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Watford 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 (17/11/2012) 18/11/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from a relieved Vicarage Road

1- There’s no disputing that the first half dismissal of Christophe Berra changed the game irrevocably. Stale Solbakken was obviously of the opinion that it was harsh… there wasn’t much of an appeal, but on review there’s clearly a foul by the defender, holding on to Deeney’s arm. It’s not much of a foul, cynically you could say more fool Berra for not doing the job properly – it was stupid, and neither Deeney’s strength in shaking off the challenge nor his decision not to go down have any bearing on the accuracy of the call. Having suffered on the back of some harsh judgements earlier in the season, it would be daft not to take advantage when they go in our favour… but Wolves haven’t got much of a case here.

Up to that point Wolves had been doing a reasonable job of emulating Ipswich’s successful strategy from earlier in the season, sitting deep and hounding us in possession. You wouldn’t go as far as to say that they had us worried… Wolves were never secure enough at the back for that even before the sending off, but we were a little bit precarious ourselves. The red card blew their game plan out of the water.

2- We capitalised quickly, and were terrific for the rest of the half. The goal came within ten minutes, and it was so nearly magnificent. A Wolves attack having been repelled the ball broke to Yeates on the left. He shovelled a pass down the flank into the path of the haring Forestieri, the Argentine squared for Chalobah. From one end to the other in a flash, so nearly brilliant… except Chalobah fluffed his lines, his weak shot allowed Ikeme to make a good block and we were fortunate that the rebound fell for the teenager who tucked his first senior goal beyond the keeper.

From then on… we didn’t do anything dramatically different to what we’d been doing previously actually, but the context changed it completely. Location too, in fairness, since we were twenty yards further up the pitch. Nonetheless, we were passing the ball from side to side, stretching the play whilst retaining possession. Now, at a goal and a man up, this meant we were making our opponents run and not giving the ball away, whereas at the start of the half pretty much the same approach was frustrating, a lack of progress was an issue. And every now and again we were getting close enough to Wolves’ goal to open them up again… we finished the half well on top, with one reckless onlooker tweeting that we were the very last team that you wanted to be a goal and a man down to.

3- One can understand the temptation to try to accommodate the prodigious talents of both Forestieri and Vydra. And we know that Zola is keen for the team to be flexible, to be able to play a number of formations… in fairness, such was our dominance at the end of the first half that even with the benefit of hindsight you could understand Zola deciding that this was a game with which we might experiment.

The experiment was not a success, the 3-4-3 formation never as comfortable or fluid as 3-5-2 had been. We were still the dominant side in terms of possession but were not the dominant force of before the break and perplexingly we were rushed in possession, too keen to gamble, to risk giving up possession. And that’s something I never thought I’d write about a Zola side. Nor were we secure defensively, all of a sudden, despite a thoroughly competent performance from Joel Ekstrand. Wolves’ goal was still a freak… if it was deliberate it was bold in the extreme; Sako, comfortably the visitors’ stand-out player, struck a long-range free kick which still required a chronic error of judgement from Almunia to enter the net. Up to that point there was no suggestion of a Wolves fightback. Thereafter, however, Wolves were much more involved than seemed credible at the end of the first half; they would have kitchen sinked us in the dying minutes whatever our formation, but we left the stadium feeling we had gotten away with it having made far harder work of the job than seemed necessary.

4- Another criticism would be the quality of our finishing, perversely given the extraordinary master class at Elland Road. Two aspects to this… firstly the rather overconfident showboating at the start of the second half when much as we had been well on top the margin was only a single goal. Secondly more poor decision making in front of goal throughout, particularly in the second half, which probably cost us a more comfortable victory, Chalobah, Hogg and Forestieri particularly at fault (albeit Fernando did an encouragingly gutsy job of the defensive side of his wide attacking role in the second half).

Both criticisms have to be set in the context of what is still an extremely young side of course; of the 11 that finished the game three were in their teens and all but two (Almunia and Pudil) were 24 or younger. We’ve applied such caveats in assessing our own teenagers in the past, hardly even-handed not to apply the same level of understanding to youngsters signed to Chelsea or Udinese.

