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Watford 1 AFC Bournemouth 1 (24/10/2020) 24/10/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- Sometimes you just crave something normal.

You’ll have your own favourites.   For me… football, obviously.  That goes without saying.  But more mundane stuff too.  Being able to see family, go to the pub without worrying about it.  Going to the co-op for some milk without having to queue up outside, or wear a mask.  Going to work, actually going to work and seeing people in three dimensions rather than two, and running into people spontaneously rather than everything being timetabled.  Everything.

To be somewhere busy.  With lots of people.  And noisy.  And chaotic.  To hold the door open for someone without wondering if that’s the right thing to do any more.  To shake someone’s hand.  Something normal.  Anything normal.

Except this bollocks, obviously.  That should have gone without saying.

2- I know I’m supposed to hate Luton and I suppose I do but largely out of the same sense of obligation provoked by signing leaving cards at work for people that I don’t really know.  Proper animosity will come, I’m sure, if we spend too long in the same division, the pressurised nature of derbies makes it a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy but competitive rivalries such as that with the Cherries, promoted with us and relegated with us having earned a single point more than us over the five years, are more heartfelt at the moment.

There will come a time when this is not so.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with Bournemouth, the Dorset coast is perfectly pleasant, there are years of shared history without there being a Thing and the fanbase no more objectionable than most others would be in the face of such fractious recent encounters.

But now?  Eddie Howe has gone but Jason Tindall was always the High Priest of Bournemouth’s snide, cynical brand of shithousery.  No surprise to see the Cherries bomb out of the top flight with the advent of VAR.  No surprise to see the club’s recent traditions upheld by the new coach.  There’s been plenty of criticism of today’s referee Tim Robinson, who will certainly have better afternoons.  But it wasn’t Robinson making the studs up challenges, not late tired lunges in a high speed contest but deliberate and unpleasant acts of gamesmanship.

3- The last home win in a game between the two sides came at Bournemouth in January 2015, abetted in part by an early (and later rescinded) red card for Gabriele Angella.  There should have been an early red card here…  with a crowd to bellow it’s objection, or had the challenge come ten minutes later then surely the Cherries would have been down to ten.  Tindall was at least candid enough to admit that “on another day it could have been a red card”, but his “not that kind of bloke” follow up in defence of Lloyd Kelly doesn’t hold any water.  You saw the thought process as Sarr threatened to escape… danger man, early doors, will get away with a yellow here, let’s do it.  It was brutal, arrogant and cowardly, and our good fortune was that Sarr wasn’t badly injured as he could have been.

Instead, after an opening ten minutes in which the Cherries had been aggressively, attritionally assertive the Hornets broke with devastating efficiency.  Cathcart swung a tremendous ball from left to right into the path of Sarr, the winger blistered down the right and slid a perfect cross into the path of Stipe Perica’s lunge.  The Croat had had an ungainly, awkward opening ten minutes or so but made no mistake here.

The rest of the half was low on goalmouth incident – our games are likely to be this way – but never less than engrossing. Sarr’s opening 45 was devastating, even if as the visitors briefly reeled in the wake of the goal he could have put Perica away rather than trying his luck from 30 yards.  The visitors began to pick up a head of steam in the final 15 minutes of the half; the largely low-key  Arnaut Danjuma showed a level of awareness of tradition with a “Coxy into the wall” tribute from a free kick.  Jack Stacey continued an emerging tradition of right backs causing us problems, frequently joining attacks and necessitating a fine and acrobatic interception from the tremendous Chalobah late on. Dominic Solanke, still looking a bit like an exchange student who doesn’t really speak the same language as his teammates, found some space but drove tamely at Foster.  Always – again, this will be the case one suspects – we looked a threat on the break whenever Sarr, who was diligent defensively, put the burners on.

An emerging theme, however, was the vulnerability of James Garner who was bullied by Billing and picked up an early yellow card for a silly trip.  As the half drew to a close the only question was whether to replace him at half time or to risk the humiliation of withdrawing him earlier, such was the degree to which he was overwhelmed and, particularly, rattled by his opponent once going through the back of him as the ball departed.  In the pantheon of missed fouls, would not be even handed to neglect to mention this one.

But Billing himself stole that particular limelight as the half drew to a close.   A flying elbow that connected painfully with Perica’s head was a coulda red rather than a shoulda, a benefit of doubt could be afforded.  Less so for me the sneaky lunge at Cleverley’s thigh by the same player in the subsequent passage of play, this looked more deliberate and considered being out of the referee’s line of vision.  Pretty extraordinary that the big Dane finished the game without a card.  We ended the half bruised, but in front.

