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Watford 4 Reading 1 (14/03/2005) 15/03/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports, Thoughts about things.

1- There’s no reasonable way to describe the context without doffing our cap to happenstance.  Reflecting on the role that chance has played in our season it’s natural to feel bitter about Gabriele Angella’s sending off at Bournemouth, about Wes Hoolahan buying a penalty for Norwich, and so on, and so on.  Consistent with the “we only get s**t refs” chant, it’s easier to bring to mind instances where things have gone against us.  Indignation burns deeper, perhaps.  So let’s be clear that the perverse preciousness of Champions’ League television schedule regulations did us a huge favour.  That was evident when the implications of Reading’s draw with Bradford – that the replay would have to be this Monday – became clear, and was underlined in big fat marker pen when they announced a starting line up with nine changes, four debutants and very few senior picks.  You’d kinda hope that we’d have beaten Reading’s senior team whatever the circumstances; taking the Cup replay out of the equation you’d have been left with a side that have underwhelmed but are probably safe from relegation, the Royals were never going to be the most driven of opponents, but this one fell for us.  As if to provide further emphasis, “no we really don’t give a crap about this one”, one of those debutants was Slovenian Jure Travner whose Watford career under Malky was only memorable for his never quite making the first team.  So… yes, this fell for us.  The fact that Reading’s league season is all but done and dusted and that they could afford to do this doesn’t make the scheduling of their replay for Monday any less inappropriate.

2- For all of which, Reading’s scratch side were some way short of terrible.  Limited, sure, lacking anything like our threat in front of goal however many goals Yakubu, looking a very old 32, has scored in the top flight.  But organised and competent.  We weren’t gifted any goals, they all needed crafting and were each elegant, sculpted things.   It started after a minute, Abdi passing the ball into the net after being prised through by Troy Deeney.  Abdi, the one concern from the day, appeared to aggravate his injury in the move and departed soon after, his replacement Forestieri playing in Vydra at the end of the half and setting up Deeney after the break.  Steve Clarke identified our clinical finishing as the difference, bemoaning the harshness of the scoreline but the visitors never came as close as Motta did with his wicked dipping volley that crashed off the bar, or as Forestieri did with his scissor kick that forced Andersen into a quite brilliant low save low to his right.  Our finishing was great.  The rest of it wasn’t bad either.

3- And it was all perhaps rather too comfortable.  Abdi’s early goal averted the threat of impatience in any failure to take the lead in A Game We Ought To Win, but at three up the atmosphere became drowsy, our football slowed down and Reading weren’t ready to just lie down and see the game out.  If our squad lacks anything, as has been discussed ad nauseam, it’s a big lump in central defence.  Zat Knight, who briefly looked as if he might be that man, had little competition in the air from our lot, and fear of his threat forced a succession of corners, as if we were happy to sacrifice another set piece in preference to allowing the big defender to get a header on target.  Eventually they took advantage, Jem Karacan on his return from injury picking out the top corner  after a scruffy clearance…  and briefly there was a concern, we couldn’t seem to snap out of it and the visitors were in the ascendancy.

4- Until they weren’t.  The change in shape, Angella coming on for the fading Vydra as we switched to 3-5-2, seemed to hand us back the joystick immediately and Forestieri rounded off what had become a masterclass with a drilled left foot finish, a well-earned goal and a celebration that screamed catharsis.  Relegated to the role of fourth-choice striker Nando’s performances of late had not suggested a happy camper, petulance and laziness creeping back into his game.  After last Saturday’s incident with Bakary Sako, which was neither as violent as his reaction made it look nor as ludicrous as an unhelpful camera angle and lazy “analysis” suggested you had to fear in which direction his season was going to go.  Slav came out fighting, defending his striker’s conduct late in the week and then had the confidence to thrust him back into the fray early in the game in the mischief-making hole vacated by Abdi.  He took some time to warm up but ultimately delivered what was comfortably his best, effective and infectious performance of the season, punctuated not just with a goal but with two “assists” borne of combining his quick feet with a cool head and the right ball.  Well done Nando, and well done Slav.