5- And these apparently negative thunks shouldn’t detract from the fact that, you know, we beat Wolves. On the back of wins against Leeds and Leicester over previous weekends. Albeit a Wolves without a win in seven, but nonetheless a side of whom seven starters (not including the dangerous Sako) were regulars in the top flight last season. Whatever the limitations of the performance we nonetheless followed up a dramatic, eye-catching victory with another win – a damp squib had been feared in the pub beforehand. Steadier progress, but just as valuable a three points. You orns.



1. Ad mant - 18/11/2012

You are a sorry lot if you are happy with that performance … 10 men and the most biased ref in history and we still had you begging for the final whistle … i dont blame Watford for the ref, he was abysmal, but to prance around after we had you against the wall is nothing short of delusional.

Matt Rowson - 18/11/2012

Contender for best post ever on this site. Hilarious.

petebradshaw - 18/11/2012

Wolves fans, eh?

Matt Rowson - 18/11/2012

Massive club though Pete. Massive.

Ed - 18/11/2012

With reference to thunk 5 this Wolves fan’s ramble is pathetic. What makes this blog so special is its balancd considered viewpoint, the well mannered but sharp debate in comments, and the likelyhood that most crap like this is filtered out.

oldhorn - 20/11/2012


Matt Rowson - 21/11/2012

quite so.

Roger Smith - 18/11/2012

I’m not happy with that performance. 19 shots and only 8 on target. It should have been (another) cricket score. But you can’t blame the ref for applying the letter of the law; your entitled to your opinion, but he’s more concerned with that of the assessor.

2. petebradshaw - 18/11/2012

What a marvellous last 22 days. 82/83 reunion, upbeat fans’ forum, WFC quiz, three wins and a draw…

3. SteveG - 18/11/2012

We were having a ‘you are the ref’ discussion about the sending off. Although those sorts of tussles are often not penalised, let’s assume that the challenge itself was a foul (and I don’t honestly think there’s much doubt about that). If Deeney had put the shot away, would it still have been a red card? (Presumably not, since this would hardly have denied a goal-scoring opportunity). Given that he still managed to get a shot at goal of some sort, you could argue (as indeed I heard some Wolves fans doing) that it couldn’t therefore be a red – but it might have been if he’d gone down under the challenge. But that just seems daft.

And would the course of the game have been significantly different if Wolves had been 1-0 down but still with 11 men?

Matt Rowson - 18/11/2012

Interesting Steve. Had a similar discussion on the way home… I don’t think you can say it’s not a red card because Deeney’s a big bloke. I think you can possibly argue the ref should not have played on if he was going to send the bloke off, but then he’d have been criticised for not playing advantage. I guess the answer has to be yes, he would have had to send the bloke off regardless (?)

RGW - 18/11/2012

Foul play is foul play – it doesn’t have to be successful. And the law relates to *clear* goal-scoring opportunity. By pulling Deeney back, a 1-on-1 was converted into a shot under challenge. A clear red card in my book.

4. bringe555 - 18/11/2012

I originally thought it was very harsh but from replays you can see that Troy is still being hampered as he got his shot away, quite possibly altering both trajectory and pace. If a red were really too harsh I would expect them to appeal but a fiver say’s they won’t!

5. Simon - 18/11/2012

The sending off is a difficult one as the professional foul rule is results driven (denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity) even though what it was trying to stamp out had an element of intent (a deliberate or reckless foul when the defender has nothing to lose and everything to gain).

Given that it’s result driven, I find it difficult for a ref to determine that a clear goal scoring chance has been denied when Deeny went on to have one. You then get into a debate about whether the “clearness” of the goalscoring chance has been materially hampered by the foul.

For my money, had the ref allowed the advantage and then, once Deeney had missed, given the free kick and booked Berra then he’d have got it absolutely right.

There’s an argument to say that, in these circumstances, a referee should always play on until the player has gone down or the goal scoring opportunity has otherwise definitely been denied and, if no goal is scored, he can give a free kick and decide whether the foul did, in fact, deny a clear goal scoring opportunity and a red card is warranted. The problem is that the referees would then inevitably be criticised for indecision and have both fans and media alike asking why they allowed play to continue when a foul had been committed.

