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Watford 1 Huddersfield Town 4 (16/12/2017) 17/12/2017

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

1- I was in a pantomime this week.  You know the sort of thing…  slapstick humour, bedlam both on stage (planned) and off it (less so).  People running into each other, frantically trying to work out where they were supposed to be, getting into a kerfuffle, trying to improvise frantically when things went wrong.

You can insert your own metaphor here, if you like.

In the build up to showday the challenges built up.  Short-notice audits at work took out a cameo and threatened cast and crew.  We were underrehearsed, naturally.  Then the snow, threatening access to the venue amongst other things.  The discovery that the road to the venue was being resurfaced during showweek was the point at which I stopped panicking and started laughing.  By Tuesday night, the day before the dress rehearsal, things seemed to have turned around.  It was going well.  Challenges navigated.

Then came Crystal Palace.  One-up early on, all going swimmingly until, suddenly, it wasn’t.  Listening to Jon Marks, in my precarious emotional state I saw potential parallels as Tom Cleverley was dismissed and made a Faustian pact.  I was willing to trade Watford’s lead against Palace for a successful panto, “nothing going wrong at the last minute”.  Sorry, but sue me… you weren’t there, I was and I had to make a snap decision.  So in my head, I made the sacrifice, with only a smidgeon of guilt.  And as is traditional when dealing with the devil, I suddenly find myself paying back more than I’d bargained for…

2- It’s not always Huddersfield, but it does tend to be Huddersfield quite a lot.  The notorious end-of-season calamity under Beppe Sannino was worse than this, except that it probably mattered less.  Then there was an incongruous defeat in West Yorkshire during our promotion season when Miguel Layún got rinsed on his debut and promotion felt less than a done deal.  And then there was this one  almost exactly seventeen years ago;  the nadir of the collapse of GT’s last season afforded appropriate disdain by my co-editor who had the good sense not to come up from Hastings on this occasion.  Him and a good number of others, the nominal and now traditional 20k gate including a good number present in Season Ticket but not in body.

Huddersfield showed up though, both on the pitch and in a particularly and understandably boisterous away end.  And much as Newcastle at St James Park had been our ideal opponent – blunt, but with an unconstrained urge to push forward because they were at home to Watford and that, leaving them open to counterattack – Huddersfield were our worst nightmare.  Direct and aggressive without ever (needing to be?) crossing the line they swarmed all over our increasingly tentative possession and attacked with purpose and bloody-mindedness from wide positions, overloading our wing backs.  Yes, the opening goal offside in several different ways – this was an awful afternoon but not all of it was our doing – but the defending was still an utter calamity and thereafter we caved in like a house of cards.  I could strive for creative outrage but frankly I’m just too tired (the after-panto party was a fine thing, as witnessed by my still being hung over two days later…).  Read that last linked report above if you need catharsis.

3- A key factor in this defeat was the attitude and competence of our opponent (see above).  And yes, the officials did play a part, though bitching about bad decisions is even more tedious than excessive introspection.

But there are, clearly, sources of concern here.  Some aren’t new.  The team has looked wonderful at times this season, wonderful in general perhaps.  But in the same way that the midfield never really worked last season, the role of Troy/Andre Gray is yet to be fully resolved this.  Yes, Troy came on and bullied Arsenal but that reflected their failings as much as his success.  Here, even before Troy’s (latest) moment of madness he was ineffectual.  And this… reflects uncertainty in his role, since lack of conviction has never been a reasonable accusation in the past.

Then there’s injuries.  Yes, boring.  Every team gets injuries, and actually two big losses were suspensions and therefore within our hands.  Nonetheless, you can make a good argument for the back five being weaker than the back five ruled out (Femenía, Zeegelaar, Cathcart, Kaboul, Britos) and ditto, more contestably, the central midfield (Chalobah, Cleverley).  You’re tempted to blame bad luck, except that this is the second season blighted by injury;  you have to wonder again at our ability to either keep players fit or to evaluate their robustness on recruitment when comparing our injury list to Huddersfield’s, whose notoriously high energy game nonetheless leaves them with a much more manageable injury list.

Finally, most fundamentally, there’s our approach and Marco’s flexibility.  We’ve won plaudits for and revelled in our expansive play this season, which has been great when it works well.  Glorious, even.  Thing is…  when that’s the only string in your bow and your players get leggy, injured, low on confidence and you’ve no means of keeping games tight and giving yourself something to build off… well, you get dicked like this.  We looked, amongst other things, horribly flimsy.

