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Watford 1 Blackpool 2 (09/03/2013) 10/03/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- What an odd afternoon…  and what an improbable outcome on the basis of the first half.  We had been far from rampant and Blackpool had threatened, particularly late in the half, with the irrepressible Ince Jr an evident threat… but our side, weakened by significant and largely enforced absences, was being given a far easier ride than we had any right to expect.

There’s a formula that has emerged over recent weeks and months, a Way To Play to give yourself a puncher’s chance against Watford.  It involves chasing down all over the pitch, defending deep and then breaking and trusting to luck.  It’s not foolproof;  Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich both tried it and lost anyway, but others have profited.  Blackpool ignored this strategy altogether, opting instead to stand off us in midfield and operate a precarious high defensive line that appeared to be patched together with sellotape and dried-up bits of used blu-tac.  It made no sense whatsoever, neither limiting our greatest threats – the use of the ball in midfield, pace on the break – nor sucking us in to permit Blackpool’s only obvious threat – the pace of Phillips and Ince – to be fully utilised.

Given the metronomic Chalobah or the mercilessly incisive Abdi the first half might have finished with a more conclusive scoreline.  Absences aside we should still have been further ahead, Jonathan Hogg spurning one outstanding chance when he attacked the box well, got his head to Anya’s cross and thumped it wide.  So we only had Cristian Battocchio’s divine finish after Deeney’s bullish aggression had won possession to show for the first 45.  It didn’t feel narrow or nervous, we were much the better side.

2-The game changed after the break. Blackpool altered their formation to put an extra man in midfield and enjoyed more of the ball, albeit largely inconsequentially.  We’d hardly been racking up the chances ourselves, but whilst still in the lead were better suited by an increasingly sterile encounter.  Until they scored, of course… the recalled Doyley and debutant Briggs, who did well enough for the most part, had been selected for pace and we’d coped well, the visitors had barely had a sight of goal.  Ince Jr’s quality meant that they only needed the one, Crainey finding a gap down the left for the only time in the game, playing a ball firmly across the area for Ince to tuck in at the near post.

That’s the risk in a one goal lead, of course.  Now level, the limitations of the available personnel were more evident.  None of Hogg, Battocchio or Yeates had a particularly bad game – Yeates, indeed, was arguably our stand-out player in a first half performance that was crowned with a brutal yet surgically precise dispossession of Ince that his club captain would have enjoyed.  But none of the three of them offered the guile of Chalobah or Abdi, and as Anya tired our attacking play was becoming increasingly laboured and impotent.

It got worse…  Ince’s right-wing corner was swung into a heavily congested box, Mackenzie stabbed home as Bond claimed he’d been impeded.  Difficult to judge, even from directly above the incident there was all sorts going on in there… but this wasn’t an afternoon to be relying on the decisions of the officials…

3- …on which subject and digressing only slightly, I feel the game has lost something in the field of notorious officials.  Stuart Atwell’s still knocking around of course but we’ve only really been exposed to one instance of his incompetence, albeit one stunningly memorable. Where are the Roger Milfords, the Rob Styles, the Derek Civils?  Andy d’Urso is a watered down alternative, a pastiche only introduced to a series as the original cast have moved on to better things.  There have always been instances of bad refereeing of course, and it’s always been easier to spot when you’re on the receiving end.  But now it’s perpetrated by people whose names I don’t remember…

This was a corker, of course.  That Gianfranco Zola, unfailingly courteous to opponents and officials alike throughout the season, saw fit to let fire with both barrels for the first time speaks volumes;  perhaps we paid the price for having a smiling affable manager instead of an aggressive obnoxious little weasel (quite what had prompted Ince Sr’s gesturing to the Rookery at the end of the game escaped me).  Beyond that, one just has to take refereeing like this as part of the fabric of the season, a random obstacle to be navigated in the same way as a hamstring strain to a key player.  Two penalty decisions stand out, for the record – Deeney, in the first half, was hauled down at a corner kick – the referee may have been unsighted, his assistant less so.  And in the dying minutes Lloyd Doyley, of all people, popped up on the edge of the area, attempted to wrong foot his opponent and had his foot taken from under him.  No danger of being unsighted this time, clear as day even from the opposite end of the stadium, but no decision – the official bottled it, plain and simple.  Other calls didn’t go our way either, but were less clear cut;  Pudil had another penalty shout in the first half, but in a congested penalty area with all sorts going on.  Blackpool’s second goal, as already described, featured some rather brutal targeting of the goalkeeper.  These things are often pulled up – not today.

