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Watford 4 Blackburn Rovers 0 (20/04/2013) 21/04/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- The scoreline tells one story.  The narrative of the match itself, however,  is not (merely) one of us putting inadequate opponents to the sword.  In fact it followed the template of several of our big wins this season;  against Huddersfield in the snow in January we laboured for a bit against a side hellbent on stopping us from playing – and once we had gotten that first goal we were gone, galloping off into the sunset with the points and never looking back.

This was the same only more so, the effect amplified by both our recent tentativeness in front of goal and the immediacy of the need for points.  Blackburn proved to be of limited threat when they had the ball (of which more below), but without the ball they were doing a reasonable enough job of chasing us down, closing down the space during the opening forty-five minutes.  We were probably ahead on points at the interval, we’d had the better of such chances as there were and had again dominated possession, but the sense of urgency and conviction was even more muted than at Millwall – where we were genuinely unlucky, but nonetheless undone by the fact that putting the ball in the net suddenly looks so very difficult. Five minutes into the second half, with no end to the stalemate in sight, the words “nil nil written all over it” may have been uttered by one of your co-editors.

2- We pause here to consider Blackburn Rovers.  The tragic Venkys soap opera has been well documented, the rapid turnover of managers bizarre and short-sighted… as far as the possibility of being without a seat when the music stops goes there’s a big part of me that thinks that whatever the failings of the club owners, this bunch of supporters have suffered quite enough.  There are clubs who have achieved less down there whose supporters display a sense of entitlement that far outstrips that of Rovers fans (and Dean Saunders is a nasty little so and so too).

But there’s no doubt that whatever the management upheaval and background instability, this bunch of players ought to be capable of a lot more than they’ve delivered.  Of yesterday’s squad, Dunn, Pedersen, Dann, Olsson, Givet have decent top level experience, and looked competent at worst at the highest level.  Best, Rhodes, Jones, Orr, Williamson are at the very least decent Championship players.  Add to that the experience of Nuno Gomes and the absent Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu, Kazim-Richards, DJ Campbell, Hanley… there’s no way on earth that this squad of players should be where they are.

It might be argued that we were lucky to come up against them at this point.  Frankly, it might have been nice to have played them a week or two ago, for if this win does provide the fillip we need to rediscover our form then with such a boost a couple of weeks earlier we would now be talking about automatic promotion as a probability rather than a mere possibility.

3- But the extraordinary second half was only down to Rovers’ failings in part.  To pretend otherwise would be to deny the huge amount of credit due to the quality of our finishing.  If Rovers lost the game, rather than us winning it, it was by providing such little threat themselves – there was little suggestion of counterattack, not really, but little to blame Rovers for in either of the opening two goals, and arguably the third.

After a campaign in which there are so many strong candidates for Player of the Season it seems odd to be able to single someone out, but for me nobody has put in the consistent high levels that Troy Deeney has delivered.  Cassetti, Abdi, Vydra, Forestieri, Chalobah have all been fabulous, others have been merely very good, but each have had iffy spells – either stretches of wobblier form or periods within games where they’ve simply disappeared.  Troy started from a low base, but his focus and leadership have paid back the faith shown in his character, as much as his ability, in spades.  If the irrepressible Forestieri was the spark that ignited the first goal, Troy Deeney’s strength, his confidence to wait for the gap and the irresistible accuracy of his shot were worthy of turning any game.

And we’re not half a good side when we’re in the lead.  There’s been precious little opportunity to demonstrate that in recent weeks, but my god we showed it here as the things that have been proving so difficult suddenly came flooding back, like lyrics to a song that we hadn’t realised we’d forgotten but came to us as soon as someone played us the intro.  They Juggernaut was briefly in danger of being derailed as Rovers broke on us quickly and Rhodes sent a header over, but that was it as far as Rovers were concerned.  The game was gone, and it was a matter of how many we would score.

This was our sixth (sixth!) four-goal plus haul of the season, and the twelfth time we’ve scored at least three; if there’s a frustration it’s that the points we’ve let slip in between have left promotion anything other than the racing certainty that football like this ought to have long guaranteed.  It would be wrong to say that this win outstripped the others in terms of aplomb… there have been so many good goals, so many well-executed dismantlings.  But few have been greeted with such relief.  The second goal was arguably the highlight, Forestieri with the devil in his eyes again now, with the confidence to ignore the easy, conservative ball to Pudil and delay and delay and then thread an impossible pass through to Troy Deeney, who dispatched his nineteenth of the season with now roaring confidence.  If anything was missing it was the long-awaited goal for Vydra, but nonetheless the Czech continued his more energetic display from Millwall and was hurtling after everything in the closing minutes.  On this evidence, it won’t be long.

