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Watford 0 Blackpool 2 (06/04/2012) 06/04/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from a disappointing Good Friday at Vicarage Road.

1- Oh.

Palpable disappointment.  Obviously.  And that’s the fault of nobody bar those of us who’d allowed ourselves to get a bit carried away with things.  There are mitigating circumstances, there’s context, there’s stuff that didn’t quite fall our way (see below).  But there’s no two ways of interpreting your visitors being able to take off two key attacking players in the closing twenty minutes or so, for a bit of a rest.  Blackpool may have had a couple of things go for them but they played their hand perfectly and attacked us with pace, mobility and composure.  You can read too much into an afternoon like this;  for me, the post-match suggestion that the game confirmed the realistic limits of our ambitions rather smacked of letting one’s latent suspicions shape interpretation.  I don’t think you need to be particularly better than we have been of late to make the play-offs; indeed our results this year had been almost automatic promotion form.  Whatever.  We were ultimately well beaten in this one.

2- For all of which, the big break that the Seasiders got was that opening goal.  Until then, punches had been traded liberally and rather evenly;  Deeney’s header on the left of the box wasn’t a million miles away from finding Iwelumo.  Ince forced a(nother) terrific double save from Kuszczak who appeared – in as much as it’s possible to judge from the far end – to kill the pace on a shot with one save and then bounce up to claw the spinning rebound away from the line.  Murray was forced to take a dropping ball slightly too early and drove over after a good build-up.  Big Chris got on the end of a deep, wicked Murray cross and didn’t quite get his angles right.  It didn’t feel as if that miss mattered too much at the time, we were building something and there was appreciation for the approach.  Actually it proved pivotal, or rather the visitors’ subsequent goal was allowed to be pivotal.  Dobbie seemed to run an awfully long way;  ironically (see thunk 3), we could probably have done with someone, cynically, making a challenge early on that if it didn’t win the ball would at least interrupt the run.  We didn’t, Dobbie was positive and took advantage.  I said “break” before, perhaps the wrong word… nothing lucky about scoring a great goal.

But although it’s a cliché, a painfully obvious thing to say, the first goal was so crucial.  Had we got it we’d have been asked to do the things we’re rather good at… keeping our shape, being solid, not allowing Blackpool a sniff back in.  For the most part we did continue to look quite solid, for all that Blackpool tested our resolve.  But perhaps then they, rather than us, would have lost a little belief, begun to look ragged.  Instead they were able to do the things that they‘re rather good at, hitting us on the break with pace and verve.  The penalty award nonetheless punctured a spell of convincing Watford pressure, and required what must have been a perfectly timed run from Ince to beat the offside.  Nonetheless, it was something that had been rather easy to see coming.

3- It’s natural, unavoidable, to compare Sean Dyche to his predecessor;  a second opportunity for a direct confrontation awaits on Monday.  But whilst perhaps a minor consideration, one department in which Sean indisputably knocks spots off Malky Mackay is in his handling of referees.  However perverse and galling some of the decisions against us last year were, you rather felt that Mackay’s protestations and lamentations at refereeing worked against us rather than for us in the longer term.  Hell, I tired of his complaints and I was on his side and sharing many of his frustrations, one can only imagine how officials might react.

So Sean’s greater reticence in commenting on officials is to his great credit and presents him in a more graceful light;  here, he reportedly commented on the officials’ performance only in response to a direct question, and then briefly and in acknowledgement of the visitors’ deserved victory.  He again resisted the temptation to whinge about the refereeing performance.