4- Troy aside, but that’s not really what I had in mind.  I’ve not seen the replays, but consensus and my view at the time was that whatever contact was made, jumping in like that was fuckwitted and unnecessary in the circumstances.  I mean, what the hell, Troy?  A few weeks after a suspension for losing his rag against Stoke?   It gave the referee a decision to make;  maybe Troy might have gotten away with it on a good day, but this certainly wasn’t one of those.

A peculiar coincidence that Jonathan Hogg followed him off the pitch in similar manner in the second half.  Coincidence in that both skippers were leaving the pitch, but also in that Hogg’s last competitive touch at Vicarage Road prior to today had been a memorable cushion down for Troy to convert under the watchful eye of the same official, Michael Oliver.  He was afforded a warm reception before the game and a slightly bemused one as he left it, reaction to a slightly harsh looking second yellow being glee before sheepish realisation that it was Hogg that had seen the red.

By this stage we were a miserable three down, and without a focal point were making precious little progress towards the Terriers’ goal.  A bit like when someone makes a run at the wall in Ninja Warrior, gets a third of the way up and you just know that anything that follows is futile.  Andre Carrillo was at least showing signs of fight and life, taking responsibility, but too little was working around him and the contrast between Capoue’s heaviness and the buzzing energy of Cleverley was stark.

But as Hogg went off a chink of light opened, if briefly.  The pressing game is hard to maintain with eleven men, let alone without your midfield general and captain.  In the pre-match restaurant the Huddersfield fan suggested that if Jake Livermore’s in the England squad then Hogg should be too, to which we quietly agreed whilst thinking that the same applies to my Gran, and she’s German and nearly 90.

So suddenly we had some of the ball and it felt like a fight in which we could land blows again.  With some relief the whole stadium rallied, supporters on their feet happy for the familiar “come on-ness” of it that had been missing, the team suddenly pulling their opponents around a bit.  We did strike back too, an extraordinary drive by Doucouré out of the air through a crowded box that deserves more than to be buried in an episode of MotD that few Hornets will want to watch.  Briefly, we believed.

5-  It fizzled out, though.  It fizzled out before the late penalty, dispatched by comfortably the best player on the pitch in Aaron Mooy, just by not quite being sharp enough or lucky enough, through Huddersfield not being rattled enough.  Shots cannoned around the box, an exquisite move ended with Huddersfield defenders falling over themselves and Andre Gray driving across the face of goal.  Signs of life, right up until Roberto Pereyra thundered the last kick of the game towards the top corner, Lössl clawing it away.  Not enough, not even close.

A miserable afternoon, then, and one best confined to whichever box we put the other Huddersfield horror shows in.  Some issues to be addressed – injured, suspended players will come back (though we miss Zeegelaar, Deeney and also Doucouré for the trip to Brighton) but some more fundamental issues need addressing, not least the conviction of the squad which looked questionable for perhaps the first time this season.

As for the panto…  that was awesome.  A welcome dose of people pulling together, and recognising that laughing at frustrations is more effective than bitching about them.  There are easier times to do it than in the cold after a 4-1 defeat to Huddersfield, mind.

Have a good Christmas.  Yoorns.

Gomes 3, Janmaat 2, Holebas 1, Mariappa 2, Prödl 2, Kabasele 2, *Doucouré 3*, Capoue 1, Carrillo 3, Richarlíson 2, Deeney 1

Subs:  Pereyra (for Mariappa, 29) 2, Gray (for Capoue, 64) 1, Okaka (for Holebas, 82) 0, Wagué, Watson, Sinclair, Karnezis



1. Robert Hill - 17/12/2017

Yes worrying. Looking at the past week we should have got a point at Burnley and a win at Palace. But something inside the squad is a little too soft and a little too hard. We have no middle ground and we cause our own problems. For me this is concerning times as we don’t ever seem to be able to break that next barrier, at least without our challenges for possession getting yellow or red cards. This has to stop as we lose player after player being suspended. And yet we are not a ‘dirty’ team. The Xmas period we have is a very tough one. This next 3 weeks could determine our season. I am concerned to say the least……..

2. Rupe - 17/12/2017

Given that you have rated both Capoue and Holebas 1, I am shocked that you refuse to comment on their simply revolting displays which to me were the worst I have ever seen in more than 35 years.

Capoue – Simply couldn’t be bothered. Bottled out of challenges constantly. Slowed down the play whenever we got the ball allowing Huddersfield to get into position. Nearly every pass played was either backwards or sideways.