4- The start of the second half could and perhaps should have seen us out of sight.  Étienne Capoue was on for Garner, his first touch of the ball was miserable but thereafter he was tremendous… he dinked a terrific ball to send Sarr through again, the Senegalese perhaps hit it later than he might have done but nonetheless drove a shot that would have gone inside Begovic’s near post had the keeper not pulled off a fine reflex save.

Shortly afterwards Sarr escaped again, and this time was pulled down by Kelly whose earlier yellow card should have proven critical.  It wasn’t a straight red for me, any more than the Kabasele incident on Wednesday night, but was a cynical attempt to curtail an escaping opponent and was a second yellow all day long.  Not given.

From then, it was an odd half.  The visitors dominated possession but their pressure was largely attritional…  comfortable in possession, good at moving the ball around and finding space, not very good at exploiting it.  Their efforts on goal – until the critical one – were from distance and whilst the shots on target stat in isolation doesn’t tell the story of a ball being moved around and across the penalty box, there was a lack of focal point for the visitors.  Josh King, making his first domestic start of the season, might become that figure but he was a largely theoretical threat here.

The Hornets threatened on the break, and Begovic had as much to do as Foster for all of Bournemouth’s rather impotent pressure.  Quina came on for Cleverley and put on a glittering half-hour or so, comfortably his best showing of the season…  the Cherries were the first side to afford him time and space to shoot from distance and a little more precision would have delivered more from two fierce, bending drives that Begovic, twice, nonetheless did well to stop.  On the second occasion João Pedro, on for the uncomfortably injured Perica, wasn’t quite sharp or fortunate enough to meet a rebound but was later involved in another lightning break that should have seen us capitalise on a numeric advantage as the visitors chased the game.

5- If you take the view – and I’m not sure I do in this case – that refereeing decisions are random incidents to be ridden and dealt with then it’s difficult to argue that the visitors weren’t worth a point, such was their unwavering pursuit of an equaliser.  They attacked with the ferocity of Blackburn, if without the potency, but also lacked the great big open gaps behind them as they pushed forwards.  Nonetheless, it’s always galling to concede an injury time equaliser, the more so given Kelly’s prominence in it.  Echoes of (former Cherry) Tyrone Mings’ arse at Villa Park in January when the England defender should have walked before the injury time winner took a critical deflection off his unwitting backside – one can only hope that this one proves less expensive.

I was bloody livid.  I can’t imagine I was the only one.  This report was postponed by the need to drive to Bedford and stomp grumpily around the park in the swirling wind and rain with a very strong coffee.

But having calmed down (a bit), it’s not hard to be philosophical.  Our side is built on a strong defence, and boy did they prove their mettle today – indeed, over the past week – despite the disappointing denouement.  All three of the centre-halves were absolutely tremendous, Cathcart putting in a masterclass of being in the right place at the right time as so often, garnished with his astonishing contribution to our goal.  Kabasele was focused and dynamic, and if Troost-Ekong still needs games and looks less physically dominant than I’d imagined there’s no disputing, once again, that we look a solid old unit.  If you rely heavily on your defence then occasionally, as today, as at Reading, something’s going to break against you.  That doesn’t mean that the whole plan is necessarily bunk, certainly not with the likes of Troy, Hughes, Gray, Masina still to return.

We’re still in a good place.  What matters, after generally kind results elsewhere, is how we respond. How we get back to, well, “normal”. Starting at Wycombe on Tuesday.


Foster 4, Ngakia 3,  Sema 4, *Cathcart 5*, Troost-Ekong 4, Kabasele 5, Chalobah 4, Cleverley 3, Garner 2, Sarr 4, Perica 3
Subs:   Capoue (for Garner, 45) 4, Quina (for Cleverley, 64) 4, João Pedro (for Perica, 82) NA, Wilmot, Sierralta, Murray, Bachmann



1. John Smith - 24/10/2020

Another first class report Matt. Not quite as angry as you but fully understand your feelings. Well done 👍

2. Andrew Mitchell - 24/10/2020

Another great read that I share the sentiments of. You ask for something ‘normal’ but nothing gets more normal that the Golden Boys conceeding late on having had chances to extend a lead. I thought Ivic’s calls today selection wise were, by and large, good calls but I can’t help feel a start for Capoue would have established a different mood from the outset in the middle of the park.

As for Muff. They are now well tagged as the masters of the dark arts of the side of the game but I felt today was different type of skullduggery. Howe’s Muff used the subtle side of the dark arts to their advantage – particularly to win pens and cheap free kicks to exploit. Today, it was pure brutally to derail and kick us off the park – nothing subtle about that. Refs in the Championship need to wake up fast.

