsets”.  So I shared the apprehension about our ability to hurt Spurs, or to contain them (if you can’t contain Reading, with the greatest respect, the “best midfield in the country” (sic), even minus Gareth Bale, is going to be a problem).  But you have to show up.  You have to hope.  And good grief, you have to support.  That’s the emotional investment, surely, the personal risk of disappointment that justifies celebration when we win.  Contrary to expectation, I felt tingles down my back as I came down the M1 in the afternoon, butterflies mixed with Guinness in the pub.

2- We didn’t win, you’ll notice.  Not one of those special nights to add to all the others then, not quite.  But bloody hell we gave it a good go.  And enormous credit must go to the manager; bold enough, confident enough, to make wholesale changes to combat the opposition.  Several of which changes that folk have been screaming for for some time… no matter.  It could have happened earlier, but all the more credit to Dyche for not digging his heels in;  for not continuing so to do at any rate.  The changes to the first team were about pace as much as performance;  we needed to be able to break at speed, we needed the energy to keep up with Walker, Bale (OK, he wasn’t there), Lennon, Rose, to chase down that midfield in the absence of Jonathan Hogg, an absence that we feared would be far more critical than it probably proved.  So in came Doyley for Dickinson, Garner (effectively) for Yeates, and at long last, most bravely of all, Sean Murray for Craig Forsyth, with Matt Whichelow making a very welcome return to the bench following his midweek hat-trick for the reserves.  Murray and Doyley, unqualified successes…  Lloyd piling Kyle Walker into the advertising hoarding a highlight of the first half, Dickinson for all his commitment has been successfully targeted this season by inferior opposition. Murray wonderfully clever, impish, confident in possession, and so very very nearly on the scoresheet twice.  Not perfect, not at all… but a youngster gets extra rope, gets the fans on side, and demonstrates a commitment to youth development that should surely be at the centre of our strategy.  Garner… less effective, albeit his best performance in yellow;  the Hoskins comparison won’t go away, he’s not quite there.  Great movement, but then doesn’t want to shoot.  Scraps for possession, then throws himself lamely over a challenge.  Still the right pick though;  our vastly, dramatically increased mobility was vital to the (relative) success of the performance, and we were far more loveable for it.  More, please.

3- Having skimmed today’s reports, much has been made of Spurs’ lame showing.  Inevitable, but does scant justice to a quite superb defensive performance by the Hornets.  Not one poor performance in this respect.  We chased, we harried… if Spurs looked more fluid in possession they were far less effective, had far less penetration (which isn’t something you could have countenanced reflecting before the game).  Some quite titanic performances here… Hodson another to have perhaps his best performance for the Hornets.  John Eustace a fire-breathing monster in the middle of the park, Mariappa marking Adebayor into utter irrelevance (no shortage of clubs willing to meet £4million after that showing, I’d guess).  Our opposition was a team going for the title, remember, minus only as many first picks as ourselves.  And we limited them to a couple of shots…

4- …one of which was decisive.  It’s tempting to blame Loach (again), who will certainly be disappointed to have let the shot under his body even if it did take an awkward bounce in front of him.  But actually, Loach did what he could to redeem himself later in the game;  more significant in Spurs’ strike was that Van der Vaart took advantage of a rare yard of space as the first half closed to strike firmly and accurately on target.  He shouldn’t have scored with the shot, he needed a bit of luck, but tickets, raffles and so on.   He did what we did insufficiently often, got a firm shot on target.  Because actually, and as implied above, we were anything but short of chances… Murray did everything right when the imperious Dawson made a rare error, losing concentration on the edge of the box in front of the Rookery and we were in.  Murray, released, did everything right, curled the shot around Cudicini, reeled away in celebration.  For half a second the roof was primed to come off the Rookery but then, implausibly, the shot came back off the upright, Deeney unable to set himself quickly enough and shooting criminally wide.  The splendidly positive Buaben wasn’t scared to shoot but lacked accuracy;  Sordell, so painfully evidently a Premiership striker, dragged the dogged Kaboul all over the pitch.  Yeates was unlucky, Nosworthy unlucky, Eustace came close.  No mystery where our problems lie, but we can also genuinely blame our luck on this occasion.

