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Watford 2 Burton Albion 0 (07/01/2017) 08/01/2017

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

1- So the F.A. Cup, then. Not What It Once Was. Maybe. Overburdened with bluster, the same tosh about romanticism that gets trotted out more or less annually around now before the TV companies pick the predictable games. And yes, West Ham getting humped was very funny but just as good decisions don’t guarantee good outcomes sometimes bad decisions get lucky.

Either way, the F.A. Cup hasn’t plumbed the depths of the League Cup. The third round IS exciting, whatever, even with an absentee list that’s stronger than the available eleven, even in a no-win fixture at home to a new Championship side. We’re expected to go through, it’s a free punch for the Brewers. Romanticism and David v Goliath is all very well until you’re suddenly Goliath, relatively speaking, on the back of awful form and that injury list.

So, the decision to neglect Season Ticket holder’s right to their seat for the League Cup game against Gillingham was kind of OK. Everyone knows what the first round, our first round of the League Cup is about by now, few enough want to subject themselves to it. But for this? This is supposed to be a big deal, at least a serious game, and I want to be sitting in my seat, with my family and my mates. It’s part of the ritual, being denied “my” seat just pisses me off. Anecdotally a good number of the no-shows were turned off by that decision. Should I come to the cup game? Well I haven’t got my seat, so actually no. The club are well in credit as far as treating support is concerned and heaven knows that there are bigger things in the world to worry about but surprising that the importance of these things to folks is misjudged. Don’t think it’s just me.


2- So we watch developments from the Elton John stand, which adds to the sense of this not being quite normal. Daughter 2 has her eyes on our seats. Daughter 1’s appears to be free, the other two are not and Daughter 2 glowers her disapproval. Fortunately it’s overcast; it’s thirty plus years since I sat in the Family Enclosure, I don’t miss the peaked cap.

The team selection was always going to be a source of fascination; whilst Walter has precious little flexibility it’s slightly surprising that he’s gone for virtually the strongest available selection in the circumstances. We’re pared back enough, perhaps, but you did half expect more than merely Seb Prödl given a rest on the bench, albeit perhaps a few of those unwell or unfit might have been risked for a League game. As it is, Seb is called into action anyway as Cathcart, who had taken a blow early on, is pulled up with what the ref indicates is a head injury. Initially it seems that he’s going off for stitches or something, but Seb’s on the touchline before Cathcart gets there. In fairness, the back three are immaculate throughout and in the first half are more than a match for the tentative questions that Burton throw at them.

But the stand-out selection is Brandon Mason at left back following his debut off the bench in the less forgiving environment of the caning by Spurs six days ago. Yes it’s been forced – it’s difficult to conceive of an alternative selection that wouldn’t have been extremely wonky – but it’s welcome anyway, a Good Thing. And Mason plays his role to a tee on several levels. His relentless positiveness and enthusiasm stands out a mile – he’s clearly having a whale of a time, and is the one pelting up the flank on the overlap to make an option. He gets carried away too… more than once he’s pulled back into position, his eagerness to play as a winger exposing Britos behind him and attracting stern words from senior colleagues, not least the still off-beam Ighalo who is reluctant to indulge the youngster with a pass. On balance though it’s a complete triumph… brave, bold, energetic, robust, tougher than his slight frame suggests. The crowning moment comes with yet another scamper down the left, a vicious low cross and Christian Kabasele is all alone at the far post. Mason’s celebration is a thing of joy, certainly unmatched in the SEJ stand where daughter 1 is aghast at the lack of jumping around.

3- Burton turn out to be a convenient opponent. Tough and competitive, putting a lot of pressure on the ball they are characterised by a level of aggression that just about stays the right side of the line, a general bluntness up front and a who’s who of familiar names from Championship years past – not the stars, the other guys, the supporting cast. Lee Williamson, who joined the Hornets ten years ago this week, ticks all of those boxes; five years later he received a red card here in Sheffield United’s colours for taking out Lloyd Doyley, here his thunderous challenge on Capoue was as clean as a whistle but left no margin for error and saw the Frenchman sitting on his backside and rubbing his jaw. Elsewhere Albion reveal a decent line in narky little forwards; Jamie Ward is a first half sub, Luke Varney stretchered off on his debut after a collision with Pantilimon. Andy suggests Jamie Cureton would have completed the set.

Overall though there is next to no threat on our goal in the first half. In the second period Albion have a lot more attacking width and have two good opportunities earlier on but are forced onto the back foot and having missed those chances offer little thereafter. We rarely threaten to overwhelm them, but it’s comfortable enough… long spells of possession that occasionally unsettle the visitors when we tease some discomfort from their defence.

