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Watford 1 Wycombe Wanderers 0 AET (11/08/2012) 11/08/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks on the opening day of the season.  No, Messenger, it wasn’t a friendly.

1- Well that was more eventful than expected.  The summer I mean… not the game, obviously, we’ll get to that.  But doesn’t that Middlesbrough win seem an awfully long time ago.  Little suggestion then of the upheaval that was to follow (and  which still continues, I don’t think we’ve anything like finished yet…); if the long-term ownership of the club was in question there was certainly no indication that August would see us under a new manager (why would we?) or with a whole shedload of new players (how could we?).  Turbulent, unnerving and also (and let’s be absolutely clear about this) to the unquestionable benefit, ultimately, of the football club.  But quite possibly leaving a few disassociated, with nothing familiar to hold on to.  So thank heaven and earth for the First Round of the League Cup (sponsored by whoever).  Even today, a balmy Saturday afternoon instead of a cool Tuesday night.  It never disappoints, never fails to sap the start of season excitement from the marrow, grounds us, reminds us what it’s all about.  Really, there’s a case for this game being the season opener every year, this game that’s been trundling its joyless way (with the very occasional interruption of relative excitement or Douglas Rinaldi) ever since we kicked off against Cheltenham in 2000.  A parallel universe that we dip into once a year, that brings instant perspective.

2- It wasn’t great, in case you’ve missed the undertone amongst all that.  After a rather open start that saw each side threaten, Wycombe accurately deduced that their best chance would come from sitting deep, denying us space and pressurising our defenders into making mistakes as we passed it across the back.  They did so effectively… the first half was a non-event in which the visitors, through the lively Logan, had the best chance, and if we looked bolder and better in the second half and beyond, ultimately just about deserving the victory, you were left with the nagging suspicion that we’re going to see a few games like this at Vicarage Road and that perhaps, with due respect to the Chairboys, our league opponents might have sharper strikers with which to capitalise on those chances.  In all fairness, we were missing not only four of the new signings but also the indisposable Murray, so far too early (still) for any conclusions.  Geijo’s effectiveness in particular, one suspects, will be crucial in the 4-3-3 formation – Garner an ineffective pivot today.  Indeed, as Ian accurately observed, this was the classic Garner performance… frustration and encouragement in roughly equal measure, but not the slightest suggestion of a goal.

3- The biggest positive was undoubtedly the contribution of the three new boys on view, all of whom impressed.  Almunia had relatively little to do, but as in the Spurs friendly wasn’t slow to make himself heard, was decisive with absolutely everything and was quick to turn defence into attack, an ability we may rely on – Zola will surely want us to take more ruthless advantage of opportunities to get in behind the opposition in games like these. Almen Abdi looked tidy and cool in possession, doing a good line in looking in one direction whilst slipping a low, firm, accurate pass in a completely different one.  He’s robust as well, a characteristic not suggested by his first scuffle where a moderately physical challenge by an opponent saw Abdi remonstrating with the official.  He’ll need to get used to them, we thought, but the Swiss midfielder soon displayed a toughness and resilience to quell that initial concern.  And Vydra (short vowel – Vyd rhymes with kid, not hide as I’d assumed) was the best of the bunch.  Quick, clever, dynamic – the correspondent on the mailing list who drew comparison with Helguson wasn’t wrong in several respects… no challenge was ducked out of, no opponent left unharried, to the extent that at 1-0 in the dying minutes of extra time with both teams dead on their feet, Vydra chased down a ball to Wycombe’s keeper Bull and, in executing what looked like a martial arts kick across the path of the anticipated clearance stretched to give himself an attack of cramp.  But he’s much more mobile than Helguson, and his movement looked our best bet throughout.  As it turned out, Abdi played a slide rule pass between defenders to release him on the right in the second half of extra time and he squared for Iwelumo to bundle the ball over the line in an endearingly graceless fashion.

4- Can’t be many games in which both pairs of starting full backs get substituted… the unfortunate Marvin McCoy, a Watford academy graduate, was stretchered off in the first half, the other three apparently tactical changes.  The withdrawal of the cumbersome Dickinson saw Craig Forsyth introduced at left back where he looked largely comfortable with the game in front of him and, with rather more time when supporting the attack than he’s used to on the left wing, was able to pick a couple of clever passes.  Any guesser’s list of players who may still move on this month might conceivably have both Dicko and Forsyth on it… but the Scot’s got something for me.

