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Watford 1 AFC Bournemouth 1 (20/09/2014) 20/09/2014

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- Being live on the telly carries with it a few considerations. For one thing, it’s an awful lot easier to write about a midweek trip to Blackpool, for instance, internet streaming or otherwise. If nobody’s seen the game then it’s not difficult to add to their understanding of how it went down… and less likely that anyone’s going to pick me up on a sloppy detail. Consequence number two is that everyone’s performing a little bit, even now in the era of blanket coverage. This went for daughter number one and daughter number two, stopped by a Sky crew on Vicarage Road at 11.15 and eager to wave their yellow, red and black garlands around their heads for the cameras. It went for the referee as well, who was irritatingly assiduous about free kicks being taken in the right spot but missed a lot of rather more fundamental stuff, frustrating both sides into the process. The close attention of Bournemouth’s aggressive midfield wasn’t acknowledged, Ian Harte’s lethal, cynical hack on Forestieri should have been given a red card… all round, tiresome. His performance was at the forefront of the girls’ post-match account to their great-grandmother, delivered with the withering shakes of the head of seasoned veterans.

2- The referee wasn’t, in any case, central to the outcome of the game, a game that wasn’t in itself radically different to the same fixture early last season in many respects. The visitors, of whom more below, were competitive and impressive and potent then too, for the most part… the difference was that we got our noses in front and made hay as the Cherries chased the game with incorrigible optimism. In a match that had bursts of being similarly end to end we never had that luxury today. The other key difference was the absence of Troy Deeney, hat-trick hero of that game a year ago. For all that our squad has depth and options Deeney is the captain and talisman, and is fundamental to the way we play as the number of consecutive appearances he’d made before today demonstrated. The consequence of his absence was a predictably lightweight forward line that had plenty of zip and energy but asked a lot of a midfield that was being pressured for space at every opportunity. There were performances like this at the start of Zola’s season, before Troy’s return to the side. Pace and movement are great, but if that’s all you’ve got then you’re rather easy to defend against. The Cherries played their role too a tee… our midfield was hassled into overquick or long passes, or simply caught in possession; Abdi and Anya were both off the pace and we didn’t have Troy’s incredible strength to turn rushed balls into threatening positions. How we missed his presence… and I was surprised that Gianni Munari’s physicality remained on the bench. Bournemouth’s discipline wasn’t offering many gaps, we needed a mallet where rapiers were failing.

3- Bournemouth were terrific. As I’ve said, they weren’t 6-1 dreadful last year really… but more than earned the point they got here. A very easy side to support at the moment one suspects, with a combination of disciplined defenders, industrious and tidy midfielders typified by the excellent Harry Arter, and honest endeavour in attack. Aggressive and competitive but, with the possible exception of Harte’s execution of Forestieri, not cynical. Nothing that would leave a nasty taste in the mouth. I don’t quite hold with the Occupation Road consensus that we’d got out of jail… with a squad of this quality even a ragged performance has something about it and if there were far too many misplaced passes the fact is that even one of those passes being on target might have meant an extra goal against a side that didn’t create too much in the way of clear-cut chances themselves. Nonetheless, when Arter’s fine strike gave them the lead midway through the second half we didn’t have much to complain about.

4- Earlier on, Gabriel Tamas had put in a performance that was all but a parody of his eventful Watford career to date. With the ball… majestic, almost contemptuously dismissive of any challenge and capable of slinging raking passes across the pitch like a central midfielder. Without the ball… a clumsy, thuggish calamity. His one-on-one with Callum Wilson looked like a major issue as soon as it presented itself, the Romanian being caught on the wrong side of his charge and making a silly, unwinnable challenge anyway. Ian Harte’s wonky penalty a major let-off but Tamas continued to look befuddled and exploitable until appearing to twist his knee in a horrible looking fall on the half hour. On came Craig Cathcart for his second Watford debut and everything settled down almost instantaneously. His performance was composed and disciplined, verging on the elegant, and he sealed what was already comfortably a (Watford) man of the match display with a gorgeous volley to salvage a point in the final ten minutes.

