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Watford 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1 (02/05/2015) 03/05/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- Almost an hour before kick-off, Vicarage Road is heaving; navigating the mass of people is difficult. There are touts on the corner of Whippendell Road; further down Vicarage Road there are weaselly looking blokes selling opportunistic clumsily constructed flags. In the ground, there are tales told of Boris Johnson being seen on the High Street in a Watford scarf. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Premier League.

The atmosphere is odd. It was always going to be… different. The furious focus was on promotion, the celebration that many heads are still recovering from recognised that and for all that Troy and the team had been vocal and clear on the objective, there’s a sense of “job done” that pervades the ground. The 1881’s excellent foil display, the flags, the confetti are tremendous but there’s no urgency to any of it. The tension, the fervour, has gone… this is a sideshow, a bonus. Personally I’d expected this to work for us… that stripped of the pressure of having to win, merely wanting to win would make it less edgy, less anxious. Either way the mood was one of expectation.

2- And that expectation really should have been rewarded by a first half that saw us dominate.  It’s not hard to see how Wednesday have managed to drop anchor in mid-table despite not scoring any goals… they’re obdurate and organised.  But they rode their luck.  Deeney crashed through before going down over a Kirkland glove, impossible to judge from our end but a fair shout from the TV pictures.  Anya fluttered in from the left and crashed a rising drive into the side netting.  Eventually, just as we were getting a bit edgy, Matej Vydra capitalised on Kirkland’s block to Deeney’s shot to head us into the lead and the pressure was relieved.  Still we pressed, and two gorgeous moves ended with Almen Abdi spurning chances… the first slightly the harder as Deeney’s pass ran across him, the second less explicable, Motta – who had enjoyed the freedom of the right flank – and Deeney combining to set up the Swiss midfielder who struck over.

Meanwhile Wednesday couldn’t secure as much as controlled possession in our half until Stuart Gray made a tactical change and brought on the massive Nuhiu up front after about half an hour.  Thereafter Wednesday did at least have something for the ball to stick to in attack, but they still ended the half without a shot on or off target.  “There’s not a cat in hell’s chance of them scoring” is what everyone was thinking, but of course nobody said it.  That would have been tempting fate.

3- You’ll have noticed that this report is rather later off the press than usual.  Such is the luxury afforded by automatic promotion of course, no play-offs looming for us later this week.  I’ve been painting daughter #1’s bedroom, but that’s not really why the report is late.  Like many, I suspect, I left the stadium feeling choked and bitter and angry at all sorts of things.   I might have benefitted from immediate catharsis, celebration in the town centre but didn’t have that luxury so I’ve been fuming and sulking. And frankly, our season deserves better… better than to conclude with that second half, better than to be concluded on these pages, for what they’re worth, by a middle aged man in a major strop.  So here’s the deal.  Thunk 4 is about the second half  and the events that surrounded it.  When I’ve finished writing and you’ve finished reading we’ll both watch the subsequent videos to get things back in perspective and never discuss this game again…

4- The second half wasn’t awful in the sense that our performance disintegrated…  certainly Wednesday put up more of a fight; they even had a shot, which was moderately exciting particularly for whoever it hit halfway up the Vicarage Road end.  We had what chances there were… Abdi with an uncharacteristically heavy touch spurning his best of the half, Deeney not quite getting above a cross and crashing his header over.  But by and large we seemed to settle for possession, the knowledge that toothless Wednesday would have to come at us and reliance on our ability on the break.  Choking, then, that having based so much of our success on clinically taking our chances in close games, that particular quality abandoned us with the title within grasp.  Choking, to a lesser extent, that our recently honed ability to keep mediocre opposition at arms length didn’t last three minutes longer.  Blame can be dished out in all sorts of directions, but not without any great justification…  incredibly harsh to blame Abdi, sculptor of so much that has been beautiful for his failure to become the fourth Hornet in double figures for the season.  Harsh to blame Layún, who otherwise put in his sharpest performance since his debut, for the awful pass that Wednesday broke from.  Less harsh to blame Lee Probert, even if his greatest crimes this season came in January in Dorset.  He perhaps should have given Deeney a penalty, his awarding of a free kick against Connolly was harsh.  As for the supporters… similarly, perhaps Watford’s best ever season in this regard (cap doffed again to the 1881) doesn’t deserve to be remembered for the cretin whose pitch invasion interrupted Wednesday’s free kick, for the vermin responsible for flares who deserve bans from the ground, for the vanity of those who decided that invading the pitch was more important that having a reason to invade the pitch.  Ed Perchard has penned a wordier assassination of these imbeciles in In the Wolf’s Mouth but in any case, choking as the narrowness of the margin was these were all irritants.  None should be used as excuses for our failure to put Wednesday away.  Far tougher challenges await.  Now then…  breathe, and…