5- Yes, I know it’s the League Cup First Round and the Olympics are on and they’re not going to open the whole stadium.  But I’d like to think that my ST guarantees me my seat, not just A seat, even for nonsense like this.  Knowing that seating was unreserved I made the classic mistake of pitching myself between all and nothing… arriving stupidly early for a match of this stature, but not  early enough to secure my seat.  Hrrmph.  Still.  Football (or close enough).  Hurrah…


1. sw17 - 11/08/2012

We saw all that with Vialli & Wilkins. Smith then playing the Vydra role. Yawn.

thehornet35 - 11/08/2012

that has to be the least amount of time given for a new system…its so so early days, and Sean didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his first few games. Yes, we are playing a different way with possible comparisons to the Vialli era, but please…lets at least give it a fair crack rather than Wycombe in the cup!!

2. Tom Beck - 11/08/2012

The obvious difference for me right away was that Vialli told the rest of the world that we were the Manchester United of the Championship. At least Zola is being a little more reserved.

Don’t get me wrong, I was bored like the rest of the 5000 there today, but I didn’t see anything too troubling either.

3. Nick - 12/08/2012

Zola has acknowledged there’s things to work on and I’m sure given time he’ll get the team playing how he wants them to. They will be building up the confidence to move the ball quicker.

Clean sheet and home win. Here’s to the first of many.

4. Roger Smith - 12/08/2012

Good report, Matt, as usual. I thought Hogg missed the best chance of the game in the opening minute, heading Vydra’s perfect cross wide from point-blank range. Agree that Forsyth was more effective than Dickinson going forward, but does he have enough bite in his defensive duty?

Although everyone is talking about the new system, I’m not sure it is so different. Especially away from home on a decent pitch, Watford played some good football at times. In fact it was more like Dyche’s early days when Eustace sat too deep, and we played it around in defence until we lost possession.

Most striking feature of the game was the deathly hush from the Watford supporters (one hesitates to call it a crowd) compared to the incessant raucous support from the small Wycombe contingent. On one occasion, they were taunting us with “give us a song”. So how about (to the tune of O Sole Mio):

“Just one Hornetto! that’s all I need!
Just one Hornetto, to do the deed.
Hornetto! Just one Hornetto!
Just one Hornetto, to do the deed!

And can’t we find something Italian and more inspiring than Z-cars?

Matt Rowson - 12/08/2012

Agree about the crowd, but what else is new? Credit to the Wycombe fans, but it was similar when we were on hiding-to-nothing trips to Premiership teams that expected to beat us (and usually did)… just The Way It Is.

But don’t go messing with Z-Cars, one of the strands of continuity worth clinging on to. I certainly wouldn’t want to rebrand ourselves as exclusively Italian, that particular association didn’t go too well the last time.

Roger Smith - 12/08/2012

“just The Way It Is”…

and Que Sera Sera?

5. petebradshaw - 12/08/2012

Vydra’s bloody-minded and talented performance apart, Z Cars was the ONLY INSPIRING thing about yesterday. And as for comparisons with 2001-2, Corradini and Sormani are no Wilkins but, more importantly, Abdi may be Swiss but he’s not Vega and Pudil’s not Blondeau. And there won’t be any of the waste of space that were Hughes, Issa and Okon. We had about five missing yesterday. Pre season, if not yesterday, shows we’ll be in for a good season… And one completely different to anything Vialli understood.

petebradshaw - 13/08/2012

PS It’s being going on longer than since 2000… http://www.bsad.org/9596/reports/bmoutha.html

Matt Rowson - 13/08/2012

i dodged that bullet

6. The Great Big O - 13/08/2012

I wasn’t there, but I’ve just watched Iwelumo’s goal.

You described it, Matt, as “endearingly graceless”, but I think that’s unfair. The video footage shows the big man sliding in and chipping the ball up so he could nod it home. Astonishing.

In 1975/6, away at Doncaster, Arthur Horsfield rounded the keeper with no-one near him and later said he’d considered kneeling down and heading the ball across the line. But on Saturday Big Chris had the confidence and skill to take this kind of showboating to a whole new level – executing his trick in the blink of an eye under extreme pressure from a defender.

The fact that, from a yard out, Big Chris actually smashed the ball into his own face should in no way detract from our estimation of the great man’s quality.


Matt Rowson - 13/08/2012

he’s a born entertainer, and no mistake

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