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Ipswich Town 0 Watford 2 (19/02/2013) 20/02/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Five thunks from the ever reliable three points at Portman Road.  No, it doesn’t get boring.

1- Another away win, another three points.  Tenth away win of the season, 38 away goals a figure only twice bettered over an entire campaign, both in promotion seasons. And any number of other statistics, never forgetting lots related to our record at Portman Road… perhaps now that we’re, you know, good, these parochial concerns shouldn’t matter.  But they do, and I think that’s a good thing.

This wasn’t quite a case of merely turning up, taking the points, going home again though.  As so often, we started like cooped up labradors suddenly released for a roam in the park… full of energy, full of purpose.  That analogy falls down quite quickly actually, because there’s nothing random, indisciplined or wildly excited about it… but in any case, it was too much for an Ipswich side that started slowly.  Jonathan Hogg sounded an early clarion by belting a drive square against the bar three minutes in and almost splitting it.  Would have been a Johnno goal, that one.  Such was the density of the fog at this point, pawing damply at our cold faces, that Dad and I were both able to misread an 8 for a 9 and award that near miss to Troy.  Our early dominance was evident despite the mist, more chances came and went before Ikechi Anya gave us the lead in the 18th minute rounding off a much more elegant move than our position at the far corner enabled us to follow at the time.  “Anya!”, I tweeted informatively, to which my non-football neighbour tweeted back something about Orinoco Flow

The point is, the opening blitz hasn’t always worked for us in the past, particularly where we’ve not capitalised with an opponent pinned back who then gain in confidence. Here, it could be argued, it was crucial.  The one-goal lead was never secure… we were on to for the most part, save a spell at the end of the first half, but it wouldn’t have taken much and would have felt a whole lot different without that lead.  Mick McCarthy already has his stamp on this Ipswich team and significantly opted not to come out and chase the game straight away, whither a whole host of teams have gone in other away fixtures this season.  They lost anyway of course, but in the meantime the game descended into a stodgy mess.  Whilst we had more of the chances, we also rode a penalty appeal as Lee Martin went down – looked a little desperate to me, but it could have been given – and any number of lobbed balls into a congested penalty area by a lively Carlos Edwards, bodies flying, ball bouncing.  Only when Chalobah skated onto one of those Abdi through balls were we able to relax.

2- Much discussion beforehand about the potential for team rotation of course, and whilst there isn’t an automatic causal link between a good decision and a good outcome consensus would probably be that three changes, one of which enforced by Daniel Pudil’s illness, was about right.  Of the new boys Ekstrand slotted straight back in, tough and immaculate, and Hogg had one of his better games on a difficult pitch that demanded graft.  Of Fernando… it’s slightly unfair, however accurate, to highlight that he hasn’t really played well since signing that contract.  Unfair, since Vydra’s form has restricted the Argentine to cameo roles and occasional starts – other than that ill-fated defeat at Bristol he’d managed less than 45 minutes in the past month. But this was still below par, even if he was more involved, more in tune, more connected than we’ve seen for a while.  One move summed his evening up entirely – haring after Deeney’s through ball in the second half he cut from left to right across the box past one marker, dummied to fool a second, and then fired wide.  So nearly brilliant, which describes much of what Nando has offered so far.

As ever the bench betrayed our strength in depth, our greater resilience to the physical demands of the coming weeks than some of our rivals, we hope.  So Craig Forsyth reprised his role at left wing-back, and looked every bit as solid, aggressive and confident as he had looked gangly and awkward last season.  Alex Geijo also got a rare call and looked tidy, strong, cohesive and in his determination to get on the score sheet stood out for his urgency in the closing ten minutes.  The only player who obviously struggled was, unusually, Marco Cassetti who seemed thoroughly out of sorts at wing back before switching into the back three in the second half to resume his utter mastery of any ball foolish enough to stray within his reach.  This switch was first betrayed when we noticed that the support to Troy in another breakaway move was provided by Lloyd Doyley, who gave a predictably energetic and wholehearted interpretation of the wing-back role for half an hour.

3- Always more noise away from home of course, and the array of chants provided by a noisy near-1000 away following (at an eye-watering £31+ a head) spanned the range from the sublime to the ridiculous.  I haven’t quite sussed the lyrics to the Anya-based recital of the “Heartbeat” theme yet, but the “Doo doo, doo-doo doo” bits are lots of fun.  Craig Forsyth has his own chant, which you’d have got long odds on at the start of the season, a welcome reprise of Allan Smart’s number.  Even Mark Yeates was welcomed to the field in song (yes, Dave).  Scott Loach was asked, in more concise terms, whether he felt that his place on the Ipswich bench reflected negatively upon his ability, our manager’s height and nation of origin were referred to quite a lot.  And then there was the stuff about our playing style.  “Sexy football!” I can accept.  It is, and why not sing about it after all.  But, “we’re Watford FC, we play on the floor”?  Here, of all places?  Where we’ve spent so many years fighting harder and wanting it more than an Ipswich side that has fannied around and whose supporters clung to the “yes, but we try to play in lovely triangles unless you try to stop us you big meanies” straw for all they were worth?  We won because we were the better side, and that included matching Ipswich for effort.  But that we played it on the floor?  Incidental.  Know your history, boys.

4- As for Ipswich… as above, they’re Mick McCarthied, they’re tough and awkward and with a few more bounces of the ball (or decisions from a card-happy referee) weren’t really that far from a result.  Perilously close to the relegation zone or not you kind of feel they ought to stay up… survival is merely a case of being less awful than three other teams after all and even in a season without an obvious basket case they ought to be able to manage that.  Which is probably ok by me, six wins and two draws in eight visits and so forth.