4- Actually the other thing we could have done with is a marksman in the Upper Rous with an elephant gun and a tranquiliser dart.  One of several violent, petulant challenges by the thoroughly indisciplined rabble that Rovers became in the wake of our twenty minute goal blitz saw Troy Deeney lose his rag altogether.  Having been apparently felled by an elbow he raised himself and charged after the ball in a manner that suggested a degree of disappointment at the lack of intervention from the official.  He ultimately committed the least surprising foul of the afternoon, but fortunately that was all there was to it.  The last time I saw someone lose it like that was in Austria in 1997, when TSV 19860 Munich’s Ulf Bodden ran two thirds of the length of the pitch to kick the perceived Rapid Vienna miscreant up the arse.  He saw red, to hilarity in the stands.  Troy losing it in the same way would not have been as funny.

The nastiness came to a head in the closing minutes, when Marco Cassetti, having been similarly felled by a Leon Best elbow moments earlier, showed his Serie A pedigree by provoking a furious reaction from Best, a reaction that earned him the red he’d earlier deserved.  Tut tut, and so forth.

5- Whilst Hull are still in the driving seat there’s no denying that the fixture list has been kind to us this week.  City’s listless failure to beat relegated Bristol City on Friday left us with two games to play before they next take to the field, and the possibility of closing that seven point margin down to one.  As far as that goes, it’s all within our control;  we’ve delivered on half of the deal, and if we manage to continue the flowing irresistible stuff on into Friday Hull will go into their final two games – at backs-to-the-wall Barnsley and hosting champions Cardiff – knowing that they probably NEED to win one of them.  In the meantime, we need to do our bit… which suddenly seems less daunting than it did.

Bring on the Leicester.



1. Nige in Oz - 21/04/2013

the game was on live down under. A dour 1st half came to life in the 2nd, the highlight for me being Abdi’s goal. Not only for the exquisite finish but also for the team build up during the preceding 90 seconds. I loved the patient possession football and the way the crowd were cheering each time one of the team touched the ball, with a quick pantomine boo in the middle as a Blackburn player intercepted it for a brief moment. May not have had the step over and dummy as the Huddersfield goal but as a team goal certainly one of the best i’ve seen with a sublime finish and a contender for goal of the season.

Johnnyc72 - 21/04/2013

Totally agree about 3rd goal. Shame BBC didn’t show the full build up as I too thought it was better than the Huddersfield goal

2. Andrew - 21/04/2013

I agree with Thunk 2 – I’d love to see Venky’s relegated but the Blackburn fans don’t deserve it.

3. stu partridge - 21/04/2013

I have to agree with comments on Deeney and his consistency. I initially voted for Abdi as player of season but since then he has tailed off and Deene has gone from strength to strength. On official website he is listed as top of assist table

4. NRC - 21/04/2013

Matt, absolutely agree about Troy – seeing as he started late due to being indisposed, and given there may have been some doubt as to how he would be perceived, he has repaid the faith the club invested in him in spades. His strength, determination and yes, leadership on the pitch, are a key part of our success methinks.

BTW, don’t know why in particular, but ‘stand up if you hate Burnley’ has to be one of the funniest chants ever. Must be the southerner in me.

5. Roger Smith - 21/04/2013

As you say, Vydra was clearly up for ending his drought. Shame, then that in the closing stages, his team mates were content to knock it aimlessly around at the back rather than get the ball up to him.

