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Watford 2 West Ham United 0 (31/10/2015) 01/11/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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1- Today, everything changed.   Our Premier League season so far has been successful, enjoyable, profitable….  and cautious.  Cautious, above all.  That’s not the same as cowardly; indeed, the decision to abandon the swashbuckling open style the got us promoted and suited so many erstwhile key players was an incredibly bold one.  And that caution has served us well, by and large; we’ve kept clean sheets, not been embarrassed by anyone and picked up points, particularly on the road, by executing this season’s fashion effectively… a solid shape, attack on the break.

Today, everything changed.  Up to now we have been gently easing ourselves into the icy water, acclimatising.  Quietly settling into our surroundings.  Not today.  Today we took a great ruddy running leap at it, and landed two-footed with a massive splash.  West Ham were underneath us, and sunk without trace.

2- We’d expected a chess match.  Feared, maybe.  We’ve played well at home but had yet to work out how to adapt our game to turn positive intent into goals.  The Hammers have famously an awesome away record that has taken down big guns… City, Liverpool, Arsenal… but didn’t really want to dominate possession either.  A game of kabaddi seemed a distinct possibility.  Instead, the opening was a thunderous echo of our home game with Brentford last season, a breathless end-to-end basketball with play rattling up and down the pitch like a marble on a fishing trawler.

Initially it looked an even contest.  We perhaps had more possession, but the Hammers were breaking quickly and ominously.  We made the first of the chances…  Aké not making the most of a free header from the penalty spot, Britos flying onto one of a series of excellent deliveries from Watson having been abandoned by Kouyaté and heading over.  The grins amongst the oohs and aahs were tempered with the knowledge that we shouldn’t have been missing chances like these.  You don’t get to waste chances like these against good teams and win games.

3- But instead of being made to regret those misses we watched on as our dominance became increasingly absolute.  By the final whistle the only member of the starting eleven whose performance was difficult to eulogise about was Heurelho Gomes, who had been given precious little to do… even during the final 20 minutes where the Hornets chose to sit back and break on a West Ham side that had to push forward and was very much out of its comfort zone.  I don’t remember too many games like that… games where mentioning any member of the starting eleven provokes a “wow, he was brilliant today” in the post-match review.   It seems wrong to highlight individuals in that context, unfair… since you can’t mention Almen Abdi’s inhuman contribution on the left of a narrow midfield, worthy of its standing ovation as he was substituted, without referring also to Nathan Aké’s monstrous performance behind him, or Ben Watson’s continued defiant refusal to allow Valon Behrami back into the starting lineup, or…

Perhaps it’s easier to replay the match highlights.  You’ll all have your personal favourite. Odion Ighalo putting an utterly baffled Carl Jenkinson to the head of the table at his “chops for tea” dinner party (other guests so far this season including John Stones, Phil Jagielka, Artur Boruc).  The same player’s stunning finish on his weaker foot at the start of the second half.  Troy Deeney’s wicked dummy in the attack that followed, releasing Ighalo for what might have been his hat-trick.  Ben Watson beating Andy Carroll in the air in the centre-circle.  Craig Cathcart flying in to steal Jenkinson’s cross from Carroll’s head, knocking it over his own bar.  Carroll’s clumsy idiocy that provided the opening goal.  Carroll’s dive, screaming desperation, after Valencia had failed to capitalise on Cathcart’s rare aberration.  Allan Nyom, seeing that Juan Carlos Paredes was about to come on and assuming that he was being pulled, kicking gobby little irritant Valencia up the backside as a goodbye present.  Then not going off after all.  Deeney chasing back to rob possession from a surprised Payet on West Ham’s right late in the game.  Very few Watford performances in recent memory have reached these heights.  You’d add James Collins’ red card for an utterly “oh f*** this” Sunday league challenge as the Hammers were being summarily humiliated were it not for Ighalo limping off as a consequence.

4- For all of which, it’s both a blessing and a curse that the two goals came from scruffier play, and featured failings on the part of West Ham players.  A curse, since our performance was much better than that.  It would have been more than acceptable to have executed the sort of victory that we have so often been on the other side of in previous Premier League seasons… Watford huff and puff and hold their own.  Don’t score.  Watford make a mistake.  Other team scores.  Game over.

