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Watford 7 Blackpool 2 (24/01/2015) 25/01/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- Superlatives are easy to wave around.  In trying to convey drama, even if you’re not trying to “sell” anything, no vested interest in pumping up a mega hyper Super Duper Sunday (or whatever) the temptation to exaggerate can be overwhelming.  “No, really, it was SO incredible”.  But there’s no overstating this.  On a day of extraordinary results this one didn’t get a mention on 5 Live in the forty-odd minutes it took us to crawl from the Girls Grammar to the Cassiobury estate, under the radar…  and yet few in the stadium will have seen anything like it.

The game started, what feels like eons ago, in much the same fashion as last week’s equally emphatic and yet ultimately more routine and vastly less interesting win over Charlton Athletic; a bright and punchy opening with the critical distinction that whilst we prodded Addicks and they fell open like a chocolate orange,  this time the visitors got the break. A shambles down our right with Paredes – who, like the otherwise impeccable Miguel Layún, occasionally seemed surprised at being closed down  – and Gomes getting into a horrible mess and presenting Orlandi with a straightforward opportunity to put the Seasiders ahead.  A calamity on several levels – not least because it gave our visitors something tangible to hold on to.  They looked limited but disciplined, and we’d acquiesced meekly to their gameplan that would involve standing up to our forwards, keeping their shape and grabbing what they could grab.  We weren’t awful in this period… we had lots of possession and made a few chances, not least when the ever-positive Ighalo found himself in space after his marker lost the ball and punched a shot that Parish clawed out of the top corner.  But we didn’t look terribly like scoring either, light in midfield, too many players looking unconvincing and unconvinced on the fringes of the action.  It was hugely reminiscent of the dying embers of Gianfranco Zola’s reign, when any team with a scout, or a brain, figured out that they could roll up, keep their shape and wait for us to screw up whilst breaking ourselves on their banks of four.  This Blackpool did competently and grabbed a second through the unpleasant Davies, his third goal on visits to Vicarage Road in recent seasons.  Exasperating, but a very real challenge for Slav and the team and therefore interesting.  How much have we learned?  Are we smart enough to counter this yet?

2- Half time was disgruntled, as you might expect.  A pigeon high in the roof of the Rookery summed up the mood by crapping on Felix’s shoulder, perhaps in response to his suggestion that the visitors would crumble as soon as we scored and that it was merely a question of how quickly we would make the breakthrough.  I was with the pigeon; I didn’t see that coming at all. Blackpool weren’t Charlton, a limited side who’d been punching above their weight, gotten unrealistic expectations and were now suffering from the twin challenges of gravity and momentum.  The Seasiders had been bouncing along the bottom all season, there’s no further down to go.  Lee Clark’s side had some shape and some grit, and much as they hadn’t won an away game they’d been scraping together points and had enough about them to make a gift-wrapped two-goal lead away at a side with pretensions something that could be defended by bloody-mindedness, bodies on the line to protect what they had.  Even if they shipped a goal they’d still have a lead.  Even if they shipped two a point would have been a decent result.  I expected us to have to scrap for every inch, I expected it to be frustrating, I wasn’t convinced we were up to it.

3- Boy was I wrong.  We struck back almost immediately, and then hit the visitors like a tidal wave.  They were complicit in their own downfall, lumbering punch drunk after the ball as the scoreline rattled away from them and very much not closing the game up, but take nothing away from the Hornets either on or off the pitch, this was something special.  Slav made a crucial tactical change in bringing off Hoban for debutant Watson, of whom more below…  suddenly we had an extra body in midfield with Vydra, who had looked uncomfortable and constrained in the Abdi position at the front of the midfield, now with more freedom.  Whether, had things not developed as they did, Blackpool would have put more pressure on our full backs we don’t know… but as it was their limited attacking threat in the face of the blistering whirlwind of yellow shirts meant that Paredes and Anya were able to attack as much as they had in the first half without glancing over their shoulders.  As for the goals…  the extraordinary deluge, the concentration of strikes that saw us turn the game around in less than 10 minutes and hit seven in a breathtaking 34 were less individual incidents worthy of distinct dissection than artifacts, bi-products of the performance itself.  Odion Ighalo grabbed four through disciplined forward play, being in the right place, making the run, being positive.  Vydra scored perhaps the best and most vital of the bunch and his play flowered with confidence immediately, linking up dynamically with Anya down the left and then playing in the wickedly delicate ball that made Ighalo’s hat-trick goal.  It could have been more, and the final scoreline once again didn’t flatter us.  All that prevented more goals as the Seasiders continued to leave us wide open spaces was that our feverish running had simply left us without legs.