4- One disturbing extension of an already disturbing trend was the lack of contribution from Matej Vydra on his introduction.  Blackpool’s high line looked like it was made for him, and yet the only involvement I recall in his 22+4 minutes was an ill judged attempt to run through three opponents,  heralded by someone behind me as his first touch a some time after his introduction.  We’ve noted before how the predecessor that Vydra most resembles, in his relentless movement and effortless finishing is Kevin Phillips.  Unlike the young Phillips, whose Watford career was peppered with periods of apparent introspection and self-doubt, Vydra has appeared mechanically consistent – until this little run, which has gone on too long to be down to tiredness. Whether he’s carrying a knock, whether he’s suffering from the attention borne of his higher profile or whether he’s simply low in confidence, perhaps a combination of these, he was all but anonymous during his time on the pitch.

5- So bringing all of that together… we have what amounts to an extraordinary injury crisis by any normal standards.  I’ve heard comments along the lines of “we’ve been lucky to avoid injuries”, but the truth is that we’ve had a few players out throughout.  The current list includes Almunia, Abdi, Chalobah, Eustace, Hoban, Hall, Neuton, Smith with Ekstrand and Cassetti not fit to start.  That’s a more than decent defence/midfield, arguably stronger than what we fielded yesterday.  We have key players looking tired and out of form – worth bearing in mind the next time that Zola opts to rotate his squad.  We had a number of key refereeing decisions go against us, a couple of them quite perversely so as discussed.

And yet we were still unlucky to lose the game.  We could do with the international break a week sooner than scheduled, perhaps.  But in the grand scheme of things, we’ve demonstrated that we can not quite be on our mettle and still win games.  Quite a lot went against us yesterday.  We should have won anyway.  Things aren’t too shabby really, are they?


1. NickB - 10/03/2013

We’ve suffered grievously from lousy penalty decisions at both ends all season. At a conservative estimate we must be a net minus 10 at least. Just cannot understand how a ref who spent the whole game blowing up for the slightest transgression outside the box can look straight at two rock solid pens and pretend to see nothing amiss.
And what is it with Blackpool and obnoxious managers?

AndyD73 - 10/03/2013

The pens weren’t given because both Deeney and Doyley tried to play-on while/after being fouled, rather then tumbling to the ground, arms flailing.
It’s hardly surprising that the professional game is blighted by theatrical falling when honesty is penalised.

Would have been a good point, in the end. The TV replays didn’t seem to show a foul on Bond for their winner. Shame a couple of errors have lead to goals and rather negated his otherwise excellent displays.

stu partridge - 11/03/2013

Agree with the point about players who dont appeal theatrically not getting the award.
It seems that refs judge the situation from the players reactions rather than well, the actual situation.
This creates a very dangerous cycle of increasingly dramatic appeals and has led to the outrageous remonstrations we get nowadays on the referees after every major decision.

2. petebradshaw - 10/03/2013

I don’t disagree with much of this Matt but I find it hard to conclude that we should have won. Without Abdi and Chalobah we were overrun in midfield in my view. I didn’t see what you saw in Yeates. I also have seen a lot worse defences than theirs and Bond made the greater number of saves. It would have been very different had Hogg scored perhaps.

Such was the lack of options in central midfield I even started to think fondly of Piero Mingoia’s pre-season perfomances!

Matt Rowson - 10/03/2013

Blackpool dominated the midfield in the second half with an extra man in there (Sylvestre) but they didn’t do much with it. I don’t agree that Bond made more saves, we laboured in the second half and I’ve described the loss of Abdi and Chalobah but we were still the better side.

Rather than Mingoia, I was wondering whether Murray might get a run. I know they’re looking at him in a wing back slot, that he’s not prospered in centre mid on the few chances he’s had… but really, why is he on the bench at all if not for this situation? Easy to be smart from the stands, obviously…

straightnochaser - 10/03/2013

And yet Murray was only on the bench as a consequence of Abdi’s injury during the warm-up. I thought Yeates was immense in the absence of Abdi, just as he admirably filled Almen’s boots earlier in the season, notably at home to Barnsley. I remained decidedly unconvinced by Yeates last season despite his impressive assist stats, but have seen another dimension to his game under Zola when played centrally. His effectiveness may have waned during the course of yesterday’s match, but more as a result of Ince Snr.’s tactical switch as Matt has observed.

