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Watford 1 Brentford 2 (16/04/2022) 17/04/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- The Inuit, it is said, have at least fifty words for “snow”.

It won’t be long before Watford supporters scoff at the over simplistic “home defeat” in the same way that Inuits dismiss “snow”, Germans scoff at “beer”, Rob McKenna the unwitting rain god in Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy regards mere “rain”, or this Tory government shakes its head at “corruption” as the clumsy, inadequate wordage of the ignorant painfully lacking in the detail, refinement, comprehension of the true connoisseur.

Since we beat Manchester United we’ve had all manner of what mere mortals might simply call a “home defeat”.  The hard-fought and unfortunate (Chelsea), the gutsy and worthy in which less than a thrashing feels like an accomplishment (City), the cruel suggestion of success disintegrating into humiliation (West Ham) all the way to the haplessly incompetent, banging our heads against the flimsiest of brick walls before falling over exhausted and letting inept opponents march all over us (Norwich, Leeds).  We’ll have names for all of these one day, or just grimaces that every Hornet will understand and anyone else will regard as simply what Watford supporters look like.

And so the relentless toothache of our home form continues.  Miserable, all pervasive, impossible to forget about.  This one was different again, a quirky mix of the spirited, the encouraging and the dysfunctional.  It amounts to the same thing in the end.

2- There are fine things about an afternoon at the football that are independent of the result of course, mercifully.  Daughter 1 is in GCSE revision mode, but Daughter 2 is here – she’s sat resolutely through seven of the ten now, rolled her eyes at the pompous Premier League anthem each time.  Forgoing this, along with gaining midweek games and new grounds to visit is her silver lining. Before the game we amble over to the Nascot Arms where Nem and Nick and some fellow Bees have set up camp.  They’re happier with the world than we are as you might expect, one relating emotionally how a fellow veteran can’t quite believe that Christian Eriksen is playing for them…  but they’re tacitly sensitive to the ongoing suffering that we’re enduring.

Vicarage Road looks spectacular in the sunshine.  I don’t share the sentiment of those reporting “glad to have missed this one” with respect to a home defeat of almost any flavour – I’d much rather be suffering with those that Understand than doing so on my own, unable to process what’s going on first hand.  There are both young debutants – Nigel in front of us has brought what must be his sprightly much younger brother, elsewhere Vicky has brought Louie for the first time – and returning old timers.  Kevin Miller at half time and Heurelho Gomes makes a suitably rock-star return to Hertfordshire, indulging in a lap of the pitch to salute all sides of the ground.  The away end inconsiderately sings throughout his brief interview with master of ceremonies and birthday boy Richard Walker but the tannoy volume is high enough and we get the gist.

It lifts the stadium, as Gomes’ infectious personality lifted the team often during his time here you suspect.  As the game starts the home stands are positively boisterous and if Brentford control the early possession they’re not getting terribly far with it.  Soon we’re prodding and probing ourselves, equally inconsequentially but small steps, and to a soundtrack of encouragement.  Kiko is rattling up the right flank, Louza is prominent.  We’re doing OK.

Then Brentford score.

3- We have a major issue with set pieces throughout the game.  Part of this is down to our height and size disadvantage – we have nobody as tall or as broad as Kristoffer Ajer or Pontus Jansson for one thing which will limit our attacking options but also makes us vulnerable in dead ball situations.  More significant still is Christian Eriksen, comfortably the best player on the pitch like a pro guesting in a Sunday league game – his response to his warm welcome here must be practised and dutiful by now but he acknowledges it anyway.  His corners and his artistry from the centre of the pitch will cause us problems, particularly in the first half, but he’s not involved in the goal.

Instead Ethan Pinnock – whose departure five minutes later was a bit of a blessing – launches a bomb of a throw into the box, Ajer flicks on despite attention at the near post and an unmarked Nørgaard prods home.  In fairness, as above, Ajer is 6 foot 6 with a good four inches on any outfield Watford player,  and this well-rehearsed move is difficult to counter but it all looks pathetically easy and this as much as the goal itself once again punctures the team’s belief and the stadium’s mood.

The rest of the half is grouchy.  Brentford sit deep and we have neither the craft nor the confidence to penetrate…. the one shot on target from Louza, whose frustration has briefly threatened to boil over, dribbles through to David Raya to mocking cheers from the home end at this token shot on target.  Other efforts have gone high, wide and handsome with the exception of what is nearly a spectacular volleyed own goal from Ajer but, inevitably, his unintended effort loops the wrong side of the post with Raya stranded.  As Will wryly observes at half time having joined us from the Upper GT, it’s as close as we’ve come to scoring in two-and-a-half games.

4- The second half is much more like it, whatever the denouement.  Brentford briefly threaten to extend their lead – I’d been about to comment on how quiet Ivan Toney had been in the grand scheme of things when Eriksen dropped a free kick onto his scripted run past the defence and he rolled a shot narrowly wide of the left hand post having run in from left to right.  He had a ridiculous amount of time, a let off.

