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Watford 0 Brighton and Hove Albion 1 (18/09/2012) 19/09/2012

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. Of all the things in the world, the most precious by far is the little red straw which comes with a can of WD40. So easy to lose and so utterly impossible to find, that little red straw is the difference between the bit where you identify the problem, fix the problem, stand back and momentarily feel like a grown-up in a DIY advert and the bit where you haphazardly spray your precious possessions with oil and it all goes a bit sweary. It’s the difference between theory and application, failure and success. It’s the difference between this and the rest of Nordin Wooter’s Watford career.

And if we’re not rather careful, it’s the sizeable difference between having one of the most richly, variously talented squads in the club’s history and having one of the most successful squads in the club’s history. No question that we suddenly have the former, but a transfer policy which seems to have thrown players at the manager like wet sponges at an “It’s A Knockout” contestant* hasn’t, in my view, been entirely wise. What we are supposed to do with them all? Build a human pyramid? Form a male voice choir? Let them all take turns as Harry the Hornet?

1b. * Courtesy of @TheSonicMole, an absolutely brilliant alternative metaphor for our transfer policy: a Katamari video game.

2. It’s only a matter of time before kickoff is preceded by a “PREVIOUSLY ON…” round-up for those who missed the last episode or, like me, have been waiting for it all to slow down before they start paying proper attention, in case they start feeling a bit giddy. What did happen to Ikechi Anya? Who bumped off Martin Taylor? Is he the new bloke from them or is he the other new bloke from the others? Why the hell is Sharon back again? Why is Darcey Bussell’s nose so pointy?

At present, the extraordinary thing is that it evades any single narrative. It cannot be summed up by any one-dimensional view; it’s defined almost entirely by uncertainty and unknowns; it defies expectation at every turn. Here, a fixture that you couldn’t help feel a sense of foreboding about, as if you’d been warned away from the moors by some odd-looking folk in the local pub. It had a sense of unspoken dread about it. Or maybe that was just last night’s curry.

And yet we launched ourselves at it like we were riding the crest of a wave, swarming all around the Iwelumo totem pole and threatening to overrun Brighton completely in the early minutes. Really aggressive football, pushed forward by a defence suddenly comfortable in possession, forcing itself into the corners of the pitch via overlapping full-backs and beyond the target man via the attacking threat of Vydra, Abdi and the energetic, complicated Forestieri. It was a terrific and stirring opening, and it only needed a goal to lift the roof off.

3. That goal didn’t come (obviously). Which is all right, it happens. At that point, it’s up to the rest of the side to take some of the strain, to prevent the whole thing sliding away. And at that point, it all becomes very much less positive…because we are terrible defensively. We are a ragged, indulgent shambles, like a pissed-up Muse tribute band in your local boozer. (Or, hey, like Muse themselves.) We are Will Buckley’s wet dream. We are Sean Dyche’s worst nightmare.

Some part of the team needs to be its centre of gravity. If you’re going to field abundant creative players to delight and excite, something solid and tangible and reliable is going to have to underpin it all. We were as far from that ideal as Hastings is from Brighton (it’s an hour away, Dave) and should’ve been punished more harshly. I do see that Neuton is wonderfully at home on the ball, all flicks and chips and forward sorties…but is there room in a Championship unit for the reincarnation of Craig Ramage as a centre-back? And I have no doubt that Marco Cassetti in his pomp would’ve swatted Will Buckley away like a fly…but those days are sadly gone, on the evidence of these red-faced, breathless forty-five minutes.

And maybe it all just needs time…but I’m still waiting for the moment when I look at this Watford side and see some real determination to do the boring stuff, on the touchline and the pitch. Not the dirty stuff – there are plenty of hard-working players here, regardless of how long they’ll be wearing the shirt – but the boring stuff, the stuff that doesn’t get any applause and doesn’t fit into a “philosophy” and does get points on the board. Until then, we’re a soft touch. Until then, we’re not taking our opponents seriously enough. We shouldn’t settle for that.

