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Watford 4 Huddersfield Town 0 (19/01/2013) 19/01/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Five thunks from a snow-bound Vicarage Road…

1-The first surprise was that the game was on at all.  Yesterday’s rather testing weather conditions had made that seem highly unlikely (even if it’s difficult to judge quite how the rest of the world is getting on from the arctic isolation of a cul-de-sac, media updates or otherwise). So… big respect to those who answered the call and turned up with shovels early in the morning, and to all others involved in getting the game played.

Praise and thanks wouldn’t have been quite as effusive half an hour in, mind.  After an open start to the game which had seen us carve Huddersfield open a couple of times without capitalising the game had settled down into a slightly stodgy stalemate.  There was no more snow, much as dusty clouds blown off the empty Main Stand gave the illusion of snowstorms in the blustery wind, but it was bitterly cold. Huddersfield were doing a reasonable job of pursuing the Forest/Charlton template of getting stuck into us and closing us down very high up the pitch; both sides were creating occasional chances but nothing so clear cut that a goal felt anything more than a vague possibility.  An update from behind us suggested that virtually every game in the top two divisions was goalless.  “And everyone’s watching the same game as us…” was the resigned follow-up.

Except they weren’t, as it turned out.  In its own way, this performance was just as satisfying as the win at Middlesbrough and boasted comparable hallmarks.  Here, as a week ago, we were faced with a challenge and dealt with it, waited for our chance, took it and never looked back.  At Boro we were on the back foot in the first half;  here it was a case of being patient, keeping our cool and, yes, waiting for that chance.  And as a week ago, as so often now, once we’d got the first goal we were gone.

2- Simon Grayson pointed to the penalty decision which resulted in our first goal as the moment that changed the game.  Certainly it was pivotal, and if Callum Woods’ tackle was outside the area then we doff our cap to fortune and mentally, irrelevantly, cross it off against Vydra’s red card against Boro, the iffy penalty at Cardiff and so forth.  But actually Huddersfield’s game plan was already creaking thanks to indiscipline that increasingly characterised their performance. James Vaughan was the chief perpetrator;  having just avoided censure after going through the back of Nathaniel Chalobah, his clumsy, rather uncontrolled aggression saw him plough into Manuel Almunia as the keeper collected a ball that he was always favourite for.  As the referee took a rather casual approach to dissolving the ensuing kerfuffle, Vaughan approached Almunia and took issue, no less aggressively.

Referee Scott Duncan generally officiated well, and consistent with an approach that saw him err on the side of keeping his cards in his pocket a yellow for the original challenge on Almunia (and no more) was probably about right but the event worked against the visitors’ strategy by agitating both the home side and the shivering stands.  Perhaps significant that on being substituted in the second half Vaughan wasn’t even acknowledged by his manager.

Nor was this the last or most memorable lost rag of the afternoon.  That honour went to visiting keeper Alex Smithies at the start of the second half, hereby providing the comedy highlight of the encounter.  Harry the Hornet had been making the most of a rare prop, belly flopping on several occasions into the mounds of snow shovelled beyond the edge of the pitch. The half time interval had concluded with target practice as the front rows of the Rookery launched a barrage of snowballs first at the hapless mascot, then at the reasonably cheerful and tolerant Terriers coaching staff as they prepared to warm their keeper up.  Smithies was far less happy with proceedings, and when a snowball coincided with him letting a dolly shot through his hands as he prepared for the half he reacted furiously to the catcalls behind him, collecting a ball and clouting it high into the stand.  Disappointingly this resulted in only very moderate barracking during the second half despite Smithies absolute refusal to come off his line or risk any contact with the patchy snow on the turf contributing to both of Vydra’s goals, executed with customary ruthlessness.  Nonetheless, his name joins those of Crewe’s Chris McCready, Sheffield United’s Simon Tracey and Tranmere’s Danny Coyne in the pantheon of those who have irretrievably lost their cool against the Hornets.