5- Most satisfying is that we showed we can win a different type of game.  We’re lethal on the break, yes, and woe betide a side who tries to play carefree open football against us.  But McCarthy’s approach, slow start aside, is what you’d have prescribed as The Way to Beat Us.  Get in our faces, defend deep, don’t give us space to play around in, much less to play into.  Play on the break, don’t give a stuff about what you’re supposed to do as the home side.  Make it ugly, make it difficult.  It worked for Bristol City.  It didn’t work tonight.  Particularly in the wake of putting Birmingham to the sword so comprehensively this was hugely impressive stuff in its own way.  Again.  You Orns.

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Comments»

1. Roger Smith - 20/02/2013

I hope we’ve seen the last of Cassetti at wing back, so where to accommodate him? Assuming 3 of the other 5 centre halves are fit, how about playing 3-1-4-2 with Cassetti in front of the back three? And then make him captain (assuming he speaks enough english)?

Matt Rowson - 20/02/2013

All for Cassetti as captain. Can’t agree with your damning verdict of him as a wing back. Not in every game, sure… but he’s played most of his football there for us and has been largely magnificent for the last three or four months.

Dom - 20/02/2013

Cassetti speaks four languages, making him ideal for a captain of this team! He is also humble and gives touching and amusing interviews. Reminds me of Galli in terms of his class on the ball. Hopefully he will stay longer than the one season his compatriot managed.

AndyD73 - 20/02/2013

Cassetti does appear to be class in every respect.
If he has plans to stay in football, perhaps he could be groomed, over the next couple of seasons, as a potential successor to GFZ?

James - 21/02/2013

I guess Cassetti isn’t a natural leader though, given that he’s been in a side without a clear captain all season and hasn’t been given that role.

2. qm - 20/02/2013

Good thing we’ve signed “Nando” so that we can enjoy it when “so nearly brilliant” Nando turns into “brilliant” Fessi.

3. Nick - 20/02/2013

If Fessi could finish we’d have looked at his contribution very differently last night, he cant (or doesnt) so we wont.

I thought Cassetti was fantastic in those last twenty minutes but I still feel he is best at wing back, his crossing ability is unrivalled in our team.

Chalobah has to lose his ‘casual’ streak that he’s prone to, far too often last night he needlessly gave the ball away.

4. AndyD73 - 20/02/2013

Fernando’s miss was a real shame – a top corner finish would have given us both a goal of the season contender and quite possibly the old Fessi back.

Surely the ‘we play on the floor’ chant is an ironic response to our 30-year label of long-ball merchants…?

Matt Rowson - 20/02/2013

I’d like to believe that the chant is ironic… Going to take some convincing though…

As for goal of the season, there have been a few candidates but Battocchio’s goal against Huddersfield will take some beating.

NickB - 21/02/2013

That is the absolute definition of litotes!

5. MartinG - 20/02/2013

I thought the whole team really defended well. The amount of times Ipswich got forced backwards when they had possession was great to see. I was sitting with a bunch of Ipswich fans and they were getting very frustrated. Usually I’m nervous when we are just one up but last night I felt very confident with the way we were playing, despite Chalobah giving the ball away too often. Took his goal superbly though.

6. Mark S - 21/02/2013

What has pleased me is the fact that over the past 2 matches Anya has proved that he is real competition for either wing back position.At first like many others I was not sure if he would fit into Zola’s formation as he seemed too much of “luxury” an out & out attacking winger.I would still start with Cassetti for his experience and defensive nous but its great that we have someone weho can replace his tired 35 year old legs and give us even more threat going forward.

7. hornetboy84 - 21/02/2013

On Cassetti . I know this may sound strange in a season of 66 goals and counting but I do feel he is a real contender for player of the season. Especially as I wrote him off as a fat unfit journeyman in his first couple of games. And the other for me is mr doyley. To be such a strong player in THIS team is outstanding. And for those who can only look at the goal power of Deeney or Vydra I refer you to Les Taylor in the days of Barnes and blissett. HB84

Matt Rowson - 21/02/2013

There are a few candidates, aren’t there. Cassetti certainly one… Abdi you didn’t mention. Let’s see how it ends up first…

Incidentally Les Taylor DID win POTS (in 1981/82), which neither Blissett nor Barnes ever did.

M

NickB - 21/02/2013

I didn’t know that; truly remarkable. Considering Barnes just has to be the most skilful player ever seen at Watford and that he played a full five seasons, it’s astonishing, leaving aside Luther’s amazing goals contribution.
Keepers seemed to do better than forwards in the voting back then.

hornetboy84 - 22/02/2013

That was exactly my point about Les! years ago teh fans recognized that their was an engine room providing the power. – but I didnt realise Barnes and Blissett never one it. Maybe they should have hit the Wobby Clock more often as he once did! –
Abdi ! I know – but he has 2 songs. Surely thats enough!

With Cassetti – its personal. I wrote him off early doors and now watch his obvious talent with wonder. mainly wondering what he really thinks of all this. 🙂

8. Harefield Hornet - 21/02/2013

Matt

Sorry different subject but…

Glad you cleared up that rubbish about capped players being exempt from the loan rules on another site. I couldn’t get my head around that nonsense at all. There’s an excellent article from the New York Times about the Pozzos and the loan issue which I found on the wfc news 24/7 site. Derby next!!!

9. petebradshaw - 21/02/2013

Re Magnificent Marco. I guess he’ll go back to Italy in the summer given that his family is still there. Pity though.


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