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Watford 2 Ipswich Town 1 (24/03/2012) 25/03/2012

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. By my reckoning, we’re second in the league. Not that league, obviously…but if you crudely divide the division into those with, at minimum, playoff aspirations and those, like us, with “Aliquid Sed Relegatio”* as an unofficial club motto, only Derby (arguably) sit above us. An awkward, cumbersome season has resolved itself very satisfactorily indeed.

I’ve been absent for a while, for various reasons, good and bad. When I last saw us, we were stumbling haplessly…no question that we’d be pulled back into the relegation fight, but absolutely nothing within comprehensive defeats to Palace and Southampton to suggest that we’d finish the campaign on a high note either. We haven’t lost since then, of course. I’ve missed the good bit; I’ve missed every single one of Sean Murray’s goals, the reputed revival in Chris Iwelumo’s form, the positive impact of Tomasz Kuszczak.

We walk to the ground in warm spring sunshine amid the kind of careless end-of-season haze which seemed so distant barely a few weeks ago and so utterly implausible before Christmas. Along the row, Daz is wearing shorts and flip-flops; you half-expect to be hit on the head by a beachball at any moment. It’s not even April yet, for heaven’s sake. We’d do well to remember that we’ve achieved all of this primarily through being not terrible; that gets you an awfully long way at this level. It’s all we have to do.

2. A lot of fun, except for most of it. We began with an open, broad swagger and briefly laid siege to the visitors’ goal, McCarthy saving brilliantly when Deeney seemed certain to open the scoring. Then Ipswich asserted themselves, effectively containing the threat of Murray and Kacaniklic, totally isolating Deeney and Garner, and taking complete control of proceedings.

It took a defensive calamity to gift them the lead – no communication between Kuszczak and Dickinson, both equally culpable – but they might’ve had several more, Murphy glancing a header inches wide from a corner and Chopra somehow missing an open goal from barely three yards. We were a disorganised mess at the back (which is uncharacteristic) and a non-event further forward (which isn’t). Apart from an incident involving Harry the Hornet and a xylophone – it’d take too long – the half drifted sleepily towards the break.

3. But where there was once a grim, rigid inevitability to it all, born of a chronic lack of effective creative options and frustrating caution in using those we had, we’re no longer so easily discouraged. The substitutions turned this game around: it’s hard to recall Prince Buaben having a vital touch of the ball, but his assertive presence further up the field gradually dragged the whole contest forward a crucial twenty yards.

And then, after ten post-interval minutes in which nothing much happened, there was Chris Iwelumo for the lightweight Garner…and there was suddenly someone to do the stuff which Deeney’s wasted on. One towering flick-on…leading arm, shining bald head, defender flailing…that’s the image you had in your mind’s eye when his name appeared back in July. That’s what we’ve waited to see.

4. The extra spring in your step on the way home, though, came from the knowledge that you’d seen something special, something very reminiscent of memories which you hold very dear. Because the game was won by Troy Deeney, by a refusal to let exhausted legs and aching lungs prevent one more chase after a lost cause, by a failure to accept that you’re not going to score from there.

In truth, Deeney was barely involved for much of these ninety minutes. Sometimes, playing up front is like playing in goal: you’ve got to remain alive to all possibilities, you’ve got to concentrate even harder when the play’s elsewhere. Danny Graham always knew that…switched on, alert and aware, ever ready for the break that everyone else would take just a split second longer to react to. Like a sea anemone, Deeney stuck doggedly to a rock while the tide went out…and then came to life, all stinging tentacles, when it eventually came back in.

You can demand no more of a centre forward than that, I think. I love the first goal…football is rarely so simple, but he plainly just wants it more than Delaney, all over the back of the defender in pursuit of an inaccurate pass, provoking the chaos in which Murray calmly levels.

5. The comparison with Mooney has been more hopeful than anything else…until now. When people talk about changing the shape of games, they’re usually referring to elegantly Messianic sculpting and squeezing. Tommy Mooney changed the shape of games by smacking them repeatedly with a very large shovel, sheer arrogant force of will overcoming everyday nonsense like gravity and time. You remember those goals because they were everything that football should be, everything that football needs to be, everything that normal life isn’t. Because they were goals that grabbed the world by the throat and damn well demanded to be remembered, even as they were scored.

So, Troy Deeney’s already been flat out on the turf a couple of times, Britt Assombalonga’s warming up on the sidelines. But then the backpass falls marginally short, and he’s hurling that exhausted body in ahead of the keeper…and as defenders gather all around, he’s turning in a slow circle in search of an option…and you assume that he’s spotted someone to square the ball to…and you realise that he’s gone for goal, absurdly…and there’s a defender on the line…and he can’t reach it…and the best goals are the ones that hang in the balance until the net ripples, everyone holding their breath and then letting it explode out of them…


* “Anything But Relegation”, if Google Translate is to be believed.


1. Norwayhornet - 25/03/2012

What a perfect summation of the way we feel;)

2. Wrighty - 25/03/2012

reading thunk 5 gave me goosebumps, no higher praise

3. ab460115 - 25/03/2012

That sums up the feeling perfectly. The 2nd half had a real “we’re in this together” feel. Even an Iwelumo song. Deeney was just immense.