It wasn’t that sort of game.  We sliced West Ham up, crafted elegant chances that weren’t converted.  It wasn’t just a matter of capitalising on others’ mistakes.  And yet… there’s an advantage to the patronising pat on the head offered by Match of the Day:  “Yes yes, well done Watford but what terrible mistakes by West Ham.  Of course it would have been different had West Ham played properly“.  “Watford have signed so many players“.  Yes, Gary, but seven of the starting eleven were here last season. Matt Le Tissier’s line on Sky that Watford “must be starting to believe that there are three teams worse than them” in similar vein.  Opposing teams and managers won’t be so naive of course, but the longer that we’re allowed to stay under the radar the more likely the crowds we visit are to be sensitive to signs of resistance from “the likes of Watford” (copyright – Stoke City’s messageboards) which is all to the good.

The other side of the same coin is our own expectation of course, to which end it’s quite helpful to have a trip to Leicester next… a game charged with recent context against an opponent who no travelling Hornets are going to get all presumptuous about given their own fine form.

5- The ongoing work on the North East corner of the ground renders the top of Occupation Road a bottleneck as the majority of the Rookery and Elton John stands shuffle uphill at the end of the game.  That’s not a problem on occasions like this, a balmy autumn evening in the immediate wake of a famous victory.  There’s the happy hubbub of “did you sees” and “what about so-and-sos” punctuated by the odd song.  A celebratory atmosphere, a shared experience.

At the top of the hill the regular meeting of minds as we wait for the crowd to clear sees an occasional visitor reflect on how much has changed… not just on the pitch but off it too.  We all know this of course, we’ve seen the stadium change, noted the improved atmosphere, waved our flags.  Doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it though, particularly on an occasion such as this.  Yes, the team is brilliant.  No, the rest of the country hasn’t really  woken up to this yet.  But it’s the club that has improved beyond recognition.

Enjoy.  These are the good old days.  Yoooorns.

 

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Comments»

1. Dougie Brimson - 01/11/2015

Excellent post as always sir.

Matt Rowson - 01/11/2015

Cheers Dougie.

2. Scott - 01/11/2015

Top report as always Matt, I think the performances against Arsenal, Stoke and West Ham mean we are fast approaching the point of being taken seriously (even Lawro predicted a Watford win this week). Its only going to get harder from here, but I’m certainly enjoying the ride so far.

Also, here’s a gallery of photos from yesterday’s game for people to enjoy (including a nice shot of Ighalo’s second goal): http://s268.photobucket.com/user/scott_rmfc/slideshow/Watford%20v%20West%20Ham

Cheers.

3. Red - 01/11/2015

I know I might be a bit off but here but I felt the Swansea match was the best football I have seen Watford play since our last relegation. Yes visiting teams have played quality football against us in previous seasons and were by far the better teams (W.B.A. and Norwich both winning 0-3). We have as well.That goal against Huddersfield and knowing that Vydra would, without doubt score when getting the ball on the half-way line by out pacing the defenders and beating the goal keeper in a one-to-one.That was until the Arsenal game which was again 0-3 but still a great game of football from us for sixty minutes and from them for ninety-but yesterday was the one, Great play and tactics from our team. I am surprised that no one has mentioned that West Hams plan B (bringing on two subs at the start of the second half) made them actually worse in the second half and greatly reduced their threat.
The Rookery crowd were fantastic viewed from the Lower GT stand near the Vic Road end. At 2-0 up and cruising the chanting and flag waving gave me the same tingling feeling that I have whenever I watch THE goal against Leicester and brought tears to my eyes.
Sensible comments from our manager and players as well. I am a very proud and Happy fan.
PS. Is it me, or is the Premiership just like the Championship in that anyone can beat anyone else this season?

4. Craig - 01/11/2015

Seems every week now I take anothdr photograph of the league table for posterity.

5. SteveG - 01/11/2015

When I got back home my wife greeted me with “so you’ve had a good afternoon then?”. Unaccustomed to this dedication on her part to checking the results, I enquired quizzically about whether she’d been watching Final Score. She told me not to be so daft – she could just tell it had been a bit special from the expression on my face. It was indeed that kind of day – one of the best team performances that I think that many present will ever recall. And your point that this was achieved mostly with players who were with us last year is well made – it still feels like our team, only better!