5- …and that’s the point, ultimately.  As Van der Vaart’s goal went in, my co-editor and I reflected back on two top flight seasons where we were game and eager and chased and fought and were undone by a bit of quality.  And you felt unlucky, except it kept happening.  Well actually this was different;  we were well worth something from this, and Spurs were extremely lucky as their manager was candid enough to admit.  And so this wasn’t one of those special nights, but it could prove pivotal in our season nonetheless.  Because personally, and I doubt I’m alone, I come away from the game with huge pride and belief… renewed belief in both the squad and the manager, pride in all of it from Lee Hodson’s bullishness to Sean Murray’s impudence to Deeney’s aggression to Eustace’s irrepressible leadership, to the supporters in the stands who barracked Redknapp with humour and without making the mistake of letting the sideshow dominate proceedings and otherwise got furiously, noisily, positively behind their team.  I desperately wish I was going to Millwall on Tuesday.  And that’s another thing I never thought I’d say.  You.  Orns.



1. Watford Recruitment - 28/01/2012

I don’t think I’ve genuinely felt so happy after a Watford loss ever, I fully expected us to lose heavily yesterday and to be defending for vast amounts of the game whilst hoping to snatch something on the break.

However, we’ve got some decent players and that really showed up yesterday – Mariappa, Sordell will certainly get attention because they’re linked with the Prem (and rightly so) but Eustace, Doyley, Bauben, Deeney also shone. Murray looks to have a real future (although Millwall on a Tuesday night might not be his thing just yet) – in fact all of them deserve massive credit

Hopefully we can keep Mariappa and / or Sordell until the end of the season and take this form to the league and mid table mediocrity will do just fine this year.

2. Scully - 28/01/2012

Matt, your comment as to why SD has not featured the boys messrs, Murray & Witchellow sooner in the campaign I believe he was holding them back for this second part of the season as opposed to what MM did last season when they started to look battle worn and confidence was low.
I congratulate SD for his brave and canny decision to play this side and I hope its the sign of what could be a interesting run to the end.
I still believe we need another striker even though Garner had his best game for us to date!
Onwards to the Den with, I hope another good performance.

Matt Rowson - 28/01/2012

discussed this many times on here, Scully. I don’t buy it. We’ve been desperate for creative spark for much of the season; to not feature these two was cutting off your nose to spite your face.

But whatever, I hope they’re back in the fold now.

3. Jeremy Clarkson - 28/01/2012

Jc here

MR Matt, good 5 thunks…summarised.into…”more please, and belief”

4. Vaughan Smith - 28/01/2012

Re Thunk 4 – I think it would be entirely justifiable to blame Loach (again). It was a major error (again), and cost Watford the match (again). Apart from Garner every outfield player was magnificent, and made Spurs look very ordinary for long periods. Such a shame that everything was undermined by a pretty basic error from the goalkeeper.

5. Roger Smith - 28/01/2012

Great performance, and we achieved it by playing football. As you say: more, please.

Overall, Spurs did not play well – but they played as well as we allowed them to. It was not that we were playing a poor side.

So Spurs were lucky that Watford did not take their chances, but you can’t say that Watford were unlucky to miss them; we were just not good enough to stick them away. Let’s hope that practice makes perfect – starting at Millwall.

6. Nigel - 29/01/2012

After the dirge of the Reading game i was loathe to watch this at some ungodly time of the morning but i’m so glad i did. That performance restored my fragile faith.
Unlike Reading we played the ball on the ground, passed it to each other and even had a few chances. I know, high expectations and all that…
5 great thunks again however if i’m being picky i do think that Sordell’s Cruyff like turn to leave his marker on the floor was deserving of a mention. A stand out moment of skill

7. lukefairweather - 29/01/2012

Went around Tesco’s on Saturday morning with my ‘Orns scarf around my neck and an idiot grin on my face. A televised defeat would normally put a black cloud over my weekend, and result in a damn good ignoring of the papers, but as others have noted, this surely was the most enjoyable defeat in living memory. So unexpected and quite wonderful.

Great to hear us in full voice for a change. Worthy of a thunk in its own right. I thought we were pretty damn impressive too.


8. hornetburger - 29/01/2012

Watford played splendidly but the opposition were there for the taking. They weren’t really interested in the game and it was noticeable how muted the celebration of the goal was. Even at the end most of their players slouched off without acknowledging their supporters. We were quicker to the ball and it was particularly frustrating that we couldn’t convert our various opportunities. Let’s hope that we have greater success on tuesday.

hornetboy84 - 29/01/2012

Hornetburger – all their fans had left or turned their backs on their players. They didnt even celebrate at the end. They had just watched 90 mins of their team being stuffed!

9. SteveG - 29/01/2012

Re: thunk 2. While it’s never realistic to expect every transfer to come off, so having Hogg, Nosworthy and Buaben (plus Kightly) firmly in the credit column seems to me to be about par for the course, the fact that the overhwelming majority of the team who played so splendidly on Friday night were on our books at the end of last season, before the ‘big influx’, is worthy of note.

