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Watford 3 Everton 2 (10/12/2016) 11/12/2016

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- I had a friend once. I still have friends, in fact, but this particular friend isn’t a friend any more, not because we fell out or anything but because we drifted in different directions. She doesn’t seem to indulge in Social Media to permit the illusion of an ongoing relationship that is actually no more than an echo.

Anyway, she came to a few Watford games. She was at Wrexham away midweek in December 1997, so she can’t be faulted for not giving football a go but she absolutely never got it. Whilst others come along and participate, however temporarily, chanting and singing and being submerged, she just watched on nonplussed. She even went as far as deriding the very notion that football was something that could be “discussed”, when I claimed to have spent an evening with friends doing just that. Discussing football was as inconceivable as discussing a colour, a piece of paper, a stretch of tarmac. It had no nuance, it just was.

She was wrong, of course. Plenty of us spend an awful lot of time discussing football, in mind-numbing detail. The only thing that’s remarkable about this to my mind is how it continues despite how inconsequential such discussion is. Our evaluations don’t change, cannot affect reality… none of our opinions, however well formulated, influence a manager’s decisions or a game’s outcome. Where a crowd influences a game it’s a product of a groundswell of opinion, not a conversation.

There’s a point to this thread. It’s to do with the popular grumble about the distance of any youth products from our first team but I’ve spent a lot of your time not talking about the game so I’ll come back to this later…

2- It was pissing it down with rain. Rob McKenna would be able to offer a more colourful description that captured its dreary, mild, inconsequential boredom but suffice to say that it kinda suited the anxiety of the occasion, with this one against our most established bogey side potentially constituting the tipping point between an iffy run and a bit of a problem.

The game started in corresponding fashion. We had the opening chances but it was… anxious, tentative, half-hearted. As if we were waiting for an excuse to feel sorry for ourselves. It came… a looping ball dropped over our defence; Britos was asleep, Gomes came out and hesitated, Lukaku slipped the ball home and we looked forward to expanding our catalogue of ways not to beat Everton (current entries including spirited draw, low-key bore, aggravating travesty, miserable humdrum defeat, abject humiliation…).

3- So, back to that thing about youngsters. I’m as guilty of that as anyone. Almost anyone. It feels wrong that we have no kids near the first team (injury crises excepted), that our closest thing to a first team youth product is on loan at Blackburn, that Sean Murray dwindled so sadly, that Michael Folivi, exciting as he may be, will be conscious that Bernard Mensah, Alex Jakubiak, Uche Ikpeazu were all in his place once.

Thing is, when the chips are down experience has its uses. This game was not so much in danger of drifting off into miserable soul-sapping defeat as halfway down the aisle with a bag of snacks checking its seat number. Everton were buoyed by their goal, and whilst Lukaku’s movement and ability to drop into space continued to be their only threat (and target) they were on top and in danger of dragging the game beneath the surface and suffocating it.

That’s where the experience comes in. The bullishness. Valon Behrami, chasing down dawdled balls as the visitors slowed the game down, setting an example. Sebastian Prödl, monstrous again, bullying Lukaku out of possession. Nordin Amrabat taking responsibility, committing people again and again. Stefano Okaka, a broad-shouldered thunderous force of nature. Troy… just, Troy. Crashing into a header to Okaka, Okaka releasing Amrabat and meeting his cross with a balletic flicked backheel and – here’s the extraordinary bit – at the near post. We have someone attacking the near post. Crazy.

4- Less crazy is the number of leaders we have in this side, in stark contrast to our visitors who looked utterly rudderless. Ashley Williams is Wales’ captain but the defence was fretful throughout; Gareth Barry has skippered his country but beyond his usual trick of more or less judging how hard and frequently he could put the boot in without attracting sanction his influence was limited. This is a side with better, more prominent youngsters than us – Barkley, Deulofeu, Lukaku, Funes Mori – and they weren’t able to hack it.

Meanwhile Prödl snarled into an immaculate challenge on Lukaku. Okaka flew in decisively on Coleman. There was only one direction this game was travelling. Perversely it was set pieces, so often our bugbear, that got us there… the comically bad-tempered Holebas swinging in a corner for Prödl to thunder home and another for Okaka to flick in with Troy there to confirm. In and around that Prödl got underneath another, Britos ghosted in to a deep cross to force an impossible save from Stekelenburg. We could have been further ahead.