6. Roger Smith - 01/11/2015

What unsettled the West Ham defence was the speed at which we turned defence into attack, often with Anya leading the way. It brought back memories of great Watford goals set up by Bouazza v Portsmouth and Vydra and Anya v Birmingham away.

7. hornetboy84 - 01/11/2015

1. Glad to see that QSF has also started to remind commentators that he kept 7 of the core squad.

2. Any more of this and you might need to re-brand B(very)Happy

3. Leicester. Yes. Nemisis away games – i think my record is 4-0, 4-0, 4-1, 1-0. Will be interesting. And in the same way I expected a turgid 0-0 yesterday (& been happy) then I am now expecting a barn-storming 6-5 defeat.

4. It is of course the Hope that kills you.
HB84

8. Luke B - 01/11/2015

Great report as always, not one mention of Capoue!

Matt Rowson - 01/11/2015

Everyone was excellent, as in Thunk 3. Wrong to single anyone out. Capoue was stunning. Everyone was stunning.

9. LincolnHornet - 01/11/2015

Being in exile in sunny Lincoln meant that yesterday was my first visit to the Vic for sometime. I travelled in hope more than expectation that we would maybe get a deserved point or even pinch a win. I have to agree Matt that yesterday seemed to be a turning point in what we all might expect from this season. Not only did we compete with a team who have already took some notable scalps away from home but we made them look very average indeed. Of course we will have our off days and I dare say it could be a while before we turn in a more complete performance but in no way did we ever look uncomfortable in our new surroundings.
I turned to my 18 and 19 year old daughters at the final whistle and told them I thought that was one of the best Watford performances I could remember considering where we are and I have been a fan since 1980. Happy to be a Hornet and long may it continue. Leicester for me next week, much closer to home, anyone remember Danny Webber last minute winner? Can’t recall the year. U ‘Orns.
Great writing as always matey.
P.S Wish I could have gone back to Wetherspoons after the game and silenced all the bubble singers that filled it before kick off, ruined my hot dog!!

Goldenboy60 - 04/11/2015

Danny Webber’s goal was scored on August 21 2004 in a 1-0 win. I was there and against all expectations we delivered that day. We finished that season though in 18th position and strangely enough we lost at home to West Ham 2-1 on the last day of the season.

How times have changed……

10. Luke - 01/11/2015

Great game, and a write up that is every bit its equal. I always read your work Matt (and that of Mr Ig) but this is perhaps the first time I have read a report TWICE!
“a marble on a trawler” very good indeed.
More please.
Luke

George - 02/11/2015

Loved the marble on the trawler line as well–stand out line in another great and much appreciated report.

11. NickB - 01/11/2015

I think that was our most mature and clinical performance since GT Mk1, i.e. around 30 years; quite brilliant.

12. MartinG - 01/11/2015

It is worth the ticket just to watch Igahlo skinning defenders. His balance is amazing. Great performance. Great atmosphere. The 1881 have changed that completely. Even in the Upper Rous the QSF chant was getting laldy! All hail the Pozzos, what a difference they’ve made.

13. moose - 01/11/2015

Great report, on way up occupation road i could not help but think back to four years ago being done 4 0 at home to west ham and thinking that our crumbling ground would soon be a division below the Championship, am i dreaming yesterdays performance was the Watford day dream where we look like a decent top flight outfit, incredible turnaround in 4 years.

14. Goldenboy60 - 02/11/2015

For me this scenario is a bit of De Ja vu from the 80’s. We looked organised, powerful, physically strong, inventive and a big threat. Umm yes, swap Taylor and Jackett for Watson and Capuoe in a good old 4-4-2 and you absolutely have it. We don’t have a Cally and Barnes but Ikechi has genuine pace, and Abdi is just stepping up to the mark and having more impact week by week.

Matt, everything you said is spot on and this does take me back to those wonderful years in the 80’s. I have to wake myself up at what has happened in our club, but by God i’m enjoying it. The tactical battles, the different styles of play from other teams and our ability to change when needed.

Flores for me has nailed it when he said we need to stay humble. Yes we do and keep our feet on the floor and all those things like ignoring the disappointed pundits who want to see us in the bottom 3 and knock our performances.

This is like the 80’s again. This time I’m not getting angry, I’m enjoying it and I don’t care what other people outside of our club feel.

