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Watford 3 Coventry City 2 (07/11/2020) 08/11/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- Today was a good day.

I went for a walk this morning.  Cold, sunny days are a fine thing and with rain forecast for tomorrow and dark evenings even crueller during lockdown the circumstances had to be capitalised on.  In a tight, defensive game against a challenging opponent you don’t miss chances like this.

So I walked across the fields towards the next village.  This is an advantage of living rurally, social distancing isn’t as much of a challenge when you can see folk coming from half a mile away.  I hadn’t intended to go as far as the next village, a muddy mile and a bit away, but the sun was shining and the folk coming the other way, nodding a smile as wide berths were afforded, were unusually armed with coffee cups.

Following the trail I ended up outside the village pub, doors closed of course as they would have been before midday in any case.  But a trailer had taken root, selling cofee, cakes, sandwiches, local produce.  I resisted the cake but went for a large coffee, then got a piece of cake for free having waited what the proprietor deemed an unreasonable time for my order standing in the sunshine as I was catching breath before heading back across the fields.  The best of both worlds, the moral victory of having resisted cake combined with, you know, cake.

Today was a good day.

2- I did consider writing something about Wednesday night.  Largely, admittedly, out of curiosity at the reaction this would prompt from my co-editor, sceptical as he is about the practice of writing match reports of stuff you’ve watched on a screen at the best of times let alone when the feed cuts after 35 minutes.

This isn’t the best of times of course, otherwise writing about matches watched on the telly wouldn’t be a thing. In any case, it’s good to see Hornets Hive up and running again, Steve Palmer and Steven Finn joining Emma Saunders in the studio and upping the already tremendous coverage a notch – Finn may be a cricketer, and regular readers know my views on minority sports, but both he and Smoker are articulate and insightful.  The collapse of the feed during the Stoke game notwithstanding, the club have done a tremendous job with this.  Go onto the vast majority of other club’s messageboards and browse the thread titled “iFollow” for some context reflecting how good we’ve got it.

3- As for the football…  nearly twelve months after his last League start Andre Gray was named ahead of João Pedro, whilst England U21 call-up Ben Wilmot and Will Hughes, reportedly the victim of a knock in training also dropped out.

And the first half was…  OK.  We dominated possession, and did so further up the pitch than has been the norm.  Still without enough of a target, still all rather too polite, still not beating any doors down but knocking firmly before standing and waiting to be seen to.  There was a threat, often through Sarr down the right, but it was rarely sustained;  too often, with Sarr pulling right, there wasn’t enough in the centre.  The Senegalese winger broke right early on, Gray didn’t quite get a touch at the near post and Cleverley shot over coming in on the left.

Coventry, all in Sky Blue with an ornate shirt design that blurred when in motion to create the impression of having spilled a pint down their front, were an odd mix of interesting looking bits that didn’t quite hang together.  A hardworking backline that would nonetheless be beaten three times and could have been beaten more.  A tidy midfield that were good enough to stay in the game and make a chance should they get lucky.  But they’d need to get lucky.  A mobile forward line that wasn’t particularly clinical.

But they were certainly good enough to make us sit slightly uncomfortably, making chances the match of ours with far less possession.  A tremendous cross from Giles on the left found the profligate Biyamou, who headed wide;  Giles was the best player on the pitch in the first half, arguably over the 90 minutes and such is the focus on our need for a left-back that every left back who looks half decent against us is going to be pencilled onto the list – the more so if they’re on loan from a Premier League club.  Later a Hamer cross found men spare at the far post.  Then a right wing cross demanded a fine block from Kabasele.

The Hornets took too long to turn defence into attack. This is something that Nathaniel Chalobah was really strong at during the near-mythical five-game start to his second Watford career under Marco Silva; he was on the bench here today though, and as against Stoke Étienne Capoue took a while to get up to speed, slightly ponderous during the opening ninety minutes and often guilty of not progressing the play quickly enough.

Nonetheless, the Hornets picked up speed at last as the half drew to a close.  Sarr burned down the right, forcing a block from the nervous Marosi.  A neat backheel from James Garner released Kiko whose far post cross earned one of a series of corners.  From here Cleverley cut inside to drive at the near post.  A further vicious Garner corner bounced dangerously in the box.  We didn’t want the half time whistle.

4- The second half began with Callum O’Hare, eyecatching here as he had been during our League Cup game last season, forcing a great stop from Ben Foster but on the whole we started the half sharper, quicker, moving the ball more urgently.

