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Watford 1 Leicester City 5 (15/05/2022) 16/05/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1-  Pigeons are rubbish.

“Rats with wings”, but more stupid.  Our old place in Woodside had an uncapped chimney, a pigeon was stupid enough to fall down it at one point as we discovered when the living room filled with bluebottles an unknowable time later.  I was at Vicarage Road when I got the “I’m going to stay with my sister…” message.  The bloke who came round to check out the chimney said he’d happily charge me for capping it but he recommended not to bother, I’d been very unlucky the first time.  He was wrong.

I live more rurally now.  No chimney though, critically.  There are still pigeons – wood pigeons, two huge bastards that nest out the back.  The main difference that I’ve been able to discern between wood pigeons and feral pigeons is their size, and thus critically the capacity of their backsides.  This was capably demonstrated at some point this morning prior to our 11am departure with sizeable deposits all over the car and, critically, decorating the passenger side window.  Daughter 2 approached said door, gave me a look, and nestled into the back seat with her ears plugged in.

This may have been a sign.

2- The portents continue at the ground, which is emptier even than it was on Wednesday,  great swathes of empty seats stain the stands.  Dave is here, to glumly observe that even the weather isn’t right… it should be sunny for the final home game of the season.  Kick-off is preceded by the awarding of Player of the Season to an enthusiastic but error-prone full back who arrived in January.   I voted for Hassane Kamara too, but that his award was so widely expected is an indictment in itself.  The victor, confined to the bench on this occasion, looked suitably awkward.

This was followed by the introduction of Rob Edwards, presenting the Supporter of the Season award to Shay Murray.  So far so good…  if waving at the crowd and looking pleased to be here was all there was to it he’d be smashing it already.

But he’ll need to blow a gale through the corridors of Vicarage Road. This was the game that we’d feared on Wednesday.  A scratch side, made up of the scattered debris of a squad that has proven incapable of staying in the Premier League when at full strength…  fringe players, along with the few senior players neither injured nor “injured”.  We were lucky to get away with it once, but a second time against a side both luxuriating in mid-table gentleness and with the sharpness on the break to expose our (many) anxious slips and tumbles was not going to be as accommodating.

3- The one positive from a miserable afternoon was João Pedro, who led the line with a single-mindedness and maturity that was all the more impressive for the paucity of leadership around him and (particularly) further afield.  He was at the heart of a decent enough opening to the game which featured one effort off the bar, a decent save from Danny Ward and an opening goal after Leicester did their panicky bumbling around at the back thing in response to Samuel Kalu’s first corner and the Brazilian drove home via a deflection.

For a while, all was well.  Indeed, Leicester’s defence looked accommodating whenever presented with a problem too complex for Wesley Fofana to sweep up one-on-one but we didn’t capitalise… whereas every Leicester attack caused us palpitations.  Despite having the better of the opening ten minutes or so we’d already looked vulnerable and we ushered in the rest of the game with the opening goal.  Felix would later wonder what the results of the week said about Everton, but the Toffees were never gifted opportunities like this.

The first was the worst, Adam Masina inexplicably charging across the penalty area to contest a ball that wasn’t his with Craig Cathcart, taking his teammate out in the process without clearing the ball and leaving City three on one with the inevitable conclusion.  James Maddison tapped into an empty net completing a full house having also netted in our other similarly inglorious encounters this season.

Within five minutes we were behind.  Edo Kayembe was to dig in later in the game but endured a cumbersome start to the game, culminating in passing straight to James Maddison when trying to release Sema down the left.  Maddison dropped a ball to the edge of the box which Foster came charging out to completely miss as Vardy headed the ball miserably over him and into an empty net.

Having held out adequately on Wednesday, here we had handed the visitors a lead from a winning position.

4- And City, fuelled with the confidence gleaned from putting the ball in the net, were much more impressive in the second half, mercilessly converting the chances we offered them on the break.  This – attacking on the break – is something we might have been good at…. witness the pace of Sarr and Dennis, witness also the big wins over United and Everton.  We’ve not been ahead often enough, not demanded enough concerted pressure of opponents over the course of the season to exploit that hypothetical but irrelevant strength.

We switched to 3-5-2 at the start of the second half with Kamara replacing Dan Gosling in a midfield that had been galloped through too often in the first, Gosling himself only interrupting City’s progress with a series of fouls that should have earned him a card.  The shift should have put more bodies in the middle of the park with Ngakia and Kamara pushing up as wing backs.

