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Watford 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1 (02/09/2018) 03/09/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- So it’s been a fun week.  Fun to be patted on the head like the child allowed to stay up late when the adults have had a glass of wine or two.  “So Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and… oh yes, surprisingly, Watford have a 100% record….”.

This mutated as the days passed.  “Actually I still fancy Watford to be relegated,” suggested a bookmaker’s rep on a podcast this week, confusing a radical, roguish, controversial opinion with stupidity.  “In a couple of month’s time everyone will have forgotten about Roberto Pereyra” was another sage observation on the same podcast.

I suspect the tone of this week’s observations might be slightly different.

2- It’s summer again.  Proper hot.  Necessary precautions have been taken to navigate the traffic snarl up heading to the Krishna festival at Aldenham (thanks Paul) and we’re parked up early, giving me time to deliberate over whether I’m sufficiently certain that my lucky Primitives t-shirt is at the heart of our good run to go with an extra layer under the club shirt (I am, I did, you’re welcome).

Vicarage Road is navigated at the cost of an Ice Cream spillage and many tears from Daughter 2, finally assuaged by face painting and tattoos outside the club shop.  We’ve mentioned this before but the party atmosphere being cultivated on this corner is a fine thing, the more so in the sunshine, and is noted by Daughter 1 who sometimes gives the impression of the world, our world, passing her by but not here.  By the time we head down Occupation Road Daughter 2 is busy looking for the ancient turnstile and once in the ground she, like the rest of us, is fully focused on the matter in hand.  And after three (and a half) wins, the arrival of a proper big gun is a fascinating prospect rendered low risk by the nine point cushion.

3- The first half is deemed “intense” by Daughter 2, not inaccurately.  Others elsewhere, others not emotionally involved, called it dull, “lacking in incident” or similar.  And I suppose if you weren’t emotionally involved then that would be true but we were, all of us, and it wasn’t.

Spurs had the best of it, indisputably.  We had the occasional foray forward and looked vibrant, the crowd sparking at the slightest provocation and came closest when Deeney met a deep Janmaat cross and headed over.

But most of the action was at our end and for the second weekend running we demonstrated our new-found defensive resilience.  I’m not sure I’ve seen a better central defensive pairing for Watford than Cathcart and Kabasele, certainly not since John McClelland left, and both were in full effect here.  But Janmaat and Holebas are suddenly solid and reliable, and the gang of four between them repelled Spurs’ albeit slightly hesitant probing.  Most spectacular was Janmaat’s diving header (“like a superhero” – Daughter 1) to cut out a cross pass beyond the far post;  most fortunate Alli’s point-blank miss when (mistakenly) flagged. Closest, a header from the same player which didn’t drop quickly enough.

“Not much in it” was occasional visitor Ian’s verdict at the break.  Me, I was glad to have gotten to the interval.

4-  Having had to man the barricades at the end of the first half, Spurs’ goal came from nothing eight minutes into the second.  A loose clearance, an aimless low cutback from Moura and a freak deflection off Doucouré that wrong-footed Foster. The sort of goal that would normally be a hammer blow.  “You don’t give away goals like that against teams like this.  It can’t be our day.  They haven’t had to do much to earn that…”.

So it speaks volumes that we fought our way back.  Not propelled by the crowd, the crowd responded ferociously to the performance but the performance came first.  Not the easy, the smart, the lucky way – coming straight back at Spurs and grabbing a goal before they’d reset themselves.  The equaliser was fifteen minutes in coming, and arrived on the back of a display that was the match of any Watford performance I’ve seen for single-mindedness, for strength of personality, and for sheer ability in the face not of a top class opponent having an off day but of a top class opponent having the initiative wrested unwillingly from their hands as they were clubbed over the head and left writhing in a ditch.  My God, we were magnificent.

We could so easily have rolled over.  So easily have… if not given up, you’d not have believed that of this side, but allowed doubts to colour our positivity.  Not for one minute.  The defence held strong and persisted in playing the ball out, allowing us to break.  The midfield were asked to chase as much as to control possession, but they won a close battle on points, whilst Troy and Andre had maybe their best twenty minutes in tandem, belligerent and tireless.  Spurs had moved us around in the first half, but it was the visitors that seemed to wilt in the sun.

Troy was an absolute monster.  Let nobody be in any doubt that we’ve got our centre forward back, all those suggestions that he’d run his race have long since been forgotten by the briefly faithless.  He chased down Davínson Sánchez on the right wing and left him on his backside.  He smacked a low, hard cross into the box, Alderweireld stuck his head out and deflected it past Vorm and off the inside of the post and crossbar.  Shortly afterwards he met Holebas’ delicious free kick and flicked a header home.

The place erupted, and we went for the kill.  Spurs were reeling, and didn’t have much of an answer.  As we lined up a corner Troy, in full beast mode now and playing off the intensity of the crowd, emptied a bottle of water over his head before returning, shoulders hunched, to the fray.  A statement, but a theatrical decoy.  Cathcart it was who leaned through unnoticed to win the game.