5- There was a Derby fan on 606 on Saturday night, bemoaning the Rams’ fate. How could “comfortably the most talented squad of players in the division” (pffft) end up in such a position? Leaving aside the critical detail in that assertion and generalising a little… the point that the Derby fan missed was that it wasn’t all about Derby. This season, more than any other season, being good hasn’t been enough. You’ve got to be better than everyone else. Derby had a bad injury at the wrong time, lost momentum and never regained it because the competition was furious. The top of the table was not just competitive, but of extraordinarily high quality. As we’ve said before, any of the top eight might have reasonably expected to have gained automatic promotion in any “normal” season. Derby couldn’t afford to slip up because seven other excellent sides were clawing at the top two. I don’t remember a season like it, and I don’t remember enjoying a season so much. We’ve come through all of that with one of the two top places, a spectacular achievement.

A corollary to that is that any side that kept up with us, let alone outstripped us and however narrow and galling the margin, deserves respect. We’ve been bloody brilliant. Bournemouth, therefore, have been bloody brilliant also, so well done them. It is natural to be gutted by our inability to hold on for those last few minutes, to repel Sheffield’s one attempt on target of the entire game. But perverse, ludicrous to dwell upon it. We’re in the Premier League. We could be Derby, or Wolves (seventh). We could be Norwich, consigned to the play-offs and desperately trying to ignore the voice in the back of their heads that’s telling them that they KNOW they’re going to screw up against Ipswich. We could be Preston in the division below, also caught at the last with far graver consequences the useless bastards. We could be Sheffield Wednesday, supporting a side so fist-chewingly uninspiring that we’re forced to resort to lauding other club’s successes rater than supporting our own team (bet you did the same at Bournemouth, didn’t you? Classy. No, really).

We’re none of those things. We’re Watford. We’re owned, not by a cheap punk or an uninterested politician or an asset stripper but by a football family who know what they’re at. We have a fine head coach and an inspiring team that’s as close to the support and the community as it’s ever been. We’re heading to the top table with realistic aspirations of doing more than grabbing the money and running.

It’s going to be fun.

Enjoy the summer.






1. Old Git - 03/05/2015

Well said, Matt, well said. Bang on. I feel better now. Thanks!!

2. keith catchpole - 03/05/2015

Excellent as ever Matt, I have been sulking all day but this has brought me to my senses… Agreed been an outstanding season… Look forward to the fixtures coming out. COYH

3. Keith Hannigan - 03/05/2015

God, I needed that. I have been bitter and miserable ever since Jon Marks cried out “And it’s in! It’s in for Sheffield Wednesday!” Arrgh. I told myself that it didn’t really matter, that going up was going up, that if we had been offered 2nd place in August (or February or April) we would have asked how many digits did the offeror want to seal such an obviously wonderful bargain. Yeah, yeah, whatever. It stung and what stung most of all was the fact that last memories of this glorious, wonderful season were going to be those vermin who broke the boundaries and the sickening disappointment of loss. THAT was what I had to look forward to all summer. It was sickening.

I haven’t read a word or had a moment’s conversation on the subject since the game ended. Friends, family and students who wanted to discuss or offer consolation were brusquely put off. I didn’t want to deal with it but it kept creeping into my mind, always with same queasy frustration. I needed to process it, to accept it and to get back to the extraordinary feelings we had in April (probably the best month I’ve ever had as a Watford fan). If I may bastardize “Casblanca,” we’ll always have April. I didn’t have it, I’d lost it until you wrote this up. I’m not sure if that makes you Rick or Ilsa, but regardless, I’m more than usually grateful for your care and generosity in writing this up. It really will be fun.


(So, what do you think we need to bring in for an even money shot at staying up?)