Before that theory could be tested, City were further ahead  as Barnes converted a sweeping pass from half time sub Marc Albrighton.  The game was over.  We made some nice attacking moves later in the game, João Pedro again at the centre of things and Sissoko plugging away providing threat from the flanks.

Not enough.  Not nearly enough.  There followed two further sharply taken goals from City as the Vicarage Road campaign concluded with a fitting lack of anything enjoyable whatsoever.

5- “Part of the ups and downs” consoled Dave and Rob sagely as Daughter 2’s face betrayed the afternoon’s ordeal on the way up Occupation Road.  That logic holding, we’re owed a hell of an “up” at some point soon.  It’s questionable whether we’ve had a more miserable season in the 40+ that I’ve been following the club, certainly none as ungrateful to the home support, a home support that have been treated to one point and nine goals (with 34 against) in 13 games since that United win.

There are few of the consolations of previous bad relegations;  in 2000 and 2007 we had teams punching above their weight who ran out of luck.  1988 was awful, but the bitterest pills had been the previous summer and a rebuild was already suggested.  1996 was miserable, but offset by a tragically magnificent late charge and the promise of what was to come.

This season has been charmless and shambolic.  The challenge of being promoted out of a pandemic shouldn’t be discounted… we were always up against it, a newly promoted Watford (rather than a Villa or a Newcastle) is always going to be running uphill.  But a challenge can be steep and the response utterly miserable.  The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

As we returned to the car we found the drizzle had begun to sort the pigeons’ gifts out, their memory slowly washing away.  That’s the best hope for this season, as neither it nor the wilfully charmless manager who presided over it’s conclusion will be missed.

If you’re braving Chelsea, good luck – I’ll be at a wedding in Snowdonia, but will be back for all the usual summer stuff.  Enjoy the break, we’ve all earned one.


Foster 1, Ngakia 2, Masina 1, Cathcart 1, Kabasele 2, Kayembe 2, Sissoko 3, Gosling 1, Kalu 1, Sema 2, *João Pedro 4*
Subs: Kamara (for Gosling, 45) 2, Etebo (for Sema, 81) NA, Cukur, Baah, Morris, Sierralta, Troost-Ekong, Bachmann


1. James Bradburn - 16/05/2022

Matt, thank you and have a good break.

Matt Rowson - 16/05/2022

Cheers James

2. Harefield Hornet - 16/05/2022

Matt – thanks for all your brilliant reports in what has been the most miserable season I’ve ever experienced since I started coming regularly in 1978. Just to make things worse yesterday my misery was compounded by being surrounded by a teenage school party in the lower GT. They were clearly local, some were even wearing Watford colours, but the two sitting to my left in empty seats vacated by pissed off season ticket holders decided it would be great fun to spend the entire game taking the piss out of everything we did wrong and cheering on Leicester – including boisterous celebration of the goals. What a great end to a miserable campaign. Let’s hope it gets better in July.

Matt Rowson - 16/05/2022

Utterly miserable. Had similar during the second half on Wednesday, but nothing like as bad in nothing like as trying circumstances. Cheers HH.

Harefield Hornet - 16/05/2022

I wouldn’t have minded so much if they hadn’t been so obnoxious with it in that way that only teenagers can be. I’m off to the Bridge next Sunday for the last rites but at as bad as that could get at least will mainly be in the company of kindred spirits. PS Canadian goose shit is much worse – you need something more than rain to remove that stuff!

3. Mike Smith - 16/05/2022

Another good measured report Matt. Thanks. I do like the way you tell a story!
I, like you, cannot remember such a miserable season and through circumstances (holiday & hospital) missed our 2 home wins. So for the first time I’ve gone a whole season in my 63+ years of supporting without seeing a win. It was gratifying to see the reception for Rob Edwards. He can be in no doubt what he needs to do next season. Let’s hope the Board see sense and allow him to sign his choice of players after a good Summer clear out. Should be interesting!

Matt Rowson - 16/05/2022

Thanks Mike. I missed three away games (plus Chelsea) and managed to miss a win and a draw in that, but your record beats mine.

Duncan H - 20/05/2022

I can beat you both – I managed to miss the last 3 (fully attended) home wins (Man U, Villa and Liverpool). Last time I saw a Watford side win was 1 Jan 2020. I’ve seen 19 competitive matches, 2 friendlies and 2 Watford Women matches in the time. Sigh…

But just to add to the chorus of thanks to Matt for being a rock to cling to in a season of sinking into ever deeper seas of despair. Until Norwich at home, I really thought we would be alright, but from that night on it’s been clear that the team was not up to it. We might just have pulled it off if some of our ‘big’ players had not shrunk to invisibility. It’s a particular shame that Sarr will now probably be remembered as much for his thorough disinterest in those last few games as for his brilliance previously. I’m not sure he will get a warm reception if he’s ever at the Vic again.