Matt Rowson - 18/11/2012

I agree that it’s a thankless position for the ref to be in, but can’t agree that because Deeney held off the challenge it’s not a red card. Does that mean that it’s a red if a weaker player goes down but not red cos Deeney’s quite strong? Don’t even want to think about the impact that would have on simulation- you’re penalising Deeney for staying on his feet.

As I implied in the thunks, it’s a stupid red card because he clearly committed a foul, a foul that would have denied a goalscoring opportunity if Deeney hadn’t shrugged it off (and may have impacted the outcome anyway, as bringe555 points out above) but probably had no impact beyond the red card. If he’s going to do that he’s better off sliding for the ball; he might get the ball away cleanly if he’s lucky.

SteveG - 18/11/2012

I agree that the fact that Deeney stayed on his feet is irrelevant. The ref did the right thing by trying to play an advantage, and you can reasonably argue that the resulting chance was less clear cut than it might have been because of the foul. So it’s a red card. You’ve convinced me, guys…well, almost.

What if Deeney had scored? Surely it couldn’t then have been a red card ‘regardless’ of the outcome…if foul play is foul play, even if it’s unsuccessful? As you say, interesting.

Andy Stocks - 18/11/2012

My initial thoughts were that it was a harsh red, but then thinking about it, I tend to think the ref got it right. It was a clear goalscoring opportunity, credit to Deeney for staying up and getting a shot off, but he was being dragged back and the opportunity was not as clear as it otherwise would have been.

It still feels harsh, probably because in the majority of such situations the refs don’t follow the letter of the law. I don’t understand how so many refs let players get away with wrestling matches when defending a corner either. Fair play to the ref for applying the law correctly, but such discussions will continue due to inconsistencies in the interpretation and application.

6. Iceman - 18/11/2012

I don’t think there can be much argument about the red card. In all fouls, the referee has the right to allow an advantage to the attacking team even if their progress has been hampered. If Deeney goes on to score then the goal has not been prevented and therefore the defender has no case to answer. But as Deeney didn’t score and the chance was lost, the referee can take play back to where the offence was committed and take the appropriate action against the foul. Deeney was through on goal with the keeper to beat, so a clear goalscoring opportunity was prevented by the defender’s illegal contact, and as the last man, he has to walk. We might have all been fuming if he’d blown for the foul before Deeney had the chance to shoot!

7. Simon - 18/11/2012

I agree that it’s unpalatable for the fouled player’s response (ie does he go down or not) to affect the referee’s decision but, the fact that the rule is focussed on the result (preventing a clear goalscoring opportunity) rather than intent or recklessness on the part of the purpetrator means that I can’t really see an alternative.

If Deeney’s ability to stay on his feet can have no impact on the decision to give a red card then, logically, neither can his finishing ability. If he scores then Berra still has to go.

To give another example, what if Deeney had gone round the ‘keeper, left himself with an open goal and stuck it wide? The referee can still pull the game back as an advantage has arguably not accrued but should Berra still walk?

I definitely see the argument in this instance that Deeney’s chance was made less clear by the foul and that then becomes a matter of the referee’s opinion. My own view was that it all happened in a very short space and I’m not convinced it had a material impact on whether Deeney would have scored or not. When you get into that sort of debate, though, the margins are very small and it’s difficult to judge the referee too harshly whichever call he makes.

Ed - 19/11/2012

Agree with much that said re red card, but this sticks out. Refs make an immediate judgement call, which rarely satisfy examination from every angle and bias (amount, impact, intent). There wasn’t a lot wrong with this decision.

And agree on Matt’s point. Required under current rules or not. I don’t think we want the ref to require simulation, in order to give a decision.

JohnF - 21/11/2012

We’d have been really hacked off if it had been the other way round and our defender had been sent off. Tough for refs and not helped by players.

Matt Rowson - 21/11/2012

The judgement helps refs even less tho John. It’s making a clear distinction between the consequences of going down under challenge and holding it off and going for goal, and not in the right direction.

