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Watford 2 Wigan Athletic 1 (13/12/2014) 14/12/2014

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- Another special day at Vicarage Road, irrespective of the game itself or the result.  A bright, crisp winters afternoon and a raucous welcome for the club’s most exalted fan and ex-chairman.  He took the microphone at ten to three and gushed his appreciation from the centre-circle as the haunting “Elton John’s Taylor-Made Army”, an echo from the past, rumbled around the Rookery for the first of many airings on the afternoon. Completely fitting that the club should honour both him and GT in this way… but as my co-editor would wish me to point out it speaks rather a lot for our current owners too, of whom Elton also spoke glowingly.  Too easy to overlook the significance of this… well of course Watford should have stands named after these Graham and Elton who did so much for the club and the town.  But how many chairmen/owners would have the lack of ego to honour any of their predecessors in this way?  And how utterly sensible to make this move, during an era where the club’s links to its tradition and community are too frequently and lazily challenged.



Coming hot on the tails of the opening of the Graham Taylor stand, more facetiously, ours can’t have been the only corner of the ground to ponder what else might be renamed in honour of the heroes (or otherwise) of the past.  The Les Taylor clock, the Gerry Armstrong sub’s bench and the Trevor Senior corner flag the best we managed.

2- If we started well enough, then there was a slightly disappointing lack of going for the jugular early on.  Possession, yes, and plenty of it but… and of course a 5-0 away win is an impossibly high bar to set…  you did rather expect that whilst Fulham, a recent Premier League club on a bit of a roll might push forward and leave us gaps, Malky Mackay is rather too canny for that.  Not that Wigan were ever merely spoilers… but the pattern that the game settled into, ultimately, of us having the ball but not being able to fashion enough space to do much with it always felt a likely outcome.  Coming out like a hurricane with a view to bludgeoning an early lead was what I had anticipated.  Instead it took until the 20th minute, when Anya slipped Deeney in down the left to finish with bristling confidence.  At the Rookery end, Heurelho Gomes roared into the crowd.

3- Wigan looked like a reasonable side but for the lack of a focal point.  Or to put it another way, Wigan with a Deeney in their ranks would be a top half outfit, but that statement probably goes for most of the division…  in any case, a slightly obvious point to make about a side that took to the field without a recognised striker – winger James McClean fumbling around rather uncomfortably up front.  Defensively they were sound enough, Boyce and Barnett plenty savvy enough for most at this level.  In midfield they squashed the space of Abdi and Tözsér, both of whom misplaced a far greater number of passes than is typical- as so often recently, we had cause to be grateful for the bullying presence of Gianni Munari who made sure that the visitors didn’t have it all their own way, even if his interruptions sometimes involved little more than knocking his opponent over.  But when Wigan got as far as our penalty area… the lack of a forward, a target, was painfully evident; the only route to goal a ping-ping-ping to release a midfield runner, of which there were several.  Evidently the Hornets feared little from set pieces, such was our happiness to concede throw-ins deep into our half rather than trying to play out, so it was a little aggravating that that’s how the equaliser came, Chris McCann losing his man to crash a header past the helpless Gomes following a right wing corner.

4- The winning goal gives the whole afternoon a gloss, of course, and Slav is right to reflect on the value and the positive implications of being able to pull out a result when not at your best.  The goal, (to which we’ll devote most of the final thunk, so don’t go anywhere boys and girls) may prove hugely significant for a number of reasons, but most immediately it will dilute the memory of a rather tetchy afternoon.  Not in the conflict itself, which was never particularly antagonistic, but in the sullen mood of the Watford side.  This was eloquently reflected in the performance of a would-be cheerleader on the lower East side of the Rookery who, in apparent frustration at the failure of the majority of the stand to replicate the sterling efforts of the 1881 stage left would turn frequently to remonstrate with those around and above him… not in jest, or in encouragement but in snarling, disgusted, red-faced outrage.  That was the mood on the pitch too…  so much quality, and when given a convenient platform with all the planets in line, as at Craven Cottage, an irresistibly beautiful thing.  And yet still so much less than the sum of its parts… no lack of effort, no passengers, but a lack of drive and of a sense of shared purpose.  If anyone’s found a website knocking off bottles of team spirit whilst doing their Christmas shopping we could do with a batch or two…  Tözsér and Anya clashed in the wake of the goal, misplaced passes and misread runs were greeted with frustrated gestures and irritation.  As remedies go, an English-speaking assistant manager with long experience of the division including of getting teams promoted, a people’s person as a go-between twixt squad and manager, to cajole and encourage and polish the rough edges who also happens to be the club’s record appearance maker doesn’t feel like a bad idea.  Wonder where we might find one of those…

5- The winner was brilliant.  Malky Mackay might complain of sloppiness and viewed objectively he’s probably right but this was still a fine thing, mere sloppiness – rather than slapstick clown-shoes incompetence – has to be forced into relevance after all.  The tone of our play had changed with the introduction of Ighalo for the industrious Vydra…  in his mere enthusiasm, his willingness to show for the ball and eagerness to do something Ighalo stood out and his attitude was infectious.  Marvellous that Anya was at the heart the goal itself;  his recent contributions haven’t lived up to his new-found international profile and he’d had a bit of a stinker of a first half, albeit isolated on his weaker side until the half time withdrawal of Paredes who had appeared to pick up a knock.  But he’s so obviously a good bloke, why wouldn’t you be rooting for him, be wanting him to do well.  As Tözsér released him on the overlap down the right you were reminded of that goal against Leicester, when however many consecutive full ninety minutesworth at wing back didn’t count for a damn as he charged half the length of the pitch in the build-up to Deeney’s strike.  Don Cowie, no longer the arch-villain of his return with Cardiff, always had astonishing stamina… Anya has stamina and pace, and ripped up his marker on the overlap past Tözsér before hoiking a peach of a cross from the by-line to the far-post for Troy Deeney to crash home a headed goal (and a rare one – Birmingham away at the start of 2013 was the verdict from resident sage Jon Marks on Twitter).  Proper old school goal, anyway, Tommy Mooney would have been proud.  As Deeney acknowledged the Rookery it was Anya who was mobbed…  perhaps those concerns about team spirit had been misplaced, perhaps we just need a bit of a run to feel happy about ourselves again.  Either way, no doubting that Anya’s triumph was a popular one with his team mates, and the win keeps us up with the pack going into the Christmas fixtures.  More to do though, we earned this win but will need to be a bit cuter about similar challenges in future.