3. Lesley-Anne - 10/03/2013

A good summary, Matt.

Re Vydra: it is very odd how his form has just dropped. There was a time a few weeks back when he and Deeney looked as though they knew exactly where the other was all the time and we were flying, but in the last few matches nothing has come off for them. You have to wonder whether the squad rotation has affected this; we’ll never really know but if you’re a striker scoring goals for fun I would have thought you just wanted to play as much as you can. But the partnership has been changed, with them having to then play with either Geijo or Forestieri and perhaps the telepathy that had been there has gone.

As I said, we’ll never really know but I think I would still start with Deeney and Vydra providing both are fit. Hopefully they can find the magic again and then we still have Forestieri, who’s proved he can be an impact player!

I did feel that yesterday, having started the match in excellent fashion, we eased back after we scored and let them have more of the play. Earlier in the season, once we took the lead it was almost a case of how many we were going to get, but over recent games we seem more vulnerable when leading and it has cost us vital points. Hopefully we can find that form again otherwise I feel it will be the lottery of the play offs for us.

Matt Rowson - 10/03/2013

Always start with Vydra and Deeney… I know what you mean. But the whole side looks leggy, and surely Zola is NOT using one of our key assets, strength in reserve, if he doesn’t mix it up?

4. Tim Turner - 10/03/2013

At least we’ve been given a few this season. Didn’t we go through the whole of last season without being awarded a single penalty?

But anyway, IG nailed it in thunk 3: the ref bottled it. He was quite happy to give endless free kicks for niggly fouls in the middle of the pitch (continually breaking up play, particularly in the second half, which worked to Blackpool’s advantage), but he wasn’t going to stick his neck out and give anything in the penalty area.

Matt Rowson - 10/03/2013

ig nailed it. Hrrmph. Did a good job, seeing as he wasn’t at the game… although suffering post-wisdom tooth discomfort might have been deemed preferable.

Tim Turner - 10/03/2013

Sorry Matt, I should’ve checked the top of the page more carefully. You da man!

5. Roger Smith - 10/03/2013

When Chalobah is missing we lack height in midfield. The back three are commanding, but we always lose out on the head tennis in midfield. The physical balance of the side is as important as the quality of any individual. Yesterday, Briggs was the obvious choice, with Ekstrand keeping his place in the back three. Yeats is best suited to cover Abdi, but he’d been selected already.

I think Vydra’s problem stems from that: he’s just not getting the service. As a result, he has to go looking for the ball, which means he’s not in the killer position when we do get it to him.

6. Derek. - 10/03/2013

I think that Vydra has looked like he needs a break for the last few games. I’ve been surprised that we’ve not seen a bit more of Geijo in the last couple of weeks. Considering that we lost our three most influential midfield players from the starting line-up the display shouldn’t be so much of a shock.
I would like to see us move back into the international loan market. Can we get Collina on loan to referee our remaining matches?

7. Steven - 10/03/2013

We have a large squad but the back up players aren’t quite up to it. Yes we had an awful referee, but how many games have we started well and either tired, or the opposition over ran our midfield by changing tactics? That includes havng Abdi and Chalobah on occasions.
If we are not promoted I would like to think that GZ and his team know exactly where to bring in players for another push.

8. Scott - 10/03/2013

Good thunks, I totally agree with you, for all Blackpool’s second half possession I never felt they offered any particular threat. Yet they did manage somehow to score twice and we didn’t. Appalling refereeing decisions from yet another fast tracked official who appeared to be scared of Ince’s bulging eyed stare didn’t help either. It wasn’t just the failure to give certain penalties, it was the pointless lecturing of Blackpool players when they should have been carded (such as when the player kicked the ball away or the one who feigned injury to make a point). Also liked the way the ref immediately turned his back to look at the centre circle when Ince jnr tried to incite a riot in the rookery after scoring, rather than dealing with him as the rules dictate.

