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Blackburn Rovers 2 Watford 3 (24/02/2021) 25/02/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1976.  Friday 13th as it goes, three days after Dennis Bond’s goal got us a 1-0 win at Scunthorpe.

A bit before my time as regards following the Hornets.  Mum and Dad bore the emotional brunt, I don’t remember not being diabetic, not having to worry about it.  I do remember syringes the size of polaris missiles. The rules have changed over the years… not how diabetes works, but what I’m supposed to do about it.  As I’ve grown up, as understanding of diabetes and treatments have improved.

Today I was fitted with an insulin pump.  Virtually, of course…  or rather I fitted it myself under remote guidance.  I control the dose via a remote, it ought to better replicate what my pancreas would be doing if it hadn’t packed in halfway through the 1975/76 season.  Tomorrow (Thursday) will be the first day since then that I haven’t had an insulin injection.  Conservatively, 50 thousand or so in the interim.  I feel superpowered.  A cyborg.  This is a step-change.

2- Watford have undergone a similar step-change in recent weeks, the new formation making the most of our assets at last.  The midfield is body armour, the forward trio mounted automatic weapons.  We are brutally too good for most of the division playing like this.

The evening was pretty brutal all round.  It was hammering down with rain on a heavy, tatty-looking pitch.  Blackburn were on the back of a four-match losing streak and missing players.  We, of course, are also missing players… Foster, Kabasele, Chalobah, Deeney is at the very least a respectable spine for a Championship side.  This is the point in the season where the depth of our squad ought to tell.

At Vicarage Road at the start of the season Rovers looked aggressive and potent in attack but startlingly wide-open at the back.  They carried this reckless combination with no little panache, creating a positive impression despite the 3-1 scoreline.  In the first half today the same characteristics were in evidence, but in a side bereft of confidence.  We got at Rovers early, and should have been more comfortably ahead at the break, such was their palpable vulnerability.

From the outset Rovers looked sulky, protesting decisions forlornly, hands on hips.  Sarr screamed down the right early on as we started boldly, surprised to find such little resistance.  In fairness Barry Douglas was a dogged if not always successful opponent from then on, but this was almost too easy.  Both sides struggled for control in the conditions, but for all that Rovers offered a threat there was only one end that the goals were coming.  Sarr was released again on 12 minutes, the excitable Kaminski flapped unnecessarily at his deflected cross.   Douglas let Sarr in with a slack pass, Kaminski recovered the ball but then rolled out suicidally, Gosling pounced, Hughes drove in a shot, the ball ricocheted around.  The already imperious Hughes released Sarr in the centre of the box, a fine run, his shot too close to Kaminski who was allowed to make a decent fingertip save.  “Finally”, if only midway through the half, Cleverley’s lofted ball found João Pedro wandering in unnoticed to artfully flick the ball over the exposed Kaminski.

Blackburn threatened again, a portent of what was to come, Armstrong firing a shot across Bachmann, too close.  Rothwell curled a shot towards Bachmann that was comfortable, but wouldn’t have been with the slightest nick.  This wasn’t done.  And yet… when we broke it looked so ominous.  Cleverley mugged Travis and again Rovers were exposed, 4 on 3… but Tom’s ball to Sarr was untidy, Sarr drove near post and forced a save.  From the corner Gosling attacked a loose ball well but drove over.  Finally (again) given the number of chances and the pathetic flailing of Rovers’ defence, we got the second… Kiko surged down the right, his cross reached João Pedro via Sema, his shot was blocked but Sarr tucked in.

3- That could have, should have been that.  Even at our weakest points this season our defending has been resolute, solid.  You’d back us to protect a two-goal lead away from home against anyone, particularly with hay to be made on the break.  These were difficult conditions however, against a belligerent attack spearheaded by the forceful Armstrong.  There was no room for the collective hesitation – it was truthfully no worse than that – that ended with Masina getting mugged as we ran out of space to play out, Elliott finding the net to change the tone of the half-time team talk.

Rovers came out looking purposeful and single-minded at the start of the second half.  To reiterate, they’d forced the issue as much as us stuffing up, so credit’s due for the strength of character that kept them going at 2 down.  It gave us a problem, and changed the mood – Rovers had a free punch now, nothing to lose.  Hearts in mouths as Armstrong raced Will Hughes, who is many fine things but no speed-merchant…  Bachmann, rebounding after some iffy moments against Derby, flew out to snuff out the chance.  Troost-Ekong spooned a loose ball high, Sierralta and Masina managed to smuggle the ball out for a corner but it all felt rather more precarious than it had done in the first half.

We couldn’t get hold of the ball, suddenly.  The game was ridiculously open, and midfield superiority is of limited value if the midfield has become obsolete.  Nonetheless, we had the best footballer on the pitch in Will Hughes who sent an insane ball through for Sarr who cut his cross across the face of goal, João Pedro not quite alert to it.  Downing came on for Rovers, 78 years old now but a great player to trundle out in such circumstances.  Again, ominous… until we nabbed another goal on the break, Sema shuffling the ball onto his left foot and across the face of the keeper.

4- The game remained far too open for our liking, even with the two-goal lead restored.  Chances at both ends… Masina diving in to deny the potent Nyambe one minute, Rovers clearing off the line after Sierralta’s header was propelled goalwards by a Blackburn head the next.  With Downing providing quality at set pieces, the thuggish but effective Branthwaite was at the centre of some disruptive bolshiness at a corner which was cleared with Sierralta grounded.  That takes some doing.  It was a proper battle.