5- So what, really. We’ve not learned an awful lot from this fixture, much as (being a home game) it’s one that we’d have expected three points from. Deeney leaves a great big hole. The team is a little rudderless and in need of some polishing. There’s an awful lot of quality anyway, and crazy depth in the squad (Craig Cathcart is only fourth? fifth? in line before today, right?). Some of it’s good. Some of it’s less good. None of this is news. Next…

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Comments»

1. Paul Caygill - 20/09/2014

The irony of the equaliser was when the Sky commentator said that he could see one big chance in the last ten minutes. Within 25 seconds… Still, a point gained I feel in a game which we would have probably lost last season.

2. Leggatts 'orn - 21/09/2014

For different reasons two s/t holding mates were watching the game on telly. My view of Harte’s assault on Forestieri, texted to them from the Rookery, was “straight red”. No they both replied, that would have been harsh. I have not seen the assault on TV, but I wonder if our head on view made it look more blood curdling than it did on TV or from refs view. That said the ref was a fussy tit.

JohnM - 21/09/2014

Fussy maybe—thankfully not enough to send Tamas off, which he should have done. I was at the match, and masochistic enough to watch the sky recording. Seeing the recording, I have to agree, a red for Harte would have been harsh. For whatever reason, it did look worse ‘live’.

3. NRC - 21/09/2014

We should perhaps take solace in the fact that we remain fourth despite rather than because of form. Nothing here that can’t be sorted once the manager and captain are back, but frustrating all the same.

4. Roger Smith - 21/09/2014

As you report, we were pressured for time and space, but that was because we were our own worst enemy. In Deeney’s absence, we needed to change our style by keeping the ball on the ground, and got it half right. The problem was that we played the ball to the feet of colleagues who were both static and tightly marked, making it easy for the defender to anticipate and intercept the pass.

Time and again Vydra and co were poised to make a run onto a ball in space only to get a hospital pass if it reached them at all. No wonder he was frustrated. The pass must bisect the defence and be weighted so that our quick players get to it before the defence can react.

Harte’s challenge most definitely did deserve a straight red, not for its violence alone, but also for its professionalism: it robbed us of a promising breakaway, giving the Bournemouth defence a chance to regroup before we could take the free kick.

5. RS - 21/09/2014

See, or used to hear, that there’s either a new PA amp or Shorty finally texted where the volume control is. Still have “Heros” ringing in my ears. Not much else to say really. Think I read (somewhere else) Dyer was a grumpy boy again he seems to have one trick only and the slide rule passes into “his” channel were less and less likely as the game wore on.

Still looking for unification…

6. Peter - 21/09/2014

Great read as ever. Glad to see you mention just how good Bournemouth were. Eddie Howe is doing something very special with that club that has echoes of GT’s first reign at the Vic.

The importance of Deeney was always going to leave a big gap to fill but I thought Vydra was looking to play off the shoulder of the last defender and whilst we worked many chances for Abdi or Tozser to slot him in, they seemed reticent to release the ball behind a high Bournemouth defence (especially in the first half). I felt sorry for Vydra he kept working hard despite a lack of physicality. – hope Oscar’s return will change this.

Love the fact that your daughters were slathering the ref – you’re hiding them well!

7. Goldenboy60 - 21/09/2014

It’s amazing what expectation does. I believe that is a massive issue we have. I don’t think our performance was as bad as some people both on here and in the Watford Obby are making out.

Given the outcome of this seasons start both on and off the pitch it has not really settled down yet. I see the players giving their all but still not quite together as a football team. But we are only 2 points off the top so a very reasonable start given the events that have occurred in the club so far this season.

We did not deserve to beat Bournemouth last season 6-1 but it happened. And we were settled then. Patience is the key and Garcia’s illness of course has further muddied the waters. It has not been easy for us.

We say we have a great squad, but so have a lot of teams in this division. It is how that squad comes together in a playing pattern and a flow which matters, so given the changes and lack of stability in our management team, we need to give it time.

Don’t agree with the Anya comment. He and FF were the only players likely to turn the game, and Anya with his pace on the left really gave their full back a hard time. What I like about Anya is that if he gets it wrong he is straight back at people again. He has a big heart and has some real quality and pace.