Which doesn’t of course mean that I have to. From very early on, Blackpool adopted a shabby, cynical policy of exaggerating every physical contact; sprawling, bouncing off any challenge, remonstrating.  Manager Holloway played his part, dramatically protesting at Iwelumo’s early challenge, the effects of which were greatly exaggerated by Angel whose rolling around appeared to earn the striker a booking.  And referee Linington gave them no reason whatsoever to abandon this approach, effectively negating our physical superiority.  Only late in the half when Angel (again) rolled around in apparent agony in midfield and was completely ignored by everyone including the officials before giving up and getting on with it was there any suggestion that Linington wasn’t going to indulge every appeal – and even then, no card was forthcoming.  Angel got the bird, briefly, but he’d only been the least successful of a string of similar perpetrators, the one who hadn’t gotten away with it (on one occasion).  At the start of the second half there were ironic cheers as Murray went down easily under challenge on the left to “earn” a free kick; frankly if Dyche can be criticised for anything it’s for not taking advantage of one of those rare occasions when Joe Garner’s jelly-ankles might have proven useful.  In truth, however, the decisions hadn’t felt even-handed.

4- It’s been discussed that a reasonable formula for promotion from this division is to find a bit of magic dust to add to an otherwise solid unit.  In recent months Sean Murray, with significant, balancing help from Alex Kacaniklic, has been that added something. The consequence has been that the team suddenly “worked”;  the midfield pairing of Eustace and Hogg became more than viable given quality, reasonably reliable outlets on either flank and we looked both solid and potent as a consequence.

Kacaniklic, of course, has been recalled by Fulham which was always going to affect us.  Murray’s flame has been dimming; frankly, whilst he has been giving us moments of quality in every game and making or scoring in most he looks exhausted.  Not a coincidence that this was the first defeat in which he’s featured since the Spurs cup tie.  I’m hardly going to complain or criticise anyone for Murray’s tiredness, having banged on about the kids needing match time all season – this is an almost inevitable consequence.  What the impact on the team demonstrates, as if it weren’t painfully obvious, is that wide areas need strengthening over the summer.  Murray has undoubted quality and will get stronger, but may not end up playing wide in any case.  Forsyth has something, but is horribly raw.  Yeates, poor yet again, is involved through lack of alternatives although Assombalonga’s bullish cameo was a highlight.  Our loan dealings this season, with the temporary recruitment of Kightly and Kacaniklic, suggests that Sean recognises this as an issue.

5- A disappointing afternoon on the pitch, then.  Off the pitch, reaffirmation of why we’re all here.  There aren’t many gloryhunters in the Watford crowd after all, save perhaps a few that are horribly misguided or have managed to dine out for longer than might be considered reasonable on the Division Two title in 1998 (but good luck to them if so).

Watford is about community and family.  Not alone in that respect, but anyone who does this as well as us deserves hearty praise as well.  Hearty praise, but in a rather detached and incidental way because it matters an awful lot more that it’s at our club that we’ve seen the likes of Luther Blissett wandering along the front of the Rookery signing autographs, countless kids with yellow, red, black balloons, Harry the Hornet banging his drum.  Of course we want Watford to win, but I like that it’s till possible to enjoy a defeat thanks to just being part of something.  The memory that will stick with me the longest from today will be the chaotic two minutes during which Watford High Street was obstructed by an only semi-orchestrated coming together of eleven members of four generations of my family… grandmothers, children, parents, second cousins, first cousins once removed and half a dozen bemused hangers-on, most of them headed to Vicarage Road.  Brilliant.  That sort of stuff is bullet-proof, result-proof, referee-proof.  People will have already asserted that we’re always rubbish on family day but my daughter’s still more or less hooked thanks to the last one, the 3-2 win over Peterborough that deviated from this form. A combination of good planning and happy coincidence that saw a full(ish) house coincide with the reopening of the Red Lion with Allan Smart behind the bar, and an appropriately pitched launch of next term’s Season Tickets.  Remarkably, intelligently, commendably, at uninflated prices.  Well done Watford.  You ‘orns.


1. Eliot - 06/04/2012

here here!

2. Vaughan Smith - 07/04/2012

Yes, a very disappointing performance. Highlight for me was having a chat with Tony Francis in the queue to pay for the car park afterwards…!