4- A word for Nyron Nosworthy, so recently of this parish, and Craig Cathcart who have effectively traded places since last season… and one can only conclude that both sides have benefitted from the exchange.  In the first half Nyron was solid, leaving his former teammate Troy Deeney a peripheral figure;  in the second he was blown away with the rest of the debris into which the visitors disintegrated.  And yet the Seasiders, in their current state, will probably find his experience, physique and force of personality of greater immediate value than Craig Cathcart’s more elegant form of defending.  Whereas… it’s difficult to imagine Nyron, for all his qualities, being comfortable with bringing the ball out in the way that all three of our centre-backs were needing and able to do at different stages.  The concern with Cathcart will remain his horribly brittle-sounding injury record, but every on-pitch contribution has been positive.

5- Sitting sixth in the League it’s inappropriate to use the term “turning the corner” whether or not this match has any lasting significance.  And yet one can’t help but feel that this was hugely important in so many ways… the sort of position that we found ourselves in at half time is one that we’ve struggled lamentably to pull ourselves away from  in the past and yet today it looked effortless, even if one forgets about the dramatic margin of victory for the moment.  The scoreline, the second half performance were extraordinary… but coming from two down in such circumstances is worth celebrating on its own.  In looking forward to the closing months of the season one can only be encouraged by the latest addition to the ranks; Ben Watson is hardly a stranger, a frequent opponent over the years and yet in the second half it was encouraging how much part of the machine he looked.  A continuity player, not someone who will do the spectacular things but he’ll combine the Jonathan Hogg trick of always being there to receive a pass with a miserliness with possession.  A real asset, and a good option.  And over time, as the Pozzo squad accumulates, you have to reflect that Hogg himself, and then only arguably, is one of very few to have got away.  We’ve seen a huge turnover of players and yet we’ve retained the cream which has seen us build an extraordinary squad, perhaps unparalleled in the club’s history.  Today suggested that as well as the quality we have the personality and the tactical wit to mount a promotion bid that will be very much more than theoretical.  What comes next, starting with Friday’s trip to Bournemouth, will be fascinating.



1. Roger Smith - 25/01/2015

As usual, a masterly account of the agony and the ecstacy. I was disappointed that we reverted to keeping possession at the back in the last ten minutes. I don’t think anyone was knackered, and they should have been running on euphoria. Our goal difference is still inferior to Bournemouth’s – but that may all change on Friday. COYH!

2. SteveG - 25/01/2015

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I can’t claim any witnesses to corroborate the thoughts in my head at half time, but I did still think we would turn this around. We’d self-evidently not been great in the first half, but by the time they scored their second we might well have been 2-1 up, and it always seemed to me that Blackpool might disintegrate under pressure. So I thought 3-2 was still on, maybe even 4-2 if they capitulated horribly. But not seven, obviously.

The bloke sitting next to me said that he wouldn’t rule out 4-4 at the point where we went 4-2 up, but that never looked likely once that second half whirlwind had struck.

Plus several encouraging bits of team ethic, I thought: Vydra put in a decent shift in a role which was out of his comfort zone – pleased to see him back on the score sheet; Hoban played well and showed some of that excellent reading of the game that gets him into the right place at the right time, but it’s a team game, and his substitution was the right call to give us the shape and attacking prowess to overwhelm Blackpool in the second half; and also Deeney, Ighalo and Vydra genuinely seemed to be working together and for each other.

And I was there. And a close working colleague is a Blackpool fan. I’ll try not to smile too broadly on Monday morning.

