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Barnsley 1 Watford 0 (16/03/2013) 16/03/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- I woke up this morning with a plan.  I like having a plan, I’m that sort of person.  I suppose I should be grateful that the flat tyre was on the side of the car visible from the living room window, caused by a stray nail apparently.  “Oh, and you need petrol too” came the shout from the kitchen.

The fates were trying to tell me something, clearly, but my devotion to The Plan was going to take more disrupting than half an hour flailing gracelessly in the mud and drizzle switching on the space saver, a nervous drive to the service station to fill up and a new tyre.  Trips to Barnsley have tended to be a bit rubbish, it’s almost a tradition, and that hadn’t proven a deterrent either.  It’s not that Oakwell isn’t a good place to visit – a proper football club, a proper ground, easy enough to get to, decent away car park two minutes’ walk from what inevitably becomes the away “pub” (albeit nestled incongruously in a leisure centre).  It’s just that the football doesn’t tend to be particularly memorable.  I must have been to Oakwell a dozen times in the past 20 years or so.  Off the pitch…  aggressive stewards, a freezing night in 2000, a comedy eviction, jump starting a Ford Fiesta on a 45 degree slope without even thinking about it… On the pitch, I’ve got Paul Furlong’s mental goal in 1994 (at the end of the worst game of all time). And that’s it.  This game won’t linger in the memory either.

2- The first half opened in briefly encouraging fashion, rattling from end to end in what looked as if it might end up an engaging, competitive game.  Instead, our considerable possession foundered, as against Blackpool, on the flimsiness of our midfield.  Cristian Battocchio has impressed intermittently since his arrival but tends to do so only when the team is playing well around him – he’s a good cog in a functioning team, but hasn’t suggested the maturity to influence a performance rather than merely participating in it.  He was all but anonymous here.  Mark Yeates was even worse, having an absolute stinker for 45 minutes (give ball away, run after it, commit silly foul, repeat) such that his withdrawal at the interval for the inevitable introduction of Chalobah was no surprise, despite Battochio’s lowprofile.  And whilst Hogg fetched and carried as ever our attacking play was too slow, too deliberate, and short of confidence and ingenuity.  All three have had better days.

3- Barnsley contributed to this by hounding down our possession relentlessly, crowding the ball when we had it and attacking with purpose when they did.  Watford’s back three largely impressed and stood up well to the challenge but it took some last gasp interventions to deny a ponderous Jason Scotland, first Lloyd Doyley and then Nyron Nosworthy on separate occasions swooping in to dispossess the Trinidadian striker before he could get the ball out from his feet to shoot when through on goal.  Jonathan Bond was twice called into action, producing one point blank save and then flying out to snatch the ball from the feet of O’Brien.  The winger was bowled over by the challenge but had the candour to congratulate the goalkeeper with a slap on the shoulder on his way up off the turf – not that this prevented a few misguided catcalls demanding a penalty. Ultimately Hassell’s header to Mellis’ cross after the rusty-looking Cassetti’s silly foul gave away a free kick on the left gave the Tykes a deserved half time lead and refuelled their charging around for the second period. It had been coming.

4- The second half was better, even if it took Nathaniel Chalobah ten minutes of grotesquely giving every ball away under Barnsley’s lunatic pressure before he tuned in and started knitting our attacks together.  Our play was still too deliberate, but Cassetti and particularly Anya were now being released into space, and the hardworking Deeney began to see more of the ball than hurried punts towards his head (albeit he courted controversy by twice going in aggressively on goalkeeper Steele in frustration at his lack of space and opportunity).  Forestieri and Mujangi Bia were introduced for Anya and Hogg, the former on the left of a front three and the latter in a three man midfield.  For the final twenty minutes we had the home side on the back foot for the first time – we’d visibly been stretching the play, hugging the touchlines, testing the legs of our adversaries who inevitably weren’t closing down quite as attentively in the final period of the game.  It wouldn’t have taken very much – Forestieri tricked and twisted, Chalobah glided around looking for a gap, Vydra – still out of touch and not given nearly enough opportunity to grab the goal he needs – on the shoulder, Deeney dragging the team along.  The rebounds didn’t fall for us, Vydra’s one, fine drive was anticipated by Steele.  It wasn’t our afternoon.

