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Leicester City 4 Watford 1 (08/01/2022) 09/01/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.


      Good luck, Spud.


      Now remember --


      If they think you're not trying, 
      you're in trouble. First hint of 
      that, they'll be on to the DSS, 
      'This ****'s no trying' and your 
      Giro is ****ing finished, right?

RENTON But try too hard -- SPUD And you might get the ****ing job. RENTON Exactly. SPUD Nightmare. RENTON It's a tightrope, Spud, a ****ing tightrope. SPUD My problem is that I tend to clam up. I go dumb and I can't answer any questions at all. Nerves on the big occasion, like a footballer...

2- This was always going to be weird.  A curio, an odd hiatus between the start of everything changing – AFCON, the transfer window – and the now insanely critical seven days of fixtures that begins next Saturday.  Both sides came into the fixture ostensibly struggling to put credible sides out… and, perhaps, not wanting to for all that City were beginning the defence of the trophy and that we could do with finding some form and confidence as soon as possible whatever the competition.  Not a priority though, very clearly.  Maybe the trick was trying to lose without making it look like you were trying to lose.  Spud would have understood.

I’d tried to explain “bring your boots” to Daughters 1 and 2 on the drive up, Daughter 2 rolling her eyes as her elder sister briefly understood that she might genuinely get a call up.  Despite this, the two line-ups named were stronger than might have been anticipated with only a couple of kids in the Leicester starting eleven and James Morris debuting at left back for the Hornets.  The benches were more haphazard, but significantly still no place in the starting eleven for Dan Gosling.

From the off, any suggestion that this would be a half-hearted affair in which neither side would be putting too much effort into things was dispelled.  We witnessed a far more entertaining game than we had any right to expect which, whilst the end result was fully merited, was far more competitive for far longer than the scoreline might suggest.  There are things that we’re quite good at and there are things that we’re really very bad at.  None of this is news and the club have clearly had some ducks lined up to address the latter.  Today, Kamara had a token place on the bench – presumably insurance in case Morris, who looked punchy and positive, had a less capable debut than he did – but otherwise those solutions, adequate or otherwise, are still to come, whilst the travails of injuries, COVID and AFCON whilst affecting both sides left Leicester with more quality, particularly in midfield, than we could muster.

3- The start to the game clearly didn’t help us.  The smallest of footnotes is that the award of a corner after the ball was contested below the away end was utterly absurd but you’ve still got to defend it.  The delivery was of high quality and Francisco Sierralta grappled with Vestergaard – the Dane made the most of the contact but it was a penalty, the most telling aspect of which was Sierralta being caught cold by the run.  Once again the absence of WTE, error-prone or otherwise, was telling both in the general (lack of) shape of the defence and in Sierralta’s performance in particular.  The Chilean, who has had enough football this season now to be reasonably classified as “a bit disappointing” in the top flight, is a weapon that needs to be pointed in the right direction.  One hopes that Samir is a talker.

Bachmann dived the right way but didn’t get close to Tielemans’ spot-kick. From there an open game saw chances at both ends…  we know that we can hurt teams and Leicester’s patched-up defence was there to be got at.  A decent move down the left – where Morris, as during pre-season, provided a more than adequate supply line – saw Tom Cleverley’s fierce low drive blocked.  Another saw Sissoko crash his trademark effort over the bar at a stage where we were still positive enough about the whole thing to turn around and grin ruefully at strangers at this already established theme.

The focus will be on the defence again and understandably so given the leaden attempts to obstruct City as they swept through for their second, a terrific move that saw Lookman feed Maddison to chip over Bachmann as he had into the same net six weeks earlier.  The midfield’s an issue too though, and as such whilst the signings of Kamara and Samir are welcome and needed, Kayembe’s arrival is significant also.  If you’re going to play a 4-3-3 you’re asking an awful lot of the three…  they need to be a solid, mobile unit with enough quality to be both potent and obstructive.  We don’t have Doucs, Capoue and Will Hughes any more, and whilst Ranieri has achieved a credible midfield when Sissoko and Louza are both available, the loss of the Moroccan (combined perhaps with the ongoing absence of Etebo) leaves us looking flimsy in the middle.  Tom Cleverley wasn’t up to speed today, and whilst Ozan Tufan made more of an impact in attacking areas than previously he still looked heavy and slow both of body and mind.  

