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Watford 0 Coventry City 0 (17/03/2012) 18/03/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from an inconsequential afternoon at Vicarage Road.

1- Rahelle’s first game since Reading, and like the team she started with a burst of positive energy, bouncing up and down, chanting and shouting.  She also broke rank and demanded her lucky chocolate before half time, something which ig would never have countenanced had he been there instead of in Cornwall, outside even of mobile contact.  Her impatience may or may not have influenced the passage of a frustrating afternoon and a nil-nil draw that was both fist-chewingly aggravating  and never quite set in stone.  Not one of those nil nils where a goal was never going to come…  although in the first half, after that confident opening flurry with saw Kacaniklic getting his head down and pelting at a scattering City defence, Murray heading over in space and Assombalonga doing a better job with another header, the visitors were the stronger side.  Perhaps they got their tactics right – pushing up a high line and chasing us down from a long way up the pitch we never settled, much less enjoyed controlled possession in their half with which to challenge that wobbly looking defence.  Perhaps the mantle of favourites didn’t sit comfortably on our shoulders. Either way, we saw the match wander off away from its scripted path and seemed unable to regain control;   an abrasive, physical City were the likelier scorers in the first half, having one goal chalked off after Cameron committed a foul to win space in which to head home a corner and forcing Kuszczak into a smart save just before the break.

2- Cov have managed to avoid an away win so far this season; with a small, inexperienced squad it always seemed likely that their sapping pressing game would see them tire as the game went on.  Certainly the second half saw us begin to impose ourselves. Chris Iwelumo’s introduction on the hour was the catalyst; he looked mobile, energetic, eager, even nimble… all characteristics that we had largely written off in the big striker whilst trying to work out how he’d managed to score so many goals at this level for other teams.  Even his hugely impressive outing at West Ham ten days ago saw him doing the big aggressive strong-man thing effectively… this was something else altogether, and his arrival was quickly followed by a fierce drive from Deeney; Murphy did well to push it onto the post but it was a clarion call, the game had changed.  We never looked like overpowering City, never had them on the rack… but we were at least on top, with City attacking on the break. That’s not to say that it was comfortable… Adrian Mariappa’s diligence was called upon as he cleared off the line after McDonald had made the most of Nosworthy’s cack-handed defending and beaten Kuszczak and an extraordinarily lazy refereeing performance was a source of unpredictable decisions.  Nonetheless, we were at least on the front foot for the most part.

3- The fiftieth graduation from our Academy in 12 years is something to be hugely proud of, rightly celebrated over the tannoy.  Assombalonga looked the part, keen, strong, rangy… but also raw, and not helped by the limited service he received from a hurried midfield.  Sean Dyche has again defended his policy with young players this week, asserting both that there’s a risk in bringing players on too quickly and that each case needs to be dealt with on an individual basis.  There’s conviction and no little rationale there… but the consequences seem considerably more haphazard than his careful words suggest.  Massey, in particular, will be forgiven for wondering whether he’s coming or going.  Overall, a case by case basis has been hugely conservative;  at least seven of our youngsters will almost certainly end the season having played fewer games in yellow this year than last, with Assombalonga only the second debut (after Bond).  Whilst that’s consistent with Dyche’s warnings about bringing players on too quickly it’s not consistent with demonstrating that youngsters will get chances at Watford and therefore attracting kids to/persuading them to sign after Harefield.  You’d also wonder whether his case-by-case treatment has been to the benefit of all the kids involved. Dyche has done a decent job in challenging circumstances this season, but I’d still rather he used more of the youngsters, even if intermittently and occasionally at the risk of games like this where several of the younger players floundered in the morass.

4- For all that Cov caused us problems they looked a limited side – fragile at the back, unimaginative up front and without the facility to strengthen in this last week of loan transfers they are a relegation team.  They might still get out of it anyway – there are a number of relegation sides jostling for position down there with Pompey’s situation giving Cov and Donny in particular reason to believe.  Whether they get out of it or not, this season should surely not overly damage the reputation of Andy Thorn who has worked wonders in the circumstances to put out a team that hasn’t sunk out of sight.  Hardly starting from a high base, Cov lost Westwood, King, Gunnarsson and Turner over the summer followed by Jutkiewicz in January without being able to bring in replacements of anything like the same quality.  To still be in the game is an achievement.

5- Goes without saying, but that doesn’t mean you don’t say it.  None of the above constitute matters of life and death.  Football is entertainment, sport, sure… but it’s escapism and catharsis too.  People watch football, particularly in the stadium, to escape from the stresses and anxieties of every day life for a bit.  Sometimes.  I know I do.  So when the real world interrupts as rudely and horrifically as it did at White Hart Lane yesterday it’s all the more shocking, much as there are folk outside the spotlight of publicity suffering such tragedies with altogether less publicity.  At the risk of sounding mawkish you kinda want to root for all of them.  Hang in there, Fabrice.