3- We’re three up already with only two thunks down.  Frankly, this is because the fourth deserves a thunk all to itself.  I’d been surprised to see Battocchio keep his starting place, much as he’d done a decent enough job up at Middlesbrough; surely these conditions were made for Captain Eustace, a bit of grit.  In all honesty the game bypassed the diminutive Argentine in the first half; too lightweight, his touches were largely incidental… until Vydra seized on his pass before being felled by Woods’ challenge.  As the game opened up after the break Battocchio revelled in the extra space and was involved in everything, spinning and whirling and flicking and finding space.  The final goal was a thing of beauty and wonder, involving a Forestieri dummy, a backheel and a trademark wicked cross from the increasingly commanding Marco Cassetti to which Battocchio applied the daintiest of touches to roll it past the hapless Smithies.  Just sublime.

4- Craig Forsyth’s name in the starting eleven was something of a surprise, even given the absence of Daniel Pudil necessitated by illness of his young son.  Not that Forsyth looked without merit in his outings last season but… you didn’t have him in your list of those who might stay around.  Contrary to expectation he more than held his own, taking advantage of the extra space that wing-back affords him, working diligently and tidily at either end of the pitch and contributing some useful height to the side.  Not a threat to Pudil, perhaps… but an option who may finally have been able to play in his best position.

5- So.  We are now beating solid teams with some comfort, albeit solid teams who quite visibly haven’t been winning many games recently.  We are the leading scorers in the division.  Despite injuries, we have a bench full of real options, allowing us to bring on a new forward line to torment a Huddersfield defence already at full stretch trying to contain what now looks one of the most unplayable partnerships  in the division and still look frighteningly potent. Four points off second with a game in hand, with games at key protagonists Hull and Leicester to come, games that won’t be easy but in which you wouldn’t back against us if our opponents have to come out and play.  We aren’t just cemented in the play-offs, we’re chasing automatic promotion and are in with a real shout. Bring it on.


1. hornetboy84 - 19/01/2013

Seriously wonderful today. My first ever game was the last time we beat Huddersfield at home… April 1977… and I think I’m close to conceding that this is the best ever WATFORD side i have seen. Mainly because of the overall squad strength.
And is anyone other than me starting to consider Casetti as a potential player of the season. Quietly becoming immense amongst some brilliant others. Oh and mr doyley – fitting so well into THIS TEAM. Unbelievable and will forever be a watford legend. FORZA WATFORD indeed.

simmos - 20/01/2013

You mentioned the April 1977 win. Was that a 2-0 win after we were reduced to 9 men when Gidemintis and Mayes had been sent off. I think Mercer scored both our goals after we went down to 9 men but I may be wrong. Coincidentally that was my first Watford game and have been hooked ever since because of that match.

I have to agree that this is probably the best football we have seen at the Vic in that time.

hornetboy84 - 20/01/2013

simmos – indeed yes ! I was 12.
I was walking into the ground with my dad yesterday who is 77 now and reminded him the story of when he took me and my cousin to stand in front of the main stand (there was terrace then and about the sendings off etc). He could only vaguely remember it and it was only a few years a go I realised it was 1977 and not 1976. Mike Keens last game then some bloke called Taylor took over. You should do the same as me and keep telling people that you too started watching Watford before the glory Taylor years. (My next game was a 6-0 win vs Doncaster in Jan 78 and I hit my knee on a barrier on the NE corner celebrating the 5th. Was a little too easy to be hooked then !
That 4th goal vs. one of the ones in the Sunderland 8-0 win. (cant remember which but was a Bolton long ball sweeping 4 pass move_ …. close call … different styles – equally wow..

JohnM - 21/01/2013

Can remember that Sunderland goal as if it were yesterday. A brilliant goal that epitomised all the best of the Taylor inspired football. It was the fifth goal, I believe.

NRC - 22/01/2013

Here’s a link to the Sunderland game – if you feel like wallowing in nostalgia: http://youtu.be/_MILTzt5Vdo

2. Roger Smith - 20/01/2013

Five thunks, over 80 comments on the Wobbie site, and no-one has mentioned the most significant moments of the game: on scoring each of his goals, Vydra kissed the Watford badge on his shirt. With all the talk of various Premiership clubs knocking at the door, it was hugely encouraging that his heart and his head are with Watford.

Like you, I thought Forsyth had a very fair game. His height on the wing adds an attacking option, but it was good that we used it selectively, not as the one and only outlet. His distribution could be a bit sharper, but one must make allowances for his lack of match play.

Like you, very confident of our future now, and an automatic promotion place is looking ever more likely. Just hope we don’t suffer a points deduction on a technicality. “The Horns are going up” – subject to FA approval.

