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Peterborough United 3 Watford 2 (13/04/2013) 14/04/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

photo (81)1- There is something to be said for reserved seating, admittedly.  There are advantages.  Knowing where you’re going to sit, for example, the security of knowing your place is where you left it whether you choose to rock up at 2:15 or 2:59.

But things being what they are, the opportunity to stand on a terrace is a rare thing and to be cherished.  The Cherry Tree had been boisterous an hour earlier; cheerfully busy and dominated by yellow, the queue at the bar moving quickly enough not to be irritating whilst still permitting a few seconds of  solitude amongst the hubbub. Those of us without an innate aversion to Other People enjoyed it hugely.

By 3pm, the Moys Terrace was heaving and verging on raucous.  It wasn’t just the fact that it was a terrace…  a big  game, again, and an agreeable journey had attracted over 4000 travelling supporters.  But there’s nothing quite like an agitated terrace under a low roof and whatever happens as the season closes there’s a part of me that would be perfectly happy in a lower division with terraces – is that wrong?  Hell, there was even an element of nostalgic bravado in revisiting the cramped, inadequate toilet blocks of yesteryear although admittedly that attraction might wane with time…  I faced the queues before kick-off for fear of having to revisit squalor and depravity on a par with Fellows Park, Walsall in 1987 as conditions worsened later on.

2- And so the football started, almost an afterthought.  Bright and bubbly as anticipated, this was never going to be a game where either side was particularly fussed about keeping it tight.  This ought to suit us, we had told ourselves.  However, if the home side didn’t play defensively they managed the game masterfully, inviting us onto them and affording us possession, allowing them to counterattack as the away side.  Simultaneously they smothered Nathaniel Chalobah in the midfield, robbing the conductor of his baton and repeatedly smacking him around the shins with it… working out exactly referee David Webb drew his line and nudging up against it as aggressively as possible.

Where Webb drew his line, as it turned out, was wherever he thought he might attract least attention and cause least offence – and so inevitably he created problems for himself.  His decisions largely favoured the defending side; the Hornets were denied two penalty claims, one of which looked particularly strong and led to Troy Deeney, no longer wearing the armband but still ostensibly the leader of the side, being booked for his frustration.  In front of us, Ekstrand benefited from Webb’s lenience;  having been rightly booked for an unnecessary foul on Gayle early in the half he was extremely lucky to escape without further censure having felled the same player later in the half;  a straight red there would have been harsh but not beyond the realms of possibility.

Gayle’s skip beyond the defensive line was only one of several such incidents in the opening 45 where Posh’s movement and pace saw us caught flat footed.  From one of these Swanson had scored an excellent opener after Gayle had unpeeled us… we had the lions’ share of possession but were ever more deliberate, careful, cautious, and such chances as we were creating had fallen to Jonathan Hogg, who however hard he works to break his duck doesn’t look any more like doing so.

3- The decision to bring on Matej Vydra at the break wasn’t a huge surprise; we hadn’t looked like getting on top of the game and something needed to change.  Off came the precarious Ekstrand as we switched to 4-3-3…  bold, positive, unsuccessful.  The flat four proved no more able to cope with Peterborough’s breaks, and when a hospital ball from Doyley put the miserable Chalobah under pressure the home side pounced and Gayle skittered away to score the second. Five minutes later Gayle was past the defence again and Cassetti committed a rare error, tangling with the escaping striker and giving the referee little alternative but to produce a red card.   Tomlin converted the free kick to apparently drive the nail into the coffin.  On the stunned away terrace a few sloped off towards the pub…  there was only one Angry Man, but he’d been bawling and cussing at every perceived failing since kick off – otherwise it was baffled silence.

4- The mood on the pitch was as flat as it was off it.  Posh decided they had the game won and felt comfortable enough to take off two key protagonists, Tomlin and Gayle, with fifteen minutes plus stoppage time still on the clock, a damning indictment.  Inspiration arrived, though, and from a not entirely anticipated quarter.

Half time had seen Posh introduce ex-players in the fashion that has become part of the ritual at Vicarage Road, and here were three ex-Posh who had also spent time at the Vic.  David Johnson and Alan Paris’ first team careers at Watford were brief and non-existent respectively, but Worrell Sterling got an appreciative smattering of applause from the away end.  My recollection of Worrell is that he was always the best player in our worst performances, unphased by chaos around him but relatively rarely a part of a memorable success.  Step forward Mark Yeates, who in a midfield perhaps a little more relaxed by this point found the time and space to start pinging balls around and oiling our attacking play.