Today was screaming out for Troy to match them blow for blow and to intimidate. Whilst the ref turned a blind eye to both Kelly and Billing there is no way Troy would have done. For anyone who has watched the Spurs ‘All or Nothing’ documentary, we were ‘too nice’ today and paid the price.

I felt the 97 mins that the only red card likely to be shown was going to be a Hornet in retaliation or for something silly – such was the ref’s inaptitude.

Roll on Tuesday and a pointless Wycombe.
Pointless … and next to face us…. you just know what’s gonna happen right?

3. paullbaxter - 24/10/2020

Despite the late equaliser, I was much happier today than after the Blackburn game when I felt we were completely over run in midfield and lucky to come away with a victory. The defense was outstanding and we looked dangerous on the break against a good Bournemouth team. A good finish from Perica but slightly worrying that he adopts the Tamás Priskin approach to headers whereby you superglue your feet to the floor. I’m an old centre half 2 inches shorter than Perica and 26 years older but I would bet on myself to beat him in the air.

4. Ray Knight - 24/10/2020

I have always thought our recent rivalry with Muff a bit ‘manufactured’. Luton is based on history and I remember the courage required to just attend a match at Kenilworth Road in the 1980s. The rivalry with Palarse has clear antecedents, back to Holloway’s pre-match rant. But Muff always tried to best us by out playing us. Not today. The incompetent referee allowed so much cynical play from our visitors. Kelly should have walked at some point. Billing elbowed Perica deliberately and this was clear in one camera angle. This is the first team who have kicked us. It has a positive. Garner, Ngakia and Sarr will toughten up. This is a good thing. A draw is OK. Onwards and upwards. COYHs.

5. Harefield Hornet - 24/10/2020

One thing about the current situation that you’ve referred to so eloquently is the need on a Saturday to return to a familiar routine – a proper football Saturday – not just hanging around killing time until something familiar appears on a TV or PC etc. And so I found myself having to choose between driving to Barnet to see Harefield Utd U15 girls including my daughter v Highbury Wolves U-15 girls from Islington or watching our game on the Hive. The wonders of modern technology enabled me to do both and the similarities between both games and results were terrifying. But actually being there is what counts and this will do for me for now.COYH!

Matt Rowson - 25/10/2020

So did Harefield win?

Harefield Hornet - 25/10/2020

They should have done but were kicked off the park and ended up losing 2-6 somehow, despite being the better side. In hindsight it was the pattern of the game that was similar rather than the result.

6. ballantine70 - 25/10/2020

Putting the blame at Bournemouth’s nasty tactics rather than referring incompetence is spot on, Matt.

7. Alan Ahern - 25/10/2020

Watching the highlights on Watford website this morning, it is quite clear that Kelly’s challenge on Sarr was a deliberate attempt to injure him. 2nd minute or 92nd minute – it was a red card offence all day long.
You’re right Matt, there’s something very nasty about Bournemouth.

Harefield Hornet - 25/10/2020

Red card all day – at any level!

8. NickB - 25/10/2020

One of your best, Matt.
There’s also an excellent and very fair report on the Bournemouth fans’ forum, which concludes with ‘And no VAR, bliss’. Enough said.

9. peter marron - 25/10/2020

I only caught the second half, so missed the potential red card issue
So I was screaming at the tv because we didn’t appear to be trying terribly hard to extend our lead, and, as we all know, a one goal margin is seldom enough
Easy to get caught up with the hype about the manager’s supposed preference for “a good 1-0”, but it did seem to me that we ceded the advantage unnecessarily
With our attacking .options that is a real shame, and I fear it does not bode well the rest of the season
Cheered myself up with a post match beer in the pub with friends for the first time in a long while ( albeit socially distanced)

Matt Rowson - 25/10/2020

Thing is, we’re very very good at the defensive thing. Bournemouth are as strong as we’ll face and only equalised in the 96th minute and with the help of some kind refereeing. We certainly need to be more clinical if we’re going to play on the break, but I think there’s an element of playing the hand we’ve got until the attacking ranks are filled out a bit.

Hope your beer was good.

10. PEDantic - 25/10/2020

Well, you learn something every day: Billing is Danish! Since he played for Huddersfield, I always assumed he was German.

I’m still finding it hard to properly engage with football without being able to be there live, so it’s good to be reminded of others’ enthusiasm. I’m afraid I rather just shrugged at those fouls and the late equaliser.

In other news: I haven’t been to a pub any more recently than I’ve been to Vicarage Road.

11. David - 26/10/2020

A couple of hours irritation following the late goal was replaced by the sense that this was another game where we are getting better. I’m not blind to the loss of two points but with 39 games to go we are looking probable top 6 finishers. I have only positive things to say about our season start but I agree that there is still a place for Troy in this XI.

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