4- The second period also sees two other fringe players make a claim. Jerome Sinclair has seen his status escalated from occasional bench-filler in the wake of our current situation. Here, fielded as part of a rotating front three with Troy and Ighalo he failed to impose himself in the first half, often struggling to keep his feet. In the second… at one-up we’re always vulnerable to an equaliser, however stealthily it would have needed to sneak up on us, until Sinclair sets off on a slalom from the halfway line midway through the half and finishes with a flourish. Daughter 1 and I execute the premeditated strategy of celebrating like it’s the Rookery and be damned. Sinclair’s made it look easy – in fairness Burton’s resistance was cursory – but his confidence blossoms thereafter. Now he’s a menace, running at a Burton defence that’s clearly had enough, first releasing Ighalo for a painfully deliberate shot that McLaughlan saves then threatening to reprise his earlier effort with angles, this time, narrowed by the Brewers’ once-bitten caution. Difficult to dispute Mazzarri’s later assertion that getting games is the key thing for him on this evidence.

Meanwhile, the near-mythical Brice Dja Djédjé has made an unheralded entrance from the bench and looks thoroughly accomplished… dynamic, powerful and clearly happy to be playing football at last he comes close to crowning his cameo with a goal, clouting a long range shot enthusiastically, narrowly over. Like Sinclair, his energy and willingness are welcome.

5- Overall, then, reassuringly straightforward. True, an away tie against a Championship side in a better vein of form might have presented more of an issue but all in all and against all expectations – and awaiting news on what will hopefully have been a precautionary withdrawal for Cathcart – the game has proven to be a Good Thing in its own right. Yes, you’d want to see us playing better and creating more and looking more confident but it’s a positive step nonetheless in it’s routineness, in racking up a comfortable win despite everything. Good showings by several younger or newer players, a clean sheet and no replay.

Job Done. Yoorns.


1. Roger Smith - 08/01/2017

How come you couldn’t get your seats in the Rookery? I bought mine in the period reserved for season ticket holders, and checked that I could sit anywhere, as that was what was advertised. When they said no, the system’s changed, I asked to sit in the SEJ instead, to see what it was like, and they were happy to cancel my usual seat and relocate me.

It turned out to be a wonderful seat, high above the halfway line, and so midway between two gangways. And there’s the rub: the nearest gents was on the ground floor. Fortunately I didn’t need a comfort break at half time, as I don’t think I would have made it back in 15 mins – it took me that long to leave the ground at the end of the game.

So it’s back to my aisle seat in the Rookery (D50, if you’d care to introduce yourself), and let flag waving continue.

Matt Rowson - 08/01/2017

The period reserved for ST holders didn’t guarantee you your own seat. I also found the advertising confusing and concluded, like you, that I was buying entry for a stand without a reserved seat. By the time I got around to booking tickets – surely no rush to get Rookery entry – I realised that I had misunderstood and at least some of “our” seats had gone.

If I’m feeling energetic I’ll come and find you at Boro, but with two girls in tow it will need to be a Good Day…

2. Ramsgate Horn - 08/01/2017

Agreed on all point another excellent report Mason was my Mom in the first half i Suppose that Sinclairs second half display takes the overall honours Britos was very good today not a great match but welcome win good also to see Duocoure playing quite well and us still in the hat

3. Robert Hill - 08/01/2017

That really sums up the game for me. Clearly the big difference between levels is the ability to put the ball in the net. Spurs did it to us and killed the game quickly. We took a bit longer but still effectively killed it. And there is the difference.

It was very important to win the game in order to restore some belief.

But I still feel we are missing the spark and enthusiasm we had at the start of the season. I have been bemoaning our lack of sharpness in games and the players confirmed what I had anticipated. Training on. A Friday should be sharp, light and short. Rest is as important as training and there has not been enough rest for me. It’s not just physically but also and more importantly mentally.

JohnF - 09/01/2017

I think you could well be right and that would contribute to injuries. Something isn’t quite as it should be.

4. harefield hornet - 08/01/2017

A fair summary Matt. Due to a trip down under over Xmas this was my first game since Everton and I left the ground with a warm feeling following the welcome appearance of some of our “own”, albeit in forced circumstances. The seating issue was a bit strange – originally I think they were selling unreserved seats i.e. Sit anywhere you like? – but I visited the ticket office before the Everton game and bought my own and daughters season ticket seats without any problem? Just lucky I suppose? Agree season ticket holders should have been prioritised. And the family stand people were all kicked out too – cant understand the reasoning for that unless they thought Burton would sell 5000?

Matt Rowson - 08/01/2017

I guess that’s the logic. Albeit Burton were unlikely to take the full stand they were entitled to it, and thus we couldn’t sell it. As such ST holders there couldn’t be guaranteed their seat. Still think ST holders elsewhere should be guaranteed their seats tho.

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