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Watford 4 Huddersfield Town 2 (30/08/2014) 31/08/2014

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

1- It’s half past eight in the evening.  Sofia, five, has made her “competitive debut” today.  Now, with Watford shirt pulled over her Princess Sophia top and left hand on hip she is swinging her yellow/red/black garland vigorously around her head with her right hand, marching around the living room and leading her sister in a rousing rendition of “Tro-oy Dee-ney, Watford’s number nine!” as their mother rolls her eyes from the sofa.  Three and a half hours or so earlier Sofia was gazing open mouthed in happy bewilderment at the jubilation in the Rookery in the wake of Almen Abdi’s glorious clincher.  There had been questions before the game, more were raised during the ninety-plus minutes and we’ll get to those, I suppose.  But for the moment revel again in that fabulous final half hour or so, which in the manner of a cup-tie blew away all concerns, quibbles, tactics, formations.  Primal, ferocious and utterly captivating entertainment.  Who could fail to be carried away by it?

2- The visitors took the game to Watford from the off, persistent and aggressive in attacking positions.  Whilst they had their own failings – often the same failings as ours and within the space of minutes as we’ll discuss – their application won’t have done caretaker Mark Lillis’ case for the permanent position any harm, irrespective of the result.  Debutant Jack Robinson briefly looked like a threat with a series of monstrous throw ins that reached the far post – time will tell whether he’s a Dave Challinor or a Leigh Bromby, the trajectory didn’t look flat enough to me whatever the power.  In any case when we broke, as we are wont to do, we looked capable of making hay with the Terriers defence being peeled apart relative easily.  Hardly a resilient rearguard then, much less so in the face of a perfect through ball from Daniel Töszér, a perfect run and touch from Troy and a cool finish to give the Hornets the lead.  Better defences than this would have been shredded by that, almost a waste of a brilliant goal – save them for tougher challenges to come.  The half was more open than the half-time scoreline suggests – each side had a goal ruled out for a marginal call – and if the bedlam of the second half was hardly heralded it never felt done and dusted.  The other detail worth mentioning is ref Neil Swarbrick making it clear that he wasn’t going to be afraid to issue cards, you rather felt that in a game that was frantic (if never dirty) we wouldn’t end with 11 v 11 and so it proved.  As it turned out, we finished the first half slightly the better off in this regard as Munari and Vaughan picked up similarly harsh bookings for aggressive aerial challenges.  Vaughan’s caution is always going to limit his physical impact… Munari, however, limped off before the break.  The Italian was terrific during the opening period in which the Hornets were ultimately the better side, his loss perhaps a factor in the turning of the tide thereafter.

3- A pause to mention Troy since before today each game has felt a bit like a bonus, to varying degrees.  Perhaps the last time we’ll see him in yellow, enjoy it while it lasts.  He was always going to be lauded from the rafters and rightly so, but it’s a landmark moment in so many ways.  I don’t remember a recent instance of a talisman, a key player attracting serious attention, being retained.  Arguably not since John Barnes was attracting enquiries in the mid-eighties has such interest in the main man not concluded with the player’s departure.  And yes, I know he went in the end and maybe Troy will too but not now.  A big statement, both from the club and the player, and demonstration of the Pozzos refusal to be pushed around, to give ground.  Since the announcement, just a few days, Troy has visibly taken on the mantle of captain with relish…  Beppe has suggested that he was always a leader, always a de facto captain in the dressing room but there have been periods, games, where we’ve needed Troy and he’s faded in the past.  His tremendous interview in the Watford Observer screams of attitude, a new skipper wanting to talk his charges into a robustness that wasn’t always evident last season.  All power to him.