On our performance, although missing chances is a bit worrisome at the moment, I’d be more worried if were not creating any in the first place. But we are still creating and I think the quality we’ve got will come through in the end. It’s also worth remembering that the only time being in a promotion place means anything is the last day of the season, and we are going to be there or thereabouts for sure.

As for Ince seniors rather classless gesturing, I think it was down to his own arrogance. I reckon he believed the boo’s being aimed at the officials were meant for him, and responded as he couldn’t fathom anyone else being the centre of attention.

Our fate is still in our hands and we’ve just got to have faith in our ability both on and off the pitch and things will be alright.


9. David Lewy - 10/03/2013

The non-penalty awards were poor, but our goal came from a throw in when FF kicked the ball out, and was then taken so badly it should have been a foul throw. Apart from that, great goal. Finish was superb.
This team is much more enjoyable to watch away from home where there is less ridiculous expectation from the Watford supporters and where we can counter attack with pace. The Otter needs a start and goal at Barnsley on Sat.

10. hornetboy84 - 10/03/2013

So unsure of my reaction to yesterday. Ultimately it’s frustration that for whatever reasons we didn’t put huge pressure on hull and Cardiff.
But having watched goals on Sunday where there was no comment or footage of the pen decisions and then seeing grant holt earn a pen by falling over I just realise I’m simply numb with incredulousness.
Hornet player is horribly revealing though for the 2nd pen as Doyley got up so fast that the commentary didn’t notice a foul! He only appealed after … But the
Point remains….the ref needs the balls to do his job. He failed.

11. MartinG - 10/03/2013

The referee was very poor but got zero help from the linesmen. The one in front of the Rous was totally useless.
Our quality and speed of passing was well below the norm and obnoxious or not Ince jr. was class and I thought Phillips did what Anya and Forestieri didn’t, ran directly at the backs to cut back from the line. Too often Anya lofted in paceless crosses from about 20 yards out. We’ll bounce back.

12. Dougie Brimson - 11/03/2013

My issue with Saturday is that we came out after the break and seemed to invite them to come at us. Not for the first time this season either.

Irrespective of their fitness, we have to start with Vydra and Deeney for no other reason than it’s surely easier to grab hold of a game and dictate it from the beginning rather than have to bring someone on to try and chase it.

As for the referee on Saturday… scandalous is the word that springs to mind.

Matt Rowson - 11/03/2013

Blackpool took the initiative at half time with their extra man in midfield. It was less a case of letting them come at us than not getting hold of the ball enough, for me. But the failing you describe is certainly apparent – Wolves, in particular, whereafter Zola seemed surprised (still) that an opponent hadn’t just rolled over when we had taken the lead.

13. Ralph Jackson - 11/03/2013

It shouldn’t really be necessary a player to do a routine that Tom Daley would be proud of for the match officials to spot such infringements.

Odd game that we let slip away from us in the second half as Blackpool socked it to us at home late on in the season for the second year running.

14. Nashinho - 11/03/2013

Hi Matt, I do not want to compaound the hysterical reaction to the draw against Wolves but do feel that we were no more unlucky to lose this match as we were to draw with Wolves and Palace.
I am concerned by the fact GFZ once again says he did not see it coming and then on the website I believe Briggs said that after going 1 – 0 up we were comfortable.
We need to learn how to play with a lead and not think we have done enough. Until the final whistle it is never enough.

Matt Rowson - 11/03/2013

Palace came back at us well. I’d agree about Wolves.

The difference was that in this one we had the bizarre refereeing decisions AND a much tougher hand re available personnel… and therefore to still be unfortunate to lose is some achievement in itself, or at least reaction should be tempered by that knowledge.

But as above, I recognise the general point. That teams tend to keep coming at you in this division shouldn’t be a great surprise.

15. Harefield Hornet - 11/03/2013

First game, probable lack of first team run outs etc aside, I was disappointed with Briggs in the 2nd half. I could understand him tiring but his body language suggested he’d suddenly lost interest after an impressive first half. I hope I’m proved wrong but I don’t think he’s fully grasped the importance of the situation he’s found himself in here and if that’s the case it needs spelling out to him PDQ.