3. Roger Smith - 07/04/2012

“nothing lucky about scoring a great goal”.

Maybe not, but the luck was in being awarded the free kick in the first place, and then the ref allowing a quick free kick to be taken well away from where the (alleged) offence took place. Dobbie was bearing down on our defence before anyone realised that the game had restarted.

The Red Lion (no sign yet of the name change) was packed, and I thought that the V-bar would be deserted, but that was packed too. I knew it wasn’t going to be our day when I ordered a pint of Allan Smart’s beer, and in ten minutes all they could draw off was froth. Bit like the game, really.

Why do we always fail to perform on Family Days?

Matt Rowson - 07/04/2012

fair point re goal. but re report, Peterborough family day was good entertainment earlier in season as mentioned in report.

4. Scully - 07/04/2012

Marvellously put. A few of the boys looked tired today and there seemed to be a holiday mood both on the pitch and around the ground obviously. Generally, I was not to disappointed with the result and if Holloway could concentrate his side on playing football instead of falling around like clowns they might have a chance of appearing at Wembley in the play off’s and not in cabaret on the pier at Blackpool. Finally, where do they get these referee’s from?

5. RGW - 07/04/2012

From my viewpoint there was some question about the penalty. The player seemed to begin his swallow dive well before K arrived. And what happened to the lino beforehand? He had been flagging ludicrous offsides all day (while failing to flag for handball against a player with his arms raised and outstretched), but not this one.

Matt Rowson - 07/04/2012

There weren’t many appeals about either tho. I’d reserve judgement about the offside in particular until I’ve seen it again.

RGW - 07/04/2012

Agreed that a final thunk should come after seeing it again, but the lino had been flagging for plenty of offsides that weren’t, and if he was flagging for those then it’s difficult to see how he didn’t flag for that one.

6. Sequel - 07/04/2012

I see that Mackay’s bunch have a bit of a trek today, so however tired we are on Monday, they should be well and truly cream-crackered. Could be a slug fest of a game.

Roger Smith - 07/04/2012

Indeed. Malky’s already had a moan – getting his excuses in early!

Seriously, though, what must that do to Cardiff’s morale? There’s nothing that makes you tire quicker than a suggestion that you might be tired.

7. ollydc - 07/04/2012

Even as a Hornet in Midlands exile, thunk 5 made me tingle with pride. Excellent stuff, thank you. Perfectly sums up what it means to follow a great club like Watford.

8. Jeremy Clarkson - 07/04/2012

JC here

As you put so well,….

We dreamed the impossible dream….. for a short while….

but once a ‘orn always a ‘orn

9. wfcbhoy - 07/04/2012

Re: Thunk 3. I missed yesterday’s game, the only one this season, because 3 o’clock on Good Friday has significance beyond football for some. That said, hearing the latter stages on 3CR, Jon Marks and Derek Payne were both convinced the move leading to the penalty was offside. You’d maybe expect them to lean Watford’s way on marginal decisions, but then Simon Oxley came on and reinforced their view that it wasn’t even close. So fair play to Dychey for not bemoaning the officiating.

10. MartinG - 08/04/2012

I was looking forward to this as I’ve been out of the country for the past few games. Unfortunately it was very reminiscent of some of our more turgid games. Carrying too many passengers and lacking pace up front again.
Having said that I’d have bitten your hand off at the start of the season for our position now. I also like Dyche’s very refreshing honesty post match.
How the points in Thunk 4 are dealt with is a key one for next season…and where is Hodson?

11. NRC - 08/04/2012

Re Thunk 2 – Kuszczak’s double save was one of those ‘blimey did you see that?’ moments from a view in the UR staring along the goal line, warmly applauded by all, including the Blackpool fan I’d brought with me who, incidentally, was happy to concede deficiencies in the refereeing. Best team won though, but through two moments rather than sustained brilliance.

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