Matt Rowson - 03/05/2015

🙂 Ask me again after the Season Review…

4. Pete - 03/05/2015

Nailed it again. Especially describing how I feel too.

Odder that the best display from WFC I saw all season was Sheffield Wednesday away, where Munari/Adbi/Toszer linked beautifully to create in midfield and they played a high line which we plundered gleefully. Oh for more of that yesterday.

Oh for some of that in the Prem.

5. avispon - 03/05/2015

You sum up my feelings perfectly. I felt just the same after the match. Disappointed that we had missed so many opportunities but that happens – I could live with that, but I was left fuming at the selfish behaviour of some very stupid, so termed, fans who distracted the team at a vital moment. They deserve to be banned for life. But what a woeful performance by the martials and the police who failed to stop them disrupting the game.

6. Roger Smith - 03/05/2015

Sorry, but your analysis of the second half must surely consider the substitutions, which had more to do with the formation than what was actually needed: a revitalised attack. FF warmed up with Paredes, and would have given SW the runaround, with Ighalo picking up the pieces. It should never have come down to hanging onto a 1-0 lead to see the game out.

Like you, I left the ground in a state of shock, and bitterly disappointed – but I’m confident that the Pozzos will make a good fist of the Premiership, and my early-bird OAP season ticket is a bargain!

Matt Rowson - 03/05/2015

You’re right about the subs, and in several of the many re-writings of this in my head over the last 24 hours I made a similar point, but I forgot it when it came round to it. In a colder analysis of the game itself, you’re right. Context more import in this one though I guess. But seeing as you brought it up… highly unusual for Slav’s changes to be so ineffective. But as for “hanging on”, I don’t think we were ever that. I don’t think Wednesday pressed much before they scored. We figured that we had enough to hold them off and catch them on the break. We were almost right.

Roger Smith - 03/05/2015

I was hoping that you’d ask me what changes I’d have made: FF for Abdi, Tozer for Lahun, not so much to reflect his performance, but his lack of full match fitness, and one to keep up my sleeve for the final few minutes.

7. graham w - 03/05/2015

Yeah. Thanks for that. Its been brilliant, one heck of a ride. You have a good summer too Matt. See you in August,

U ‘Orns

8. Leeso - 03/05/2015

I’m glad it’s not just me then. Thunk 3 pretty much summed up my feelings yesterday – frustrated at an opportunity missed, disappointed at how the last five minutes panned out both on and off the pitch (as the masses joyfully ambled down the stairs towards the front of the Rookery, I had an uneasy feeling that this wasn’t going to end well) and slightly deflated – the last time I felt this way was probably after the Play Off Final, and yesterday felt like a similar reality check. As we have found out to our cost with previous experiences of the big time, if you switch off for just one moment, you inevitably get punished by teams that certainly won’t allow us as many chances that Wednesday did. That said, this season, and especially the last few months has seen some of the most exciting football we’ve seen for seasons (IG – I was with you on some of those trips you mentioned a few weeks ago in the 90’s!) and tremendous credit should go to Slav for getting the Zolacoaster back on track and finally getting the best out of the talented squad of individuals we’ve been given by the Pozzo’s. When you consider how far we have come in a relatively short period of time, then I guess that puts yesterday in perspective. Let’s hope that this time next year we will all be celebrating for a different reason. Well done both of you for efforts this season, and COYH!

9. Stuart - 03/05/2015

The last ever BSaD article was against Man Utd during our last stint in the Premier League. Time to fire it up again as the new challenge approaches!! 😉

All I can say about yesterday is, never mind. I console myself with the fact that if: after Joka’s 4th defeat in a row back in November or whenever it was, and the 0-1 home defeat to Wolves, someone had offered me 2nd position….I’d have chewed their arm off!

10. Ray Perry - 03/05/2015

Enjoyed your contribution on 606 Matt. It was a ludicrous comment from a frustrated Derby fan and I’m glad you set him straight. Thanks for all your efforts this season.

11. SteveT - 03/05/2015

One person whom has escaped blame over the last couple of days is Harry the Hornet. A Mexican wave with nearly 15 mins to go? Not the most sensible idea.

I can forgive him for that as he’s great all season and more, but its a further example of how too many people took their eye off the prize.

