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Watford 4 Barnsley 1 (01/12/2012) 01/12/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Watford 17 Yorkshire 5.  The latest instalment…

1- I think that the first point to make is that Barnsley weren’t terrible.  Defensively precarious, certainly… ig commented that alarm bells were ringing in the first half every time the ball approached their box.  But not a horror show on a par with Sheffield Wednesday’s second half performance in the week,  and going forward there was a real threat; we were the better side in the first half following Troy Deeney’s excellent opener, but the Tykes were well in the game, creating chances and forcing some important and occasionally spectacular defensive interventions.  No worse than your typical second tier team, then… good bits and bad bits in equal measure.  We beat them comprehensively anyway.

2- As the visitors penned us back at the start of the second half I was reminded of this game during Malky Mackay’s last season.  Having flown at Barnsley early on that day we flagged, dropped the pace of our game and end up clinging desperately on for a point.  We were briefly on our heels here and it looked a little dicey, but this threat and any uncertainty in the destination of the points ended with Mark Yeates’ terrific second goal.

What on earth has happened to Yeates?  It’s not news that this formation and this position suits him far more than the winger’s role that he didn’t entirely convince in last year… but he’s actually doing everything far more effectively.  Three assists this week, his delivery is infinitely more reliable… and prior to his second goal, his second stunning goal of the week, he took on players and beat them.  Yes, really.  And then hit the upright with a late free kick.  Far from the only fine performance of the day… Deeney was bullish, Almunia produced arguably the best, the timeliest, the most critical saves of his Watford career, Battocchio put in a splendid little cameo, Cassetti and Pudil were a constant threat on either flank, Hoban continues to astonish, Chalobah was back on top of his game, Forestieri was Forestieri.  But Yeates’ role in our current run, Almen Abdi’s shoulder notwithstanding, is the most unheralded success.

3- But the man of the match for me, perversely, was the man who ended the game with a dreadful cock-up.  Joel Ekstrand has grown into his role, appears to be more comfortable alongside Fitz Hall’s massive presence and this was as eye-catching and effervescent as a defender is allowed to be – make no mistake, the back three is beginning to look as competitive as the central midfield trio and forward positions.  It wasn’t just his defending that caught the eye either;  with a first half flick of the heel he came close to emulating perhaps his manager’s finest moment.  Is this to become the “Ardley dumps ball at far post for H to crash home” stock goal of this generation?

In the second half a period of Barnsley pressure was repelled by Ekstrand playing a first time pass out, to feet, under pressure… and then sprinting the length of the pitch to get on the end of the move.  It would have been goal of the season in a month full of candidates, but Steele tipped his bomb of a shot over the bar.  Outrageously inappropriate that the game should end with the Swede staring despondently at the ground as his captain strode past him furiously having just seen his clean sheet soiled.

4- For all that each of the back four were splendid today, our defensive vulnerability remains the slight concern.  It’s a function of the playing style, formation and emphasis on attacking that Zola has been so keen on of course and in a way it’s endearing… the ethos of “it doesn’t matter how many goals we concede, as long as we score more” feels historically Watfordesque and allied to 3-5-2 is always going to leave us open.  Which is fine, as long as we keep scoring goals.  It has been asked elsewhere what Sean Dyche might have achieved with this squad of players.  A moot point… but without a doubt it would have looked very different.  Our previous manager’s emphasis on defensive shape above all else has been utterly blown away over the course of one short summer.

5- There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s the potential for a points deduction as a consequence of this week’s revelation of a Football League misconduct charge.  It may be that knowledge of the potential for – or inevitability of – such a development influenced the reticence of the new regime with regard to our prospects this season.  It’s not in our interests to brag about our chances of course – proclaiming that we are the Manchester United of the division, for example, would have been ludicrously counter-productive.  But the firm insistence, even during this startling run of form, that promotion isn’t a requisite this season had seemed a little odd.  Not being remotely capable of assessing these things, however, my preference is to worry about it if and when it happens.  Football this good is too special to be distracted from for one thing.  “We! Are! Go-ing Up (subject to a possible points deduction, terms and conditions may apply)” doesn’t really scan, for another…


1. Scully - 01/12/2012

Agree with some of your comments but without a doubt for me Yeats was our man of match. Totally involved with all aspects of the game. Along with the dynamo that is Hogg we were irresistible and unplayable at times.
My only concern was we decided to be the away side second half largely relying on our usual ability to counter.
Good but could be do a lot more to have an alternative plan when, at home.
No complaints so far, but could do better!