1. hornetboy84 - 18/03/2012

Great job Matt getting 5 thunks out of that game.

Any news on why Trotta has just disappeared – just asking – but its at least beeter to be playing our own and keeping loans to just a couple might bear well for the future.

I work with Massey’s auntie. He’s happy – don’t worry. Turned down Liverpool as his hero/mentor is Ashley Young and he has his head screwed on right and WFC is still the best place to be to build a career.

Murray was tweeting his praise of Swansea’s style last night. Oh dear – hope yesterdays lump it game doesnt give him itchy feet! – But if in doubt he should just ask Marvin when he last touched a ball.

Matt Rowson - 18/03/2012

Trotta – no, odd. Can only assume that Dyche thinks we’re safe and would rather give our players action. Plus Trotta perhaps hasn’t worked out and his initial month is up soon?

2. Roger Smith - 18/03/2012

I can only think that Dyche thought that Coventry would be a pushover, and wanted Assombalonga to be part of it. But as Dyche himself has said on numerous occasions, there are no easy games in the Championship. So we should have started with Garner to give them the runaround, and used Assombalonga as an impact sub against a tiring defence.

Opponents have learnt that the way to stop us is to close down the midfield, when we resort to balls over the top. The way to combat that is for the wingers to stay wide to create the space in which to be creative. Even if they don’t get the ball themselves, it opens up the channels for Eustace and Hogg to exploit.

Matt Rowson - 18/03/2012

Assombalonga an unknown quantity from Cov’s point of view? Yet to be convinced that starting Garner is ever the best option…

3. Jim Bullen - 18/03/2012

The usual good quality reporting and observations from you Matt

This whole 50th graduate celebration has provoked the thought – who was the first to graduate from the academy?

Matt Rowson - 18/03/2012

David Perpetuini, according to Jon Marks’ tweets on Friday…

4. Roger68 - 18/03/2012

If Iwelumo had played from the start–assuming he would have played as well as he did when he eventually came on–then we would have won this game. He was a revelation– quick, skillful, nimble–why has he looked so ponderous before? Not that playing Assombolonga was the wrong choice–he did well, but the tempo of our game changed and we looked more dangerous with Iwelumo on. Kacaniklic did not get into the game much, and that seemed to affect our forward play.

I expected more from Coventry–a team battling to avoid relegation should be showing more energy , yet they seemed to be content with a draw as the game wore on.

5. Nicholas Chainey - 18/03/2012

My one query was that early on we made real progress down the flanks and then decided to ignore them for most of the rest of the game. Seemed a real lack of basic footballing intelligence.

Regarding Big Chris, I’m not sure if he was brilliant or Coventry awful; that said, his 1-2 with Troy was a thing of beauty that deserved a goal

6. Norwayhornet - 18/03/2012

Very good article mate , sums up (what I assume to be) the overiding beliefs of most hornets:)
Britt got a taste , but as Murray said last week for a striker to do well he needs his team mates to have a good day at the office too!
Lastly I think all decent footy fans wish Fabrice well and have their fingers crossed for him!

7. Moralee Reprehensible - 18/03/2012

A wonderfully athletic clearance from Mariappa in the 93rd minute. The best goal-line clearance in front of the Rookery since Coxy got that one away over his own crossbar against Burnley.

8. Tim Turner - 18/03/2012

“An extraordinarily lazy refereeing performance”? On the contrary, it seemed to me that Mr Webster was making a strenuous effort to get up as many people’s noses as possible in the second half. The way he would make diametrically opposed judgements on near-identical incidents occurring in quick succession suggested a man who was determined not to take the easy option of consistency.

My favourite moment (and let’s face it, this was a match where you had to take your entertainment wherever you could find it) was when he stopped the match in order to bring the managers together for a stern talking-to. Presumably he thought things were getting a bit overheated out on the pitch – but in the aftermath, there was no sign of either manager making the slightest effort to communicate whatever the ref had said to their players.

Matt Rowson - 18/03/2012

“Lazy” because he gave cop-out decisions and was frequently behind the play. Yes, that was a spectacularly bizarre incident… even if one assumes that things needed calming down on the pitch, protocol is surely to discuss this with the captains?

NRC - 19/03/2012

Suggestion on 3CR that speaking to the managers was something to do with a whistle in the ground.

Sounded like one to miss anyway – was listening to commentary on headphones and a neighbour spotted me, said I looked particularly miserable. All sorts of possible responses.