Like Leeso I have a similar post playoff final feeling. This time though, the pill is a sweet one.

Matt Rowson - 04/05/2015

yes, that was rubbish

12. George - 03/05/2015

From half a world away thank you for all the effort imparting your views on a spectacular season. Enjoy your summer and I hope you and your daughters and Ian have some enjoyment out of the top table next year.

13. JohnF - 04/05/2015

Thanks Matt and Ian for another season of thoughtful comment full of insight. I haven’t enjoyed our last two visits to the Prem what with struggling to compete and match kick-offs all over the place. Let’s hope that automatic promotion will allow the strengthening that will be needed and that we make a decent show of it. Keep your keyboards sharp for next season but have a wonderful summer.

14. Sequel - 04/05/2015

Ditto to all of the above, and also, a big hello to the Finland Hornets. If that was your first visit, I hope you were inspired to come again; International players, with fans to match!

15. SteveG - 04/05/2015

May I echo the comments of George and John – not only have we got the strongest squad on the pitch, we must surely also have the two best writers behind the keyboards. Thanks as ever for some wonderful pen pictures which have made the memories that much more vivid for the games I have attended and, for those like Saturday where I was stupidly inefficient in failing to get a ticket early enough, offered a considered and thoughtful alternative perspective to the immediacy of Jon Marks on 3CR.

Even via the radio the various antics of those last few minutes gave an uneasy feeling, and there seemed a certain inevitability about the possible lack of concentration and focus that led to the last minute equaliser.

But, as is rightly pointed out, the big picture is hugely positive – onwards and upwards.

16. johnsamways28 - 04/05/2015

‘Perspective’ – that’s why I always look forward with anticipation to your reports and reflections, Matt and Ig. Once again you’ve nailed it. Amidst the euphoric scenes before kick off I was pondering ‘How many disappointments will it take before a number here will be jumping off the bandwagon? This is WFC after all!’

‘There are no facts, only interpretations.’ Nietzsche. Like so many others, I invariably find myself re-assessing the ‘facts’ in a constructive way after your interpretations. Keep up the good work.

Final thought: ‘We can complain because the rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.’ Lincoln. Today is a day for rejoicing – the WFC rose looks and smells wonderful.

17. The Great Big O - 04/05/2015

Thanks, Matt and ig, for your reports this season. Amid the ever-increasing volume of fan comment via social media, they’ve been a haven of well-expressed and intelligent observation.

As we move into the shrieking circus of the Premier League, we’re going to need you more than ever.

18. James - 04/05/2015

Thanks for all your efforts again this season, Matt & Ian.
You summed up my feelings pretty well, although I would have had harsher words for Probert. Three good penalty shouts turned down (Kirkland on Deeney being the clearest. – Deeney was also obstructed later in the first half. – Then a shove in the back on Vydra in the second), and a generally ineffective performance all round. It’s cruelly ironic that our rivals spent most of last week whinging about not being given penalty decisions, despite receiving double the number anyone else got.

Still, despite the referee’s efforts we made enough chances to have won the game easily. Clearly this lack of finishing indicates that our forward line is woefully inadequate and needs to be stripped out and replaced at huge expense if we’re to stand any chance of avoiding relegation next season.
I wonder if West Brom have any disinterested layabouts we can snap up for three-and-a-quarter million.

Matt Rowson - 04/05/2015

Shudder. 😉

19. Keith Endean - 04/05/2015

As my Wednesday supporting family pointed out I always say if Watford are 3-0 up with 10 mins to play I’m thinking we could get a draw out of this. The same feelings as above but now to get a season ticket.

20. SwindonDave - 04/05/2015

Good to stop and reflect on this one as I have done as well. I cannot believe what some people on other sites are saying about the team following this one (unlucky) performance. What if we’d drawn at Forest or Brighton, as we could have done then this game would have been a real challenge and we may not have been able to have any sort of party.
Good videos, although not certain about the Luton abuse, we should put them in the ancient history section (certainly pre BHappy) and enjoy life at the top.
I will make my trips next season in less expectation but with a belief we will hold our own as long as we don’t have Probert as ref!
Thanks for the season.