And we capitalised, improbably.  Moussa Sissoko’s ball from the right was flicked on by Sarr to find Dennis scrambling in well wide of the far post where he controlled the ball before lashing home from an angle narrow enough for Raya to be disappointed with himself, one suspects.  We had the celebrate-now stop-now start again rigmarole of an offside flag and a VAR review (and I’d still rather rely on the on-pitch officials than risk contaminating the joy of a goal celebration with this nonsense however accurate or favourable the calls) but with the confirmation we were up and running.

In Toney, Ajer and Rico Henry the Bees have three players linked with the Hornets in recent-ish years.  Toney and Ajer would have been fine recruits of course, so too Henry but at least in his case we have an adequate alternative.  After a clunky start to the game Hassane Kamara had a tremendous second half, his extendable limbs and irrepressible energy shutting down Brentford’s in-play threat from their right.  He bombed forward too, tripping his way to the touchline before laying back for Samir to sweep narrowly wide from outside the box.  Emmanuel Dennis was suddenly prominent, frustrating and firing in equal measure – one minute dawdling over a pass that might have released the similarly rejuvenated Sarr, the next demanding an extraordinary recovery challenge from Ajer as he charged towards space, the next slapping a shot off the bar from a free kick, again from a wide angle and this time with the intervention of Raya’s fingertips.

We were dominant, for the first prolonged spell at Vicarage Road in longer than I can remember.  It was still blunt and over deliberate but it felt so good to be on our feet and bellowing again.  Cleverley and King came off a bench heavily populated with central midfielders for combative cameos. We should have drawn the game.  We could have won it, and even a draw would have felt cruel with a win, irrelevant or otherwise, so, so close as we hammered down the left again and King smacked a low shot against the post with Louza desperately, painfully looping his shot to the rebound over under challenge with the goal gaping.

5- As with Toney’s earlier missed effort there felt an inevitability to what happened next.  I certainly won’t have been the only fan in the home stands to whom the horrible certainty of the winning goal arrived in advance.  Referee Simon Hooper had earlier aggravated the home stands by failing to punish with cards two non-violent but cynically disruptive fouls by Brentford players as we looked to break.  Here we were grateful to his even-handed leniency, since he appeared to change his mind about issuing what would have been a second yellow to Hassane Kamara on appreciating the consequences after a bad foul.

The punishment would come though.  Eriksen, inevitably, clipped in a ball, Jansson got ahead of the defence to beat the helpless Foster abetted perhaps by some naivety from Sarr wide of the action who had been fooled into following his adversary deep and playing the Swede onside.  We saw none of this last detail at the time, we were too far away and our heads were in our hands.

The game ended almost immediately. Impossibly cruel, a rare unmerited home defeat for the catalogue, ultimately, the players’ despair evident as bodies lay prone on the pitch long after the whistle.  Brentford, meanwhile, celebrated as they rumbled securely into mid-table.  How they cope with the notoriously difficult second season whither so many newly promoted survivors have crashed and burned before, with or without Eriksen, will be interesting but we’d give a lot to swap places now.  Red faced furiousness, inspired more by the context of ten home defeats on the hop than by this performance, interspersed appreciation of, finally, a stout show if nothing else, but even those applauding looked haggard and tired.

6- As a postscript.  After the game my brother and I went to my Gran’s house to load a van with furniture, dutifully supervised by Daughter 2.  Our Gran is still going at a feisty 94, but won’t be living here any longer.  After more than 40 years of post-match reflections in that living room that have covered six promotions, nearly six relegations and no end of cup runs, late goals, dodgy decisions and, yes, home defeats, this was the last time.

Reminder enough, I guess, that however bad the bad times are, good times will follow again at some point.

Hang in there.


Foster 2, Femenía 3, *Kamara 3*, Samir 3, Kabasele 2, Louza 3, Sissoko 3, Kucka 3, Sarr 2, Dennis 3, João Pedro 2
Subs: King (for João Pedro, 84) NA, Cleverley (for Kucka, 84) NA, Cathcart (for Femenía,  87) NA, Forde, Gosling, Etebo, Kayembe, Ngakia, Bachmann



1. skipton65 - 17/04/2022

Thanks Matt – a very nuanced view of the circumstances we find ourselves in. It’s very hard for many Hornets to find some patience and solace in the understanding that all things will pass – including this time. I’m very hopeful that life in the Championship will be more balanced with ups as well as downs. Very much hoping you will continue to inform and entertain us.

Matt Rowson - 17/04/2022


2. Mike Smith - 17/04/2022

Good report and comments again Matt.
A defeat is always hard to take at home but like so many this season we’ve shot ourselves in the foot and to my old mind (60+ years following the ‘orns) didn’t deserve that last minute kick in the teeth. Hard to take. It’s one of those seasons where the Gods aren’t looking down favourably on us. I cite Everton’s “winner” against a poor Man U last week. Shot going wide hits Maguire and goes in. We never seem to get that luck. Hey ho. Dog Kennel Rd. next season!