4- The second half was crackers.  Sean Scannell – whose version of the current fashion for big beards makes him look like a drummer from an early nineties grebo band – sent in a wicked low cross which provoked the confusion between goalkeeper and defender that it was designed to, this capitalised upon by Bunn.  Building on the theme of the consecutive events reflecting each other at either end of the pitch Town conspired to present Almen Abdi, vivacious and mischievous, the opportunity to regain the lead within minutes.  Reports from Yorkshire complain of a foul on Bunn in the build-up but replays suggest that this is fanciful… a collision that would only have been awarded to conservatively protect the defending team and no excuse for the inept defending that followed.  Inability to mark from set pieces was the next theme, James Vaughan pulling clear for a free header at the far post about ten yards out completely unmarked. A textbook attempt back across the goal but without the power was the result, Gomes tipped it round expertly but shouldn’t have had a chance.  From the corner Wallace was similarly vaguely marked and took advantage.   Breathless stuff now, you couldn’t take your eyes off it and Sofia certainly didn’t even if the relentless questions kept coming.  After Munari’s depature (“will he be ok?  How do you know he’s ok?”) the subject of most fascination was Tamas’ departure (“why was he naughty?”).  I like Gabriel Tamas, but there’s something incorrigible about his brand of defending that doesn’t involve holding back on consideration of minor details like being in the penalty area, or having just been booked.  We then had our own go at implausible excuses by arguing that the ball was out of play before the Romanian clobbered Bunn, as if that made it OK, before Huddersfield generously did their own bit of leaving a man free at a set piece, Keith Andrews having time to perform his Ice Bucket challenge before Almen Abdi’s arcing corner reached his forehead at the far post.

5- The rest was all about attitude and very little to do with ability.  That’s encouraging in it’s own way, we know we’ve got the ability, that’s not news.  We know we can turn over opponents who give us space or make stupid decisions (hello, Leeds), that’s not news either, give us an inch we’ll take 1.609 kilometres and molte grazie.  But this was a backs-to-the-wall situation against an opponent who were very much more competent and threatening than their league position suggests, the very definition of The Sort Of Game We Would Have Lost Last Season and so to come through it with such flying colours is hugely positive.  The crowd played its part, a frantic, furious atmosphere that was part chicken and part egg but well done to the 1881 in any case for their part.  As for detail… significant that whilst we rode our luck on occasions Huddersfield’s screw only tended to get them as far as the edge of the penalty area, many of those shots on target optimistic long-range efforts perhaps aimed at assessing quite how safe Gomes’ handling was.  All three substitutes played big roles here;  Andrews a less mobile, less intimidating option than Munari but an organiser and leader, calling the shots as we faced the alamo.  Tommie Hoban, slightly harshly the fall guy as Joel Ekstrand came back in to the starting line-up, slotted in comfortably at first right back and then on the right of a three as we shuffled formation, one stunning interception a psychological body blow to the visitors as a rare clear chance was denied.  Finally, Juan Carlos Paredes came on at right-wing back and telegraphed the final goal before it happened, a warning for Huddersfield but as in our game at Loftus Road last season the visitors could do nothing but continue to chase a crucial goal and Paredes played a part in the move which Abdi finished expertly.  In terms of attitude, then, this couldn’t have presented a clearer contrast to Tuesday night.  Whether it’s a case of omitted players being “disgruntled” or merely the first team being too good, too professional to let their frustrations affect their performance this one goes on the shelf with Rotherham as a hugely valuable and unlikely three points. And, naturally, Sofia wants to come again.  I haven’t the heart to tell her that they’re not all like this…


1. Keith Hannigan - 31/08/2014

Of course they’re not all like this. That isn’t the point. The point is that Sofia was able to have her special time with her Dad and to share the frightfully important triviality that is football. It isn’t the individual matches that stay with you down the years, it’s the connection, the common experience and memory. As she works her way through all the phases, adolescence angst, bad bands, middle school and leaving for university (which my oldest just did), football will be special to her, and even sustaining, because it is a symbol of her beloved father.

As for this individual match, it seems almost churlish to find fault after such exhilaration. I haven’t fully made up my mind yet about Sannino or this team. There are some very good players here, clearly, and I think we are good enough to win promotion but I’m not fully convinced yet. Let’s see what happens when we face a few really accomplished, nasty Championship sides that pack it in, beat us up and don’t allow space to run around in. There is going to come a time (and probably soon) when one of those free headers we keep allowing is going to put us behind, there will be no way to counter-attack and we’ll get frustrated. I want to see what happens then.

2. The Great Big O - 31/08/2014

The best moment, for me, was Angella and Tozser exhorting the crowd to get behind the team. (It reminded me of Tommy Mooney at Peterborough in April 1994.) The response of all three sides of the ground was simply terrific. I’d spent the whole time since Tamas’s dismissal fearfully expecting defeat. Now I was on my feet with everyone else, defiantly and noisily willing the team to victory.

It makes me wonder why I and everyone else can’t do it for 90+ minutes, every week.