This was in danger of fizzling out when Ken Sema’s cross from the left found a confused way in, probably involving Andre Gray.  For all that Sarr and Kiko/Ngakia down the right have provided a more eye-catching threat, Ken Sema’s stealth attack down the left is increasingly remarkable and effective.  At one point during the second half as Sema’s slippery physicality saw him rumble past yet another hapless opponent Tommy Mooney on comms exclaimed “Ken Sema is quickly becoming my favourite player of all time“, the hyperbole of the last three words reflecting the childish joy that the Swede instils in grizzled ex-pros as much as more easily won supporters.  Honest, dynamic, bold, strong, clever and effective, there’s nothing not to like there at the moment.

City were rattled, and the game should have been over.  Sarr forced Østigard into a panicky yellow-card.  Capoue, now with his eye in and picking up revs, sent a screamer into the path of Sema who released Gray.  A conversion here, a striker’s finish, and he’s up and running but he took the shot on his right foot from the left of the box and Marosi saved.

And yet suddenly we were behind.  It’s easy to ring your hands at the defensive failings that contributed to the goals and they were certainly significant, but we were unlucky too. Gustavo Hamer’s header shouldn’t have been allowed to happen but it was an aimless, rather sulky effort with a hint of “oh screw this, I’ll just whack it towards the goal” about it.  Ben Foster was caught on his heels and suddenly City were level.  A minute later Tyler Walker was finishing clinically…  there was a foul on Sema in the build up, and a suggestion of offside as Biamou released his partner but after Wednesday night we’re hardly in a position to complain about the balance of refereeing decisions.  In any event, such vagaries are uncontrollable random variables to be treated like fortunate or unfortunate rebounds off the woodwork.  What you can control is how you deal, and it was all too easy for City.

It could have gone down a horrible wormhole from there, but Ismaïla Sarr, in contrast to his rather sulky demeanour in the first half, took the bull by the horns, shoved the ball down the right and pegged after it.  He won a corner, Troost-Ekong hammered onto Garner’s delivery and we were level.  We could do with more of that brutal urgency when we’re not smarting at going behind.

5- Today was a good day.

On a bad day, maybe we don’t get that equaliser and the game disappears into a miserable, frustrating defeat.  On a bad day, maybe James Garner is pulled up for his challenge in the box prior to the penalty – a coulda rather than shoulda been a foul.  But definitely a coulda.  But today was a good day.  Troy was on by this stage, half the man he used to be but twice as mobile for it;  despite this Ismaïla Sarr picked the ball up and rolled in his third strike in four games. At almost exactly the same time, news broke from the United States that the racist, misogynist, narcissistic, malevolent manchild in the White House had finally been disposed of, and a great big party started.  Today was a good day.

It should have been more comfortable.  70+ million people voted for him, which I find baffling.  Nonetheless, the world breathes again.  Similarly, this should have been more comfortable.  We’re not yet as potent as we should be;  that will come, but it needs to…  we should be able to ride a freak goal more comfortably than we did today.  It shouldn’t matter.

However.  Second in the league despite still being less than the sum of our parts, despite only rarely looking convincing.  The proximity of the chasing pack notwithstanding – we’d have been 8th had it finished 1-2 – we’re in a good place.

Today was a good day.


Foster 3, Femenía 2,  *Sema 5*, Cathcart 2, Troost-Ekong 3, Kabasele 3, Capoue 3, Garner 4, Cleverley 4, Sarr 4, Gray 3
Subs:   Ngakia (for Femenía, 67) 3, Deeney (for Gray, 74) 3, Chalobah (for Garner, 87) NA, Sierralta, Quina, João Pedro, Bachmann



1. Duncan H - 08/11/2020

Damn, Matt, you actually just made me cry with your thunk 5. Difficult to explain to anyone else, given the enormity of everything else, why a Watford goal should matter so much – but that combination of winning goal, election results and _feeling like we could breathe again_ was exactly how I felt yesterday at about 4.45pm.

2. Harefield Hornet - 08/11/2020

Great result in the end but finding this frustrating at the moment due to watching alone etc. My daughter has lost all interest in actually watching the games since the first lock-Down – perhaps a teenage thing – not sure! – But I’m pretty sure
I’m a lot calmer when witnessing this stuff live!! As for Trump – good riddance – but I share your wonder that 47% of voters in the US actually wanted him to stay in charge? – hopefully it’s blind loyalty to the Republican Party rather than the man himself. If it’s the latter they’re more insular and insecure than I previously thought?

Matt Rowson - 08/11/2020

Doesn’t bear too much thinking about. Daughters 1 and 2 also not interested in televised football so I empathise there.

3. David - 08/11/2020

I went to bed at 03:00 Wednesday morning genuinely worried about society. Roll forward 4 days, the world seems a better place. That is a lot of hope invested in a 78 year old……

As for watford, the loveable Ken has been fantastic this season. He does not have the pace to play wide in the Prem but his urgency and technical ability is more than enough in the Championship

Harefield Hornet - 08/11/2020

Similar to the equally lovable Ikechi Anya!