James - 26/01/2015

I totally agree Steve. We had three very good chances in the first half. Vydra poked one wide, and Anya twice had the opportunity to square it for Ighalo for a tap-in. The first he time failed to look up and the second time he mis-hit it straight to the keeper.
I thought we dominated the first half. We were just rubbish in both boxes.

3. simmos - 25/01/2015

Excellent as always Matt and fully agree with all you have said. I think like you I came away from the ground wondering if this game was that “Tranmere moment”.

4. JohnM - 25/01/2015

From a statistical point of view, that was the first time in the club’s history that they have scored seven goals in one half of a game. Ighalo joins a small club of players scoring four: In the 70 years or so since the war, he joins Maurice Cook, Barry Dyson, Blissett(twice), Jenkins and Chopra. When you see ’em, you never forget ’em! I missed the Chopra one, and Cook was before my time, but I remember the others! An extraordinary game which young supporters will remember in 40 or 50 years time!

SteveG - 25/01/2015

Has there ever been a game with nine goals all scored at one end?

5. Robin Walters - 25/01/2015

The thing that stood out for me on the highlights was the 7th goal – the score’s 6-2 and Deeney’s got a clear sight of goal, but instead of trying to get a second for himself he squared it to Ighalo. There is a man truly playing for the team.

hornetboy84 - 25/01/2015

Not sure he was all that happy to do that !
His face was a picture after the 6th – I’m sure he said “you lucky …. “. … And for 7th it was definitely a resigned “gone too wide” no choice pass !

6. Red - 25/01/2015

Do you remember a time when the board went up to say five minutes added time and what it really meant was that we would concede a goal? Now I worry about our first ten minutes. Charlton could have been at 0-2 within that time last week. Still, thank you Watford all at Watford FC for another “I was there” moment. Hope those fans who left at half time, do not come back-ever. A real high- I expect the maternity wings to be packed in nine months time, but really Ighalo as a name?

Roger Smith - 25/01/2015

OMG! Put your name down now for a bed in maternity – they’re in short supply. But thanks for the chuckle.

7. hornetboy84 - 25/01/2015

The overall game was both a worry and a delight ! But maybe just maybe the penny has now dropped.
A key point from me that has been overlooked was that the watfordfc component of the attendance was around 16,700 + with hopefully many first Time kids hopefully begging to come back next time !

(As long as they hadn’t been taken home at half time due to asking why they were being punished ! )

Matt Rowson - 25/01/2015

I’d dispute whether that’s a “key” point from the afternoon… but good that a cheap offer coincided with a stunning game.

8. Old Git - 25/01/2015

And a 7 -2 thriller was a fitting tribute to Ken Furphy. For Matt and ig he’s a historical figure but for a few of the correspondents on this site he’s a lot more than that. I’m remembering that Barry Dyson’s foursome was against Northampton (right JohnM?), a few weeks after Ken’s side hit a seven of their own against Grimsby. And the 1968-9 side that Ken built cost absolute peanuts, yet remains fresh in the memory of those who were there. A truly fabulous achievement and fabulous memories. ‘Furphy is our leader, Endean is our king, we’re the Watford Rookery, this is what we sing!’
And Matt, the Tranmere moment you mention was actually the second Tranmere moment. JohnM will concur that the expression ‘Tranmere moment’ evokes memories of Brian Owen and the Watford Observer clock….

JohnM - 25/01/2015

Yup, Northampton. First half hat trick. Barry Dyson was fair haired, but suffered from alpecia—when he ran you could see the bald spots. Apparently every time he scored the others players would hear him shout ,What a goal, Baz, what a goal!, Sadly, Barry Dyson died some years ago in his fifties.
Great memories of those years, of Ken Furphy, second only to GT as a Watford manager, and some memorable players.
Tranmere moment! Yes, the Brian Owen special. My candidate as the freakiest goal I have ever seen!