8. Kovacs - 18/11/2012

Think we switched to a 433 rather than a 343 with Doyley enjoying the freedom of the right back role probably a little bit too much. All in all though I agree, good performance and after the showing of Milwall and Leeds this afternoon I’m feeling more and more confident about Watford’s relative quality compared to this division. Wolves looked average.

Matt Rowson - 18/11/2012

OS says 3-4-3, so I went with that. Didn’t work anyway.

9. Derek. - 18/11/2012

My first impression on the sending off was that it was soft. However, we often grumble about refs not giving ‘minor’ fouls. If Berra wasn’t trying to stop Deeney from getting clear, then why pull him back. Seeing it on TV later, he did have hold of him for a fair time. Maybe next time Berra will trust his skill and try to win the ball fairly.
I thought that Wolves started off playing in a similar vein to us but without really looking like scoring. They ended playing like us as we were a few years back. I was both pleased and relieved to see to see us not throw the win away.
It was a pity we couldn’t take some of the other opportunities that came our way. It did seem that most opportunities fell to Hogg who unfortunately was a poorer scoring record than Doyley.

10. Adam J - 18/11/2012

Lloyd Doyley: 350 not out. Miles better than Alastair Cook!

11. Andrew J - 19/11/2012

Two thunks from me:
1) What has happened to IG? I do enjoy your thunks Matt, but I would like to see responsibility shared out a little more evenly!
2) Why so few goals scored and conceded at home, and so many away? Is it about time that we witnessed a 4-3 win at home, or a 6-2? Discuss.

Ian Grant - 19/11/2012

Unfortunately, my contract means that I’m only able to commentate on fixtures in which Watford fail to score. I’ve written about three games thus far: two one-nil defeats and a goalless draw. So be careful what you wish for…

12. bringe555 - 19/11/2012

Without the experience of Abdi, I’d say 3-4-3 was a no-goer and a mistake by Zola on Saturday because you need at least one player who can put their foot on the ball and pick out players or feed the channels rather than making panicked and/or selfish decisions. With 5 you can move the ball around with impunity but it’s theoretically easier to defend against. 3-4-3 will work once the lads are accustomed to it but obviously not yet and I’m not totally sure we need it in this league, 3-5-2 is causing no end of problems as it is.

13. Mark T - 19/11/2012

Saw the highlights such as they were on the BBC Sunday morning, Two points:
1. I saw the challenge and thought ‘free kick’, NOT a red card – just shows what I know.
2. the football league show talkig about Troy Deeney’s ‘sabattical’. Why dont they say what it was ?

14. bringe555 - 19/11/2012

Lol …. looks like I owe everyone a fiver, Wolves have actually appealed (not £5 each but be sure to register for your share :D)
Of course i’ts their risk but I won’t be betting on the outcome.

Matt Rowson - 19/11/2012

That’s just daft.

Ed - 21/11/2012

And appeal was successful. Bizarre. Given amount of debate on this, I’d love to know the details of the judgement.

“Small boots” all round this Saturday, sadly.

15. The Great Big O - 19/11/2012

Just to add to the debate on the red card, it’s clear from the footage that Deeney – as he edges in front of Berra at the start of the chase – extends his left arm to hold the defender off. Berra grabs the arm as they tussle and is sent off. Is warding off a defender with an outstretched arm within the laws of the game? If not, Deeney committed a foul before Berra did.

bringe555 - 20/11/2012

If it’s not actually grabbing or pushing then warding off a defender with your arm, shoulder or even your hand is all part and parcel of shielding the ball …… within reason naturally and any contact with throat or face will always be a foul.

16. James - 19/11/2012

Hat’s off to Zola for trying something different. It was the ideal game to experiment with.
The 4-3-3 didn’t really work, but we had to try it because the payoff if we can get Vydra and Forestieri into a starting eleven is worth the risk.

Personally I’d have taken Yeates off and had Forestieri play behind the front two where Abdi usually is. That way the shape stays the same. Hopefully we’ll try it at some point.