I reckon we should all personally follow Troy’s lead. No excuses.

3. Roger Smith - 31/08/2014

Matt, when you publish your anthology of the best BHappy thunks, do be sure to include this one – and please convey my regards to Princess Sophia.

It’s almost churlish to mention it, but if Troy had taken all five of his clear cut chances in the first half, the second half would have been a formality. Maybe, with hindsight, we’ll be glad it wasn’t, as both the team will be immeasurably strengthened by the experience of that glorious final half hour, and the Rookery by an incredible last ten minutes, in which I was proud to play my part.

4. Ramsgate Horn - 31/08/2014

Congratulations to the team for winning,after a lucklustre cup game which I saw with my sons, But in spite of the speculation flying around re Beppes position we got a fine result Only saw the goals on the football league show, but was envious of people who went although very glad..we won and that people who went enjoyed it so much.
For Matt congratulations on Sofias first game its memorable for the dad and the child, you never forget it My son Alexs first game was against Preston in 05, When we lost to Preston in the Boothroyd season, He was 7 And i had a lump in my throat when he jumped up to celebrate Hendersons goal with me, Although we lost that was a special day,
His brother Zach made his debut aged 6 v Chevo Verona Both now accompany me to games, Its like Duncan Hamilton says in his book ,The footballer who could fly , Football is there to be shared,the children will benefit from it so i agree with Keiths post
All the best to all Horns lets hope we come through the transfer window unscathed and keep up the form and go one better than we did in Francos season and go up.

5. Roger Boon - 31/08/2014

Just love your blog, Keith. Spot on in both human and football terms.

6. HornetFez - 31/08/2014

I feel pretty sure that had BSAD still been going then this match would find it’s rightful place in the Famous Victory section. Never mind the quality, feel the passion! You really had to be there to appreciate it. Utterly relentless, emotionally draining, and for us Hornets at least, ultimately victorious. Sensational.

7. Kentish hornet - 31/08/2014

Thank you Keith I fully agree, the point of a game like this is the shared experience – but not complaining about three point either!

This was really a fantastically entertaining game. The atmosphere in the rookery the last 10 minutes was absolutely electric, as good as I can ever remember at vicarage road in 35 years of supporting watford ( I missed the Leicester play off). As one of my boys was ill we took one of the other sons friends, a Charlton fan, and had to explain the same thing to him- this was not exactly normal Watford…..anyway he was certainly impressed.

On the pitch the back three and the goalie looked all over the shop in the first half and continued the same after half time. As an ex centre back the communication looked non existent to me. Once Hoban came on a distinct improvement. But going forward we were excellent, completely agree re munari who was outstanding first half. Abdi was back to his imperious best. The only player who looked completely out of sorts was Anya, he looked to me a shadow of two years ago. Deeney was on the other hand superb, could have had first half hat trick. Finally soecial mention to Angella who got the crowd going – to good effect -maybe we should try to be as fervent every week?

Meanwhile, we have this evenings news. Matt if you can shed any light on this would be grateful!

8. Mike Watson - 31/08/2014

Matt: All excellent stuff as usual but largely made irrelevant by the news about Sannino. Which means someone’s got to start all over again now. Players reportedly complaining they are worked to hard; he shouts at them, and they were all promised / guaranteed first-team starts every time. Who lumbered with Sannino with 24 players anyway? Plus certain fans / logs orchestrating a “Sannino Out” campaign. Presumably they can’t wait to hear the name of our next manager to start another campaign. I have to say I have appreciated what Sannino has tried to achieve/ actually achieved in his short time. It seems we really do not need someone who is so passionate and committed. Oh well, after 55 years as a supporter / season ticket holder I’m thinking this may well be my last. What do people want, instant success??? – Mike

Mike Watson Date: Sun, 31 Aug 2014 12:55:54 +0000 To: m_watson98@hotmail.com

Matt Rowson - 31/08/2014

I dunno. Lots of authoritarian managers in football, but when results are good (which they have been, by and large, under Beppe) players tend to be happy. One or two players being upset/left out wouldn’t upset the apple cart like this, or sway folk as experienced and measured as the Pozzos. That we were getting results and these stories were STILL coming out speaks volumes.

As in Donny thunks, the end of last season was the giveaway – distance between manager’s statements and performances, esp Huddersfield. Only surprise is that he didn’t go sooner.

9. NLFG - 01/09/2014

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