Harefield Hornet - 19/03/2012

Not sure about Lazy? – complete twat more like – some of his decisions in front of the LR were beyond belief!

9. Mark Turner - 19/03/2012

Would those know better than me (i.e. everyone) be able to rank the 50 graduates in terms of how far they got…suggest ranks of:

0 – disappeared from sight
1 – not with us but doing OK with lower league sides
2 – not with us but with a champoinship side
3 – with WFC
4 – with a premiership side but no further
5 – all the way to playing for England

Matt Rowson - 19/03/2012

Don’t have a definitive list of the 50, have tried to construct one with some question marks around the edges. To get up to 50 have included Loach, Cook, Avinel but excluded Eagles, Ferrell, Gill… anyway…

You ask “how far they got” but your categories are “where they are now”. Have used the same definitions but “where are they now” as criteria. And I’ve added a “non-league” classification…

So, with a nod to http://www.wfc.net/watn

0 (disappeared/quit/retired)
Brooker (left Doncaster last summer)
Panayi (teacher)
Norville (injured, played for Barnet & non league)
Swonnell (was at Aylesbury)
Kamara (convicted of armed robbery, 2008)

1a (non league)
Perpetuini (Arlesey Town)
Hand (Hayes and yeading)
Ifil (Kettering)
Bangura (Forest Green)
Osborne (Northwood)
Francis (Tamworth)
Forbes (Forest Green)
Henderson (York, on loan at Forest Green)
Oshodi (Forest Green)
Brooks (Wealdstone)

1b (lower leagues)
McNamee (Wycombe)
Lee (Brentford)
Blizzard (Yeovil)
Diagouraga (Brentford)
Grant (Wycombe)
Parkes (Barnet)
O’Toole (Colchester)
Gibson (Yeovil)
L.Young (Northampton)

2 (championship)
J.Smith (Millwall)
Bouazza (Millwall)
Robinson (Derby)
Avinel (Clermont – French second tier)

3 (Prem)
Cook (technically, QPR))
Kiernan (again, technically, Wigan – but on loan at Accrington)
Sordell (Bolton)

4 (England)

5 (WFC – the highest echelon)
Massey (on loan at Colchester)
Hoban (on loan at Wealdstone)
Thompson (on loan at Brentford)

Harefield Hornet - 19/03/2012

Interesting stats – my reckoning is the quality of the boys coming through is improving.

Please may I add one other name + category.

Harefield Hornet – attended Harefield Academy (then John Penrose School) 1973-78

Never made it passed a kickabout!

Vaughan Smith - 19/03/2012

64% still involved in ‘League’ football (Div 1 to 4), and 30% of all graduates still at WFC. That’s some statistic, and certainly shows that the WFC Academy is a great place for youngsters to be if they’re serious about a career in football. Hats off to all involved there, and long may it continue.

Matt Rowson - 19/03/2012

Nor does this list include those who never “graduated” with us but made a career elsewhere… there are a few, Lee Johnson winning the Scots League Cup with Kilmarnock springs to mind.

lukefairweather - 19/03/2012

And someone called Harry Forrester or Forster perhaps who after a lot of fuss went to Villa and then..?


Matt Rowson - 19/03/2012

Brentford. Forrester.

Mark Turner - 20/03/2012

Genius – I think that is a very high hit rate for those that ‘make it’ in football in some kind of way

10. Mark - 19/03/2012

Did anyone get the feeling when they heard Coventry had lost 10 in a row on the road we weren’t going to give the Sky blues their 11th?

Just typical of us really..least we turned up 2nd half but it took a great block on the line from our POTS to save us.

Maybe a few of our players are getting tired or losing their weay a bit…Hogg and Norsworthy for example haven’t been as good in recent weeks.

Still happy to be mid-table!

11. mikepeter - 20/03/2012

Don’t think Sheku Kamara should be on that list, Matt. He joined in summer 2006 having been released at the end of a scholarship at Charlton. You’re missing Elliott Godfrey (Hendon, according to Wikipedia), which takes you back to 50.

Don’t see why you’d include Ferrell (signed from Newcastle aged 20 – I’m sure you remember his 21st birthday party!). I suspect the club include Loach, although I wouldn’t. Avinel, Cook and Gill I’d say were all involved in our Academy, so presumably count, although then it doesn’t add up. Eagles left before a scholarship, then came back, so I think you’d be right not to include him.

In the Lee Johnson category, Marvin McCoy at Wycombe and Jamie Collins at Aldershot both came through the Watford academy but didn’t make the first-team.

12. mozzer - 21/03/2012

Ben Herd was another who has had a very good career after failing to make an appearance for us

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