I opened the app, checking on the other scores.  Blackburn had pulled a second goal back, it transpired to dismay.  I had the joy of watching Downing’s corner with the grim knowledge of what was about to happen, Wilmot exposed by Brereton’s forcefulness at the far post.

5- The last ten minutes feel profoundly significant in our season’s trajectory.  The difference between the recriminations that would have followed twice surrendering a two-goal lead, and the chest-beating and fist-bumping following an utterly gutsy, inspiring performance.

Never gutsier or more inspiring than in those closing minutes.  Zinckernagel and Gray, like Wilmot, had joined the fray and all put a shift in, Gray’s energetic combativeness just what was needed in the circumstances.  Rovers were chasing an unlikely point – Brereton bullied Kiko, Kiko stayed on his feet and prevailed.  Hughes got his head behind a Rovers clearance to stifle another attack.  Sarr’s defensive work was diligent, chasing, getting a foot in.  Gray bundled the ball into the corner flag.  Bachmann blocked a shot as another Downing cross got too far.  The whistle blew.

This wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t perfect but we won the game anyway.  The top four are pulling away, and if none of the others dropped points this time around then we have the consolation of knowing that the other three haven’t made the ground they could have done.  Four wins on the hop, none of the preceding three required this depth of character.

Meanwhile, back in 1976 Watford’s first game after my formal diagnosis was a 4-1 defeat at Bournemouth.  We’ve been owing them for a long time.  A tantalising fixture on Saturday lunchtime.

Yooorns.

Bachmann 4, Femenía 5, Troost-Ekong 3, Sierralta 3, Masina 3, *Hughes 5*, Cleverley 4, Gosling 3, Sarr 4, João Pedro 4, Sema 3
Subs:  Zinckernagel (for Gosling, 62) 3, Gray (for João Pedro, 76) 4, Wilmot (for Sema, 76) 3, Ngakia, Perica, Cathcart, Lazaar, Hungbo, Elliot

Comments»

1. Olly - 25/02/2021

Away from the football, my daughter also has Type 1 and loves the incredible benefits of her insulin pump (it certainly beats doing insulin injections for a snack on a crowded post-match train journey home!). Instead of comparing it to the step-change we’ve seen under Xisco, I’d suggest that for you it could be even more game-changing than Watford first appointing the great GT. I only know you through BSaD and this, but cheering you on from afar.

Matt Rowson - 25/02/2021

Cheers Olly. I won’t miss surreptitiously sticking my insulin pen under my jumper in the Rookery to compensate for lucky half time chocolate. Though I’d take that opportunity with both hands now, obvs…

2. The ole Pop - 25/02/2021

What joy!! The relentless deluge reminding me of how I practised every evening, pumping water into oranges repeatedly until the water from my saturated oranges flowed down my forearm. The prospect of sticking a (new, clean) needle deep into the arm of my three year old golden boy. His arm turned out to be nothing like an orange. But oranges don’t cry, and neither did he. My clumsy jabbing efforts contributed to him taking over jabbing duties himself. When he was 7yrs old he wanted to collect those ridiculous football stickers. His mum bribed him with 20 packs to try injecting himself, just once. “Money for old rope”, he said, and that was it.

And that’s how it felt last night. Horrible weather, horrible pitch, ref with a rep. And we hadn’t won at Blackburn since the old queen died. “We are where we are”, said the lads, albeit in a variety of tongues. They took matters into their own hands. And still Rovers gave us bumps in the road. Epic enjoyable match and not on Sky and so well commentated. Old rope? Rovers brought on..

Matt Rowson - 25/02/2021

If you’re going to diss football stickers Dad, you’ve probably come to the wrong place…

Pete - 25/02/2021

Nothing silly or frivolous to talk about here….

As you were

3. Harefield Hornet - 25/02/2021

A great performance and result despite of a couple of defensive lapses. Every time we go forward now we look like we’re going to score – what a transformation from the bland fare dished out under Vlad. It’s actually fun to watch again – if a bit behind the sofa viewing near the end, usually after the subs have been made! Everyone is putting in a shift and Sema, Pedro and Sarr look as though they’ve been liberated to cause havoc – long may it continue!

4. Sam Barratt - 25/02/2021

Thanks Matt for all you do in bringing your “thunks” to the world – I am out in Nairobi & regularly read your wisdom.

I enjoyed what I saw last night and I wonder if this is officially “squeaky bum time” or is that only post April? For me, April can’t come soon enough as the 22.45pm kick off times aren’t ideal when I have a school run at 5.58, so I peel off at half time hoping for this best. I am looking forward to the off 7pm kick off and the clocks changing.

Good luck with the pump and I love the fact your dad came in on the thread with his take on it all. Dads, sons / daughters and football is why I first went and the first thing I ever talk to my Dad about whenever I give him a ring. Cheers for all you do, Sam.

Matt Rowson - 25/02/2021

Cheers Sam. Did I meet you on a return to England a year or two back?

sam barratt - 26/02/2021

You did, I think at the underpass near the Watford Girls School, I said hello, met your kids and said thanks for doing what you do….


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