Fez - 17/04/2022

“Hey ho. Dog Kennel Rd. next season!”
Ships that pass on the night most likely, for sparkling insult to our injury… QPR and Millwall for sure.I
Fortunately Mrs Fez whisked me away for the weekend so I didn’t have to endure this particular root canal of a match.

3. iamthesunking - 17/04/2022

We know all about last-minute “defeats” (and I use inverted commas because it wasn’t a defeat but it felt like one): Bamford’s equaliser at Elland Road still stings. I would have taken it like a grown-up from anyone else but Leeds. In fact, I would have taken a LOSS to anyone else. You were unlucky not to get a point from us, both times.

4. Graham French - 17/04/2022

Thanks as ever for the balanced report Matt. I also take solace in more games and – surely – more wins (hopefully many more) next season . But it was a kick in the teeth to round off what had been , overall, an enjoyable afternoon in the Vicarage Road sun. And let’s hope we don’t need to find 50 words for home defeat…

5. Nick Young - 17/04/2022

Your mention of daughter 1’s GCE revision reminded me that I experienced a strange feeling of something like deja vu or schadenfreude (neither quite right) when the nail in the coffin went in. I am old enough to have been around the last time we lost 9 at home on the trot; in fact 1971/72 was my first proper season as a bona fide Vicarage Road attending supporter (even though it was my O level year.) So I felt a pang of empathy to my 15 year old self like “don’t worry son, this isn’t the worse it gets, you’ll have to wait another 50 years for that.” But I couldn’t have expected the 49 years in between to have been quite so enjoyable a ride, so the long perspective helps.

6. Harefield Hornet - 17/04/2022

To echo some of the sentiments above, next season can’t come quick enough as far as I am concerned. The monopoly the big 3, 4, 6 or whatever have on the premier league is becoming tedious – confirmed again this afternoon by the prospect of a Chelsea v Liverpool Cup Final which inevitably follows the Man City v Liverpool title contest. As has been mooted before you don’t need to be good – step forward Everton – but less worse or more lucky (you decide) than three other hapless contestants. Unfortunately we fall into the latter this season. The Brentford fans were jubilantly singing “that’s why your going down” at every available opportunity yesterday” – enjoy it why it lasts chaps – you’re next on the
Conveyor belt one suspects !!!

7. David Allen - 17/04/2022

Almost as inevitable as a Watford home defeat is a wonderfully entertaining piece by you, Matt. Perspicacious as ever, it does help to lift the gloom a wee bit.

Matt Rowson - 17/04/2022

thank you David

8. Mark - 17/04/2022


9. heftiehornet - 17/04/2022

Matt, thanks for your match reports throughout the season, especially appreciated by me as I have been unable to attend due to ongoing health issues; that said, I may have chosen a good year to watch and listen from a distance. I hope to return for the start of next season when the next chapter in Watford’s existence will unfold.

Matt Rowson - 17/04/2022

cheers heftie, hope you’re recovering apace.

10. Fez - 17/04/2022

Thanks Matt for putting things into perspective, it’s not all blacker than black is black. I wasn’t there this week (we above), I won’t be at Everton neither (irrational hatred, and all that) but there’s plenty of games left that I will be at and I, for one, am grateful for your entertaining objectivity on all that goes on. Cheers.

Matt Rowson - 18/04/2022

Cheers Fez

11. Ben - 18/04/2022

Great stuff as ever Matt. One massive positive for me this season has been the resilience and perspective of my 11 year old. I’ve been going since 1989 but his (conscious) experience has been us in the prem every year bar 1. And yet, he seems to get it/us. Which is absolutely brilliant.

Matt Rowson - 18/04/2022

Obviously immaculate upbringing. Good work.

12. John M - 18/04/2022

They say wisdom comes with age. For me, probably not. But experience is unavoidable. And that tells me the Furphys, the G.T’s,
the (briefly) Boothroyds and the earlier Pozzos are always sandwiched between the Kirbys, the Keens, the Bassetts, the Russos, the Bassini’s (among others). Perhaps my 60 years of support will not stretch to the next ‘feel good’, but it will come. The Pozzo’s are receiving much abuse, but, for me, their plus points still exceed their minus. But they have sadly mismanaged the playing side over the last three years (even given the promotion). There are rumours emerging that they have made a decision to change their approach to the management and coaching side, to include a determination to appoint a manager\coach for the longer term, dispensing with the knee-jerk dismissals of the last three seasons, even through a succession of poor results.. To return to ‘feel good’ under the current regime that would be important, I believe.

Harefield Hornet - 18/04/2022


13. David - 19/04/2022

Deep breath……

As Mat articulated beautifully, this was not a Norwich, palace, Leeds or Brighton game; there were moments of your occasional pleasure. The last minute concession (which means little in the season’s context) hurt so much less than the reverse picture.

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