4. Vaughan Smith - 25/03/2012

Nicely summed up IG. Just a couple of things though. First, just to be pedantic, Harry stole a glockenspiel, not a xylophone from the marching band. Second there’s no mention of the referee! For the first time in ages they sent someone who knew what they were doing. Apart from a bit of stick (unwarranted from my point of view) for stopping the game when McCarthy got Troy’s boot in his face, I don’t recall a single complaint among the crowd.

5. Red - 25/03/2012

The fact that nobody has written a comment yet, says a lot. We saw a team that gave everything a fan could want-a hundred percentage effort even if they don’t have a hundred percent skill. Blooming marvellous, nothing better than coming from behind to seal the points. Only worry is that we will reach the play offs.

6. Jeremy Clarkson - 25/03/2012

JC here
I guess from all of this Troy was a bit a bit of of a Warhorse and done good?

7. Lesley-Anne - 25/03/2012

An absolutely brilliant result, all the more so for the fact that it seemed so unlikely at half time! Sean Murray was definitely struggling but he knows where the goal is and gained confidence from scoring. Troy Deeney’s goal was something else!! Great description of it in thunk 5. I think it was the last thing anyone expected him to do!

It’s great to be a Hornets fan at the moment and yes, it was even that one day when we actually had a decent ref!!!!

8. David Stokes - 25/03/2012

Anybody know the situation with Trotta? Is he just not up to it, if so he might as well be sent back

9. petebradshaw - 25/03/2012

I like the way you conjure up the imagery of the scene in just words. But I like Matt’s photos. Which is better?

10. Frank T - 26/03/2012

A real battle for grit and determination on Saturday; when you think of the players we have lost in the last year and the off the field antics, to be safe with seven to go is a massive achievement for all at the club. We must all just pray now for a little stability for the first time in years to build from.

Also is it just me or is always endlessly amusing beating Ipswich? They hang onto a ludicrous belief (like Leicester, Leeds, Forest and one or two others to be fair) that they are some great footballing brand, regularly waste money on dross players and their fans are characterised by an endless sense of entitlement and bemusement when they lose to the ‘likes of us’………..and they never seem to learn.

Oh and a mention for Martin Taylor; for the big man to come back well from such a long lay off is good to see.

11. Andrew J - 26/03/2012

I can’t remember a 2-1 win that has been less entertaining. Harry’s glockenspiel/ xylophone moment was the highlight of the day until Murray scored. But it’s all about the result, and everyone can feel justifiably proud.

Back from Hammerau - 26/03/2012

At one point the band were described on the tannoy as the RAF Benevolent Band. Is there also an RAF Malevolent Band? If so, I bet Harry wouldn’t dare nicking any of their instruments.

Wonder how close the 11 who were out there at full time is to our starting 11 for next season.

SteveG - 26/03/2012

Seems a bit harsh to me. Our play in the first half was poor, I agree, but there’s still some entertainment value in seeing the opposition squander some excellent chances, and the sheer bloody relief of getting to half time only 1-0 down has a certain memorable quality as well.

I don’t think it is just about the result – the second half may not have been full of flowing exhilarating football either, but it was a determined, gutsy performance that saw us claw our way back into a game that we could easily have been out of, and then suggest that maybe, just maybe, we might go on to take all three points – cue thunk 5 and all that followed. So passion, commitment and a big dollop of luck as well – but I certainly wouldn’t have called it boring.

12. Harefield Hornet - 26/03/2012

Picking holes now but the save from Deeney in the opening minutes wasn’t great – it was just a bloody awful attempt at finishing the move, given the time and space he had. And therein lies the conundrum that is Troy Deeney which was emphasised even more by his brilliant winner. I am and have always been a big fan but his finishing is so erratic he drives me to despair at times. If there was ever a player I so desperately wanted to do well it’s Troy – keep going big fella!

13. Johnnyboy - 26/03/2012

Funny old game. Behind for most of it and, for myself, not that bothered. We weren’t playing particularly well, nor badly. We were ‘safeish’ from relagation. The sun was out and Harry gave us a laugh so wasn’t expecting much change. Obviously a Mr Dyche had other ideas. Brings on Prince who made us more positive and the early introduction of Chris (those boots?)sent us on our way. By the end I’m banging the seat and yelling Deeney at the top of my voice. Wonderful! Now we are ‘safe’ and a couple of papers talk about ‘ late run for the play offs’. Funny old game

14. Gerry - 27/03/2012

“Like a sea anemone, Deeney stuck doggedly to a rock while the tide went out…and then came to life, all stinging tentacles, when it eventually came back in.” Brill! Welcome back, Ig, I’ve missed your purple prose and flights of fancy. No dissing of the indefatigable Matt whose reports – sorry, mega-thunks – have been heroic and heartfelt, but few come up with such outrageous yet evocative similes and metaphors as the Ig of old. Throw in some classical references and you might aspire to be Stuart Hall’s understudy :o)

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