I’ve got to feel a bit sorry for Hogg at the moment. The guy’s playing well, linking up with the front men and making space for himself, regularly getting into great scoring positions but… he can’t shoot for toffee. I guess that’s just one of those things in the second tier. If he could finish he wouldn’t be playing for us.

stu partridge - 20/11/2012

agreed about the best way to get FF and vydra on the pitch at the same time is to play FF in the AM role (behind the front 2) in our now beloved 3 5 2 formation….
…ah but where does abdi play when he s back ?
i guess that means dropping chalaboah? no, too good.
hogg then? no, best water carrier in the division.

difficult but delicious decisions for GFZ to make and for us to debate endlessly

James - 20/11/2012

Well the selection problem may solve itself because Abdi will be out for a few weeks at least and Chalobah’s loan ends in January.

17. Jim Nash - 19/11/2012

Did anyone have a clear view of the incident where the Wolves player went down in our box and was booked for diving? We (me and my 3 kids) thought it looked like a penalty from the rookery end however it was not on the football league show and is not included in the Hornets player extended highlights. Solbakken did not mention it either (as far as I could tell), so presumably referee got that right.

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2012

Couldn’t see it from our corner of the Rookery. I’ve seen some grumbles about it but seem to remember there not being vehement protests at the time either on or off the pitch.

JohnF - 21/11/2012

We had a very clear view. It was a good tackle and it wasn’t a dive. However, we had a view from above and at the side and the officials didn’t. If the player had just got up and accepted the tackle I don’t think he would have been booked.

18. stu partridge - 20/11/2012

good report although a little negative as always!

as watford fans at the moment we re always trying to keep our feet on the ground and occasionally pinching or reprimanding ourselves when we get too excited about whats happening at our club….but please a little more excitement at how wonderful our football is to watch wouldnt be out of place.

all in all an interesting read although i would have to question your description….

….Yeates ‘shovelled a pass down the flank into the path of the haring Forestieri’

i think even the most ardent anti yeates fan would have trouble keeping a clear conscience whilst describing that pass as a ‘shovel’

i would say the parameters of description might lie somewhere between…

‘ a very well placed long pass’ to…

‘ an exquisite , pinpoint , 45 yard pass, placed perfectly into the space where Forestieri was running into’

if that was a shovel im getting down to B&Q and buying up the job lot

PS Matt, i loved your co commentating on hornets player a few weeks ago. a very welcome break from Derek Pain ( and no thats not a typo)

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2012

“Shovel” wasn’t supposed to be a negative, it was a terrific ball as the glowing description of the goal implies – more a reflection that he got underneath it and scooped it up the line.

As for “negative as always” – sorry you feel that, we always try to be objective. A lot of the football is great, that’s reflected in the description of the first half. But we WERE wasteful in possession, and that’s a recurring feature, bad decisions in front of goal. There are reasons for that, but it’s letting the terrific build up play down a little bit. And the change in formation wasn’t effective. That’s beyond dispute, surely? Apologies if you feel that being resolutely positive about everything would be more interesting reading. I can’t say I agree.

stu partridge - 20/11/2012

ive always liked the intelligent well balanced reports from this site and BSAD but feel perhaps in the pursuit of objectivity its easy to err too far against the stance often taken by many partisan fans on fans forums. ive done it many a time as a defence mechanism to being dissapointed, probably many fans would say the same

of course you may have genuinely felt negatively about the game as is your right but if you present your opinions in the public domain then it can be assumed that people are allowed to comment .

im not sure why you would assume i feel you should be ‘resolutely positive about everything’.
you cant reasonably make that assumption from what ive written , can you? so, no need to apologise, but thank you anyway.

look forward to your next report or appearance on hornets player

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2012

Of course you’re entitled to comment, and to disagree or criticise our accounts or perspective. Equally, I’m entitled to defend my position if I think it’s appropriate.

Have I felt negatively about the game? Not on balance, but it wasn’t our best performance of the season. For me, the above represents a balanced view, it certainly represents my perspective and to make it more positive (I already recognise our dominance of the first half, it’s not THAT critical) would be edging towards the resolutely positive stance that I accused you of demanding.