21. Harefield Hornet - 04/05/2015

Cheers Matt. Ditto all the above – I was absolutely inconsolable on Saturday night. Reading your thoughts started the healing process yesterday and taking my daughter to Cassiobury Park today to see the boys finished the job perfectly..Her first season supporting the horns and what a season! Have a great summer with your family – COYH! .

22. Lee Putman - 04/05/2015

Perspective is an important thing and I knew this article would reflect that, great stuff. What a season and what an incredible fun time we had everywhere each and every one of us could get to. Me and my brother said we think we’ve seen every type of game this season – winning big points with 10 men (reading away, huddersfield home) holding on to absolutely crucial leads by the skin of our teeth (forest away, brighton away) and obviously heartbreaking losses at home to norwich and ipswich which we learnt more from than those teams gained from. I’m so excited about the future of this club. It’s a great time to be a horn. Enjoy the summer!

23. Stoney - 04/05/2015

Always such a fantastic read on here….. Always great to read once the initial euphoria of a win has settled. More importantly though, your reports always help me puck myself up from the depths after a defeat (or indeed a 1-1 draw!). A very strange mix of emotions still battling it out in my head, stemming from the overall feeling that it was such an anti climactic end to such an intense, and fantastic, season. And also that we don’t have a ‘promotion clinching moment’ on the pitch to watch a million times, and to replay in our heads over and over again.
Not that this will all matter soon, but for now I kinda feel sad that I’m not overly happy, when I know. I should be ecstatic!

24. franelynn - 04/05/2015

We’ve had a tremendous season. The players are a lovely bunch of lads. The owners are the best we’ve had since Elton. Despite the disappointment of Saturday’s result, I am in seventh heaven.

25. Red - 05/05/2015

I think on reflection we should all remember the home game against Blackpool. It seemed to sum everything up at the time and with the benefit of hindsight, sign posted the future. An awful first half, truly one of the worst performances ever produced, a reminder of the previous seasons last home game against Huddersfield. Then an opportunity for our “fans” to leave at half time (which some did) and then surely a second half to match the Leicester play off – I was there moment. Fantastic.

Great season, great result.

26. Nick Corble - 05/05/2015

Just like to add my thanks to you both for all the considered reports, a useful perspective (that word again) if I make the match and an insight if I can’t. Very much appreciated. Onwards and upwards!

27. Paul - 05/05/2015

Red shorts – that is all

Goldenboy60 - 06/05/2015


Keith Endean - 06/05/2015

black shorts

28. Martin - 05/05/2015

Great article. Thanks Matt!

29. Simon B - 06/05/2015

Thanks Matt – living the wrong side of London with a young daughter, getting to games this season has been tough, so I’ve always looked forward to your (and IG’s) analysis.

Having seen us win only one trophy in over 30 years, missing this one, which is the most prestigious league trophy we can realistically hope to win these days, was always going to be difficult to stomach, made worse by having to explain the hurt to others expecting you not to be bothered.

But you are right. This season has been incredible. The quality of the competition has been extremely high. The mere fact we needed to win 4 on the hoof to even be in with a shout of automatic promotion shows what an amazing acheivement this has been. And the manner in which it was acheived, creating a solidarity in both the club and community has been a credit to our club.

The 1881 have managed to achieve something I didn’t think possible (the play-off final really was a real eye-opener in this respect), so well done to them too.

97/98 was great fun, but this has been even better and we can truly look forward to the realistic prospect of Premiership survival next season. Something not seen since the dawn of my support

You ‘Orns

30. Henry - 06/05/2015

It’s been said by many above but just a huge thank you Matt and Ian. Your articles manage to express how I didn’t realise I was actually feeling each and every week. Especially valuable for those of us who live far away and don’t get to visit The Vic as much as we used to and/or would like. You’re summaries are all I need.

Thank you, and have a brilliant summer.

31. Mark T - 07/05/2015

Thanks for all your efforts over the season. it is a pleasure to read reports from true fans that are not the myopic morons so often seen/heard around the place. I was very deflated to hear the score come through on Final score/text update but I got over it…let’s hope we can poke a few premiership egos in the eye next season

32. Paul - 14/05/2015

The campaign for red shorts and an updated 79-82 kit starts here. Here’s some helpful prose http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2015/may/12/getting-shirty-classic-kits-winning-teams

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