16. Esp - 11/03/2013

No doubt due to the fact we conceded 2 nobody has mentioned how majesterial Nos was again at the heart of our defence; he was our stand out MotM for me

Finally if hornetboy84’s “Numb with Incredulous” doesn’t become a future BHaPPY headline soon I would be incred… err, very surprised

17. stu partridge - 11/03/2013

Heres some stats to put our recent slightly dissapointing results into persepctive. From a website that provides an interactive form table


It reads thus, form table…

for last 06 games – watford 2nd
for last 08 games – watford 2nd
for last 12 games – watford 1st
for last 14 games – watford 1st
for last 16 games – watford 1st

Its safe to say we are by a long chalk the form team of the division.
Encouragingly the other form teams of the moment are Bolton, Forest, Palace, Brighton and Sheff Wed. All of these we have played twice.

I personally think that standard of the championship this year is very high. Yes there is no one team that is standing out as exceptional ( think Newcastle and West Brom in years before) but the chasing pack are all very good teams and the bottom teams are capable of beating anyone whilst playing some good football (especially for a relegation threatened team).

Hopefully our goatee bearded old friend can do us a favour by beating Hull tonight and second placed slot will still be adorned in Yellow, Black and Red.

Matt Rowson - 11/03/2013

I’d like you to tell him that that’s a goatee to his face. I wouldn’t….

18. stu partridge - 11/03/2013

good point. although in truth i dont know what to call that which is on his face.

on another note, Tom Ince sticking his tongue out at the Rookery made me a chuckle. My son has just turned 5 and would consider tongue sticking-out as decidedly childish…Great player ( Tom Ince , not my son) but modern day footballers do leave me pining for the stoic manliness of footballers of yore.

19. JasonM - 11/03/2013

Talking of childishness i remember back in them Premiership days, Vieira coming over to the Rookery End, holding a water bottle down by his erm ‘bits’ and then squirting it. No-one else round me saw it but I swear he did.

stu partridge - 11/03/2013

i have heard from a reliable source in North London that the original Vieira song actually went like this…

vieira, whoah
vieira, whoah
he comes from arsenal
sprays water over his balls

but to ensure they didnt infringe the BBC watershed and get first viewing on MOTD, they softened the lyrics to the more well known Sengal line)

20. ramsgate horn - 11/03/2013

Hard to disagree with points made by posters, agree especially that the foul on Doyley was blatant, Deeney paid for staying on his feet when pulled back, Not a bad game but disappointing result lets hope its a blip i still wouldnt write Vydra off but he does look out of sorts no disrespect to the tykes but lets hope we get our form back and thump them next sat.

21. Chris W - 12/03/2013

Did they really have 6 in midfield in the second half? I guess they may have. As we decided to by-pass it by then I never noticed.

I went to this game expecting an almost complete reversal from the corresponding match back at Easter, but for all of our progress, the match wasn’t entirely dissimilar bar they weren’t on a crusade to get Big Chris sent-off.

It didn’t feel odd to me that poor Matej took so long to get a kick as the Team probably only had half a dozen touches before he finally got his. Gain possession, kick it towards Troy, try to win ball back.

Ho hum.

22. Old Git - 12/03/2013

I enjoyed and agree with Thunk 3 about crap refs. My friend Paul used to be a ref and got to Northern Premier League standard (this was decades ago when the NPL was one step away from Division 4). After running the line one night at Stalybridge Celtic and being so covered in gob by the end of the game he jacked it in.
We now have endlessly fascinating conversations about refs of yore. Today’s colourless robots just do not measure up. Everyone of my generation will remember the perfectly spherical Roger Kirkpatrick and the delight we felt when seeing his name in the programme. And who can forget Maurice Fussey (a gift for ‘witty’ remarks from commentators) or Mr. Ray Tinkler. I remember a middle-aged lady tipping a cup of tea over his head from the stand as he walked down the tunnel at the end of a 4-0 home defeat. She had been saving it up from half time so it must have been cold by then.
And – for the record – my friend Paul’s favourite ref was Mr Gilbert Napthine.
I look forward to the day when Stuart Atwell returns to the Vic. But I don’t suppose the footballing authorities would ever dare schedule that appointment.

JohnM - 16/03/2013

Yes, I remember those refs. Is it just our elderly brains deceiving us, or do most of todays refs just not measure up to those of thirty years ago? I do remember some truly dire refereeing performances, three, maybe four a season—but these days it seems to be every other match. I remember Kirkpatrick being a fussy, exhibitionist so and so—but he seemed to make to correct decisions, usually.

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