As for erring “too far the wrong way”… I recognise the danger in that, I’m too frequently guilty of arguing myself into a position that I don’t really agree with when taking issue with an oversimplified or one-sided argument. For that reason I never look at forums or discussions of a game before I thunk. I don’t normally look at the OS or the Football League Show highlights either (until after I’ve written), but was keen to see the sending off again.

bringe555 - 20/11/2012

Dear Stu …. could you ask your brother Alan to commentate, I think we would all enjoy that 😀

stu partridge - 20/11/2012

he only commentates on norwich games from the dim blandness of an A11 travel lodge 🙂

19. stu partridge - 20/11/2012

starting a debate thats not about refereeing decisions, heres a question…
is our current position/points tally a fair reflection of where we ll end up at the end of the season?

( bearing in mind that so far we have 26 points from 17 games ie 1.53 points per game , which equates to about 70 points at the end of season ie roughly between 6th and 9th place in the last 10 seasons)

Matt Rowson - 20/11/2012

I think we’ll do better than that. The size of our squad will be a big plus as the season progresses and others lose players to injury/suspension. And looking at the breakdown of our points gained… there’s definitely a sense of us sorting ourselves out and picking up more points as a consequence. We’ve looked more settled since Huddersfield at the end of September, and are on almost 2 points per game since then.

stu partridge - 20/11/2012

i have to agree.

i now go into every game truly thinking there is no reason why we shouldnt be winning it .

usually my outlook is something along the lines of…

‘ lets get the ball into the box, cause the opposition some problems and move on from there’

…. but now i genuinely (and even in pessimistic moments) feel we are on an upward slope…to where?

…i darent speculate but am thoroughly enjoying GFZ s intelligent, underplayed approach to football management.

Ferguson,Clough and Mourihnho – all fantastic managers, arguably amongst the greatest… we all love showman too, the game thrives on it …

…but GFZ does his talking on the pitch, just like he always has done. I like that too.

20. bringe555 - 20/11/2012

Berra won his appeal ….. Lol good job I’m not a referee!

Hang em up I say 😀

21. Lincoln Hornet - 20/11/2012

What’s happened to Murray, why he not getting much of a look in?

22. Nashinho - 20/11/2012

Hey Stu, I understand why you think Matt’s reports are negative if you are already inclined to compare GFZ with Ferguson, Clough and Mourinho! 😉
I sincerely hope that comparison does not prove to be as premature as I view it at the moment.

stu partridge - 21/11/2012

at which point did I compare GFZ to Ferguson,Clough and Mourhino?

If you read the comment properly you ll understand that i was applauding GFZ s understated approach and contrasting it to the more forthright and opinionated stances those other 3 managers were known for.

i think GFZ will go onto be a successful manager but who knows he is still young….to emulate ferguson,clough and mourinho is unlikely but not impossible

Nashinho - 22/11/2012

Hi Stu, Having re-read your comments I now realise you were only comparing their approach to football management and not actual performance.
My comment was just meant to be a jocular; flippant juxtaposition of your optimistic outlook and the perceived negativity of Matt.
I, like you, tend to err on the positive side and have never started a season thinking we will not do well or even a match thinking we will definitely struggle. This obviously has to be tempered somewhat by the reality on the pitch, but as i tell my kids “we may not support the best football team but we do support the best football club”.
Some might say I am then set up for much disappointment, however that has never been the case either. I am very glad the ethos of the club is one of reason and understanding as demonstrated by all who post on Bhappy. I like to think this is why the new loanees have found an environment which is less difficult to settle in to.

Onwards and Upwards (I hope).

23. stu partridge - 23/11/2012

hi nash
im definately up for jocular ,flippant juxtaposition, and you made a good point…and yes one thing that excites me is how the new loanees especially FF and Vydra who seem really proud to wear the ‘yella’ jersey .
i first felt this at palace away when vydra scored the winner and ran straight to the away end where the stewards had their work cut out to stop fans and players bundling together on the edge of the pitch….like you say onwards and upwards, got a good feeling against a very out of form blackpool team , gulp!

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