5- It doesn’t pay to get carried away. This was a mighty win that spoke volumes for our character and the options in our squad but it was thrilling rather than high quality… the defence was get-attable throughout, Lukaku pulling one back having been afforded an exclusion zone in the penalty area as Koeman’s changes afforded the visitos some options.

But thrilling and seventh in the table will do, for now. As above, this was a pivotal game, defeat would have been four in five with Man City on Wednesday. Now, having come from a goal down, that’s a free punch. And we do pack a punch.

But don’t discuss it with anyone will you?

This is likely to be the last BHappy report before Christmas, so have a good one…




1. Roger Smith - 11/12/2016

“…none of our opinions, however well formulated, influence a manager’s decisions or a game’s outcome.”

How would you know? No manager would ever admit to it, of course, but if he closed his mind to constructive comment from wherever, he would be missing out. And what’s in the winger’s mind as he decides in a split second whether to hit and hope an early cross, or play a safe backward pass. They may nor remember Roger Smith’s on-line advice to that effect, but from a MotD pundit? Maybe.

Matt Rowson - 11/12/2016

Well possibly. But if you think that your (or any of our) pearls of wisdom are going to change the direction of travel you’re kidding yourself.

2. mikephipps - 11/12/2016

I consider this to be a very small down payment on our compensation for 1984.

Matt Rowson - 11/12/2016

The thing with that debt is, they’ve left it festering and accumulating interest for so long they’ll never pay it off…

3. George - 11/12/2016

Thank you for all your reports for those of us flung far from the Vic. It’s always a highlight to have such well written and considered material as grist for our discussions–they may not be monumental but they’re a great way to familiarly pass the time. All the best to IG and yours for the festive season. George

Matt Rowson - 11/12/2016

Many thanks George

4. Old Git - 11/12/2016

Well refereed, I thought. Mr Taylor’s two early yellow cards got the message through to the players that there was a line not to be crossed. And he wasn’t a referee to be taken in by this ‘there was contact’ nonsense, that sees interminable free kicks given when players breathe on one another.

Matt Rowson - 11/12/2016

I would agree, although I think Everton fans were getting a bit wound up…

5. Graham Daly - 11/12/2016

I always enjoy your reports Matt, illuminating and entertaining. However, I didn;t see the game in the same way. Perhaps sitting in Upper GT gives a different perspective. Even with the dozy start, and I think Barry’s pass to Lukaku had a deal of fortune attached to it, we looked sharper, more inventive, more organised than Everton for all 80 minutes, until Aaron Lennon (always a good player) gave the toffees some hope. Everton seemed shapeless and were waiting for us to give the ball to them rather than competing for it. Koeman didn’t do his homework. Burnley Stoke and WBA never gave us a minute’s peace – result , we lost (even if WBA wasunlucky). Everton sat off – result we were good and effective.

Matt Rowson - 11/12/2016

That’s interesting. Perhaps it was just me… I saw Everton a goal up, gaining confidence and slowing the game down. Perhaps I just saw a future that involved us fumbling to a 1-0 defeat… but certainly felt Behrami was significant in wresting back the initiative.

Agree about the fortune of the pass on retrospect, although intended or not you’ve got to deal better than we did. Also recognise that Everton were slack and that helped us. Can’t agree about Lennon tho… 🙂

6. Noel - 11/12/2016


We might pay the debt if we play Everton at Wembley in May and Troy clatters Stekelengburg for a contentious goal. It might have happened last May.

On second thoughts, just mention the word ‘Gray’ around these parts.

I think the Manure fans last year influenced the decisions on Van Gaal and his replacement, but they tend to be a longer term effect. A ground swell of unhappiness or disapproval with whats seen, along with panicky directors.

How many managers have we seen being sacked due to being unpopular with fans, usually alongside declining results?

Best wishes,

Leavesden ‘orn

7. Stuart Campbell - 11/12/2016

A very entertaining game with some excellent performances. Behrami had a very fine second half with a responsible as well as tigerish display. Amrabat was at his pesky best too and, like Behrami, I thought also played very responsibly. Possibly, and hopefully, not just coincidence.

Okakaka quite understandably grabbed the headlines. Jings, he didn’t half make me grin like a halfwit! But my MoM was the colossal Prodl, the most consistently good player of the year so far, was truly magnificent yesterday. I can’t remember the last time a centre back had me standing up cheering his efforts so much.