4. Peter C - 08/11/2020

Andre Gray is so frustrating. Fast paced, and can position himself well, but cracks in a one-to-one with the goalkeeper. At least Troy looks determined, and brought solid and calming experience.
It concerns me that so many people don’t understand the support for Trump. Practical people who don’t care for moral posturing, but are delighted when Trump exposes the mass theft of Western industrial knowledge by communist China.

Matt Rowson - 08/11/2020

Peter, you sent a second post when this wasn’t cleared straight away which was less polite than this one, apparently offended that I had censored your opinion whilst simultaneously demonstrating why we’ve always deemed the censoring of posts necessary.

It wasn’t the only offensive post I received. I guess I invited that with the Trump references; as Andy indicates below, perhaps political asides on a football website aren’t sensible. BHaPPY isn’t a messageboard though, it’s somewhere where Ian and I write loosely about Watford but wandering off topic as and when we fancy it. We’ll admit comment where it’s constructive but you’ll continue to find a low level of tolerance for comment that we find offensive or moronic. If you can’t cope with that, there are plenty of other forums where you can voice your opinions.

Steve G - 08/11/2020

One of the joys of coming to this site is the quality of writing, not just about the game, but about the experience of being a football fan – the highs and lows and the extraneous factors that can also affect the emotions as well as what happens on the pitch.

Another is that the quality of debate in the comments is always civilised and respectful – a result, no doubt, of the policy of approving posts before posting.

I’m sorry that you received offensive comments, Matt – you deserve far better than that. I know that this is a football site and not a political forum, but it’s a poor show if you can’t write about the way in which your emotions were uplifted simultaneously by the football and the events across in the USA.

Perhaps a fitting day for the man of the match to be a left winger…

RS - 08/11/2020

Just keep on wandering Matt; any direction you like

Sequel - 09/11/2020

I have some sympathy with the American electorate. They didn’t have a great deal of choice. Rather like a football fan living in Leighton Buzzard: caught between the devil and Milton Keynes.

Peter - 09/11/2020

I have to disagree with Sequel. Living in the Leighton Buzzard postal area the choice is between taking the A4146/A41 or the train. Other football destinations north or east are not options.

Peter C - 09/11/2020

Thank you for letting my post go ahead, Matt. I enjoy your writing tremendously, as I indicated in my second post. I realise it is difficult to run such a site, and I admire the way that you and Ian have persisted with such a great service to WFC through thick and thin, even from the BSaD days. I accept that some censoring is necessary, otherwise your site would be as dreary and boorish as other sites. I tend not to agree with your politics, and am pleased you have allowed my response on this occasion.

Matt Rowson - 09/11/2020

All fair enough. Thanks

5. Andy Castle - 08/11/2020

Great report as usual Matt, tv based or not. I have upped my blood pressure tablet intake for our games. It would be great to go 3 nil up by half time now and again just to calm me down. I can understand Tommy Mooney’s enthusiasm for King Ken. When he gets the ball at pace something nearly always happens and long may that continue. Not keen on political stuff on football related sites but fully get your joy at the big orange thing leaving the stage (or has he, yet?). The new incumbent needs to understand why 47% of Americans DID vote for DT and attempt some kind of reconciliation between the factions. Mighty big good luck with that. I’m voting for Ken all day long.

6. Steve G - 08/11/2020

Indeed a good day both on and off the pitch.

It was good to see Ngakia get a run out again. I’ve felt a bit sorry for him recently – having made such a promising start, he seemed to have been sidelined on the back of a reasonable decision to rotate and the subsequent good form of Kiko, welcome though that is. Yesterday was a reminder though that KF is much more of an asset going forwards that when we need a defensive rearguard action – a well-timed substitution brought both fresh legs and a fresh perspective.

7. Old Git - 08/11/2020

Before I had finished your line about the ‘racist, mysoginist, narcissistic, malevolent manchild’ , I was wondering why on earth you should suddenly be writing about our Prime Minister.

8. Marc G - 10/11/2020

As always a great piece, both in terms of football and everything else. However did I miss something or was there actually know mention of our 1st goal in this report. I ask, in part at least, as I can’t remember much about it myself!

Matt Rowson - 11/11/2020

😊 it’s there Marc…

Marc G - 12/11/2020

Should never have doubted you – confused way in matches my memory of it as well!

9. tonyfirasse - 11/11/2020

Although Vlad prefers a gritty 1-0 victory, these high-scoring 3-2 games will certainly help separating goal differences because of more goals scored…
Very evocative piece, as usual, Matt, many thanks indeed.

JohnF - 14/11/2020

I don’t think Vlad ever said he preferred a gritty 1-0 victory. Thay is misquoting him. He prefers games in which we don’t concede but he would actually prefer us to score a lot of goals and keep a clean sheet.

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