5- Impossibly, there were still around 15 minutes of regular play to go.  The magnitude of the spectacle had seemed to fill hours and in the insane heat with Spurs having to push on nobody was taking anything for granted.  More than one “Oh I can’t watch this” was overheard from various voices behind me.

But again, evidence of how much this team has matured, of how much more in control of this we are than the lucky chancers that many accounts have painted us.  Spurs did come at us;  Harry Winks came on (to a few witless “who”s from local intellectuals incapable of recognising a Hemel Hempstead boy and England international) and he provided a scampering, thrusting urgency.  More entertaining to Ian was the introduction of Llorente, “throwing the big lad on up front” not beyond the elite either, it seems.

But we retained control.  We held possession in the corner, we held out not merely by setting our backs squarely against the wall (tho that was needed, particularly when Kane’s header skimmed over) but by smuggling the ball off and hiding it, by not giving Spurs the chance to hurt us, by cutting off the threat at source, sub Success in another strong cameo as significant as anyone.

And then the final whistle went and we bellowed.  We screamed at the sky.  This isn’t another trophy win, a shiny adornment to a mid-table season, fine though that would be.  This was us going up against a side who, like us, had a 100% record but who, unlike us, were expected to have one.

And beating them.

And deserving it.

Bring on United.


Foster 4, Janmaat 5, Holebas 5, Cathcart 5, Kabasele 5, Hughes 4, Doucouré 4, Capoue 4, Pereyra 5, Gray 4, *Deeney 5*
Subs:  Success (for Gray, 70) 4, Chalobah (for Hughes, 86), Mariappa (for Pereyra, 90), Sema, Femenía, Masina, Gomes




1. Jim B - 03/09/2018

“Cathcart it was who leaned through unnoticed to win the game.”

Not true, watch the replays. Even at the moment that Cathcart’s head meets the ball the chest of his shirt is still being gripped tightly by Dembele who’d had hold of it since before the ball was kicked and definitely had noticed him

Determination took Craig through as he rose to get in front of the static pack

Matt Rowson - 03/09/2018

🙂 A bit of poetic licence. You’re right, of course, Dembélé realised he was in trouble as soon as Cathcart was past him. It’s just that Troy’s theatrics meant that at the time i was fully focused on him, whereas the threat came from Craig stealing (OK, steaming) in behind him.

Jim B - 03/09/2018

Fair point on Troy’s effect on the defence’s focus

Anyway, great summary of a fantastic day!

2. Luke - 03/09/2018

Today I asked myself just how many match reports can a man read. The answer seems to be A LOT!

3. Garry O’Brien - 03/09/2018

Why such low marks for the players? 🐝🐝

Matt Rowson - 03/09/2018

Marks out of 5. Thought I’d been quite generous TBH… Ian’s much better than me at not letting his excitement cloud his judgement. Would have knocked a few of them down on reflection.

4. StevenFewster - 03/09/2018

1. Thanks for the sacrifice of wearing the Primitives shirt again. It’ll be threadbare by the end of the season.
2. Arm-chair watching never gives the full impression, I take it Gray was running rampant and pulling people out of position. His work rate is tireless and I would like to see more pay-off.
3. I never want to be between Troy in Beast Mode and whatever he’s after.

Cracking report as ever, thanks!

Matt Rowson - 03/09/2018

Thanks Steven. Yes, Gray worked very very hard, and looks more resilient than previously, certainly holding the ball up well.

5. John van Dyk - 03/09/2018


As a long in the tooth Watford fan who lives abroad, I look forward to your match summaries and love them! Thanks!


Matt Rowson - 03/09/2018

🙂 Thanks John

6. reg - 03/09/2018

The worst thing Spurs could have done is score a goal, we looked as though we would have been happy with a 0-0 and thanks to our defiance in the face of a very accomplished side with good width, shape and controlled passing we held out until into the second half when Spurs forced a mistake, Kabasele heading the ball instead of leaving it for Foster resulting in a messy Doucoure og. Against such a side a 0-0 would have been a creditable result and extended our unbeaten run but the Spurs goal galvanised the players and Watford support. No way were we going to allow Spurs to take away our unbeaten start and led by the immense Deeney we responded magnificently. It was extra sweet that the winning goal was scored by a player who endured an injury nightmare last season, what a moment for Cathcart. When Holebas swung over the corner I swear I saw a steely glint in Cathcart’s eye which said “you can grab my shirt all you want but that’s my ball”. I once heard Lennie Lawrence say about his own Charlton side after a 1-0 home defeat to Plymouth that they had no “arsehole”, I love watching Spurs but…. I love watching Watford beat them with that type of performance even more.