A great early Christmas present of a game. On which note… a very Happy Christmas to our two enduringly entertaining scribes. Over the years, through sad and happy, you’ve become an essential cornerstone of Ornship. Don’t you dare think of retiring!

Matt Rowson - 11/12/2016

Ha. “Enduring” is about right. Thx, not going anywhere yet…

8. NeedToGetOutMore.com - 11/12/2016

Second goal came not from a Holebas corner, but a FK. Bitte!

Matt Rowson - 11/12/2016

Danke… no, really… 🙂

9. Steve Thomas - 11/12/2016

Hi Matt, thanks for another very good year of Thunks, always making the right level of comments for review on a Sunday morning with a big mug of tea and toast. I listened to most of the match via the Radio 5 Live commentary and they were clear on the superiority of the Golden Boys yesterday against those pampered but disorganised Toffees. It was also clearly an important win, to hopefully start a new run. And with a new hero and players returning soon enough.

You happened to mention getting to see the Golden Boys over in Wrexham, something I did twice around the same time, being an exiled WFC fan based in the North West.

This reminded me of an amusing away supporter chant from one of those games….”Stand up, if you can’t sit down….”. No seats in the Lower Tier at the Racecourse in those days.

Keep up the good work, Steve

Matt Rowson - 11/12/2016

I think I remember that chant. I’d been abroad for the start of that season, trying to follow our progress in our first “great” season for years via World Service in those days before everyone had access to the Internet. I promised myself a stupid, indulgent away trip when I got back, and that was it.

Matt Rowson - 11/12/2016

…and thanks. Mug-of-toast-and-tea isn’t consciously what we aim for, but it’s a very happy thought that we’re fulfilling that requirement.

Graham Daly - 12/12/2016

I only visited the racecourse once, to see ronnie rosenthal power in a header from the corner of the box from a Paul robinson cross after a 1-2. Happy days!

Matt Rowson - 12/12/2016

That’s the one. But BSaD records the provider as Nigel Gibbs… http://www.bsad.org/9798/reports/wrxhama.html

10. harefield hornet - 11/12/2016

Another mention for Stefano Akaka. Yesterdays version was the same one we caught a few glimpses of at West Ham. Lets hope he can stay fit! Of to Oz for Xmas so best wishes to all on here! Hope you see Troy’s 100th (winner against Palace please) though I’ll be gutted not to be there to celebrate it!

11. tonyfirasse - 12/12/2016

Am very glad to echo the appreciation of far-flung overseas Horns fans for yours and IG’s insightful, quirky summaries of Watford making a real fist of their first ever season two in the EPL. You manage to paint a picture in words of the atmosphere, sounds and smells of Watford games. Okaka bowled me and my mate over but Prodl was immense and embodies the never-say-die spirit of the team. I hope my two festive games while over (Palace and Spurs) prove to be as exciting and productive as the Everton victory. Was also very impressed by the Everton fans joining in for the Ray Bradbury tribute. Looking forward to even more measured and entertaining Rowson/Grant write-ups in 2017!

tonyfirasse - 14/12/2016

Sincere apologies, I was referring to the Ray Batchelor tribute, may he rest in peace.
Tony B., Abu Dhabi

12. South West Hornet - 12/12/2016

Tuned-in to the second half on the radio. And I thought watching Watford was a nerve racking experience enough. That was an extremely long few minutes after Everton got their second goal.

Cheers for the report, that feels like a big victory in the context of the season.

13. BH - 12/12/2016

That’s an interesting observation on youth development. In three and a half years, the Pozzo’s have transformed the first team to sit 7th in the PL; transformed the stadium and have further plans for it; and have apparently transformed the training ground. If we have to wait longer for some “of our own” to come through, so be it. We have to trust that they will get there eventually.

What is a little disappointing is that none of the younger players they bought for significant money (Berghuis, Oulare, Doucoure, Kasabele and Penaranda) have made their mark for us. It would be great to watch a youngster develop in the way say that Prodl has in just over a season.

As for 7th in the table, it’s mad. The team have played well only in patches in matches so far this season and are yet to be described as “flying” or on a consistently good run. Once the defensive lapses are reduced and a fit squad is attained, then there is a real chance of finishing top ten this season. Very exciting.

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