Holebas – Incredibly even worse than Capoue. For the first goal he couldn’t. E bothered to defend the initial cross and turned his back. His behavior for the third goal should have resulted in an immediate substitution, it was simply cowardice and surrender combined. Having been beaten yet again he pretends to have been hit in the face and lies down whilst Huddersfield score. When the Watford medical team (sic) come on it is obvious that he was not hurt anywhere within a galaxy of needing to lie down on the field whilst Huddersfield scored.

I would like to read your views on these two players.

3. Stuart Campbell - 17/12/2017

How I wish I had known about your panto and had chosen that as my weekend entertainment rather than yesterday’s ghastly farce at the Vic.
I see you gave 3 players your minimum score of one. I would happily see all of them disappear in January and swap them for your Gran.
Thank you for your enduringly enjoyable reports. Have a great Christmas.

4. nickc - 17/12/2017

Huddersfield games tend to be momentous generally – as well as the ones you mentioned, the first game under Zola (and the Pozzos) where it looked like the whole thing might just work, the defining performance in the snow capped by Battochio’s goal of the season, our last away win for several years under Sannino, an epic 10-man win which turned out to be Sannino’s last game and, going back a bit further, the game in early 1996 that showed Kevin Phillips’ 1995 form had disappeared. Wonder what happened to him…

5. Rupe - 17/12/2017

Why were my comments regarding Capoue and Holebas removed?
They were neither slanderous nor offensive.

6. Rupe - 17/12/2017

Suddenly it returned

However Matt, I await your response.

Media coverage of Holebas has been equally condemning of his actions.

He would have been court martialed in a war for such cowardice and treachery to his fellow men.

He should be sacked by the club.

Players can miss open goals, they can be crassly stupid such as Deeney yesterday but what Holebas did was the most despicable act I have witnessed from a Watford player in terms of absolute deriliction of duty.

Matt Rowson - 17/12/2017

I didn’t approve your comments because I didn’t have time to pen a reply. I didn’t go into detail on Holebas and Deeney in as much depth as you wanted because I really couldn’t be bothered. You have formed an uncharacteristically extreme and absolute view of their performances which makes me wonder why you’re interested in my opinion at all?

For what it’s worth, Holebas looked rusty and his collapse in the box was embarrassing. Huddersfield have pace and power wide and exposed this. Deeney made a bad decision – having viewed the replay now it was stupid, but no worse. I don’t think it was terribly violent. He didn’t play well, but the way we’re playing asks a lot of the centre forward.

Now go and have a lie down.

Roger Smith - 17/12/2017

As you say, Deeney’s challenge was rash, but not dangerous – unlike those of Kane and Alli in the Spurs game. If a Watford player had committed either of those, he would have seen red. I have a definite impression that referees give “big” clubs and star players the benefit of the doubt.

7. reg - 17/12/2017

At 2-0 to Huddersfield and down to ten men I thought “what’s the point of staying? This can only end one way”. Of course there’s no way I would have left but I needed a reason for staying and I got one, when they went down to ten men the whole atmosphere changed, the home crowd got behind the players, the players were energised and began passing the ball with purpose and conviction, it didn’t last very long enough for Doucoure to score with sweetly struck half-volley, just long enough for me to be reminded thatwe can play and we will start to play again at some point, no doubt about it, it’s too easy to get lost in the moment in football without seeing the bigger picture.

Matt Rowson - 17/12/2017

Completely agree.

drdavewatford - 17/12/2017

The sad thing is that at 0-2 it felt like game over even before Deeney was red carded. We were so utterly poor in that opening period – lacking in ideas, lacking in urgency, out-fought and out-run. Deeney’s sending off and an incompetent showing from the officials might provide some with a convenient excuse, but the reality is that we were absolutely dreadful, and Matt’s 1/5 ratings are entirely justified in the aftermath of some truly dismal individual displays.

Credit to Huddersfield, though – they’re a positive, hard working, fit and well-organised side, and their fans were loud and proud.

8. crispticker - 17/12/2017

A few chickens are coming home to roost, here.
We are being found out. Palace and Huddersfield targeted our midfield duo giving them little time and space, and we lost our momentum. Teams are doubling up on Richarlison. Other teams will do the same. We have enjoyed a high energy game plan but the recent schedule has taken its toil. We look tired. We get tired by 75 minutes. We make mistakes at the end of games and others benefit. Cleverley mis-controlled the ball against Palace before being sent off. Doucoure gives a penalty away after losing the ball in his own penalty area. The likes of Liverpool and Spurs played the same high energy game last year, but were normally 3 or 4 up with 15 minutes to go. We haven’t fully solved our striking conundrum and rarely have had that luxury. We don’t possess the depth in substitutes to see out a game. We lost at Palace as soon as the subs were made. Pereyra on the left, Deeney on the right, Richarlison up the middle – talk about strange. Challenging times.