I question the decision not to start with Ighalo who offers a target to hit when an out ball is required. Vydra struggled with that even though Anya and Dyer initially tried to support from behind and to the side of him. Vydra gets very frustrated if the ball delivered isn’t quite right. He needs to handle that better in my opinion.

In all though, a point was hard fought and well won in the end, and a little more composure from Vydra at the death could have stolen the game. I was impressed with Bournemouth, their organisation and industry, and they had more steel than last year. No team is easy in this league and games are frenetic.

Unfortunately the situation the referees are in now make it sometimes feel that they are deciding the result and not the two teams playing. The change in laws over the years and the increase in speed of play make their job very difficult. I don’t think the referee had a bad game but of course he got some decisions wrong. Tamas should have gone but then so should have Harte for the foul on FF. But referee’s sometimes cannot win. I trust anybody on here to try and referee at this level now. Very, VERY difficult.

The season is still young and still settling in within the Championship. Hopefully as we go through the Autumn, we can become more stabilised and consistent. I feel this Division gets harder as each year goes by as more and more clubs with wealthy owners look for that Gold pot financially that is the Premiership.

8. Red - 21/09/2014

Three penalities against us in three matches could indicate either that there is still an unsettled dressing room (who cares?) or a lack of discipline again this season – so perhaps we will need all of those defenders.

9. Simon - 21/09/2014

With the obvious advantage of watching the recorded game later, the villain of the assault on Forestieri was Cook, not Harte.

Matt Rowson - 21/09/2014

How bizarre. In my head it’s still Ian Harte, and plenty of others concur but you must be right… quite apart from you having watched it again, Harte wasn’t even booked…

10. Wrighty - 21/09/2014

So then are there two Craig Cathcarts, because that surely can’t be the same one?

11. drewoneone - 21/09/2014

One for you Matt – when was the last time Watford had a penalty awarded against them in each of three consecutive matches and only one was scored? Not only that – no saves by the goalkeeper(s) in the two unsuccessful attempts!

Last season’s recurring nightmare of losing or drawing games as the result of very late conceded goals seems to have been rectified (so far). However, this set of bad dreams is being replaced by disasters in the first 3-4 minutes – i.e. Ekstrand’s sending off and two penalties. At least this time round there is time to put things right…….

Agree with your comment in point 5 about “polishing” being required. This is a strong squad in need of being more finely tuned before it becomes effective enough to secure promotion. Perhaps this will happen when Oscar gets back.

12. Robin Walters - 22/09/2014

Am I the only one to think that the challenge on Tamas before the penalty was a blatant push? I wondered whether it was shoulder to shoulder so I’ve looked at it carefully, and my first impressions are confirmed.

Matt Rowson - 22/09/2014

He MIGHT have been pulled up for it. Tamas needed to be stronger than that though.

13. Joe Richardson - 22/09/2014

We really did ride our luck here, not only with Tamas avoiding a red card and the subsequent missed penalty, but then Ekstrand looked to give away a second penalty mid-way through the first half.

What frustrated me the most was the damage Wilson’s speed did to us before Tamas was replaced, and the fact that we don’t seem able to replicate that ourselves with Dyer, Anya and Vydra. As mentioned by another above, on the occasions when we look like we’re about to carve the defence open with a killer pass it doesn’t come and inevitably the attack fizzles out. Anya particularly seemed to double-back rather than tear into the box or put the ball into the dangerzone.

Whilst our league position suggests we’re getting results without hitting top gear, these penalty misses and other close-calls could easily have turned the last 3 results into 1 point from 9.

Fingers crossed for a swift Garcia and Deeney recovery!

14. Kevin Henderson - 22/09/2014

The push on Tamas was similar to Vardy’s on Raphael. Both should have resulted in a free kick to the defender. However, that incident aside, Tamas was a nightmare. I hope that I don’t see him in a Watford shirt again. Every time he plays, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

15. NickB - 23/09/2014

Matt – Any chance you could drop the AFC from Bournemouth’s name? Personally find it nearly as irritating as MK Dons. If I recall correctly, they originally came up with it in order to be first out in the classified results…


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