4. Their goal did come, eventually. If Craig Mackail-Smith, with all of that lethal pace and movement, ever learns to finish consistently, he’ll turn into a pre-injury Andy Johnson and Brighton will suddenly be in the Premiership. Mercifully, it didn’t happen last night, allowing us to at least continue forcing the issue until the end, aided by a very elegant, fluent substitute appearance by Nathaniel Chalobah (he’s the one from Chelsea). A very great deal of sideways passing in front of a packed defence, inevitably, but we will play worse and win, once we’ve learnt how to defend.

5. The penalty claims, then. Here’s what I say: referees don’t merely have a difficult job, they now have an impossible one. Literally impossible. Impossible by design. It was merely difficult when the task was to evaluate a real event…whether the ball was won cleanly, whether contact constituted a foul, whether a player had control of the ball. Then it became acceptable for players to exaggerate contact – “he’s entitled to go down there” – and now there is nothing substantial to go on at all. There are only different versions, different fictions. The con artist’s victim can’t tell real from fake until it’s too late…and the con artists’ union has no grounds for complaint if he gets it wrong sometimes.

So Jonathan Hogg bustles his way into the penalty area, into a crowd and to the ground. Did he fall or was he pushed? Bit of both? How much of either? Turning away from goal, Nathaniel Chalobah claims the loose ball marginally ahead of a defender’s tackle and flies three feet up in the air. It’s a wildly exaggerated reaction, obviously, but is he exaggerating a genuine foul? Is he exaggerating insignificant contact?

Does even he know any more, I wonder?


1. easthertshornet - 19/09/2012

That was probably the most inept display by a ref since the infamous Mr Attwell charmed us with his presence some seasons ago. Never mind the stonewall penalties and the inconsistencies on fouls and bookings but what leaves me bewildered this morning is that I understood that raising a hand to an opponent in anger let alone some sort of judo throw is a automatic red card, irrespective of the provocation. In other words no discretion allowed. So quite why the ref decided to rewrite the FA rule book in this respect is baffling. I can only hope that the ref’s assessor somewhere in the stands has taken an equally dim view of his performance (and of his myopic linesman who missed a Brighton ball being off the pitch by a good yard when everyone else in the ground apart from him and the ref saw it) in his written report. As with Mr Attwell I hope this cretin is steered away from the Vic by the FA for the foreseeable future.

Ian Grant - 19/09/2012

No discretion allowed? You understood that from where, exactly? I’d like to see that again before passing such damning judgement: from the other end, I saw whoever-it-was (Pudil? Neuton?) go down as if he was auditioning for a stunt role in an Indiana Jones movie, but we both know that isn’t necessarily much indication of what happened. Whether he got it right or wrong, the referee probably had a clearer view.

There was a similarly theatrical incident involving John Eustace (as the alleged perpetrator) in the fixture at the Amex last season, in which he was (rightly, as I saw it) given the benefit of the doubt. So, y’know, sometimes a bit of common sense favours us, sometimes it favours them. Don’t think it affected the result much, in all honesty.

Roger Smith - 20/09/2012

The “no discretion allowed” comment was in the context of violent conduct – and I agree with easthertshornet, not least because such an action can and does lead to mass brawls.

Ian Grant - 20/09/2012

That’s good reasoning. But I wonder – genuinely – whether “no discretion allowed” is a media simplification rather than actual FA guidance for referees.

2. John Hamilton (@johnxhamilton) - 19/09/2012

Hi ig, long time no speak… Thanks for the analysis, all in all sounds like if could have been worse, positive signs for the future etc etc. One question, is the defense inherently non-defensive, or will it come with time once everyone knows each others name?
A general point, found myself wondering how many volumes a new edition of Trefor Jones’ Who’s Who would take? John

Ian Grant - 19/09/2012

Hi, John! How are you? In answer to the first question, I think there’s a bit of both…but I’d like a sense from the touchline that a clean sheet was a clear, basic, overriding priority. If that means playing Lloyd Doyley because, although he won’t get forward as much as others, he’ll take the sting out of Will Buckley for ninety minutes, so be it. I don’t get that sense currently; instead, I get the impression that we want our defenders to do more than defend…which is a great ambition to have, but it’s rather cart-before-horse if you can’t keep the ball out of your own net.

Second question…at least three. One for Danny Graham alone.

