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Watford 2 Nottingham Forest 0 (22/12/2012) 23/12/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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Five festive thunks from a damp Vicarage Road…

1- It wasn’t necessarily going to end up this way.  Virtually the first opening of the game saw Danny Collins afforded a free header from a set piece, he should have done far more than glance it wide.  Joel Ekstrand was asleep as a ball from the right reached Sharp at the far post, he shanked clumsily past the post.  Simon Cox snuck in behind a static defence at another set piece… everyone froze in confusion, including Cox who screwed a header back across the face of goal.  Hoban and Ekstrand both looked uncomfortable and slightly precarious to the point that we briefly glanced at the bench (and remembered that Neuton was hardly an option to bring on to tighten things up again and rapidly returned our attention to the pitch).  That’s not to say that Forest were ever on top of us – for the 90 minutes we were never less than holding our own – but we rode our luck early on, mobile front men Cox and Sharp both looking like causing us problems whenever they received the ball to feet.

2- And thus the defining characteristic of the game, our utter dominance of midfield, was significant at both ends of the pitch.  Hogg was busy and aggressive, Chalobah enjoyed a fabulous first half that echoed his best performances earlier in the season, Cassetti and Pudil were tremendous, hugging the touchlines even before Forest were reduced in number by Ayala’s stupid challenge on Deeney.  And Abdi was utterly magnificent;  back in the groove after his return to fitness last weekend, he set up both goals (shovelling the attack for the second straight down the hole that Ayala had just vacated), finished a marvellous second half move exquisitely only to be denied by an offside flag and was irrepressible for a good hour before flagging late on.  Such were his exploits that an otherwise sleepy Rookery offered two novel chants in tribute, the Proclaimers’ “500 miles” adaptation competing with a “2 Unlimited” tribute (the former a clear winner for those of any taste and discretion, all it needed was a terrace to jump around on).  Forest’s three man midfield were overrun in the first half, ultimately denying their strikers of the service that had been causing us problems.  We were well on top and worth the two-goal half time lead.

3- The second half has to go down as a bit of a disappointment, much as Forest were kept at arms’ length until a late but impotent flurry that yielded their first shots on target of any note.  The game was over at the sending off of course… as we’ve suggested before this really isn’t a Watford side to fall a man behind to.  And we stretched Forest, made them run, could have extended our lead – Abdi’s disallowed goal, the questionable booking of Beleck when he appeared to be fouled on his way into the area.  And yet Forest were never put to the sword as they might have been.  A stiffer resistance on their part contributed, a desire to limit damage, but ultimately this was a post-Huddersfield, pre-Leeds sort of performance from Watford, excellence for half the game not sustained throughout. To make beating an above-average Championship side look routine in the circumstances no mean achievement.

4- Forest’s stiffer resistance, then.  Stiff resistance in a sort of putting-the-boot-in, let-them-know-you’re-about, lets-see-you-shimmy-your-way-round-this-sonny sense.  It appeared to be sulky peevishness at first, borne of the impotence of being given the run around with fewer bodies to do the running, but the middle-aged bloke behind me in a rare moment of sobriety pointed out the systematic sharing of hatchet duties between miscreants, brutality by directive, Chalobah, Vydra, Abdi and Beleck all on the receiving end.  Igor Stimac, Rio Ferdinand and Stuart Pearce did a similarly transparent job on us for West Ham in the Prem in 2000; unlike that occasion, today’s ref was quick to his pocket. Nonetheless, eighteen months since Billy Davies’ departure Forest haven’t become any more likeable.

5- A decent cameo from Steve Beleck, whose absence from recent consideration in combination with the richness of the alternatives and perhaps injudicious use of social media had caused us to perhaps write him off prematurely.  Very effective and yet another species of threat was suggested, another weapon.  Powerful like Deeney with a good touch, but a more brutal instrument, his sheer volume suffocating opponents as he competed for high balls.  Welcome to the party Steve.

Merry Christmas all.  We won’t be at Bristol, you’ll hear from us again after Brighton next weekend.

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Comments»

1. Andrew Hardy - 23/12/2012

Good thinks. My feelings about the overall performance. Half time 2-0 up playing against 10 men. Do we stick or twist? 3 points in the bag we can only screw it up. If we score more so be it. Playing near rivals, lots of games coming up, reserve energy, don’t get injured. So much to consider. Therefore great performance, job done, comfortable win. Move on. Yes I would have liked us to put them to the sword but greatly satisfied.

Roger Smith - 23/12/2012

It doesn’t take any more energy if you make the ball do the work, and we’ve shown that we are more than capable of doing that effectively.

2. Leggatts 'orn - 23/12/2012

Cassetti’s reading of the game yesterday often bordered on superb. I thought it was his best game in a Yellow shirt. From my berth in the Rookery I was dead in line with Beleck’s “penalty”, we all thought he had his feet taken away, but his dramatic fall to earth would have got at best a “1” from the Strictly judges. An over egged omelette and on that basis the refo cannot be blamed for waving it away, but the yellow card was harsh.

