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Watford 5 Charlton Athletic 0 (17/01/2015) 18/01/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- Today was a good day.  The sun shone, a beautiful crisp winter’s day which saw early gentle snowfalls melt away, no wind, no bite, a day to grin at the aggressively blue sky.  Vicarage Road looked fabulous in front of its biggest crowd for nearly seven years in – count them – four stands.  “Your Song” rumbled around Vicarage Road before kick-off and, whilst Charlton started quite brightly and the early exchanges suggested a punchy end-to-end encounter it didn’t take long for the game’s pattern to establish itself.  Troy Deeney played a wicked through-ball to release Anya, the Addicks’ defence fell apart like a house of cards, Chris Solly took a yellow by snatching at the escaping wing-back and that was pretty much that.  Our worst performances tend to have been followed directly by defiance like this since Slav’s arrival and Charlton were the fall guys.  This was the bit of being “inconsistent” that is to be enjoyed.  There are worse things than being inconsistent after all…

2- And Charlton were shocking, as it turned out.  Maybe this one just fell helpfully for us, our opponents at a particularly low ebb but not since Blackpool’s visit last March have we faced opposition so lamentably flimsy and short of confidence.  Early encounters had suggested that there was a threat, but that suggestion crumbled away very quickly; Tal Ben Haim and Andre Bikey are experienced defenders and neither played particularly badly but this was a horribly immobile pairing to put in a high line behind a midfield who never got close enough to their opposite numbers.  The Addicks were exposed defensively over and over again by movement in behind, and when they were back and set we had obviously identified a weakness in the air from set pieces as the ball was invariably played quickly wide for Paredes, Layún, Tözsér or Anya to send a cross in.  This route gave us the opening goal, Cathcart eventualy capitalising from Layún’s right-wing delivery.  Within ten minutes it was two, a ball over the top allowing Deeney to get a run on goal and score a second;  a personal disaster for Bikey this… if you’re a big centre-back you ought to back yourself to make your muscle count in a one-to-one that doesn’t test your pace.  The destructive job is much easier, requires much less precision than the attacking one in that situation but Deeney prevailed to go into double figures for the campaign and become the first player since John Barnes to reach double figures for us for four consecutive seasons.  Any remaining fight went out of Charlton at that point; the second half was a farce, Watford at half-pace for much of it with the gravest concern that the Addicks’ bewildered, haunted inadequacy would spill over into petulant tackles.  It never happened.

3- Dispatches from Huddersfield suggested an underwhelming debut from our new Mexican, albeit with the proviso that judging a player based on a single game and a team non-performance at that was perhaps unreasonable.  Hugely impressive in a nominally central role, Layún spent much time on the right and Paredes seemed to flourish outside him albeit against a side without much of a threat to watch over his shoulder.  Layún displayed a great touch, movement and distribution and simply looked like a fabulous footballer, a beautiful new artery for our football to flow through.  A mention too for George Byers’ popular cameo; the young midfielder was greeted onto the pitch by a strong “welcome to the grown-ups’ game” challenge , to which he responded by booting the miscreant up the arse at the earliest opportunity.  No delicate flower, this one.  Otherwise, in what became a swaggering Watford performance two individuals stood out. Odion Ighalo’s movement and hold-up play are just fabulous; combined with impudence, resilience and personality the Nigerian is becoming a cult hero at Vicarage Road as he was, by all accounts, at Granada.  Alex Geijo and Mathias Ranégie have both struggled, in different ways, to make an impression as nominally the “fourth man” in Watford’s forward armoury.  Ighalo is no longer the fourth anything.  And then there was Daniel Tözsér.  His corner provided Ighalo with his second early in the half, his marvellous party piece gave the scoreline an entirely unflattering flourish in the closing minutes, but beyond that he turned and spun and coaxed and stroked the game to his will.  Often singled out as our pivotal player by savvier opponents his contribution has been limited as a consequence.  Today Charlton gave his the freedom of Vicarage Road and he ripped them to pieces.

