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Watford 3 Coventry City 0 (27/08/2019) 28/08/2019

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- The first warning signs came as Luke and I made our way down the M1 in  a report from Dad, always an early arrival.  Confounding expectation given that this was the second round of the League Cup, the regular car park was full.  “There are Coventry fans everywhere….”.

On Vicarage Road itself, let alone inside the stadium, it’s clear that the visiting mob haven’t got the brief.   There’s a tradition to be upheld here, a tradition that involves soporific anti-football, passes being misplaced into touch against a lower division side who put everything behind a ball which rattles around indifferently and might occasionally wander somewhere near a goal but only by the law of averages.  You hear the shouts of the players on the pitch in front of an empty away end and wonder how your life ended up here (again).

Three and a half thousand fans in a noisy Vicarage Road stand definitely against protocol.  I don’t know if this was deemed a special occasion, a cup game against a top flight team who might reasonably expect to be there to be got at given our start, or whether Cov take this sort of rabble to Doncaster, Gillingham, Accrington in defiance of their temporary home but either way it’s a fabulous sight and racket that contributes hugely to the evening.

What it emphasises most of all is pride in the club and, perhaps, the City.  Defiance, too.  Defiance in the face of the selfishness and exploitation that now sees City spend another season camping in someone else’s patch rather than “at home”.  There but for the grace of the Pozzos, of course.  And luck.  Luck that we were at our lowest ebb when they came looking, low hanging fruit from the right sort of tree.  There’s been much debate over the last few weeks about the performance of the team, the strength of the defence, summer recruitment.  But what we have to thank the Pozzos for most is that we have a team to support at all – a team in the top flight, a welcome bonus but a bonus nonetheless.  Bury, league opponents not terribly long ago, have just lost their place in the league.  Bolton, surely a bulletproof institution and more recent opponents still, have a stay of execution with the ghoulish presence of Laurence Bassini somehow still hanging around as if anyone needed reminding how lucky we are.  In any case, fair play Coventry.  Fair play.

2- On the pitch we’ve made eleven changes but it’s hardly a reserve side with Pereyra, Sarr and Welbeck getting minutes in their legs on the way back to fitness, and Daryl Janmaat amongst those genuinely challenging for a first team place.  It’s a fun-looking eleven all round we comment, whilst trying to dismiss the fact that we said something very similar at 2.45 on Saturday.

The visitors strike a decent balance between staying solid and giving it a go.  They’re competitive without being dirty, solid without being negative, and if they don’t get terribly close to a shot on target very often they do at least produce the first proper goal attempt, Villa loanee Callum O’Hare slipping a shot wide of Heurelho Gomes’ right hand post.

It’s a fairly stodgy first half, though normalised to the traditional standards of this fixture this is effectively rollercoaster stuff.  Domingos Quina is lively and prominent, Nathaniel Chalobah rather less careful with possession than you’d like but still spraying the odd long range pass that makes you gasp.  Bobby Pereyra has a central role behind Danny Welbeck but is popping up everywhere like some kind of magic pixie. He sparkles into life to present an early chance, dazzles his way past a couple of wrong-footed defenders to make a space and slams in a low shot which is well if not entirely comfortably fielded, before disappearing again in a puff of smoke.

Eventually we make the breakthrough, and it’s significant. Isaac Success has one of his livelier games, progressively rather than destructively random; I prefer him down the middle but here he demonstrates his value playing deeper, sliding an extraordinary Kevin de Bruyne pass into the feet of the escaping Sarr who races on before finishing unfussily. A breathtakingly irresistible goal.

3- Of primary interest are the new boys of course. Of these, perhaps the least heralded is Dmitri Foulquier who makes an unprecedented appearance at left back. Foulquier has been one of the army of players nominally on our books but effectively elsewhere on loan presumed never to be relevant but at 26 is older than typical for the profile. Web chatter suggests that he’s been told he’s needed in the squad; quite how much we’ll see of him you have to doubt but here he’s on his weaker side but does a sound enough job. Certainly there’s enough uncompromising bootering in evidence to suggest that he’s not unworthy of covering at left back.

Danny Welbeck meanwhile continues to look lively, nimble and threatening. He doesn’t get the goal that his persistence deserves though he comes desperately close with one second half turn and shot but he’s getting there, and crucially lasts ninety minutes on this occasion.

Tom Dele-Bashiru isn’t the highest profile of the summer arrivals but he makes it off the bench with twenty minutes to go and almost scores with his first touch, haring in from the right to send a shot narrowly wide across the face of goal. THAT would have been an entrance. But in any case he looks very tidy and far from overawed for a teenager making his debut for his new side.

And then there’s Sarr. In contrast to his cameo on Saturday he’s clinging to the touchline, a proper winger. And he’s quick. Really quick, in case this hasn’t reached you in dispatches. In the first half we get evidence of this before his goal as he hares down the right with defenders scrambling astonished in his wake like flotsam in a jetstream. In the second… he applies what appears to be a clumsy touch to a ball inside our half which flies down the line towards the corner flag. And as he screams after it it appears to stop dead… was that deliberate?  I’ll need to see it again before I’m convinced it wasn’t an accident but… my word. Still ragged. Still untidy. But my word.