Matt Rowson - 01/12/2012

don’t doubt that we WILL get better… don’t think it’s too unreasonable to take advantage of our ability on the counter tho. A team chasing a lead will always push up as the game progresses, we’d be daft not to capitalise. Especially as this approach is working rather well.

2. bringe555 - 01/12/2012

Booo! scully …. leave well alone and don’t complicate matters further. We still haven’t mastered this plan yet so if Zola were to tinker rather than perfect the ongoing tactics we would be sure to end up with blunted swords – that’s a big noooo from me.
It looks like we may have enough for this league, maybe too much but let’s get over the finishing line before we start practicing our premiership techniques.

3. JohnF - 02/12/2012

Good thunks Matt. I agree about theperformances. Young Forestieri needs to work at losing his reputation as a diver because he is now not getting decisions he should. The handball in the second half was because he was being hauled back by the collar first.
On the points deduction, I am less concerned about that. When you look at the accounts it is clear that the club did not benefit from any breaches of the rules and indeed they suffered a significant loss. Although there is a technical breach, the fact that the league have taken the unusual step of charging an individual who was the owner is perhaps an indicator of where they are going.

hornetboy84 - 03/12/2012

Not sure about didn’t benefit. We signed players when we should have been on an embargo. Regardless – it is good we are now in safe hands with a long term plan. Without the takeover we were clearly on an asset stripping lut*n path. So if there is a punishment so be it.

4. NRC - 02/12/2012

Fifth game I’ve managed to make. Took the wife along with the promise of some pretty football and although not perhaps as pretty as some I’ve seen this season, pretty enough. She is even talking of coming along next week.

The truly exciting thing about this team, in this division, is the depth of the squad, especially when you think about who wasn’t available, which has to stand us in good stead as the season progresses and legs elsewhere get more tired. The mooted shake out in Jan should be interesting.

Couldn’t help feel a bit hacked off for TD with a pen shortly after he went off on a hat trick – but then again Vydra did win it.

5. andrew hardy - 02/12/2012

Another entertaining match. Shows that we can also do the ugly bits when required. First 20 mins of the second half could not really get going although Barnsley had alot of the ball they were not hurting us. Interesting tactics by Barnsley, playing 3 up front pressing our back 3 which resulted in us not playing out from the back as comfortably as usual. Once we weathered them coming at us and we started to play much better their was only one winner. The nice thing apart from the excellent play is that they are learning week on week and being clinical.As for the squad we seem to have 16 players all playing well and the changes Zola is making is not affecting the play or results. For a change the bench is strong and has players who offer something different.
As for Forestieri, well lets just enjoy what he offers. The way he plays frustrates us, Zola and more importantly the opposition He is young, will get better and at the moment ours!
No criticism from me, enjoying the ride and can’t wait for the next installment.

6. KentHornet - 02/12/2012

Second game for me – noticeable improvement all round compared with September. Almunia kept us ahead with some great saves up to half time. Yeates as noted was unrecognizable from the same player last year – well done Zola! Cholabah was very influential first half but faded after his knock. Only caveat for me was FF – very skillful, great control but sulked like a child when he wasnt given a penalty (the correct decision) and could have easily ended up getting sent off. Still, all in all a great and enjoyable day out and my 8 year old nephew (first WFC game) was duly impressed. we’ll be back next week for Hull.

Matt Rowson - 02/12/2012

Forestieri was quite restrained yesterday, you ain’t seen nothing. Got to disagree on two counts tho, can’t believe that even Fernando would go down voluntarily when clean through on goal… and having won the ball and sprinted half the length of the pitch to make the chance, he’s entitled to not get up and charge after it straight away for my money.

James - 02/12/2012

I don’t think he was any more restrained really. He still managed to set the ref against him within the first 20 minutes. I agree with you that he didn’t dive when clean through, but I don’t think it was a penalty either.

He really should have scored though. If you compare how our other striking options might have faired in that situation: Vydra wouldn’t have been caught, and Deeney wouldn’t have been knocked off the ball. Not sure what Geijo would have done, need to see more of him.

I want to like Forestieri, but he sure is making it difficult.

Scully - 02/12/2012

Agreed with all your comments and also was perfectly positioned when FF panicked and allowed the defender to get the better of him. He is an enigma in progress!