3. Mike S - 23/12/2012

4 superb thunks, Matt. But Steve Beleck? I had to stop myself chanting “Devon White White White” at one stage, while the chap behind me likened him to Steve Kabba. If he was fouled, he made an excellent fist of making it look like a dive, having done likewise a few moments earlier. His touch was poor, his inaccurate passing completely incongruous with the precision of his team mates.

However, after 2 years and 7 months without being present at a Watford win, not much can really take the shine off yesterday! Happy Christmas Matt, ig and Hornets everywhere!

Matt Rowson - 23/12/2012

Not how I saw it, at all. But, you know, you’ve read that. Consensus is that it was a foul but that he overdid the tumble which didn’t help him.

4. Hunsbury Hornet - 23/12/2012

Nice post again Matt. Only one thing to add, and it’s only my opinion, but from my position in the Rookery,I did think the ref was right to book Belek, who was looking for a penalty when it debatably would have been easier to score. Merry Xmas to you and yours.

5. Nick - 23/12/2012

Whilst Hoban didn’t start well I think it’s a measure of his mental strength and how much he’s improved this year that he never gave up and kept going till the end.

I hope we sign Ekstrand, he’s turned into my favourite of the udinese players.

Matt Rowson - 23/12/2012

Both good points, I like Ekstrand too. But my favourite Udinese player changes with the week, Almen Abdi after yesterday.

6. Roger Smith - 23/12/2012

As you say, Matt, both Cox and Sharp looking for service, so what on earth was Lansbury doing on the bench? Of course we don’t know if he is fully fit, or could have brought himself to give 100% against his old muckers, but on his game he is real class.

In the second half we reverted to our slow, methodical build up, when we should have exploited the extra space with lightning raids to run them ragged. How much is this brought about by having a goalkeeper captain? Are we lacking a midfield general like Eustace to drive the team on?

Matt Rowson - 23/12/2012

had the same thought re lansbury when i first saw their bench lineup this morning. And Eustace… yes, absolutely. Despite our form in his absence, he’d still be nailed on for a start when fit. We don’t have many leaders, and nobody that compares with Eustace.

Leggatts 'orn - 24/12/2012

Lansbury has had a fair number of injury problems. I don’t think Forest have yet seen the Lansbury we know. http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/Henri-Lansbury-need-patient-Nottingham-Forest/story-17411809-detail/story.html

7. thehornet35 - 23/12/2012

I too would have liked us to put them to the sword, but at the end of the day, with a busy christmas period, a 2-0 win and a comfortable second half is just what the doctor ordered. Lets just hope we can step up again at the start of the next game and not carry on where we left off yesterday.

8. NickB - 23/12/2012

To paraphrase Ian Hislop, if that wasn’t a penalty then I’m a banana.

9. graham w - 23/12/2012

Beleck – the Devon White resemblance was eerily accurate – until he actually came on to the pitch and started to play ! I thought he had a really good cameo, looked dangerous, effective and combined physical presence with mobility and good feet. Excellent.
And NickB ain’t a banana. It was a penalty.(just about the only thing the ref got wrong though).

Matt Rowson - 23/12/2012

agree on all counts. not an easy game to referee, he did well.

10. Leavesden Noel - 23/12/2012

As a LR STH who listens to 3CR whilst watching the game, Jon M said that the Notts F tactic was to keep the score down in 2nd half, and try to nick a goal. So at 2-0, neither side took chances. Why get caught on the counter, when chasing the game, and why take chances when 2-0 up = stale mate and unfortunately a drap 2nd half for us spectators. If we had conceded, then the game would have been livelier, and as we can’t keep clean sheets, then we might have been likely to concede again. I think Zola had it right, don’t try too hard and keep the opposition at arms length. At times like this, Cassetti’s experience from Italy might prove useful. Not a good 2nd half to watch, but we are in play off position and 3 more games in short time prior to Man City. Boothroyd (Sorry, I liked him) said ‘manage the game’, and I think we need to learn this lesson again. Hull taught us that. Regards and happy christmas

11. kendean - 24/12/2012

Re Thunk 2 is this support for bringing back terraces? I for one would support this and was interested to see Watford was one of the clubs considering this. Only been to Huddesfield and Shef Wed this season and liked what I saw. Hope all have a happy Christmas and looking forward to the new year.

12. Ralph Jackson - 24/12/2012

Agreed Hull had that know-how to manage the game against us. Could they be kind of side that just sneaks up without necessarily doing much that’s spectacular,Bruce having taken Birmingham back up not so long ago?

Some of Forest’s tackling looked none too friendly in the second half,when we did take our foot off the pedal; unfortunately got held up so arrived late and only caught the first half from the second goal onwards :-(. Still,looking forward to letting the train take the strain to Brighton and Manchester. COME ON U ‘ORNS! And merry Christmas and happy New Year!


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