4- That second goal would have been miserable enough to kill any spirit in the away end, but for the fact that we struck back immediately.  The three forwards combined to create the opening, with Ashley Fletcher’s critical involvement comfortably his most effective of the afternoon.  He looks far more convincing as a target man with bodies hanging off him than he does loping into space down the flanks, and here his sublime touch under pressure released João Pedro to lift the ball over Ward.

This ignited the away end – indeed both daughters voluntarily stood in excitement for the first time – and whilst the score remained at 2-1 for half an hour or so either side of half time we looked the more convincing side for the only spell in the game.  We moved the ball well and made Leicester look nervous – young left back Vontae Daley-Campbell was generously spared a second yellow on the basis that he slipped as he crashed into João Pedro.  The slip, justification for the leniency or otherwise, was unseen by the away support in the opposite corner of the arena, who were outraged.  Attempts to expose the left back once again before his inevitable replacement at the break saw the relentlessly positive Jeremy Ngakia receive a clever long ball before crashing through the youngster and setting up João Pedro; the Brazilian’s shot and Ngakia’s follow up were both blocked as the home side scrambled to maintain parity at the break.

The third goal, then, was the critical one really.  For all the encouragement we knew that the back door was always open, that we wouldn’t have long to level the scores and shift the emotional pressures of the game.  Harvey Barnes’ tidy finished was briefly interrupted by an offside flag but VAR redressed that error.  

image_50411265 (1)

We made a triple-switch of our own in response, another statistical curiosity to list alongside Cucho’s 100th minute subbing in last week coming when the official arrival times of the three spanned six minutes, interrupted as the substitution was by the floodlights temporarily failing.  At no point did we look like fighting back again however;  Kucka for Tufan was a popular switch but the Slovak was no more impactful, while Dan Gosling’s anonymous performance didn’t challenge his lack of involvement.  When our two most convincing performers, Sissoko and João Pedro, were withdrawn into cotton wool to be replaced by young debutants Kamil Conteh and burly seventeen year-old Shaq Forde Claudio was publicly decreeing that we’d done enough for the DSS.  We weren’t going to chase this any more, the game was up.

5- Understandable as that call may have been, and speaking having only missed the Liverpool debacle thus far, the last fifteen minutes were the most miserable of the season, a circumstance only partly reflecting problems on the pitch.  

It’s argued frequently that supporters who pay to follow their team have the right to express their views as they see fit, within reason.  I have some sympathy with that, but would still reserve the right to judge people based on the views that choose to express and their manner of doing so.  There’s nothing witty or effective in suggesting that Jamie Vardy (in this instance) is a sex offender.  Asking Leicester fans whether they cried when Deeney scored after nine years during which the Foxes have won the Championship, the League title and the FA Cup as well as enjoying three seasons in Europe is as moronic as it is crass.  Not to mention counterproductive.

This was all before the game had really started.  None of it reflected goings on on the pitch.  It came back to bite us, obviously, when Leicester’s support, who can normally be relied upon to be boisterously behind their own side in preference to digging out their opponents – there’s an idea – turned the scarcely more inspired “Luton get battered…” into a noisy “Watford get battered…” that lasted the final ten minutes or so during which we had a bunch of kids, several of whom making debuts, performing a thankless task on the pitch and our own doughnut army had long since disappeared from a half-empty stand, gurning into the night.  

On the pitch, Daniel Bachmann – whose good days aren’t nearly reliably frequent enough – pulled out a couple of smart saves but the second of those saw a kind rebound fall to Albrighton to complete the scoring.  At the other end, Cucho spent the last fifteen minutes scampering around after scraps.  His persistence saw him through on goal in the dying minutes, a lack of confidence borne of however many defeats on the hop now meant that he didn’t apply a finish that would have been automatic and instinctive in happier times.  The contrast with Leicester’s kids, who were visibly growing in confidence in the light of their experience, couldn’t have been starker.

The best thing about a football crowd is its unifying nature.  Folk from all walks of life behind a a common goal.  It’s illusory, of course.  That cross-section of society contains all sorts, some of whom are morons at each club.  This season we seem to be carrying more than normal.

See you at St James’ Park.