A highlight was Doyley, so often written off by managers and a section of the supporters, proving what a wonderfuly dogged defender he can be – while Hodson’s attacking qualities and improved form means that he rightly has first claim on the right back spot at the moment, it’s far from obvious that Dickinson brings us more at left back. Implausible though it may be to everyone who was clamouring for a ‘proper’ left back at the end of last season, it may just be that ‘lopsided Lloydinho’ has reclaimed the spot again for the forseeable future.

It must be hard for Dyche to admit that “his players” haven’t performed in the numbers that he hoped, but gradually it appears that he is prepared to try something else. He’s learning – this is a good sign. And of course the youngsters are “his players” as well. So while he may prefer to reinstate the experience of Yeates for a potential tough away fixture at Millwall, we will surely be seeing more of Sean Murray in the not too distant future. And Whichelow. But while I also think that Bennett and (especially) Thompson are great prospects, it would be good if we didn’t have to see them at centre back just yet, although I do fear that by Tuesday we may have a hole that we need to fill, albeit with a few million in the bank.

10. hornetboy84 - 29/01/2012

Excellent thunks – Very proud also and nearly ’nuff said ! But its a great chance to reflect and consider whats next as this is now a critical part of the season.

1. This is the 2nd time this season I have been starting to get distraught and a significant situation has foeced Dyche to make a change that I feel can give us new momentum. Unlike the last that brought in Bauben – Dyche had to respond to the poor form of Dicko and Yeates. He has to now consider the Murray option. That was a breath of fresh air, and against championship sides we might get “much the same as Mutch” out of him. Lloydinhio welcome back. Good to have competition for places.
2. Millwall. My mate was asking before the game if I was going and I was making excuses. Now I’m trying to work out how to explain it to the missus! That Hendo bloke looks handy tho’ – Hope our £5m+ centre back can handle him.
3. Transfer window. Will Mapps and Sordell play Tuesday? I have the feeling that if we sell one we hold onto the other. The clever thing would be to hold out till this summer if we can afford the cash flow as their value will soar. If the rumours of us offering Mapps £800 a week extra are true – thats niave. We should offer £3k a week more – lock him in for a longer deal then tout him in the summer. We need to get more streetwise on the right length of contract and wage value for our better players to max our earnings from transfers.
4. My daughters late drop out meant that a QPR fan joined us in the Rookery (heaven forbid). He came admittedly to sit back and revel in the beautiful Spurs performance and potential of 5 or 6 goals. Mid-way through the 2nd half he was on his feet cheering on the horns and asked if we could keep up the pace. I said – “look at it – this is easy – we are attacking it’s Spurs who are dead on their feet as they are the ones running back all the time”. And at the end he said the only concern we would have now is that every player would be sold by transfer deadline it was such a great performance.
5. Loach – understand the views but having seen de Gea performance and one or two similar shots over the weekend which bounced in front of keepers and beat them – then I still feel overall he is worth sticking with – unless we have a truly better option. And ultimately Deeney gets cheered off the pitch when he really should have nailed that shot after Murray hit the post. But thats football I guess.

11. jasonm - 30/01/2012

With all the media frenzy about pre-match handshakes this weekend, it gave me a little chuckle to see international players having to shake the hand of a giant furry Hornet.

12. Harefield Hornet - 30/01/2012

To quote Mr Rednapp, who for all his financial ducking and diving knows a thing or two about the game – “Watford were fantastic, if they played like that every week they’d be top of the league”.

Enough said – more please.

JohnF - 30/01/2012

Only if they managed to actually put the ball in the opposition net and that has been something of an issue this season. Very hit and miss with more miss than hit. Loach’s mistakes are annoying, particularly since I believe he is better than that but he is no worse than other keepers and better than many. The inability to score shows his mistakes in sharper relief than would be the case otherwise.

13. Dave Jackson - 30/01/2012

Still considering going to Milwall. Imagine turning up and seeing forsyth, Dickinson and Yeates all back in the team. Wouldn’t happen, would it???

Scott - 30/01/2012

No it won’t happen, especially as we’ve just signed a new left winger on loan from Fulham this afternoon.

14. Roger68 - 31/01/2012

I think it makes a big difference to have a team to support that you can identify with–and a team that includes Doyley, Mariappa, Hodson, Sordell, Murray and Wichelow is certainly easier to identify with than one that contains Dickinson, Iwelumo and Yeates. That a team with these Academy- sourced players in it can turn on such a great performance is very satisfying.Personally I would like to see Jenkins in the squad too, and sooner rather than later Thompson and Bond. We will have to buy a goal scorer though.

Matt Rowson - 31/01/2012

wouldn’t disagree with any of that.

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