It was his free kick that got us on the scoresheet, although inevitably the context meant that the celebration underneath the corrugated roof was nothing like as noisy as it might have been. A heavy deflection, admittedly, but deserved on Yeates’ part for simply refusing to lie down – indeed, he stood out simply by virtue of making a statement of grabbing the ball and taking responsibility.  Our attacking play had been ever more careful, our breaks such as they were slowing down as a lay back invariably allowed Peterborough to organise.  Give the home side some credit for this of course, but there was precious little responsibility being taken and once again Vydra, fiddling around on the edge of the game, was culpable.

Yeates’ goal, of course, woke us up altogether and cast the preceding fifteen minutes of non-event as the criminal waste of time that it was.  Suddenly we were on the front foot, desperate for extra minutes.  As Darren Ferguson’s post-match comments reflected, the final scoreline might have flattered us a little but we really weren’t very far from getting something out of this in the end as Posh were back on their heels for the last ten minutes.  Instead we only had one more goal to show for it, a decent drive from Forestieri, who in fairness had been positive and aggressive throughout.

5- Pretty glum stuff, nonetheless, and Cassetti’s suspension is particularly unhelpful with half-an-eye on Tuesday.  Injury to Briggs in the warm up had lead to his late withdrawal also (and explained why Prince Buaben was out there warming up) but if Fitz isn’t back in contention then we’re probably looking at a start for Adam Thompson (or a change of formation) at the New Den.  Automatic promotion is now out of our hands of course but not completely  beyond consideration… Millwall are without a home win in seven and are off the back of a semi-final defeat, whilst Hull travel to Wolves who have their backs to the wall.  If those results go our way it’s game on again… and I rather hope that happens.  Nobody doubts the ability or the spirit in our squad.  Whether we’ve got the legs for an extra three games is open to question.



1. Roger Smith - 14/04/2013

We were beaten at our own game: Peterborough waited for or anticipated the misplaced pass, of which there were far too many, and then broke quickly down the flanks before our wing backs had a chance to recover. Thus the centre backs were drawn wide, which created space in the middle.

On the attacking front we passed when we should have shot, and shot when we should have passed. As well as Chalobah, Vydra was closely marked and never got the ball in front of him that he thrives on.

Millwall can’t score, so we might as well go for broke at the New Den.

2. MartinG - 14/04/2013

The midfield was great. Now it isn’t. And Vydra isn’t getting service through the middle.
We just seem to have run out of steam. Hopefully we’ll regroup. Still we’ve had a season way beyond expectation for me. Really enjoyed it.

3. hornetboy84 - 14/04/2013

1. totally agree on the first thunks on benefits of reserved seating. At half time my central clear view point was ruined by a 6 foot 8″ giant who moved in to stand right in front of me. A declaration of “Oh FFS youre not standing there are you at least meant he agreed to swap places.
As for the toilets – im sure thats illegal ! At festival events they have to have a certain number of facilities for the audience. We too braved the wait before half time and luckily couldnt find a beverage bar so survived till the end!

2. As for the game – the ref did us no favours but my main concern was the lack of bite in midfield or defence when we needed it. Got outfought all over the pitch and without a Nos-Fitz hall or Eustace mixing it a bit more – we could get rolled over.

3. I fear we will find ourselves back at 3 points behind Hull come Tuesday night – but really if we are play off bound it would be better to know fast so the last 2 games can see us resting players and getting ourselves mentally prepared. If we head to the last game 3 points behind Hull and just miss out then that may be hard to bounce back from.

4.And Hull grabbed another soft penalty when we cant buy one ! ironically Forestieri’s when through and their defender tripped him after he slipped wasnt discussed but for me was an obvious foul.

Ian Grant - 15/04/2013

Before we get too far into feeling sorry for ourselves and picked upon by referees, it’s perhaps worth pointing out that we beat Peterborough earlier in the season with an extremely soft – I’m being generous – last minute penalty.

NickB - 15/04/2013

Maybe I’m beginning the slow voyage to senility, but my memory of the Peterborough pen is of a defender inexplicably tripping an opponent in a place of very little danger. Don’t recall there being much fuss about it, including from Ferguson?
They played well that day too.

Ian Grant - 15/04/2013

Yes, they did: they’re a good side, Peterborough, just not a well-resourced one. I invite you to peruse a replay of that penalty incident, should it be available somewhere. It isn’t pretty.