5- One week on not a lot has changed – in particular our need for the international break is very real.  We need to get our shit together again, we need Chalobah, Abdi, Cassetti, Hall fit and firing.  But the most depressing aspect of today was that the home side wanted this far more.  Much easier to stay on message when things are going for you – Barnsley got the lead, and were able to limit our effectiveness.  Their gameplan was working, of course they were going to keep their heads up.  But for all of our increased threat as the game drew to a close the body language was poor.  Both sides looked tired;  we looked beaten.  Not for the first time this season, probably not for the last, you find yourself wishing for a bit of John Eustace’s bloody mindedness, we really needed a leader out there today. We’re going to need to withstand this sort of relentless pressure as the season draws to a close – it’s not as if the formula is particularly complicated, however well executed.  We’ve been adapting and improving all season.  We need to adapt again, and quickly.


1. Fran - 17/03/2013

The thing that disappointed me most was knowing that, in games when we’ve done well we have harried the opposition. If we lost the ball, we would fight to win it back and not give them time to consider what to do with it. There was very little of that yesterday. This team has talent, but our games have been won when that talent has been married to hard work. We need to see a bit more of both in the rest of our games.

2. Rod Green glove. - 17/03/2013

One of your more constructive and better observations. Totally agree about Yeats yesterday and the intro of Nat Challo was desperately required in the circumstances we put ourselves in.
My thoughts also with a need for big John Eustace out there with the leadership I think we have been missing for quite a while now. Is he fit?
Having him on the pitch/bench during the run in would add confidence to the team that is beginning to look tired.
Matty, cant buy a goal at the moment and looks like a player who has lost form.
Yes, bring on the break and hope that GFZ can infuse/inspire something into their tired legs.

3. Roger Smith - 17/03/2013

It’s beginning to sound like a cracked record, but if you play three midgets in central midfield, you’re not going to win the midfield battle, whoever they are. Especially against a physical, in-you-face team like Barnsley. Didn’t anyone watch their game v Brighton?

Could we at least try Cassetti in the middle, with Anya on the right and Pudil on the left? Or Ekstrand, with Doyley switching to LCB, Nos at RCB and One-size in the middle? Or Eustace, who would also shake out the cobwebs? More imagination, please, GZ.

Well done to over 1000 away supporters.

4. hornetboy84 - 17/03/2013

So gutted yesterday but only on the back of an undeserved Blackpool result and unlucky draw vs. Wolves. The next game will tell us if this was just a blip.

I think however this might just do us good not to be in 2nd at this point. Really just need to regroup and go for it vs. Burnley without fear. A win then and maybe we take the momentum into Hull- Cardiff. But bloody hell – its anyones really.

Being able to comment after Palarse are thrashed by Brighton makes this easier – but the way I see it now is that we are 2 points off automatic with 8 games to go. Id have taken that anytime. Game on!

5. stu partridge - 17/03/2013

Agree with observation on battochio.
i really like him as a player but yesterday showed he isnt developed enough as a player/personality to lead the midfield. hopefully this will come soon, he is still only 19/20.

i am loathe to criticise GFZ because wtf do i know in comparison, but if Chalaboah is borderline fit , why not play him in the first half and then take him off if and when he is struggling.

It looks like teams are learning how to play against us and also against Vydra too … so yes a tweak to our game plan as you said Matt, seems overdue. Having said that, there is probably no one in this division that will press us as well as Barnsley.

Looking for some positives-
4 of our last 8 games are against teams whose season is effectively over ( Burnley, Millwall, Blackburn, Leeds) . By the time we play Leicester, on their current from , their season could well also be over…which means we have only 3 tough games left. Hull, Cardiff and Peterborough….I am most nervous about the Peterborough game!

6. stu partridge - 17/03/2013

On the Eustace question…I agree these sort of games are made for him , at least as a substitute when our passing games is clearly not working.

