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Watford 2 Birmingham City 0 (25/08/2012) 25/08/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from a reassuring win at Vicarage Road.

1- Back at the Vic for a second time in a week. And if Tuesday’s defeat was an enactment of so many of our fears with regard to this season, then the unholy deluge that escorted many of the crowd to the game, as had happened on Tuesday, brought us to kick off damp, already miserable and less than optimistic. This was a considerably heavier downpour, as if the pre-Ipswich rain had been a mere Olympic heat, the big guns saving their season’s-best performance for the Final. And here it was, mercilessly rinsing us down Occupation Road. Briefly, we worried whether the match would go ahead.

That concern lasted until we saw the pitch, holding up fine with no evidence of standing water. Incoming respite – much as we were already safe under the Rookery roof – was also evident above the Vicarage Road end, the sky clearing to the north even as it continued to teem down. In similar fashion, Watford started the game at a furious pace and rapidly dispelled fears of a re-enactment of Tuesday on the pitch. Caldwell’s comical shove on Matej Vydra rapidly presented us an early advantage, Almen Abdi swiping home the spot kick in a manner quite inconsistent with Watford tradition. Caldwell’s lack of further punishment a curiosity, an afterthought.

From then on, and for the first hour of the contest, it was farcically one-sided. Vydra doubled the advantage when put through by Yeates, his dinked finish over the onrushing Butland more exquisite with every replay. And thereon it was merciless possession. Let’s not beat about the bush – Birmingham were absolutely shocking, having started slowly and presumably not bothered to send anyone to watch us on Tuesday evening they afforded us ample space in midfield where Ipswich had chased us down. As such Yeates had the time to put in what’s probably the best performance I’ve seen from him in a Watford shirt whilst Almen Abdi looked every inch a Craig Ramage tribute act; arrogantly comfortable in possession, sharp with either foot, languid, not overly interested in chasing back (although he did snap into one challenge to mercilessly dispossess Redmond in the first half), and far too much for City’s midfield in this mood. Hogg, to whom too much responsibility had been abdicated (Abdi-Yeated? Sorry) on Tuesday was much more comfortable. The magnificent Pudil and Doyley rampaged up either wing, Sean Murray looked the part for the first time this season, Almunia wasn’t troubled. The only concern was that we didn’t crown our superiority with further goals.

2- There are many arguments in favour of playing a possession game when in the lead in such a situation. Principally, of course, it’s quite hard for the other lot to score without the ball (if not completely impossible, as we’ve demonstrated before). In addition, you can probably count on their legs going and gaps opening up if you get them chasing around enough earlier on.

Where this fell down today, of course, is that City weren’t really doing much of that chasing around earlier in the game. Added to which, Lee Clark not unreasonably replaced his two most culpable wasters, the invisible Darren Ambrose who had shuffled around in a half-arsed fashion for the entire first half, and the frustrating Zigic, with Morgano Gomis and Peter Lovenkrands. Gomis in particular made a difference, Prince Buaben’s former Dundee United sidekick getting hold of the ball and ensuring that City finally strung some moves together, Chris Burke getting involved for the first time. The threat remained largely theoretical… there wasn’t much in the way of efforts on target and we defended solidly enough to keep City at arm’s length. But it would have been interesting to see how we would have stood up to conceding… a two-goal lead notoriously precarious.

3- Our own use of subs was interesting… Carl Dickinson and Lee Hodson replacing Vydra and Murray in the second half leaving us with four full backs on the pitch, albeit with two, Hodson and Pudil, in nominally wide midfield possessions. The Dickinson introduction looked particularly odd, costing us in Vydra – who admittedly may still be being used cautiously – what pace we had to test City’s high defensive line. Dickinson looked cumbersome and ill-at-ease; one wonders to what extent his employment was a shop-window decision; inconceivable that we won’t be trying to shift more players before the end of the week given the numbers still to make the first team squad (who else had forgotten Fitz Hall), recently signed or mooted.

4- Chris Iwelumo is another whose name has been assumed to be on the “available for transfer” list, but he was magnificent today, infinitely more effective than Garner has been to date – even if we played to his strength with a slightly more direct game. Looking so much more mobile than at this stage last season, he gave Curtis Davies a hell of an afternoon… this, like that game at Leeds last season, was what we had hoped for when he signed. If he does leave, he could still be someone else’s gain.