Goldenboy60 - 26/01/2015

Totally agreed with that being the freakiest goal. I was standing in the old enclosure whilst still at school. 3 Luton players stood beside me who had come to watch the game, and conceded that with that luck Watford would get promotion YES YES YES

Roger Smith - 27/01/2015

I can’t remember the game, but the freakiest goal I can remember started with a cross that took a massive deflection, and the ball ballooned high into the air. Their goalie was anxious to get on with the game, so went behind his goal to catch the ball as it fell. Unfortunately for him, the wind kept it in play, it bounced on the line and the spin took it into the empty net.

Taxidermist - 26/01/2015

And also ‘ob la de ob la da Barry Endean is our King’. Sadly I missed all but the first 2 years of KF’s reign due to being abroad in the Army.

JohnM - 27/01/2015

Yes, Roger, that was the Tranmere goal. It soared in height above the top of the Rookery stand, where it caught the wind, stopped, and plummeted straight down. The goalie was strolling around the post to collect the ball, and the ballboy was running behind the goal to collect it. The goalie was actually at the side of the goal when he had the horrid realisation the ball wasn’t going out, and scrambled back desperately, just too late. He later claimed the ball had gone out of play, but the wind blew it back in.
It wasn’t a cross, but a shot. From where I was, the shot hit the boot of a defender just as Brian Owen had hit the shot. The keeper,I think, was Jim Cumbes (spelling wrong, maybe!), who was actually a rated goalkeeper and a quality county cricket keeper, in the days when you could be both.

9. Graham Sterry. - 25/01/2015

Come on stato.
I reckon only one other WFC player has scored 4 In one half? Barry Dyson. Good Friday 1968 in first half against Northampton ask Dad bet he remembers!

JohnM - 25/01/2015

No, sorry! Barry Dyson last goal was in the second half—a signature strike from outside the area—l walked to the Rookery end at half time and witnessed it there. The way Dyson played in the first half we thought he would finish with six goals or more! He not only scored a first half hat trick, he hit the woodwork twice, had two hacked off the line, another shot punched off the line by a defender—the ref missed it, and a number of good saves.

10. Sequel - 25/01/2015

I looked at my lucky half-time Christmas cake and pointed out that it had its work cut out to turn the afternoon around. How could I have doubted it!?
I’m going to have to shrink the portion size though in order to see out the season; last year’s cake ran out before the end of April, and look what happened….

11. Boxmoor Jules - 26/01/2015

Was in Sacre Coeur in Paris at half time and said to the wife I should offer a prayer, probably two candles worth! Proceded up the dome (200 steps)and logged in again to see Angella had put in the fifth. Divine intervention or inevitable fate? You choose!

12. Goldenboy60 - 26/01/2015

Well all of us can say….. WE WERE THERE….. As for Boxmoor Jules, that is very unlucky timing to be in Paris. But I have imagined your ecstasy from the greatest disappointment at HT, to logging on to see that Angella had scored the 5th was…. well unbelievable. You must have felt so many emotions at that point.

Boxmoor Jules - 26/01/2015

Indeed, unbelievable; it felt like some sort of cosmic trick was being played. Had to go straight into the Irish bar on Montmatre to calm my nerves!

13. Goldenboy60 - 26/01/2015

KEY QUESTION… can we go to Bournemouth and win now….. This is a massive test to see if the players have learnt over the last couple of months. I remember that Swindon game away on Saturday evening in 1969. A missed Keith Eddy penally and a Barry Endean goal with 4 minutes to go saw us nick the 2 points. That convinced me as a young lad that we would get promotion. Can the Bournemouth game be the same?

Matt Rowson - 26/01/2015

Not sure about “learning from last few months”. Nobody’s going to be under any illusions that this is a tough game.

14. Boxmoor Jules - 26/01/2015

One thing is certain, Bournemouth will have to set their game plan very carefully. Clearly we concede, but we have goals in us from all over the pitch at the moment.

Matt Rowson - 26/01/2015

Still fewer than Bournemouth tho…

15. Harefield Hornet - 26/01/2015

Daughter’s (Brian Owen’s niece BTW!) 3rd game!

Dad before match – “You do realise we won’t score 5 every week!”

Daughter – “we’ll get 6 then”!