Pure speculation, but Im wondering if him and Zola have fallen out because of his lack of inclusion in matchday squad.
My mind goes back to the first game of the season when JE was subbed of and he threw his shirt to the ground in front of GFZ in disgust.

Harefield Hornet - 18/03/2013

Back injury – allegedly!

7. ollyparenting - 17/03/2013

Re thunk 1: Oakwell’s not always been an unfortunate venue. One of the key moments in my development as a true Hornet (following a great introduction through the long-missed Family Enclosure) was travelling (aged 12?) with my mum from north Shropshire for an early 90s midweek match. The memory’s blurred by time, but in a 3-0 win I think Darren Bazeley scored a hat-trick during his spell that surely shaped the modern trend for attacking full-backs. (PS. Factual corrections welcome!)

Matt Rowson - 17/03/2013

we won 3-0 there in 1991/92 (see http://www.watfordfcarchive.com/downloads/seasons/Mergedseasons1990to2000.pdf) but Bazeley only got one… Luther and Andy Kennedy the other two. The Bazeley hat-trick was at Southend some time later, he would still have been a winger in 1991.

8. ADP - 17/03/2013

The big difference now is we expect to win. All around us lost so very fortunate weekend. Real 6 pointer at Hull and we would all have taken this situation at the start of the season. GfZ really earns his corn now and needs a team motivated and up for the run in.

9. Lloyd Arkill - 18/03/2013

Re Yeates – you forgot to add ‘harangue team mate in attempt to shift attention from own incompetence’ to your other wise entirely accurate description of his abject performance

10. Smudger Jnr - 18/03/2013

I think Hall has been missed more than people realize. Whilst Nyron and Lloyd have been on top of their games and noted by all as stand out contributors recently (both being immense barriers with play coming hard and fast at them), i wonder if their combined lack of ball playing ability has had an effect on our ball play further up the field. Of late, i just feel that it’s been completely up to our midfield to start the attacks we have got used to seeing (incisive passing with momentum to release Vydra of the shoulder of the last man). Obviously Chobs has been a massive loss as well. Totally agree with your summary of Battocchio. He for one would benefit of calmer possession being generated by others behind and round him.

Let just hope we have those two in particular back for saturday. Massive few game coming up. At the very least we need a bit of form for the playoffs.

Roger Smith - 18/03/2013

Friday week actually: Good Friday, 3pm KO.

hornetboy84 - 18/03/2013

Does anyone know if we have ever won when playing on a Good Friday. i remember under Taylor losing 3-0 at home to Palace and did we not lose last year too? – just saying !

11. Harefield Hornet - 18/03/2013

Stating the obvious – playing 3 games a week catches up with everyone eventually as reflected by the results of others around us. Cardiff were able to absorb their dip in form because they’d built up a big enough points cushion but everyone else appears to be faltering. It’s a fairly level playing field and new season starts against Burnley on Good friday!

stu partridge - 18/03/2013

nicely put, a new season starts on good friday. hopefully the news today of no points deduction can underline the new start.

12. Lincolnhornet - 18/03/2013

Remember going to Barnsley on a very cold night over a Christmas period when we hadn’t won for about 20 games. There were about 15 of us in the away end and I remember we had Carlton Palmer and Super Alan Nielson in midfield. Super Al got the goal in a 0-1 victory so it hasn’t always been an unlucky ground. But ‘feck’ it was cold. Congratulations goes to anyone who can recall the year and the full starting eleven and why had we been on such a miserable run?

Matt Rowson - 18/03/2013

Yes, I was there too. That was the “very cold” off-pitch memory. It was December 2000, and our form had gone off the edge of a cliff after a strong start (although I seem to remember that – with the exception of a fine win at Forest – the results had been better than the performances). -10 pitchside, I seem to recall. I don’t recall the eleven, but details are here, along with my BSaD report: http://www.bsad.org/0001/reports/barnsley/indexa.html

Lincolnhornet - 18/03/2013

Thanks Matt just read the report and I had forgotten what a good side that looked, obviously very low on confidence after a terrible run. There were one or two leg ends in that side!

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