Matt Rowson - 22/09/2012

John, Trefor’s masterpieces are now up to date and on line at http://www.watfordfcarchive.com

3. peter tomlin - 19/09/2012

What about the judo throw in the second half worthy of the olympics

Ian Grant - 19/09/2012

Yes. What about it?

4. easthertshornet - 19/09/2012

If BHA had had a man sent off would this have affected the result?. There was certainly a few minutes of the game remaining at that point.I suspect not and we wouldn’t have been able to break down their defence if we had played all through the night but we’ll never know.

5. Mike S - 19/09/2012

Ref was probably right about the penalties. He was right near them, None of us were.

Cassetti should have been off for that challenge.

Only had pace over 5 yards in our forward line & that’s not enough.

NickB - 19/09/2012

Take it you’re a BHA fan unable to make things out from the vic rd end. Let me inform you categorically that the ref ‘missed’ THREE nailed on Watford pens, including the one if missed where Vydra was wrestled to the ground when about to nod in at the far post. Red card too.
If, points 1-4 are as lucid and funny as always ( I for one would be pleased to allow Darcey her pointed nose in exchange for everything else she brings to the party) but you’re too kind to Mr drysdale, he was absolutely effing terrible.

Ian Grant - 20/09/2012

Sorry, point stands, Nick. I’ve watched any number of players – Helguson and Eustace particularly spring to mind from recent years – get themselves in front of a defender in competing for a cross and hit the deck theatrically. Sometimes, they’ve actually been fouled; sometimes, they haven’t. There’s always been contact of some sort, but that’s not the same thing. Very, very hard – impossible, as players get better at it – to tell the difference.

If you’re prepared to try and con an official by exaggerating contact – and if you’re telling me that none of our players did that on Tuesday, I raise a quizzical eyebrow – then you’ve got no grounds for complaint if your exaggeration obscures what’s really happened. Tough.

On a practical note, has anyone seen a replay of any of the incidents? Much as I hate judgement-by-television, it’d be interesting to see some or all of them again.

6. JP - 19/09/2012

Brilliant stuff, you summed up the refs’ dilemma perfectly. As the game went on it was clear that we were “looking” for a penalty. Can you blame the referee for having a “you’re not going to con me” attitude?
For what it’s worth, from my excellent (not) view from the Rookery, it looked as if Hogg was barged off the ball. In the centre circle it’s an easy free kick, but in the area they rarely get given. Rightly or wrongly it’s how the game usually goes. As for the Chalobah one, well something didn’t quite look right when I saw it. Was he going to ground even before the challenge? Was not too surprised it was waved away. Anyway, who says we would have scored it – our record over recent seasons has been far from 100%.
More concerned that the appaarent reason for Cassetti going off was not his being constantly being beaten by Buckley, but just concussion.
Thought Forestieri had a bit about him, but having got rid of one diver (Garner) we now have another half dozen or so. Don’t you just wish players would get on with the game.
Bristol City looms very large and taking your point on clean sheets, would 0-0 actually be a better result than a 4-3 win? Food for thought.

NickB - 19/09/2012


Ralph Jackson - 20/09/2012

Having been brought up on the glory days of the first Graham Taylor era,when we could always feel confident of scoring some even if we’d fallen behind,give me 4-3 not 0-0 against Bristol City please.

7. Adrian - 19/09/2012

You say “Some part of the team needs to be its centre of gravity”, surely thats Neuton!!!

Some wag behind me yelled at Forestieri “run Forrest run!” got the biggest laugh of the night. My shout “use your gravity Neuton” was greeted with silence.

Best performance I’ve seen for ages without a win. We desperately need leadership at the back.

Ian Grant - 20/09/2012

Well, I think that’s very good, Adrian. You need a better audience.

JohnM - 20/09/2012

I liked the quip, too. But then I’m studying astronomy/physics.

8. Mark - 20/09/2012

In football you get points for scoring goals and do that by having shots on goal…

Time for the team to start doing that rather than just making pretty little crop circles in midfield without any width.

Ian Grant - 20/09/2012

Harsh. We had loads of width in the first half. We got stuck for a while in the second half – the flipside of Lloyd Doyley’s defensive ability is that the ball always comes back inside from that wing – but I thought we addressed it quite intelligently with the Chalobah substitution and made some ground on the left after that point. We had some shots, they were rubbish.