6. hornetboy84 - 21/04/2013

My personal season has been firmly framed by 3 games – and this one may now be pivotal.
The first vs. having missed Ipswich due to being on hols, I wondered how I would remember anyone’s names let alone build an affection with any of the players. My opinion of Cassetti was that he was an overweight, unfit journeyman and should sod off back to Italy.
The second was when I made the Charlton away game as a last minute decision cos I finished work down the road And fell in love with this team.
And now Blackburn. Thank you Blackburn ad i believe you have now helped spark a new life into our team that may be too late for auto but will serve is well in a play off battle. My view is that this game was dangerously end of seasonish and we looked like we knew it was all up. Troy looked slightly tired and the team still missing that park. And then THAT incident with the backpass left a sour taste of bad sportsmanship and we started to bite back at anything nasty. From Troy to pudil to Abdi and finally Cassetti we were just not going to get bullied without giving it back. And in the absence of JE oh boy we might need that. Having seen on TV the Cassetti (now my player of the season by the way) incident it’s clear he got his revenge in true Mafiosi style and so bested Best.
Bring on the play offs if necessary. It holds no fears now. And as they said on the football league show Leicester take on an IN-FORM Hornets – its amazing what what one win does to perceptions !!!

7. Jason - 22/04/2013

Did anybody else see Cassetti writhing on the touchline for about a minute in the build-up to (I think) our first goal. Our immediate thought was that the challenge was a bit innocious, he had gone down for the free-kick and then when it wasn’t given was in the embarrasing position of whether to get up or not. And, of course, the longer he left it the more embarrassing it got.

However, bearing in mind what happened later, I now wonder whether it was the first part of the Best incident. I’ve seen no replays so don’t even know who took him out. And in Cassetti’s mitigation, as the good pro that he is, I’m sure if he was looking for the free-kick the first thing he would have done is rolled back onto the pitch clutching his head so the ref would have had to stop it.

8. Harefield Hornet - 22/04/2013

Cassetti took such a clump in the face just before Troy’s opener he wasn’t even aware we had scored for a considerable time. I was becoming more irrate with the ref and linesmen as it all progressed, there were elbows going in everywhere at one point – Cassetti twice, Abdi , Forestieri were all assaulted and the officials all seemed totally blind to it all. Blackburn were clearly looking for reactions to get our players sent off so while I would never condone such behaviour, Cassettis subtle rake down Best’s shin and the consequences were no more than Blackburn deserved.

Matt Rowson - 22/04/2013

I don’t know about trying to get our players sent off. I took it as sulky and fed up, being made to look stupid having looked like patching a run together. But I don’t dispute the rest of your account… Best clobbered Cassetti with an elbow five minutes before the red card, Cassetti’s attack was clearly in retaliation. Best should have been sent off for the first incident, so can have no complaints.

9. ewanhughesarmy - 22/04/2013

My girlfriend, who without following every last minute and detail of its soap-opera is certainly not a duffer when it comes to football, turned to me as we watched the highlights and said, slightly surprisingly: ‘Blackburn, that’s not Blackburn Rovers then, is it?’.
My instinct was to laugh, but then I had to concede she was right…

10. Dave Jackson - 22/04/2013

Blimey!! Great second half and now looking forward to the trip to Leicester on Friday. What are peoples’ thoughts on team selection for that? It would be massively disappointing to make the journey up and see FF on the bench again, like last Tuesday.
Whatever the team, let’s make some serious noise up there.

Matt Rowson - 22/04/2013

Depends what GZ thinks the danger of burnout is. But there’s also an argument for playing MV away from home. Leicester HAVE to come at us; FF is great at unpicking a lock (witness Saturday) but MV has the edge in raw pace.

Roger Smith - 22/04/2013

Dare we play them both in a 3-4-3, with Pudil, Chalobah, Abdi and Anya in the middle?

Matt Rowson - 23/04/2013

Away at Leicester? There’s bold and there’s reckless.

JohnM - 23/04/2013

Reckless? Maybe. What the hell, we have to win—and we are guaranteed playoffs. Go for it.

stu partridge - 24/04/2013

Personally, I would love to see FF and MV in the same team and think it would work in either 433 or the 4231 that most top teams play.
However its too late in the season to be tinkering with a system that works well ( especially against better teams).
Ive been all for FF starting recently as he is on fire but think away to a team that has to attack us from the off will mean MV will start.

11. Leggatts 'orn - 22/04/2013

Due to a scheduling balls up we arrived at the ground around 14:00, eagle eyed son, spotted Steve Bennett (ex- Not Not ref) walking round the pitch a few minutes after we arrived. So the ref was being assessed or instructed on the day.

I wonder what words of encouragement he offered after the game. “Don’t give up your day job”, maybe.

“Former Select Group officials Steve Bennett and Neale Barry are FIFA Referee Assistance Programme Instructors and Steve is part of the team evaluating candidates for FIFA World Cup 2014.”


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