Have a good Christmas…


1. straightnochaser - 14/12/2014

I know there are contractual issues with his previous employer but I’m sincerely hoping Madjeski doesn’t dispense with Adkins & seek to appoint SNG at Reading before the Pozzos have the deal over the line.
And at the risk of pedantry, Anya ran only a fairly short distance with the ball in THAT Leicester match before passing to Forestieri but his sublime killing of the ball from Cassetti’s steepling clearance was a gem of a largely unsung contribution.
Thanks for another excellent set of thunks Matt – you & ig disappoint far less often than even the most likeable professional footballers.
And a Happy Christmas to you & yours too…

Matt Rowson - 14/12/2014

Cheers… but to continue the pedantic line, he picked up the ball midway inside his own half and released Forestieri on the right wing when halfway into Leicester’s half… so “half the length of the pitch”, by definition.

straightnochaser - 14/12/2014

Good lord, how embarrassing – the only thing worse than pedantry has to be incorrect pedantry! And yes, you prompted me to watch it again. Apologies.

Stephen B - 15/12/2014

I suspect it will be Steve Clarke……..

Vaughn Smith - 15/12/2014

‘steepling clearance’ – doesn’t do justice to Cassetti’s magnificent pass. Watch very, very, closely and you’ll see Marco briefly glance over his left shoulder before finding Ikechi with a precision pass. Every element of the move from the initial double save was perfect in its own way, and contributed to possibly the greatest goal ever witnessed at the Vic.

2. John M - 14/12/2014

Liked the idea of naming parts of the ground after heroes and otherwise. In the sixties there would have been the Scullion row Z, The Brian Owen clock, The Keith Eddy penalty spot and the Barry Dyson penalty spot (you needed to be there).

3. Goldenboy60 - 14/12/2014

Our inconsistency is baffling at times. I thought we started belligerently but not out of the traps as we had done at Fulham. Back a bit to the laboured stuff for me, and not passing forward quickly enough to put the opponents on the back foot early doors. I worry about some of the hand gestures to their team mates when a pass isn’t quite right and little arguments appearing on the pitch. Not good in my view.

But why is the question? It maybe the pressure to get promoted coming from all quarters including the crowd who have a very high expectation. All this talk about us having a good squad. We may have on paper but we are not always functional as a team. Perhaps we should all take a rain check and just lower expectations and let the players play in a more relaxed atmosphere without the pressure. Just maybe, they will pick up some momentum from game to game and play more consistently at a higher tempo.

But one thing is for certain, they keep us guessing what is going to happen next.

Great speech from Elton and particularly liked the reference to Wigan and the job they have done since coming into the Football League. That is more like the GT Watford, with a friendship and hand open to other clubs. I noticed the Wigan faithful all clapping Elton in appreciation. Nice touch Elton.

4. NickB - 15/12/2014

I like the Scullion row Z. And there’s the Albert McClenaghan touch line.

5. Old Git - 15/12/2014

Bugger! I was just about to say the Albert McClenaghan touch line. Although strictly speaking, it was just behind….
so what about the Pierre Issa Stretcher?

John M - 15/12/2014

Like the stretcher suggestion. Have to admit every time I think of the Pierre Issa incident I have to chuckle—.

6. Harefield Hornet - 15/12/2014

Glad you noted the last time Deeney scored with his head – this was a subject I discussed with a few others after the match, which incidently was always on a hiding to nothing after the romp at Craven Cottage. Wigan arne’t a bad side and I suspect Malky with have them climbing the table pretty soon. Does anyone actually know exactly just how many times Troy has scored for us with his head? – I suspect single figures?

7. James - 15/12/2014

The Darren Bazeley front row of the Rookery?

The Neil Cox wall?

The Mick Quinn extra large steak & kidney pie with a double helping of chips?

Personally I thought Anya had an excellent first half. Offering an out ball when no one else did, and if frequently no one else managed to get forward to support him, that’s not his fault.
His cushioned nod down for the first goal was excellent as well.

I still don’t think Munari has enough impact on a game for a player of his ability. He was excellent when he came on against Derby and he was decent against Cardiff, but on Saturday he was back to how he’d been in the autumn. Not exactly hiding, but not really making anything happen either. Never busting a gut to get forward to support an attack.

Abdi looked out of sorts. He was looking to do things and get forward, but nothing was really coming off. Guédioura really livened things up though. He looks a bit better in the middle than he did wider.

8. Wrighty - 15/12/2014

surely the Atwell goalposts (about 3 yards wider than the actual goalposts)

9. Big Al - 16/12/2014

The Paul Wilkinson Assistant Referees’ flags

10. Sequel - 17/12/2014

The Les Taylor Invisible Midfield

11. Old Git - 17/12/2014

The Roger Joslyn First Aid Kit.

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