Peter Lee - 03/12/2012

Surely the key point FF has to take note of was that in the first half he went down and got no reward, but in the second he stayed on his feet whilst being fouled. This gave the ref no option but to award the FK from which TD scored the third, thanks also to FF’s quick thinking.

Matt Rowson - 03/12/2012

In fairness I think he’s improved no end on this in general since his first few games, much more robust. And you won’t convince me that he dived in the first half… slipped, maybe. fouled, maybe. But you don’t dive in that position.

Peter Lee - 03/12/2012

I’m not saying that FF did dive, only that in that situation, going down gave the ref enough ambiguity to not give the pen (on the highlights it looked more clear-cut than Vydra’s IMHO) but when he stayed on his feet the fouling was so blatant that there was no option for the ref but to give him the decision.

7. Chris Edwards - 02/12/2012

My little 19 month old loved her first game and particularly Yeates performance! But now I know the true benefits of a club mascot like Harry the Hornet. At times of a potential toddler meltdown Harry was around and saved the day! 🙂 COYHs!!

Matt Rowson - 02/12/2012

Very good point… kids cast a whole new light on the mascot thing don’t they?

8. KentHornet - 02/12/2012

Thanks Matt – if that was the restrained Mk I version, I am looking forward to the unrestrained MK II FF!

9. Nick - 02/12/2012

A great result yesterday. I think we miss someone sitting at the back of the three midfielders in that gap between the back 3 and midfield 3. Too often the ball bounced in there and a Barnsley player was first too it. We did score 4 though so I’m being harsh.

I live in wimbledon and sometimes pop over to kingsmeadow when the horns arent playing so I went to the Wimbledon vs Franchise game today. Being there and hearing the conversation of the deluded mk fans afterwards reaffirmed in me why I abhor mk dons and the franchise way they obtained a team. It must be a soulless existence following them.

10. Andrew J - 03/12/2012

I’m firmly in the Mark Yeates fan club, and I was last season, so I’m pleased to see his hard work pay off. We have such a strong squad now, that Zola can afford to tweak the team according to form and fitness, and we have a good balance of loanees and permanent players. Someone on the WO website after the game said that those who wrote Deeney off in the summer should hang their heads – I admit to having my misgivings, but I don’t feel that I should be ashamed of that. I’m just pleased that he’s doing his talking on the pitch.
The way that the team is playing right now, It’s going to be exciting stuff between now and the end of this season.

James - 03/12/2012

I think those who wrote off Deeney in the summer did so for moral reasons, not footballing ones. I don’t think his contribution to the team was ever in doubt, the question was whether we wanted a man like that representing the club. We gave him a second chance, but only time will tell whether we made the right decision.

Matt Rowson - 03/12/2012

I dunno. The mantra goes that “good decisions don’t guarantee good outcomes”. If giving Deeney a second chance was the right decision (and I’m inclined to believe it was) then it was the right decision irrespective of whether he messes up again. It’s not a matter of judgement about his character, it’s a general premise. His form on the pitch even less relevant of course, but fortunately on all counts, so far so good.

11. Paul Caruso - 03/12/2012

At this stage in proceedings in reference to the sub-title, I would like to draw a distinction between North, South and West Yorkshire. What indeed were the last meetings between the ‘Orns and North Yorkshire clubs, York City 1 – 1 Watford 1 (1997 -98) and Scarborough 1-1 Watford (dismal open terrace at the McCain FACup 1995-6???).

Matt Rowson - 04/12/2012

0-0 at Scarborough. very 0-0. But there was a replay which we won 2-0. York appears to be in East Yorkshire (East Riding of Yorkshire), which surprised me but there you go. http://www.northyorks.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=4414&p=0

Scarborough it was then, I guess.

Geoff Gaunt - 04/12/2012

As a resident of East Yorkshire close to the border with the North Riding, I can categorically state that the city of York sits fairly & squarely in North Yorkshire. Incidentaly, that inauspicious 1-1 draw in ’98 (or more pobably the famous home match with Bristol Rovers whilst visiting family darn sarf a week later) re-kindled my passion as an active supporter of the club that has so far run from 1970-88 and with my stepson Chris from1998-present.

Matt Rowson - 04/12/2012

Thanks Geoff. This unitary authority business confused the issue…

12. Ed - 04/12/2012

Unitary authority confusion aside, Middlesbrough is in North Yorkshire. Or at least it was before the ‘shires were diluted by the ‘sides.

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