16. Old Git - 26/01/2015

And – to the tune of Hare Krishna, which was then riding high in what we used to call the Hit Parade – there was ‘Barry Endean Barry Endean Barry Endean Barry Barry’. Ah, retro chants, can’t beat them. However, the Ighal-O chant, is quite brilliant, I think.

JohnM - 26/01/2015

You, know, I’d forgotten that Endean chant.

17. NickB - 26/01/2015

Hairs on the back of the neck moments for me during the minutes applause; can still remember just about every score from 68/69 – off the back of the 66 win it added up to quite a start in football for me. There was so little coverage compared to today it’s hard to believe it’s the same lifetime. For all the vivid memories, I’d forgotten we only conceded 7 goals at home all season: quite remarkable. Nice to see the parallels with Barry Dyson on here for Ighalo’s contribution.

18. Old Git - 26/01/2015

‘E for B and Keith Ed-dy’.(more properly pronounced ‘Keef’, and probably it might need some explanation for the under 50s).
And ‘Chopchop – chopper Welbourne’. And then…’he’s here, he’s there, he’s every….’etc
I bet you haven’t forgotten that one, JohnM.

JohnM - 27/01/2015

Yup, remember them! particularly the ‘He’s here,’ etc., for Dixie Hale. A name we don’t see very often on here these days. Whatever happened to Dixie Hale?

Harefield Hornet - 28/01/2015

Dixie HALE

Retired from Fords. Living in Swansea

19. Harefield Hornet - 27/01/2015

Moving on slightly does anyone remember what I consider one of the most rousing songs ever – To the tune of Dead end Street by the Kinks – There’s a hole in the ceiling and the Oak Road End is leaking, David Pleat’s got no money, Eric Morcambe aint funny what are we living for – to see L***N in Division 4 etc etc – Last heard this away at the Den in the 90’s but not since.

NickB - 27/01/2015

Thanks, HH – when I think of football in the 66-70 period, The Kinks are playing only semi subliminally in my brain: the two things are inseparable – See My Friends, Dead End Street, Autumn Almanac, Waterloo Sunset…roasting chestnuts and human gorillas at The Den, bashed up trains, silk scarves round wrists, rubbish beer, jumpers for goalposts…

Harefield Hornet - 28/01/2015

Thank you for the days, / Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me

20. Mark Halliwell (@MarkHalliwell1) - 27/01/2015

I am Watford-born but long since exiled, and I was doing my usual Saturday job, watching Cheltenham Town FC for BBC Gloucestershire. On Saturday we played Luton, and Simon Oxley from Three Counties was in my eye line and was letting me know about each goal as it went in!!! Unfortunately I couldn’t celebrate a a double as Cheltenham only drew 1-1

21. Old Git - 28/01/2015

I remember the ‘Dead End Street’ song from the Furphy years. The revised lyric was ‘What are we living for? – to see Luton in Division Four – what are we going to do? – get Watford to Division Two’. At the time both Luton and Watford were in Division Three, so the expressed ambition was appropriate. And there were four derbys that season because we lost in the first or second round of the League Cup and there were three Division Three games, with one abandoned (was it Boxing Day) due to a blizzard, by which time Tom Walley and Barry Endean had already been sent off, along with a Luton player…maybe Graham French? or was he the one locked up for firearms offences? Long time ago….

Harefield Hornet - 29/01/2015

We were still singing it in the Rookery during the early(ish) Taylor years and beyond but you’re right, the lyrics were eventually overtaken by events!

NickB - 29/01/2015

Think it was Alan Garner, later of this parish. Thought the 2-1 defeat with three sent off (almost unheard of in those days) was actually the completed fixture, but may be wrong…

JohnM - 29/01/2015

I have adsolutely no memories of that abandoned game. I was at nearly all the games that year–that must be one I missed.
Graham French was a talented footballer who was also an unpleasant waster. He played a hand full of games for Watford before being kicked out for disciplinary problems. He was later banged up after a shooting incident in Luton. Not surprisingly, for such a character, his only substantial spell in football was at Luton. The rest of his career consisted of playing spells of two or three months and sackings.

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