Mark - 20/09/2012

True..it was an improvement on previous home games but certainly lacked something at times.

I agree Forestieri and the Chelsea lad did well though and certainly merited a point.

9. JonnyJ - 20/09/2012

I’ve realised I’ve turned into an old grump. I got home and told my wife we lost but really enjoyed the game. There was a time when I would have been happy with turgid 1-0 wins but actually I have no desire to get promotion. The Premiership/Premier league/whatever is a dreadful, dreadful place and has already nearly destroyed our club twice. A good cup run, enjoyable football, that’s all I want*. I’ve spent far too many years watching some pretty awful stuff to worry about losing 1-0 whilst watching some pretty good stuff.

Unfortunately too many fans (and everyone likes to think their club is different but regrettably we’re all the same) are myopic idiots who work themselves up into a state of orgasmic rage at the thought that in a game between two teams, their team might be the one that loses. We have new owners, new manager, new coaching staff, new players, heck even new caterers and – surprise – it’s not quite working out at the moment.

*Ideally promotion would be great and then we tell Premiership/Premier league/whatever that actually we’d like to stay where we are thankyou very much.

10. Simmo - 20/09/2012

As always Ig you make some great points. However put simply (and sorry to paraphrase) if you cannot defend when you haven’t got the ball and your main striker is unlikely to score 20 goals in 5 seasons let alone 1 you haven’t got much chance of surviving in any league.

I enjoy watching decent football but it needs to be played with a purpose otherwise I might as well get a season ticket for the football version of the Harlem Globetrotters……………or have I done that?

11. Roger Smith - 20/09/2012

I think you’re being much too hard on the defence, especially as they’re still getting to know each others’ play. Brighton are one of the greatest attacking threats in the Division, but for long periods we totally controlled them. By your own logic, some penalty decisions will go against us, and that was the only time our defence was breached.

Having been given the No 5 jersey, Neuton will presumably be a first-choice centre half, so will it be Nosworthy or Fitz, when he’s fit?

I’m more concerned up front, where “got to give everyone a chance” means that knowing instinctively where your next pass is going, rather than having to look and see, will never be realised.

If you’re looking for someone to do the boring stuff (and score the odd, unexpected goal) how about Deeney, who filled that role more than adequately before he moved up to take Sordell’s place?

Ian Grant - 20/09/2012

Cough. Splutter. The only time our defence was breached?! It was the only time Almunia was beaten, I grant you, but that’s not quite the same thing…

And, yes, I’d welcome Deeney’s bustle back from a footballing perspective…although I was really referring to the defence with regard to the “boring stuff”.

12. jonnybrick - 20/09/2012

A brilliant summation of the game, Ian, and I welcome ‘Previously on (I Hope We Get to) 24 (Points). Chalobah did go down, and Hogg went looking too, I feel. It’ll all level out of course.

13. Ralph Jackson - 20/09/2012

Forestieri got well stuck in for the cause at times I thought,deserving the applause when he went off.

Some time before the end I did get a growing feeling we weren’t going to find a way through that packed defence though hoping we would,was left wondering if Deeney would have found a way?

Mackail-Smith (a Watford fan so I’ve been told) could have put us deeper in arrears had he taken his chances.

14. hornetboy84 - 21/09/2012

Sorry – for me Cassetti and Forestieri looked like they had talent but not the fitness to make a continual impact. In this league not sure you can fire for 10 mins and then go missing for another 10.
Our start petered out because the players did not have the energy to keep the movement going to unlock the defence. As it progressed we were passing neatly but the forward looking options and overlaps became less and therefore the frustrated balls forward were picked off.
First 15 mins apart- I thought we were awful and hopeful and I for one did not enjoy the game at all.
We need some Deeney fire and Eustace control for sure.
The shame is that we had a squad attitude last year that surely needed just a little finesse and quality added.
We maybe have that in part – not sure how many truly outstanding players we have – but without the application (and I mean for 90 mins not 15) then we will struggle.
Dont want to become this years Doncaster. Starting to feel like it.
Still maybe Neuton’s motion will come good and give us some momentum.

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