Anyhow, hopefully some time before Christmas, I might finally get to see us win again, even if it’s a terrible 1-0 against Stoke. In the meantime, thanks so much Matt, have a good break and see (read!) you in a few weeks!

Matt Rowson - 20/05/2022

Cheers Duncan

4. garethrobins1973 - 16/05/2022

Thanks, as ever, for your reports this season Matt.
I can’t remember feeling as depressed about Watford as I do now and each time I left the ground feeling low and thinking that it couldn’t get any worse, it did. Agree with your assessment of previous relegations vs this one. Thank goodness it’s (almost) over.

Matt Rowson - 16/05/2022

Cheers Gareth. It’s a character-forming experience.

5. Jeff L - 16/05/2022

Thanks for effort, Matt. You’re one of few in the vicinity of The Vic to be able to say you regularly put in a shift 🙂

I’ve often referred to a Derby fan, interviewed by MOTD on their way into Pride Park in that awful Prem season they had, that waking up every matchday wondering how much you’ll get beat by is no fun. Which is why, for a good proportion of fans of the lower echelon in the Prem, the Championship is the much more enjoyable league. At the time I thought he was mad but not any more.

As my son is now at Uni in Manchester I didn’t get to the Vic at all this season but managed to take in 2 away games, one at the Etihad and the one that will forever be with us both, at Goodison. 50% win strike rate in this season isn’t bad.

Have some fun relaxing for about 3 weeks before it all starts again!

6. Miles - 16/05/2022

Thanks for writing your reports this season Matt. Even though it can’t always be much fun at times like these, you always find a way of turning even the worst performances into a great read. It always makes me feel better about things. Take care and enjoy the summer.

Matt Rowson - 16/05/2022

Thanks Miles

7. Martin Blanc - 16/05/2022

“Charmless and shambolic” – perfect description, and the diametrical opposite of BHappy. Have fun in Snowdownia – hopefully you’ll be out of signal range from 4pm Sunday

Matt Rowson - 16/05/2022

Cheers Martin

8. Ray Knight - 16/05/2022

I just echo previous posts regarding the high quality of your reports this season. Attended yesterday out of duty more than anything to check out my new seat closer to the pitch. After a bright 15 minutes, everything we half expected went wrong.We just cannot match the quality of Vardy, Maddison and Barnes. Aside from Cucho, JP and Kamara really don’t want to see most of the rest next season. Enjoy the break.

Matt Rowson - 16/05/2022

Cheers Ray

9. RS - 16/05/2022

I’ve a question; who is the coach that sits on the Watford bench (left hand end as you face it) he seemed to be only one that had anything to say or offer yesterday. I guess Roy and Ray were just embarrassed to still be there? I can understand that.

Let’s hope there’s some spirit left in some darkened corner of the Vic that will bring some fight to a team in the Championship.

From where I sit it feels like the crowd could use a thorough rebuild too; way too much unreasonable expectation and entitlement.

As I sit here in my “Zolacoaster” playoff tee-shirt (2013) I remain grateful for all that has gone before (with no complaints other than those uninformed experts that seem to count us a yo-yo club – you ain’t seen nothing yet!). I might even like to see the Hatters win a playoff place just so they get a flavour of our pain! With their “up and coming, home grown, young English talent” and whatever other cliché you want to bring to the table they just give a few teams a run for their money. If this turns out to be the case we may get Phil Zinc back, was he a loaner?

For the regular thunks (which seem to have evolved, an evolution wholly appreciated) I thank you, they are always a go to following a match day and I am gratified that we both seem to have been watching the same match more often than not (unlike some other reporting..!). Have a good break.

10. Matt C - 16/05/2022

Hi Matt, long time reader, first time commenter (? is that a word…?)

On my way home from that absolute shambles yesterday, I found myself thinking about how ours and Leicester’s fortunes have differed since that Play-Off Semi Final in 2013. So, as a hypothetical, would you trade ‘that’ moment, Troy’s 97th minute goal against Leicester, would you trade that for Leicester’s recent success (Championship Title winners, Premier League Winners, FA Cup winners and a couple of jaunts across Europe…)?