4- As I get older I understand the trajectory of football chants less and less. Any number of anthemic and/or witty chants have bitten the dust, for instance, over the period during which the utterly witless “we’re the riiiight side…. We’re the leeeeft side….” stupidity has prevailed.  Today, two aspects of note.  A Mexican wave rumbled around in the second half which may have been concocted in Layún’s honour, or in recognition of our stadium’s new completeness (and of which the visiting supporters were much more accommodating than anyone had any right to expect in the circumstances) but which incidentally reflected the relative non-event of the second half. Secondly, the half-hearted response to Addicks’ keeper Neil Etheridge’s early nervousness was thoroughly underwhelming.  There was a time when such behaviour would have been seized upon mercilessly, but the reaction of the Rookery was tame and Etheridge recovered his composure to keep the score down with a number of fine stops including an impossible save low to his left from a fierce Ighalo drive that might otherwise have seen the Nigerian claim the match ball.  A number of long-term Rookerites have recently decamped to the East Stand, at least one of whom citing in justification that he feels he is too old to be sitting behind the goal.  You know who you are.  This sort of lily-livered behaviour is doing us no favours.

5- This is becoming a traditional line with thunk 5, but nonetheless…  it has to be noted that whilst this afternoon was thoroughly satisfactory in every respect, it was nothing new.  We know that we can turn teams over that are ill-prepared or ill-equipped enough to allow us to play.  One hopes that 5-0 victories will never become passé…  but this was a Ferris Bueller’s Day Out kinda win.  Yes, great, yes, jolly good fun.  But we’ve seen it before, many times. We’ d much rather be stuffing teams like this than not and there’s no sense in taking such things for granted… but our promotion campaign becomes forceful rather than speculative when we start beating teams that make it difficult rather more often.  A few more Readings, in fairness, and a few less Huddersfields. Slav has taken remedial action by sidelining disruptive and unwanted members of the squad…  we can’t judge the appropriateness of individual decisions, but something has clearly been wrong with attitudes, so all power to him for doing something.  The mooted signing of Jay Spearing would be just what the doctor ordered… a bit of welly in an area of the pitch where we’re suddenly shorter of options thanks to injury, Munari joining Abdi and Murray on the injury list.  So… positive steps.  But the fact is that our performances have been inconsistent but not unpredictable.  Until we start taking on all comers in this fashion, wins like today will only count for so much.


1. hornetboy84 - 18/01/2015

great fun indeed!
What was probably a little under estimated yesterday was role of Cathcart, Hoban and Angella – I thought they were just “on it” and 1 or 2 small breaks apart they totally snuffed out any potential threat, were aggressive and basically “more please”.

given that Hoban was as dire as dyer at the valley earlier in the season – this is a) a reminder that he is a great prospect and b) a reminder that fans need to be patient with players and give them time … Especially if injuries are in the way or a new recruit.

And with that Layan. Patience everyone please. But he did look an able Abdi replacement option which is great news. But it will be 5-6 games before we see his real worth.

And it if was a Layan Wave. It’ll do for me ! Helps keep the 6 year old busy more than just waving at Harry!


Matt Rowson - 18/01/2015

That’s a very good point. Hoban in particular has been really impressive since he came back into the team.

2. SteveG - 18/01/2015

They were poor, and we have been here before, and yet… suddenly we did seem like a team, rather than a collection of talented individuals. Ighalo had a great afternoon, not least because it really seemed that he and Deeney were playing for each other and the team as well as themselves. The game was dead by the time Vydra came on, of course, but the mood and the body language did seem to change subtly.

And there are definitely signs that the coach is taking decisive action – the no-nonsense sidelining of several individuals who haven’t been pulling their weight, and giving the chance for 10 minutes to a (clearly raw) young man who nevertheless took the opportunity to get stuck in are both very clear statements of intent. Of course it could all go horribly wrong again and we could capitulate when faced with a more demanding challenge, but the optimistic part of me thinks that this could have been a very significant week.

3. Sequel - 18/01/2015

I, too, thought Tozser was outstanding. I particularly enjoyed his ear-cupping reaction to the Charlton fans’ gestures, after he had taken the corner from which Ighalo scored.
Such sweet details tend to make my day.