3. Esp - 20/01/2013

Don’t want to piss on your chips Roger but teams (Premiership ones especially) have been full of foreign “badge kissers” who do the “off” as soon as their agent shows them the next big pay check. But, for now, I am enjoying immensely watching this new Watford legend – and I hope he falls in love with the club and Zola persuades him to sign
I would also like to echo Matt’s praise for the intrepid shovellers of WD18 without whom……etc

4. bringe555 - 20/01/2013

As the fixtures fall we are two wins away from a guaranteed 2nd place, probably just for 2 days but it sure will put plenty of pressure on the playoffs. Bring it on!
I’m laughing as I type this but I do wish Matty would take the penalties he earns, I rarely bet but I have a few pennies on him to top the scoring chart and so far that’s at least two goals he could have added to his tally.

hornetboy84 - 20/01/2013

So i wasnt alone in being nervous at Deeney stepping up – but he despatched it well. You will probably want play offs – more games !
On the subject of bets – i have £25 each way @66-1 on us going up (slocked on quickly after Charlton away before they realised the significance of that performance) – so keep cursing Mackay at the moment. Fair play though – Cardiff are relentless and I still have 2nd/3rd pay out consolation. Dare to believe!

5. Keith Hannigan - 20/01/2013

Is it wrong that, as the game was winding down, I was thinking “I can’t wait to read Matt’s thunks?”

Vydra. Wow. How much of what we are seeing is the product of Zola’s system and how much is the young man’s gift? Would he be as dazzling if he played for, say, Hull? Without a doubt, he is a lethal finisher and the feeling of calm I have when a chance opens up for him is incredibly rare (most times, I expect the worse until the ball is actually in the net and then I look at the officials). But doesn’t he seem to get several of those gilt-edged one-on-none chances a game? Yes, you still have to finish and yes, Vydra contributes to those chances with his pace and movement. I’m not taking anything away from him or suggesting we would have the same results if he was replaced with a generic striker, but isn’t he well-matched to Zola’s plan?

And then there is That Goal. It was like a drill. The Huddersfield players were, admittedly, demoralized by then and were not closing out with enthusiasm but my word, it was like they were just training cones as the ball pinged around them. The deft finish was lovely but what I really loved from Battocchio was the run into the box. I admit, I wasn’t completely convinced by him at first. Even against Boro, I saw his performance as more half empty than half full, but I can’t deny his impact in the second half. Maybe he’s just made for situations where we have the lead and the other team has to chase.

God, how much fun will it be if we get to watch these gifted young players mature together over 5 years?

6. Rod - 20/01/2013

Lovely second half yesterday, glad I made the journey, which was easier than I’d feared.
Also encouraged by Forsyth’s performance, though it isn’t really possible to assess his effectiveness at wing-back until he plays against a team that posts far more attacking threat down the right than yesterday. My first thought on seeing the line-up was “can he defend”. We don’t know yet.
As for MV kissing the badge, I didn’t see that. Like everyone else, I hope he joins FF in signing a long contract before end-Jan; but I find the kissing the badge gesture hollow. So many players have done it and then walked away that I don’t think it’s an indicator of anything.

7. Dom - 20/01/2013

Good (and not so good) players come and go. As do managers. We have been harshly treated by a couple in recent years, but have also returned the gesture… so it’s nice to see Dyche doing well at Burnley. Here’s one for you Matt: Should we go up automatically, and assuming Cardiff don’t collapse again, it would only require Burnley to be promoted for our previous three managers to all be in the Premiership.

8. Simo - 20/01/2013

Can I just add that the music on that replay is beautiful!!!

9. MartinG - 20/01/2013

Last goal fantastic. Second half really enjoyable, after the turgid first with us highly fortunate to get the penalty.

Deeney, who I have never really liked, was excellent. Also Forsyth slotted in well and his height is useful. But remember a few weeks ago Hull gubbed us, so feet on the ground.

However we are scoring for fun even though some of the team weren’t that on form. Don’t think too many teams will be looking forward to playing us.

Matt Rowson - 20/01/2013

To clarify, the last win at home wasn’t the April 77 win (when Mike Keen had just been sacked, two sendings off etc), but the following September under GT by the same scoreline. Ross Jenkins scored both.

hornetboy84 - 20/01/2013

Well that’s better really. Didn’t we go on to get promoted that season…. !