And all those in the Rookery, you have got everybody in the ground to join in. Well done chaps.

15. Goldenboy60 - 04/11/2015

Oh Matt and I liked your reference to Kabaddi. I have recently been coaching in Mumbai and indeed am back out there next week. Now I have watched that on the TV in Mumbai and the crowd are raucous and feverish with their excitement. It is a fascinating exchange of cleverness, strength, team play, and quick feet. It absolutely fascinates me with the tactical battles that ensue. One to watch on the TV if it is ever shown in this country? But we defended very well in two’s and singularly (just like Kabaddi), and were quick to take advantage of defensive slips and wrong decision making of the opposition – just like Kabaddi!

Matt Rowson - 04/11/2015

I only vaguely remember Kabaddi, it was on TV (Trans world sport possibly) about 20 years ago and was amazing… but it involved two walls of people standing off each other as I recall?

straightnochaser - 04/11/2015

Channel 4 aired coverage of Kabbadi in the early 90s.

Goldenboy60 - 04/11/2015

Yes Matt thats roughly it. There is an area with a thick yellow line around a rectangle with 2 white lines across each third of the pitch, which represents zones.

Each side has 7 players. One team attacks while the other defends. The attacking team puts 1 player in and he has to get over the Yellow line that he is attacking without getting touched. If he manages to get across the line he scores. However, the 7 defenders have two sets of 2 who have to hold hands and they cannot let go of each other while the other 3 can defend as individuals. Now it gets Rugby esq because they can rugby tackle the attacker and bring him down, or push him out of the court/pitch. But the 2 sets of two cannot let go of each others hands.

Now the fun bit….

The attacker is only in for 30 seconds at a time, but it is really intense. But the attacker has a microphone attached to him and throughout the 30 seconds or less he has to repeat out loud Kabaddi Kabaddi Kabaddi Kabbadi etc all the time he is in. If he stops then he is out. Not easy whilst you have seven big guys waiting to rugby tackle you, or touch you, whilst your thinking of how to get past them all.

That 30 seconds is like cat and mouse but is so intense and the crowd go wild. Absolutely fascinating….. I’ve tried saying kabaddi repeatedly for 30 seconds which is just really difficult, without 7 big guys gunning for you, so you can imagine how difficult it is when trying to get past those 7 big guys….

Then the teams swap round….

Could be a Watford Luton game…. he he

Matt Rowson - 04/11/2015

Brilliant. Remember being absorbed by it.

straightnochaser - 05/11/2015

That’s an excellent summary Goldenboy60. Also, I’m sure I recall that the chanting of “kabbadi, kabbadi, kabbadi” is the verbal indication that the raiding/attacking player is complying with the rule that they must hold their breath for the duration of the raid.

16. Goldenboy60 - 04/11/2015

Just noticed an amazing stat. After 11 games during the 1999-00 and 2006-07 seasons we were in 16th position with 9 points. So this year and on the day at the end of our game we were in 9th position with 16 points. You can call that a real turn around I believe.

17. Harefield Hornet - 04/11/2015

Matt – random question I know but taking my 9 year old to Leicester on Saturday – How do your kids get on now with the tendency for everyone to stand for the entire length of most away games? Do you get down the front or do they stand on their seats? Only took her to Wolves last year and we had to move to avoid being shelled by objects from the South Bank! Undertsand that everyone usually stands at Leicester?

Matt Rowson - 04/11/2015

My nine year old is tall, so doesn’t normally have an issue. She tends to take a seat looking down the gangway at the Vic, so her view isn’t obstructed. The six year old gets lifted onto a chair and stands on that, holding on to me. I guess there will be a point where she’s too big to lift but still can’t see, but for the moment she’s fine.

Leicester… yes, everyone stands but it’s also quite steep, so you may be ok.

Harefield Hornet - 06/11/2015

Cheers

I actually e-mailed LCFC and asked what their policy was in the away end. Their (very pleasant!) Liaision officer called me back and explained although it contravenes the ground regs it’s impossible to stop 3000 people standing if they want to but I’m already aware of that! – I personally don’t have an issue with standing but my daughter is on the small side for a 9 year old and gets very upset when she can’t see anything. I was told as we’re near the front we should be OK but I’m not holding my breath. Expect it’ll be the same at Villa Park.


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