Matt Rowson - 16/05/2022

Ha. Part of me says no… I support Watford, you can’t wish away who you are because you want to be successful. Because you want Watford to be something else. Otherwise the genuine successes are tarnished if and when they come?

Another part of me says “yes, obviously….”

Matt C - 16/05/2022

I feel the same in truth. Watford is more about the individual ‘folklore’ moments and the near misses than actually winning anything…! It wouldn’t be the same club…!

11. John Smith - 16/05/2022

Thanks Matt for your reports throughout what has been a miserable season. You put everything into context which must have been hard. No true fan wanted relegation which hung over us and showed in the team’s lack of confidence for a long time. The Championship will be hard and Rob Edwards has a lot of work ahead. Your reports often show rays of light and I thank you again. Enjoy the break, come back with renewed enthusiasm and better times ahead 👍

Matt Rowson - 16/05/2022

Thanks John

12. Richard Steeden - 16/05/2022

Thanks for all the reports, the only season I can recall where I’ve felt quite as disengaged was the last year under Perryman. Although it didn’t end in relegation, i can remember the sheer mediocrity and like now, just wanting the season to end.

Matt Rowson - 17/05/2022

Thanks Richard. I remember the glumness of that season but don’t think it compares to this one

13. Fez - 16/05/2022

Thanks Matt, at least the reading has been great as the football has grated. The drizzle, the pigeon poo, set the scene nicely and you sum up the sheer bloody inevitably of it all perfectly. I just keep hearing that line in Life of Brian: Yes, we are all individuals! and applying it to the woeful events that have unfolded at The Vic this season.
Enjoy Snowdonia, try a pint of Purple Moose whilst you’re up there, and I look forward to reading your, erm, post-mortem in due course.

Matt Rowson - 17/05/2022

Cheers Fez

14. Sequel - 17/05/2022

And The Best Putdown In A Song award goes to…….The 1881, for their rendition of “You’re nothing special, we lose every week”.
I would also like to add my thanks to you, Matt, for some excellent writing in trying circumstances throughout the season.
Oh, and wood pigeons (if you know anyone with a legally held air rifle), make a very tasty dish.

Matt Rowson - 17/05/2022

🙂 Cheers

15. Ray Knight - 17/05/2022

Yes I remember the Perryman era and the worries over the future of the club (post-Vialli, the Bassini nonsense etc.) Puts things in context. That’s why I’m not a Pozzos basher. We go again next season. Enjoy the summer guys!

16. Harefield Hornet - 17/05/2022

Seeing another comment above referencing Monty Python I couldn’t help myself. How about another line adapted from the Life of Brian – what have the Pozzos ever done for us?

17. David - 19/05/2022

Thank you Matt,

Nothing to add to the above comments other than my worst seasons were the 96/97 watching games with 6,0000 others and the Viali season.

Enjoy your summer. 30 July is not that far away.

Matt Rowson - 19/05/2022

Actually the Vialli season is a great shout. That was probably worse, wasn’t it? Taken as a whole rather than “just” on the field? I was focusing on relegation seasons, negligently. 9697… miserable drudgery yes, but not the worst for me.

18. Tim - 23/05/2022

Thanks Matt for all the great reports one of few highlights to a really miserable season . For me only one was worse my first season of watching 71-2 in the old second division .That was really grim yesterday V Chelsea not as bad as it could have been .
I look forward to seeing the back of most of this squad and a Fresh approach next year it’s got to be better look forward to reading more in due course have a good summer thanks to you and Ian for all you do a great service for the fans.

Matt Rowson - 23/05/2022

Cheers Tim

Harefield Hornet - 23/05/2022

Agree yesterday wasn’t too bad – Chelsea had made changes and were no way near full throttle but we dug in and made a decent fist of it – the late winner summed up our season perfectly – it was almost comical. Great support yesterday though and those players who you could see genuinely appreciated it are generally the ones worth hanging on to . COYH

19. Graham French - 25/05/2022

Thank you Matt for all the reports over the season . I got to 6 matches but I feel I’ve been to most courtesy of your insight, humour – & keeping this whole thing in perspective. It’s a real labour of love on your part & it really is appreciated. Let’s hope we can keep the players we need to keep – JP, Cucho ( we do need both I believe), Kamara, Louza, kabasele, Kiko, siérralta who must surely come good again. And I still think there’s a place for Cathcart, at least as a squad player, Gosling. And possibly King Ken & Clerverly. And hopefully a handful of good signings . And let’s hope the likes of Forde , Baah, Elliott get a chance.

Matt Rowson - 25/05/2022

Cheers Graham

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