7. Joe Richardson - 03/09/2018

Great report as ever. One of the more delicate highlights for me, watching from home, was the close-ups of Troy giving advice to Success. Fairly soon after he was brought on he clattered into a Spurs player (Trippier?) and for whatever reason the cameras switched to Troy – he was motioning to Success to take big deep breaths – not shouting “calm it down”, but supportively showing him what he needed to do to keep his head in the game…and so it continued throughout, at corners, when he started to commit himself too high or too deep, when holding the ball at the corner flag, he was constantly chatting, subtly pushing and pulling him into the right spot. Clearly Success needs work (a great prospect), but my admiration for Troy’s leadership grew a lot from just seeing these small acts. Roll on United.

Matt Rowson - 03/09/2018

That’s great. Something more evident from the TV coverage than the stands. Inspiring.

8. John M - 03/09/2018

Surprisingly, Hornets received much praise on MOTD2 for their defensive resilience and organisation. Rather than the usual ‘Spurs were off colour’ they attributed their impotence to Watford’s defensive solidity. I posted on another site after the Burnley game how the defence has been transformed. Poor Masina probably moved here believing he would be a ‘shoe-in’ for left defence. Only to find the previous incumbent (Holebas) has been secretly replaced by the look-alike (and equally angry) Greco-Roman god of football. Janmat was described as ‘brilliant’ on MOTD2…a tribute to the transformation of a flaky defender into utter solidity.

9. Jeff Lloyd - 03/09/2018

What a terrific game it was. At 2-1 I turned to my 16 year old and asked (as usual) the same type of question I always do at this juncture: ‘Would you take 2-2?’ to which he nodded and said ‘of course’. The chap on my left also nodded assent to the same question.

The difference this season (so far at least) seems to be that we’re seeing out games and not letting in those heartbreaking late winners/equalisers. I’m sure they’ll return in some form but you often read that it’s fitness that helps you concentrate for the full 90+ and we seem to be fitter than most. By the time the rest catch up we might nearly be safe!

And nice point made: Success being fit and hungry is a real bonus at 70 minutes.

10. Red - 03/09/2018

So pleased that we now seem to be able to make chances and score from set pieces. Holebas must be topping the premier table for goal assists. I thought that 0-0 at half time we might have a chance of securing a draw. When we went one goal down, I thought that despite losing we had played well and had not disgraced ourselves. What I did not expect was that we possessed a higher gear. Where did that come from? What a fantastic team effort. All the team were men of the match.

11. Nick B (jnr) - 03/09/2018

Just briefly getting away from the glorious hysteria for a moment, which isn’t easy I know, it shouldn’t go unnoticed just how well Spurs played the game. We’re so used to seeing niggly, aggravating tactics from visiting teams (ala Hughes), that it was a pleasure to watch a side just get on with it. And even take defeat in a commendably mature fashion, without restorting to the usual ‘we know the kind of game they play’ bullsh*t.

That’s a quality that their manager has instilled in them. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll see the same humility and sportsmanship in the next fixture.

Matt Rowson - 03/09/2018

True enough. Credit where it’s due. Except, you know, it’s Spurs. Like Palace, still well in moral deficit.

Nick B (jnr) - 03/09/2018

Indeed. And I admit, I’d find it hard to be as generous to the latter. Not until the debt is paid. And then some.

12. Rod - 03/09/2018

Yesterday’s game reminded me of last season’s comeback win over Arsenal. I’ve been looking out for cojones references but haven’t seen any yet.

13. Graham - 03/09/2018

I thought Spurs behaved pretty well – considering here were some odd refereeing decisions. But acually overall the ref. did ok. I cannot remember the last time a real shoulder to shoulder contact wasn’t given as a foul – that’s refreshing. Our approach after they scored was astonishing – the spirit matched to genuine quality just blew spurs away. perhaps it was all a cunning plan – lull them into a false sense of security, then bury thme before they realised what was happening.

14. tonyfirasse - 04/09/2018

Epic, historic victory, hugely enjoyed here in Abu Dhabi.
Terrific report, as ever, Matt, makes us feel as if we were there!
I particularly loved the dad in the green away kit shirt, Rookery End right side, carrying his two young children in their Watford shirts (one with yellow ear protectors).
When Troy gave this fan his match shirt you could feel the elation.
I have never been prouder to be a Hornets fan. When will reality strike?

15. Royston RoF - 04/09/2018

..what was interesting from from my view point was we played the 4 at the back and allowed Spurs to have the width in Trippier and Davies all day…..but this ensured that there were very few overlaps to the byline where Spurs are dangerous and so they only had 2 outlets..backwards or a high cross from the touchline gobbled up by Foster…great tactics and well managed by the formation and dedication to the ranks..

oh and Hughes worked tirelessly, unsung hero of the day,

..very suprising that Ericsson played the deep midfield defender for Spurs (the Dier role)….perhaps they were showing some caution ..

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