4. straightnochaser - 18/01/2015

Has there ever been a time previously, I wonder, when we’ve played with 4 ‘wing-backs’ (nominally) on the pitch simultaneously? Or, for that matter, a previous instance of opposing fans having sung “We are going down!” about their own team?

Matt Rowson - 18/01/2015

Not sure about the former but plenty of the latter. Gallows humour is surely prevalent in such situations… I remember a lot of the likes of “Car-lisle, on a Tuesday night” in 1996…

5. sirhornet - 18/01/2015

Few points from me:
1) Thought the ref was one of the best i.e. least noticed we’ve had for some time.
2) Some pretty nasty chanting from the CAFC fans towards a woman was particularly unpleasant.
3) CAFC team were too scared to go down to their fans at the end because of the abuse they were getting.

6. The Great Big O - 19/01/2015

We looked a much better side with Ighalo up front. His ability to receive and hold/turn makes him a great focus and allows our forward movement of the ball to be more direct. It means we don’t have to bide our time on the ball in midfield waiting for openings. It was noticeable that he and Deeney weren’t coming back into midfield looking for the ball in the way Deeney and Vydra do – so our front two were keeping their back line busy and stretched, meaning Charlton found it hard to suffocate our midfield. We looked much more like a successful Championship side – with energy and momentum going forwards. What with crosses into the box as well, I thought it looked as if it had suddenly clicked what tends to work in this division.

7. simmos - 19/01/2015

Matt, I agreed with your thunks as always but while I do not want to appear negative we must treat this result with caution. We know we can play well when we are allowed room and space by the opposition but I doubt if the majority of teams we now face until the end of the season will allow so much time.

I still have major concerns over our defence. We were only occasionally tested by Charlton and in the face of stiffer opposition I am not sure about a couple of our players. Having had the advantage of seeing the Huddersfield game we defended so poorly it was embarrassing. We had numerous bodies in the box defending but no-one was actually marking any of their forwards. In particular the crucial first goal in that game came about as a result of no-one picking up Wells in the middle of the 6 yard box despite the numbers in there. Again on the evidence of Saturday’s game, while at 0-0, Charlton had chances to go ahead. I think we all have our doubts about Paredes defensive abilities but I am also going to be a bit controversial and suggest that Angella lacks concentration as I feel he fails to pick out runs of opposition forwards. When we are playing well Angella looks a class above but often when we are struggling he seems the weak link in the current back three. At 0-0 he was the one that lost the ball and then showed no effort to track back to stop the run which allowed Charlton their only shot on target. Against better opposition such as Bournemouth we would probably have found ourselves behind and would the team then have played with such freedom? I have my doubts.

As you have said it was great fun on Saturday but as you also seem to have mooted, lets not go overboard as I don’t think that this result alone means we have solved all our problems.

Matt Rowson - 19/01/2015

This was (supposed to be) the thinking in Thunk 5.

simmos - 19/01/2015

Having re-read your thunk 5 I do seem to have repeated your comments and you certainly put it much more elequently than me.

However I also wanted to highlight what I perceive to be one of our limitations and to see if others agree about Angella being a defensive weak link when the going gets tough. I realise he is a favourite among most fans so I expect brickbats but I think he has a habit of going missing at times when we need him to take command. I think a no nonsense defender like Batth of Wolves should be top priority this January.

Matt Rowson - 19/01/2015

I think we can be vulnerable against an aerial assault, certainly… something that Charlton didn’t offer. Tamas was signed to solve that problem and didn’t; Bassong helped. Huddersfield and Wolves have both hurt us this way. I’m not sure I agree that Angella is a route cause of the problem; he’s certainly got a mistake in him but 3-5-2 is inevitably going to expose the back three sometimes.

8. Harefield Hornet - 19/01/2015

On a brighter note! – my 8 year old daughters 2nd game and a considerable improvement on Boxing Day! Now she thinks we will win 5 nil every week so have invested 30 quid for a “half-year” season ticket to enable her to see the remainder of our home matches! Cheers for the inspiration Matt! P.S. Layan = Class! Surely he’s not really a defender – is he?

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