5- I know that these things don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, I know that it’s twenty-odd years since the old scoreboard went, that that’s longer that it was ever there. But the jumping men are unavoidably associated with the most successful period in the club’s history, a period which saw so many of us sucked in. And not before time, they’re back. Well hurrah. Big smiles all round.


1. JohnF - 26/08/2012

Great thunks Matt. A very professional performance that will give the players confidence. Of more importance is Zola appears to be showing a willingness to be adaptable and recognise these players do not necessarily have the skills to step into Barcelona. Some great performances. I agree about both Yeates and Iwelumo but Doyley looks a different player and our new recruits play like some of our more notable loanees. What’s more there is much more chance of them becoming permanent. Ipswich ran themselves into the ground on Tuesday and we still should have been ahead when they scored (they paid for it today though) but moving the ball more quickly ( along with plenty of movement off the ball) when under pressure will be key to a successful passing game along with being prepared to mix it up to get on top in tight games. Interesting times.

Matt Rowson - 26/08/2012

“could” rather than should on Tuesday. We could equally have been two down. But agree with you otherwise.

2. The Great Big O - 26/08/2012

It was an extraordinary spectacle. A Watford side deservedly goes two up after 17 minutes then aims to keep the ball for the next 73 (and succeeds for around 60). I repeat: a Watford side. The team I’ve been watching for nearly 45 years.

I’m not at all sure I won’t go off the club somewhat if, this week, in favour of ten loanees, they ship out a team’s worth of players to whom I’m emotionally attached. But the fact that Zola has got a Watford side (mainly last season’s players) playing football like yesterday’s is worthy of massive respect.

3. Simoninoz - 26/08/2012

A rare match shown in full in Oz. Reassuring to see the weather is still, how can I put it, a touch damp over there. It was good to see a solid performance, admittedly against a team who seemed completely out-to-lunch until the last 30 minutes, when we coped with their dominant possession with composure. I really cannot see why so many of those commenting on the Ipswich disappoinment are so against the new structure. Sure, there will be more loan players, but give me another Cleverly anytime. With the Jumping Men back and (I hope) Z Cars retained, we CAN stay Watford as well as having financial security. What, to be quite frank, is the alernative?
It may not be 1977, but it doesn’t seem to be 2001 either.

4. Marcus Shapiro - 26/08/2012

Brilliant report- especially the prose about the penalty. At the Vic Road end, I turned to my son and asked, who takes Watford’s penalties and shuddered slightly as i saw Big Chris near the ball. Butland dived well on the right direction so it was a good job that was as sweetly struck and well directed a penalty one could hope to see.

Agree with John F re Doyley – he looked good going forwards and better than Hodson!

Yeates – unrecognisable from last season – at any rate his previous glimpses now extend to much of the match performance.

Big Chris – looks like the guy I assume Dyche thought he had signed. A handful for anyone in this tier.

Birmingham – as poor as Ipswich were good. Makes it difficult to assess Watford’s performance. Were the two opposing sides really so different ( I think so) or did our play make them appear so?

Zola’s pragmatism – this has surprised and is most encouraging. He is an inexperienced manager but not a rookie like our recent ones, which may account for it. 3 games in and whatever touch and finishing Garner shows in training versus the Big Chris defaults, Zola has recognised who makes a difference in a competitive match; he may already have re-assessed Doyley’s qualities and potential; he has made his substitutions early.

Our centre backs – MT looked v good with his distribution; NN much less so but it was an excellent defensive show in the main by Nyron.

5. Roger Smith - 26/08/2012

Agree about Dickinson, the more so with Forsyth on the bench: defensive cover for Pudil but a genuine attacking threat. With four full backs it was inevitable that we would sit too deep and invite Birmingham to come on.

We now have enough quality on the bench to use the subs earlier. Both Murray and Big Chris were on the wane some time before they were rested.

6. grahamwalker - 26/08/2012

The passing and movement in the first half was exquisite – it totally broke Brummie hearts. Whenever they had possession they simply did not know what to do with it, so unused were they to having it and completely knackered from running around chasing it.

Second half we lost our precision and accuracy, ourselves probablyhaving run out of puff too. We certainly “managed” the game in the last 20 minutes or so, but as awesome as the first half was, the second half gave an indication of how bad it can be when the “passing game” doesn’t go quite right. Good job we had a two goal cushion.