Bachmann 2, Ngakia 3, Morris 3, Cathcart 2, Sierralta 2, Tufan 2, Cleverley 2, Sissoko 3, Hernández 3, *João Pedro 3*, Fletcher 2
Subs: Sema (for Fletcher, 58) 3, Gosling (for Cleverley, 63) 1, Kucka (for Tufan, 64) 2, Forde (for João Pedro, 74) 2, Conteh (for Sissoko, 74) 3, Agyakwa, King, Kamara, Elliot


1. Harefield Hornet - 09/01/2022

Great report – I was really annoyed yesterday afternoon by the way we approached this match and the way it eventually played out, whether it was necessary or not – but once again you’ve managed to put it into some kind of perspective ! – I suppose whether the approach was justified will be known at about 1700 next Saturday? – but I still believe we could have made a much better fist of it yesterday with the experienced professionals who were available – ah but of course it’s only the FA Cup 3rd Round – the new pre season friendly/ practice match genre?

Matt Rowson - 09/01/2022

Interested… with available personnel what would you have done differently?

Harefield Hornet - 09/01/2022

Taken a chance and started our first choice striker – King – with Cucho and Pedro supporting . Anyone instead of Tufan !

Matt Rowson - 09/01/2022

I dunno. Given the next three games would you have risked King? And Tufan… well, yes. But given that we’ve got him it’s in our interests to give him a chance to succeed in a lower risk environment?

2. Robert Hill - 09/01/2022

Disappointment became a hit especially another hit by Leicester City, after the recent League defeat. Again Leicester City seemed to be able to just over power us. We need to get together and I would hope that will mould our first team squad into something much stronger.

We shall see over the next half of the season.

3. Stephen B - 09/01/2022

Surely the recent performances and the subsequent recruitment will be accompanied by a change of shape from here? We can’t just persevere with this 433. Square pegs in round holes. Gaps in the midfield which allows the likes of West Ham and Leicester (and even Southampton and Newcastle from earlier winnable fixtures) to get up the pitch to the edge of our box so quickly and easily…. Putting pressure on our ageing backline. Maybe the recruitment of a left footed CB and a speedy left wing back suggests 352 or even 532. Thats how Udinese set up with Samir playing. King/Dennis/Pedro have enough about them to create chances as a two out of three. Newcastle/ Burnley/ Norwich all struggle to score and are below us in the table and we should start by making it as hard as possible to do so next week. I fear if Ranieri can’t show a level of tactical flexibility…..I might be moved to boo as I will be there to witness in person. I’ve not booed in 40 years of watching.

4. James B - 09/01/2022

Agree with the Vardy and Deeney songs – pathetic and irrelevant. Chants related to displeasure with another poor performance however, are fair. Yet again a three man midfield – which requires fit and young legs with plenty of stamina to work effectively – was totally overrun and for the most part bypassed. Surely time to test something else in the middle to at least try to compete.

For what it’s worth I enjoyed the first half and felt we could easily have gone in level at half time.

5. David - 09/01/2022

Thank you Matt, this game has a touch of the 90’s about it. We easily lost to a better team and there was no radio commentary.

My children, (12 & 10) post the away game to Palace in March 20 won’t go to another away game following witnessing a fight on the train just outside Thornton Heath, and 50 or so men dispensing with the need to use the toilets using the back of the Stand instead causing a river of urine that stung the nostrils.

I wonder if the more Borish elements of football support will disappear?

6. Tim wells - 09/01/2022

Always disappointed to lose in the cup but the bottom line is survival in the prem is more important.and has been to many clubs for a long time now . I still respect and look forward to the cup but a cup run is gravy dependant on luck .A crap draw this year injuries or not City a hard team to play. Let’s hope next week we can get a strong team out and our new players bed in and turn out to be decent.
Three cup finals coming up in quick succession COYH .

7. Jeff - 09/01/2022

Lovely stuff, Matt. Thanks as ever.

There cannot really have been a serious desire to win this game? As you pointed out the last 15 minutes playing the youngsters was like seeing ‘That’s All Folks!’ At the end of a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
I’ve said it before and sadly I’m saying it again, Ken is just not up to this standard. He was ok in the EFL but is so easy to read at this level. It’s really dispiriting seeing him play.
Finally I think your Tufan rating was a number of games added together…

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