5- Much of the focus off the pitch was on Nic Cruwys, who remains in hospital following the horrific, anachronistic attack in Wolverhampton last weekend.  I’ve nothing particularly new to add to the many heartfelt and appropriate things that have been said elsewhere, but it’s worth echoing those sentiments anyway.  Our thoughts are with Nic and his family.  Many references in the aftermath to the “Watford family” and the wider “football family” in the context of, in particular, the vast amount of money raised via Ollie Floyd’s online collection.  My wife snorts at the suggestion that the Watford family fosters an almost religious sense of belonging, a very real family; she disputes it.  She’s wrong, of course, not that she’ll ever admit it.  The best of that has been on show this week and to their immense credit the club and the players have reinforced that too, not to mention supporters of other clubs who have donated to the fund and shared their disgust.

I’d like to close by mentioning a departed family member, Guy Judge, a one-time BSaD contributor and very nice man who lost his battle with cancer on Saturday morning.  A significant empty seat at the family table, he’ll be sorely missed.  All the best mate.  You ‘orn.



1. Roger Smith - 15/03/2015

I don’t know if the players were pacing themselves for Tuesday, but I was dismayed at the lack of urgency, FF being the stand-out exception. When goal difference, or even goals scored, might decide our fate at the end of the season, this was a missed opportunity to boost our chances.

Matt Rowson - 15/03/2015

We clearly sat back in the second half; I didn’t perceive any lack of urgency beyond that. Reading, as above, weren’t terrible, it wasn’t a coconut shy like the second half against Blackpool.

2. Rod Fine - 15/03/2015

Your comment about the almost religious sense of belonging strikes a chord with me. For many years, I’ve described WFC as being my religion, and The Vic as my church. It provides for me the closest thing in my life to established religions in the sense of belonging to a community, with services at set times for believers to come together and worship.

As for theme, it was lovely to see FF as Jekyll rather than Hyde.

3. Gary - 15/03/2015

We again lost momentum with a pointless Slav substitution. Bringing on Layun wasn’t required, it’s almost like Slav feels he had to bring Layun on

Matt Rowson - 15/03/2015

I dunno. You could also say that with Abdi presumably (or even possibly) out again, protecting Guedioura wasn’t a bad idea. But agree with the implication that Layun, for all his obvious ability, isn’t someone we’ve found best use of yet.

Goldenboy60 - 16/03/2015

It’s about keeping all of the players involved and together. For me Layun has shown enough to know that he could be a class player. And lets remember he has moved from Mexico to a completely different culture and climate. How would you find it if you were thrust into Mexico likewise? We need to give him some time. Not a combative player but one with great vision and ability on the ball.

Matt Rowson - 16/03/2015

completely agree.

Although I can confidently state that the dislocation of being thrust into an alien culture would have little impact on my ability to contribute on the pitch.

4. Lanterne Rouge - 16/03/2015

Excellent assessment and spot on Matt. As an outsider seeing Watford for the first time in the Pozzo era, I was very impressed,not only by the more heralded players such as Vydra and Abdi (albeit in a very truncated contribution) but also by Motta and several others I was less familiar with. I guess the one issue might be the lack of a true defensive midfielder in the mould of a Eustace or a Hogg – bizarrely, such players seem rare these days when they were previously quintessential to the English game. I also thought Ekstrand looked a little casual at times and goals will be conceded but the options in forward areas are remarkable and the football a delight – were my team not on the receiving end.

Matt Rowson - 16/03/2015

Cheers LR. The closest we have to someone in the Eustace/Hogg role is Gianni Munari, who seems to have faded from the picture a little bit in recent weeks. With current personnel (ie since Guedioura returned) we’ve looked lighter in midfield for me (albeit our attacking options are devastating). You missed Ighalo too, he’s great fun.

Lanterne Rouge - 16/03/2015

a shame to miss Ighalo (kind of) – Deeney is absolutely magnificent. We should do a drink if you are in the division next season.

Matt Rowson - 16/03/2015


5. sirhornet - 16/03/2015

Regarding the we only get **** refs chant. Thought this one wasn’t bad – kept up with the play and didn’t get in the way. First game in ages I can remember where th21ere were no cards. Mind you the fact that neither team sought to moan and harrass him will certainly have helped.

Matt Rowson - 16/03/2015

agree on all counts. have no recollection of ref’s involvement at all.

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