4- This was, of course, the first time we’ve been ahead this season. Being ahead is a useful thing for this team to be, one feels, and with a little more luck – or perhaps a fully fit Deeney, Sarr or Welbeck – one or two of The Three might have gone differently.

In any event, Cov never gave up the fight but were noticeably laxer at the start of the second period.  A bit of being tired of chasing and closing, physically, mentally.  A bit of needing to commit something forward.  They give us too much space in dangerous areas.

We’re much more comprehensively the better side in the second period.  Chalobah reins in the loose passes and becomes the metronome that he is at his best.  If Quina and Success give the ball away rater too often it’s was still a Fun Thing to watch all round.

And the unlikely star of the show is Daryl Janmaat.  Podcasts this week have discussed the whack-a-mole challenge of playing Liverpool – if you pin down the forwards the full backs get you and so on.  As well as being a bloody-minded defensive presence Janmaat became our whack-a-mole, the one you didn’t have covered thundering up the flank to provide an extra option.  A quite Rostronesque performance from the Dutchman, who concluded one of his plundering rhinoceros runs into the heart of Coventry’s defence by rolling the ball to create more space than he should have had on the edge of the box and pinging it top corner.  Adalberto Peñaranda’s cameo, a cocktail of spiky provocation, mischievous energy and complete indifference to any defensive responsibility culminated in him pinging a third from some distance.  It’s been several years since he was first spoken of in the hushed, excited terms now reserved for Cucho and João Pedro; last year’s model finally showing what he’s capable of.

5- So a good evening all round.  If there’s something fundamentally wrong at the club then it clearly hasn’t extended to this lot, who made up for a little rawness and rustiness with a performance of refreshing positivity.  Fittingly, the stifling humidity of the Bank Holiday weekend broke and the air freshened up overnight.

We still need that result against Newcastle.  But it’s not all bad.  We have no end of positive, exciting fun on the fringes of the team (and embedded IN the team before long in some cases).

And, you know.  We have a team to support.

Up the Shakers.  Hang in there, the Trotters.

And Yooooorns.

Gomes 3, *Janmaat 5*, Foulquier 3, Kabasele 3, Mariappa 3, Quina 4, Chalobah 3, Sarr 4, Pereyra 4, Success 4, Welbeck 3
Subs: Peñaranda (for Pereyra, 64) 3, Dele-Bashiru (for Sarr, 72) 3, Prödl, Deulofeu, Cleverley, Femenía, Bachmann


1. Roger Smith - 28/08/2019

With you all the way until Peñaranda: “and complete indifference to any defensive responsibility”. He was here, there and everywhere, including defence. Apart from his well-taken goal, he instigated some attacks with deft passes, and was often overlooked when he did find space. Conversely, when Pereyra’s insightful play came to nothing, he just ambled around waiting for the next opening. Switch the 3 and the 4.

But as you say, the bottom line is that we still have a club, and an established Premier League one at that.

2. Harefield Hornet - 28/08/2019

There was so much expectancy swirling from the Vicarage Road end it seemed perversely inevitable that we would get a result last night. Our line up was interesting and as you’ve said – certainly no bunch of “stiffs”. Some great individual performances but considering this was an eleven thrown together it was also a tidy team performance, albeit it against a lower division but confident side who should make a decent fist of league one this season. Surely Janmaat must be a shoe-in next Saturday after that performance? His colleague on the right also at least looks like a full-back – I enjoyed his no-nonsense no frills but effective effort. Must be the best early round league cup performance at home for years!

3. David - 28/08/2019

I have watched with horror the comments on the Watford Observer site about our recent bad run. I could not agree more with your reference to Bury and Bolton and how lucky we are.

4. Robert - 28/08/2019

The team that Javi put out was full of enthusiasm and a will to please and impress the Head Coach. Coventry tried to compete, but I always felt we could turn up the pace when necessary. Interesting that this team played really well without one 1st team player. On this performance there may have been a few actually getting into the first eleven. I don’t envy Javi with all of those players desperately wanting to play in the 1st team and how he might keep them happy. I’ve coached and it’s always difficult to keep everyone happy when you pick the team. Tuesday night has given me a surprise, and Javi possibly having a nightmare trying to please them all.

Matt Rowson - 29/08/2019

Don’t think “not one first team player” is accurate. Pereyra, Welbeck and Sarr will all be regular picks. Janmaat and the CBs plausibly. But your point stands in any case.

Robert - 29/08/2019

My point was ‘at this time’. But Javi having played a number of squad players must have a nightmare to please everyone, and pick a team. This must be the best squad we have ever had.

5. Jeff Lloyd - 29/08/2019

I saw the line up and metioned to my 17 year old that I’d not be unhappy if it was our actual starting XI. Having seen the highlights I wasn’t minded to change my view too much. Kabasele is very quick and alongside either of the Craigs might be the answer to shoring up the defence. Janmaat is one of my favourite players and he is easily as comfortable defending as Kiko but way more a goal/assist threat.
Saturday seems very important…

6. PEDantic - 29/08/2019

It was very noticeable that Welbeck made, or started to make, a number of runs towards goal looking for an early long ball over the top. It’s either a tactic they’ve been working on or maybe it’s just HIS tactic. Either way it never came off on Tuesday but Capoue might just be the one to make it work in future.

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