Matt Rowson - 17/12/2017

I agree about tiredness, as mentioned in the report. But… teams have been doubling up on Richarlison all season. He was able to cope earlier on but has had no break and now looks exhausted.

PEDantic - 18/12/2017

I don’t agree that ‘we are being found out’. At full strength we have a very good team with decent backup. What is stretching the squad is our injury record, which has been poor for years. At other clubs players regularly make surprise returns from injury ahead of schedule, but at Watford our injuries always seem to take way longer than quoted to clear up. I assume this must have been looked at by the club but they haven’t improved it yet. This, on top of the disciplinary record, is why the likes of Richarlison are looking tired and we have to use less effective players like Capoue in the team.

9. harefield hornet - 17/12/2017

Re the Deeney incident. I think it was frustration at not winning the ball up top – he decided to drop back and win the ball for the team and played it through to Doucoure,Yes it looked rash but Kane and Ali stayed on the pitch yesterday after X rated tackles that deserved Red cards. It was a yellow card at the most.There needs to be consistency. And I thought Huddersfield were terrific yesterday so fair play to them on their win.I’m sure we’ll be fine once the injured and suspended players return, with the inevitable January recruits.Having just watched Bournemouth being dismembered by Liverpool we certainly aren’t the only ones feeling the heat!

Harefield Hornet - 18/12/2017

Apologies for being completely mistaken about the above……….He actually played it through to Capoue!!

10. Old Git - 17/12/2017

Calm down Rupe! Don’t you remember Kabasele getting a twinge in his tootsie and deciding to have a sit-down at Bournemouth last year, resulting in two lost points? We’ve forgiven him now after some rather more convincing efforts. But I do have to confess bafflement at Holebas’s performance yesterday, when he always seems to act the hard man. As for Capoue, all I can say is good grief. That was the same Capoue who played at Arsenal last January, wasn’t it? This is where man management surely takes over, as with Moyes and Arnautovic.

11. Simon - 18/12/2017

I think your “finding a way to play” point is the key one in many ways, although I see it as being more a case of finding a way to mange games when we have a set-back or bad 10 minutes. in games.

In 17 games so far, we’ve conceded 2 in 3 mins v Liverpool, 3 in 10 v City (which I admit may be excusable), 2 in 3 v WBA, 2 in 7 v Everton (or 3 in 24), 3 in 13 v Utd and 2 in 3 v Palace. You can also throw in Bristol City (2 in 7). Add to that the reaction to a bad start v Huddersfield (wider spacing of goals but 2 down and a man down in 30 mins), Chelsea (which, although the goals were more spaces out felt as though the momentum shifted completely following their equalizer) and Burnley (where we conceded 5 minutes after the red card) and you’ve arguably got more than half our games in which we’ve compounded set-backs fairly swiftly.

I’m not sure what the answer is (if it were that easy ….) but, depending on personnel, when we have a set back or a bad few minutes, I’d like to see us try either pushing the “10” up close to Deeney with two banks of four behind or have Gray and one other split and run the channels (again with the two banks of four behind) so we can maybe play a bit longer for a few minutes and regain our shape at the back and in the center of the park.

Silva plays an open style and I’m fine with that (it’s much more entertaining than under either Mazzari or Flores) but if we can just dig in for those difficult 5-10 minute periods, you feel we’d get a lot more joy.

12. Royston RoF - 18/12/2017

Us ..we deserve much more than that..

Certain players….oh no you dont

Us:…. Oh yes we *****g we do….


Certain players… where is the ball
Us..its behind you.
Certain players…can you see the ball children
Us..Its ******g behind you


Just saying……

13. Wimborne Hornet - 18/12/2017

My wife decided to book the day to go and see our daughter in London and I was left at home dog-sitting. I must admit i was really hacked off that she hadn’t consulted the calendar and seen that I’d got dibs on the day and was going to VR. I felt I should do the right thing and gain a couple of tokens for future spending so I waved as she drove away on Sat morning. Good call.

I only watched the highlights today. Troy; come on! Red mist will always be punished. Holebas; unforgivable, what did you think would happen?

I’ve just realised I haven’t put the fixtures on the 2018 calendar. Where’s that pen?

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