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Millwall 0 Watford 2 (31/01/2012) 01/02/2012

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. A football match at the end of Super Mega-Apocalypse Phwooooaaaar Transfer Deadline Tuesday (or whatever Sky are calling it) seems like a bit of an irrelevant afterthought. Increasingly, football is the surrounding circus, the sport is in the wheelings and dealings and gossip and rumours and crises and errors and pressure and accusations and appeals and denials and statements and mind-games and counter-claims and punishments and transfer swoops and no-comments and contract talks, ad infinitum. The games themselves are just the catalyst for all of that deafening, deadening clatter, never worse than at the end of a transfer window. If you ask me, it’s all a bit silly.

So, here we are. There’s John Eustace. There’s Troy Deeney. There’s Adrian Mariap…hang on. Like the ending of a soppy film, lovers parting at the airport as he flies off to, um, Wigan…and they don’t want to leave each other, but he must go…and they embrace at the departure gates…and he turns and walks through to the other side and then on towards the rest of his life…and she sobs openly but nobly understands…and the plane takes off as she watches in tears…and then turns to go…and there he is with arms outstretched. Sniff. Cough. Anyway.

2. Which does Marvin Sordell a massive disservice, obviously. But of the two, you’d keep Mariappa purely – and romantically – on the basis that he’s currently an utter joy to watch, a defender as elegant and stylish as any we’ve ever had, sweeping around cumbersome opponents as if gliding on invisible strings. We should savour every moment; he’s too good for Wigan and he’s too good for us.

And Marvin? Well, Marvin is explosively and unpredictably brilliant, qualities that we will unquestionably miss as the season moves on…but qualities that can frustrate as much as exhilarate. To my mind, the fee – not as much as Connor Wickham or Andy Carroll, in case you hadn’t heard – reflects the fact that it’s impossible to predict with any certainty which way his career will go from here. He has vast potential, of course, but that potential still needs years of hard work; we’ve surely been resigned to the idea that we wouldn’t be the ones to find out whether it’ll be fulfilled. We’ll get over it.

3. Cue convincing away win with both strikers on the scoresheet.

I’ll be honest: I find Joe Garner as irritating as Su Pollard on helium. A heady mix of incessant tumbling, muddled decision-making and ropey finishing makes him very hard indeed to get along with; I bet he doesn’t put the toilet seat down either. Nevertheless…nevertheless…it is undeniable that what we got last night from Deeney and Garner was something recognisable as a forward pairing rather than merely two strikers up front. There were roles being played, runs being made, chances being created and occasionally taken. It had something.

4. And that bit of extra punch in the final third is all we really lack. If it were a matter of winning a midfield battle, we wouldn’t have any worries at all: Messrs Eustace and Hogg, a perfect combination when you don’t have a home crowd to excite, sat imperiously in front of the back four to bark at anyone who dared test them. Tellingly, there were no Millwall goal attempts from the position from which Troy Deeney scored the opener, found intelligently by Kacaniklic in a couple of yards of space twenty yards out; we closed all of that right down, gave it no room to breathe. Go on, try the flanks instead; try and get past Lloyd…

In that sense, the hard work has paid off: we look like a tight unit in this context…and we fit right into a division in which there’s no shame in being a bit better without the ball than with it. Loanee Kacaniklic looks tidy, if a tad frail; the much-touted Murray looks capable of doing an earnest, head-down job while he learns how to make a more emphatic impact. With the option of re-balancing things through the more attack-minded Buaben, it’s a robust, confident little side. Stick Danny Graham at the top of it all and you’d be talking about the playoffs; we’ll settle for much less than that.

5. So there’s no denying that Millwall had their chances here: an extraordinary reflex save from Loach to prevent a first half equaliser, Trotter’s header off the woodwork, Henderson’s feeble penalty miss after a rare moment of defensive hesitation. But, equally, there’s no denying that we had the game by the scruff of its neck from the first couple of minutes onwards; we bossed it with and, mainly, without possession against a surprisingly meek, compliant Millwall side.

We’ve played more exciting football in our time, and this was far removed from the landslide of last season. But it’s hard to beat the satisfaction of a workmanlike, purposeful away win, of watching jobs thoroughly well done. An unfussy, uncomplicated three points to stave off the winter cold.


1. Nick - 01/02/2012


I couldnt agree more with your thoughts about both the game and Sordell.

I really enjoyed watching us last night and perhaps with 2 wingers both capable of beating a man with pace and forcing something to happen we can play Hogg and Eustace in midfield to protect the back 4. I thought we looked as well balanced as weve looked all season and the result was never in doubt.

I am not so downbeat about Garner though and perhaps the goal last night will give him some confidence in front of goal. He should have had a couple in the first half. I think he looks neat and tidy on the ball although obviously needing to as my brother put it ‘hit the weights’.

We’ll miss Sordells ability to create a chance from nothing but i think we’ve discovered a partnership up front.

2. Vaughan Smith - 01/02/2012

Fully agree IG that keeping Mariappa was more important than keeping Sordell. Don’t get me wrong, Marvin is a heavy loss, but throughout his Watford career he’s gone missing as often as he’s been the main man. Losing Mariappa’s influence and reliability would have hurt a hell of a lot more had he gone.

3. Toddy - 01/02/2012

If only big Chris was metaphorically waiting in the wings for his moment of centre stage glory………Oh what fun that would be…

4. Andrew J - 01/02/2012

Sitting, as I was last night, right behind you IG, I can scarcely disagree with any of that. And yet, for all Kightly’s skill and Marvin’s goals, it took the loss of both to make me think: this is what a Watford team is really like when you strip it down to its bare bones – determination, self belief, nothing fancy, just the ability to do the job of getting the points we need to stay in this division with a bit to spare. And even if Joe Garner is in the side, I really don’t mind.

5. Scully - 01/02/2012

Life goes on. I believe Sordell was often the prima who believed he was better than what we had on the pitch. I think that this might bring out the best of what we have got. Yes, he was someone who produced the unexpected, but we are a side that relies on team spirit. Tonight was a 3 point in occasion. After last Friday
who knows what we are capable of. Play off’s?

Ian Grant - 02/02/2012

No, I don’t think so. I still reckon we’ll be vulnerable at home: we’ll continue to be easy to frustrate when we have to make the play in a game. If I’m optimistic, it’s because we looked like hapless relegation fodder against Reading; we looked much smarter than that on Tuesday night and, of course, against Spurs too. There’s cause to believe that we’ll be all right. And all right is more than enough.

6. NickB - 02/02/2012

Wish I’d written thunk 1. Utterly wonderful. And similes don’t come much better than ‘as irritating as Su Pollard on helium’!

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