4. The Great Big O - 15/04/2013

I thought Peterborough did a fantastic job on us – just like so many other teams have been doing recently. It took time for Championship managers to work out how to make their Championship footballers beat our type of footballer – but they seem to have sussed it now. It doesn’t bode well for the play-offs at all.

We need to be much more than just ‘the best footballing side in the division’ as Darren Ferguson described us. Peterborough made us look like a team (and a support) that has grown to believe its own publicity.

We’re in a bad place now with injuries and loss of confidence as we go into the scrap of the play-offs. Zola has done brilliantly so far this season. It’ll be an even greater achievement to change things from here and get us up.

But if we don’t go up, no problem. We’ve over-achieved wonderfully.

Even if we get a whole new set of players for next season, I believe Zola can build on what he’s learned in his first year in the division.

If we stay down (and we manage our own expectations as fans) next year could be great.

And we’d get to go to the fabulous London Road again.

5. Mike - 15/04/2013

All good teams get sussed out. Very good teams find a way to adapt and continue their success. The jury is currently out with us!

6. Harefield Hornet - 15/04/2013

Looking at the picture above I reckon I was standing pretty near where it was taken for most of the game with the exception of 10 minutes spent queing for a p*** and a further 10 minutes queing for a burger just before HT. First visit to this ground and what a culture shock. Added to the fact I made the journey with pals I used to travel everywhere with in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s this all felt like an episode of Life on Mars. I was expecting Gene Hunt to roar into the car park in an Audi Quatro at any given moment!

Still much to play for in what has been a very enjoyable (for the most part!) season.

Can anyone confirm how many games Cassetti misses?


Matt Rowson - 15/04/2013

Contrary to the Football League Show’s assertion it’s a one game ban for a professional foul.

Harefield Hornet - 15/04/2013

Thank goodness for that, given that our defensive options seem to be dimishing each game! Recall for Fosythe? – As I crawled past Wembley on the Met Line this morning I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps we’re destined to this the flash way after all – injuries and form allowing!

stu partridge - 15/04/2013

oh thats a relief, i always thought it was 3 games.

cassetti was uncharacteristically poor in that game, but will be fantastic to see him back for final the 3 games.

Tim Turner - 15/04/2013

To add to the retro feeling, I got stuck on a slow train back to Kings Cross with a bunch of racist cretins masquerading as Watford fans. The chanting never stopped until they got off at Stevenage – apart from when a couple of passengers, braver than me, dared to challenge them, at which point things threatened to get even uglier.

It really was like the 80s again – and not in a good way.

7. Zenon - 15/04/2013

I genuinely believe GFZ needs to change his system… Move personnel around…

As mentioned else where we are short of defensive cover… Switch to 433. LD-MC-JE-MB would be solid enough…

Reinstate Hogg as the midfield anchor / enforcer. Thus allowing Chalobah to find space elsewhere on the pitch. If he drags 2/3 men away from the middle of the park Abdi will get more space and AG & FF can drop into it.

I’d also like to see Geijo partner Deeney and FF. he linked well with FF at home Vs Wednesday. His guile could be the surprise element we miss for the last few games (& possibly playoffs).

Matt Rowson - 16/04/2013

I would never speak ill of JE, but he’s not played all season. You really want to stick him straight into an unfamiliar position?

Zenon - 16/04/2013

Joel Ekstrand = JE

8. Paul Caruso - 15/04/2013

‘Worrell Sterling got an appreciative smattering of applause from the away end. My recollection of Worrell is that he was always the best player in our worst performances, unphased by chaos around him but relatively rarely a part of a memorable success’. Wonderful stuff, I will continue to campaign for the leather-bound folio of Bsad / Bhappy reports. Have them washed and sent to my room.

JohnM - 16/04/2013

My rather dimming recollection of Worrell is coated with a feeling of dissappointment. I recall some voices at Watford saying he was ‘the future’, but he never gave me that impression. He always seemed a player who promised, but rarely delivered. He fell out of Watford and fell out of my perception—I didn’t even know he played for Posh.

Matt Rowson - 16/04/2013

He would put his head down and run with the ball, look up five minutes later and his scurrying sideways and forwards left him about five yards better off.

He played for Posh for some time, and also for Bristol Rovers who are followed by a close friend of mine. At one point one of their fanzines produced a piece asking “who’s the greatest? Romario or Worrell?” with a point-by=point scoring system and breakdown.

Worrell won, obviously.

9. Jimbohornet - 16/04/2013

Hopefully the JE referred to here is Ekstrand not Cap’n John?

Matt Rowson - 16/04/2013

Ah. Yes. Right you are. Carry on…

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