Sad to see Marlon King’s reaction to the “she said no” chant. Whatever be the ethics regarding giving verbal “stick” to players, in this case there is evidently no remorse for past crimes and misdemeanours. Nasty git !

Matt Rowson - 26/08/2012

i disagree Graham, I don’t think Brum were working nearly hard enough chasing us down, that was what made the game so different from Tuesday.

7. David_of_OZ - 27/08/2012

After the takeover I was worried about feeling disconnected from the team due to the amount of loan players coming into the side. however after seeing the core of last years side still there (so far) plus two awesome strikes from Vydra I’m completely back on the wagon and looking forward to the rest of the season!

8. Lesley-Anne - 27/08/2012

I share the concerns of the Great Big O about “our” players being shipped out. It’s great to see Vydra and Abdi doing so well but there is a limit!
I’m still not sure of the way we’re getting round the rules and regulations regarding loan players. The fact that they are from foreign clubs means they are not seen as loan players? Interesting that we did only have 5 listed in our playing squad but if they aren’t seen as loan players surely that rule won’t apply and we could technically field a whole team of them. This I would definitely not like to see!
Clearly this is a loophole that is not likely to make us very popular (Doncaster last season) and will no doubt be sorted to prevent every club from following suit.
The match itself was excellent. Mark Yeates has been transformed!

9. DW - 27/08/2012

Perhaps like David of Oz and Lesley-Anne I am yet to bond with the new set up. It took me until the victory against Palace in the Semi-final of the play off before I made peace with the club over the departure of Ray Lewington and I find myself in a similar position now. Clearly Bassani expressing an interest in Pompy shows that we are lucky to under different stewardship but I still wish SD was still the manager.

Having said that, and I take on board how bad Birmingham were having seen the replay on TV, we were bright, positive and full of running, everything I like to see.

10. Mark - 28/08/2012

Lesley – Anne ; You cannot compare the foreign loanees we are getting to the ones Doncaster did last season.Firstly, they belong to our owners’ other clubs so they are costing us peanuts in comparison to usual loan signings.Secondly, the ones at Rovers were there on “special contracts” to be “in the shop window.”

JohnM - 28/08/2012

Also, many of the loanees at Doncaster were players in the ‘Vialli’ mould—old, established players looking for a payday without extending themselves too much, whereas at Watford most are looking to promote their careers.

11. Roger68 - 28/08/2012

As I understand it a club can have 8 loan players in a season (4 under 23, and 4 over 23) which is what we now have.. We can name 5 loan players on the team sheet for any game, which is what we did on Tuesday. So if Bia gets into the squad it will be at the expense of one of the loanees named on Tuesday. One point I do not understand is that I thought we could have a maximum of 4 loanees from any one club –but we have 5 from Udinese now that Cassetti has arrived. Will we get points deducted if we break the rules?

Matt Rowson - 28/08/2012

This has been widely discussed elsewhere Roger, you’ve done well to miss it… loans from abroad don’t technically count as loans. I’m not sure why. They’re considered transfers of contracts or some such… the bottom line being that none of the loans from Udinese, Granada and now Liege count towards either total.

12. Roger68 - 28/08/2012

Well that is interesting–I did miss that conversation , wherever it was. I did think that if clubs in common ownership wanted to “loan” players between themselves they could just transfer the players contracts between the clubs anyway, and I thought that maybe that is what the Pozzo’s were doing. But I did not know the rule applied to all “loans” from foreign clubs (i.e. non Football League/Premier league clubs?)..Will the football authorities let this continue? It seems to give an advantage to clubs in common ownership in different countries, especially if no fees are involved. Common ownership or commercial agreements between clubs in different countries may be on the increase if the stories in the press about Spurs are to be believed.

13. Lesley-Anne - 28/08/2012

Mark, I didn’t mean that what we are doing is the same as Doncaster did last season, I just think it has the potential to make us as unpopular as they were! We’re getting lots of talented players at little or no cost to us; if we do well is everyone going to be saying well done Watford?!
I agree with Roger68 that the football authorities are bound to act if this becomes more common.
And as I said previously, I don’t really want to see a whole team of “loanees”, 3 or 4 is ok but I still want it to be “our” Watford FC!

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