10. Sirhornet - 20/01/2013

Another plus point was (bar the time Almunia denied Beckford) the solidity of the defence.

Doyley has been waiting to play in this position all his career, Ekstrand gets better every game and even Nosworthy is growing in confidence with the ball at his feet. As for the wing-backs Casseti looked very assured yesterday and like Doyley it appeared that Forsyth was in a position where he feels most comfortable.

Too early still, I feel, to talk of automatic promotion but personally I’m hoping for Palace in the playoffs.

11. popsider - 20/01/2013

The second half yesterday was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had watching football in all my years as a fan. That Battochio goal was exquisite, Vydra’s finishing was as usual quite sublime and the cameo appearance by Mr Forestieri was brilliant, especially the head first dive into the snowdrift near the end.
I think a play off spot is certain but Cardiff and Leicester are too well organised and funded to let slip those top two places. The question for me then is what happens if a Premier League club comes in with a £5 million offer for Vydra? The fact that he’s the best finisher in the division and only 20 years old, won’t have gone unnoticed amongst the big boys. The whole point of the Pozzo Project is to bring young players on and sell them off so the money can be reinvested. The fact that he kisses the badge won’t make a difference in the summer when the money is on the table.

Matt Rowson - 20/01/2013

I think it might take more than £5m, but you’re right to point out the Pozzo model in any case.

But I disagree about the potential for an automatic spot. Cardiff would need to implode of course, but we’re right there with Leicester. They’ll be strong, but we’re more than in with a shout.

Dom - 21/01/2013

For Vydra I think it would have to be at least £10m before the Pozzos were remotely tempted. A lot will depend on what happens at the end of the season, not only for Watford but also Udinese.

12. Wimbledonhorn - 21/01/2013

Season 2012/12 to date:-

Watford 22 Yorkshire 7…Loving it!

13. Harefield Hornet - 21/01/2013

On a different subject – how about the Rugby hack in the Express today who described Vicarage Road as a “flea-pit”! (bloody cheek) – I wish Saracens well at their new massive 10,000 capacity stadium in Barnet! – Good riddance to the egg chasers at long last I say.

Lloyd Arkill - 21/01/2013

Actually, as Sarries’ new stadium is not big enough to host a Heineken Cup quarter final (their reward for winning yesterday), they may well be back.

Mark - 21/01/2013

Looking at some of the rugby grounds around the coutnry most aren’t much better than the Vic but there you go!

Great win on Saturday and the wonderful 4th goal was a moment of genuine quality proving what good ability some of our players have.

Just hope we can sign Vydra/Abdi and well done to Forsyth for coming in and fitting in easily.

That month of April is very tricky and really will shape our season but all we can do is keep winning.

Back from Hammerau - 23/01/2013

I wonder where the football club would now be if it hadn’t had the rent and other income from hosting Saracens for the last decade-and-a-half.

Matt Rowson - 23/01/2013

I think half the resentment arises from the fact that, at least initially, we didn’t make an awful lot from it.

14. AndyD73 - 24/01/2013

Ground-sharing makes some sense in terms of increasing ratio of fixed costs to revenues, but the big potential gain was in making stadium redevelopment more affordable/cost-effective. However, Saracens were never going to commit to this while we wholly owned the Vic freehold.
Would a full joint venture with Saracens have ‘compromised our identity and autonomy’ any more than our new arrangement has, in the eyes of many?

15. TimR35 - 24/01/2013

My first game at the vic since Wycombe in the cup this was just what the doctor ordered. I would also like to single out Forsyth who I was a little worried about when I heard the team selection. His defending especially was very solid apart from being a little out of position on occasions in the first half. Is now a natural back up to Pudil. This squad strength an quality is fantastic if we were to add to at all maybe an even better centre half than Hall or Nosworthy but that is being picky and they have both done very well. I love the fact that Doyley gets in this team and I hope that Murray sorts himself out by the end of the season as then things could get seriously exciting. A few weeks ago Yeates seemed like one of our most in form players and now he can’t even get a kick! Heady days. If we win our next two and with Leicester only playing twice in the next few weeks things could be very very interesting!

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