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Watford 1 Gillingham 2 AET (23/08/2016) 24/08/2016

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- So. Samuel Beckett, then.

2- I have to wonder, whilst running the risk of being accused of sour grapes, who wants to be in a competition suddenly labelled the EFL Cup anyway? What is it with abbreviating everything to initialisms and acronyms? It’ll be blogs and websites next. If you’re not going to get it sponsored then do us grumpy conservative (small c) bastards the service of calling it the League Cup? No? Hello? Pah. Where’s my blanket?

3- On the subject of natural conservatism, it’s reassuring that the early stages of the League Cup don’t really change. As discussed on these pages before, it’s almost as if the same game has been trundling on it’s merry way since Cheltenham in 2000. The game doesn’t stop, it’s on an infinite loop in a parallel dimension that we dip into accidentally once a season as if we’re on an A-road that briefly shares tarmac with the route to a mundane, irritable hell. The opponents might change (hello Bournemouth, Cambridge, Accrington, Darlington, Notts County (shudder)) but the spirit, the essence of the occasion is never lost. It’s comforting and familiar in the way that a piece of dripping guttering that you’ve never quite bothered to sort out reminds you that you’re home.

4- In the sense that this is an almost annual event, combined with the ever more dependable summer makeover of our squad, the first League Cup game can be thought of as a sort of initiation ceremony. And this, surely, is the sort of environment in which a bunch of fancy-dan foreigners brought in from their, you know, foreign places where they do foreign things that aren’t British like wot normal people do will surely come unstuck. A mixture of the unacclimatised, the indifferent and the downright not-up-for it against a game and organised lower division side with a free punch. Frankly, if this is what football looks like from the Elton John Stand you’re welcome to it Dave, you and your peaked caps.

5- If you think I’m taking a while to get around to the actual business of these thunks, consider it as a tribute to our attacking play which was, for the most part, ponderous and (to echo IG’s thrust from Saturday) painfully deliberate. We should have been ahead earlier nonetheless… Matej Vydra was the very definition of trying too hard, but much of the spark came from him including dummies, a sharp backheel that should have lead to Anya giving us the lead, spins off the defender for passes that never came. But our answer to Gillingham’s deep defending and tenacious chasing down high up the field was to get wide around the compact defence, and whilst Anya in particular had the beating of his man the quality of delivery wasn’t good enough, the movement and bodies in the box insufficient. It didn’t look frightening. It didn’t look fun. There remained the threat of a goal, something that would happen through sheer buying of tickets (a low drive by Guedioura can’t have been far the wrong side of the post) but there was no sense of inevitability by any means.

6- We came out looking much sharper at the start of the second half, having evidently been told to move the ball quicker. Hurrah. That lasted about 20 seconds, and then we pondered on. Ighalo came on for Guedioura – other than Troy the only starter from Saturday, but less, um, obviously in need of the minutes. Within a minute Iggy had smuggled the ball over the line to relief in the two-thirds-empty stands. That was that, we thought, and crucially so did the team and the manager. Vydra was withdrawn with what looked painfully like a wave goodbye, saluting all four corners of the ground. We should still have been comfortable… the defence had largely done OK, Kabasele in particular looking both tough and elegant in his first start. But OK is only enough if there’s enough threat at the other end and Gillingham, driven on by Cody McDonald who could be described as a scruffy, low-budget Shane Long if Shane Long weren’t already a scruffy, low-budget Shane Long*, smelled blood. It would be wrong to say we weren’t warned… they’d won a penalty through a pointless Nyom trip and Bradley Dack clouted it entertainingly over the bar. Yes, yes, that’s it then, let’s go home. Then we almost almost scored, a Deeney header pawed along the line but not over it before Byrne took advantage of too much space and curled a fine equaliser. Extra time… more possession, little urgency, certainly not at the break where Mazzarri got his midfielders crowded studiously around his notepad between thigh massages whilst Troy and Iggy wandered around looking bored. You know the rest.

7- That Cody McDonald gag isn’t mine… I copied it from somewhere. Probably ig. And it wasn’t about Cody McDonald. But it’s a good line, and deserves better than to disappear into the mists of the Internet.

8- It’s the first game of the League Cup, I get it. It’s always shit and we’ve had plenty of decent seasons despite such obscenities (last season not least). There’s no value in overreacting to an inadequate and irritating but largely inconsequential and unrepresentative evening. Which doesn’t mean that everything’s fine. There’s a big grey area between “everything’s great” and “everything’s rubbish” and that’s where we are at the moment. As the absent Craig Cathcart emphasised pre-match, this was an opportunity to record a first win of the season. We didn’t take it. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. But in the face of encouraging League performances leaving us with two dropped leads and one point, a win here and a straw to cling to as far as our attacking potency was concerned wouldn’t have hurt at all.


1. George White - 24/08/2016

The bottom line is if we are still in the Premier League next season as bad as it was this will be long forgotten as Preston was last Season.

2. BH - 25/08/2016

I think one of the very few negatives with the Pozzo’s arrival has been that we don’t really get going until mid-September. Each year sees the arrival of a new coach and new players. That invariably means a new formation that the players take time to learn. Those new players often arrive towards the end of the window and like the coach, often take a little time to adapt to a new country and a new league.

Apart from their middle year in the Championship, the Pozzo’s have seen Watford progress significantly year-on-year. If a slow start is the price to be paid for such progress, so be it.

I am left wondering though, given how smart they appear to be, why the Pozzo’s have not learned from this yet. Maybe it’s a necessary short-term and unavoidable ‘pain’.

Matt Rowson - 25/08/2016

As you imply, difficult to see how to avoid it given the model. Although it’s significant that we’re being quite cautious in “blooding” the new guys, not the first time that’s happened. That continuity must offset the upheaval a little.

3. Harefield Hornet - 26/08/2016

On MV, his treatment by the club over the last couple of seasons has been one of the very few negatives. I’m a huge fan despite his foibles and I’m desperately hoping they don’t just ship him out again before he gets at least one more crack in the league. I’m convinced he can do it if given the chance and you could see the other night that the chemistry between him and TD is still there. He just gives us a different option but I suppose the issue is whether he’d rather take a chance from the bench or go elsewhere and get starts? WM seems to be implying he doesn’t have much say in the outcome – perhaps it will just boil down to a numbers game on the amount of overseas players we can keep – which will be a shame. i.e. if he stays Guedioura or whoever goes etc etc.

Matt Rowson - 26/08/2016

His “treatment” by the club is difficult to pass judgement on from our standpoint. His sulkiness on occasions has been evident from the stands, and by all accounts he wasn’t prepared to dig in and play the role that we wanted him to play last season, hence he was shipped out and hardly pulled up any trees. I’d like Vydra to work out and as you imply he’s a different option… but he’s got to do himself a favour as well. Indications are he’s aware of this, but I’m not sure it’s fair to say that he’s been treated badly thus far.

Harefield Hornet - 26/08/2016

Fair enough, maybe if I had to deal with him on a daily basis I might share his employer’s frustrations. I just have this nagging feeling we’re still sitting on a gem of finisher and Troy’s recent comments indicate he may have sorted out his issues. Let’s just hope it’s not too late!

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