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Bristol City 0 Watford 0 (12/11/2022) 13/11/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- We’d been driving for half an hour before I remembered that the tickets were still pinned to my noticeboard.

The reaction of the car’s two passengers was more sanguine than my own… patience from Paul, indifference from Daughter 2 who is getting used to such displays of incompetence.  The last time Something Like This happened it was insulin that had been forgotten prompting similar dead time as we turned around and headed home then back.  We’d only had the relatively short drive to Vicarage Road in front of us on that occasion though.  

As a consequence of that one, all diabetes-related planning for this trip had been impeccable to the extent that my wife stuck her head out of the door to needlessly check on her 49 year-old husband’s memory.  Instead, five minutes away from the parked car in Bristol I remembered that my insulin pump had been beeping at me for more than an hour and wasn’t going to last the game.  I left the same two passengers rolling their eyes at the side of the road while I trotted back and did the necessary.

Sometimes the world is trying to tell you something.

2- We arrive at the ground in good time for the football, but without the cushion that the experienced traveller builds in to an away day as a matter of course to protect it from the vagaries of what happens on the pitch.  

Ashton Gate didn’t look like this the last time I was here, for a drawn FA Cup tie under Beppe Sannino nearly nine years ago.  There was no fanzone then for starters – we don’t get to enjoy it this time either, obvs.  Two stands have been replaced, converting a ground that could previously have been described as “homely”, and then only generously, into an impressive stadium. The pies are splendid too and the vendors adopt the preferred “treat them like adults” approach to bottle tops. The only real minus is a critical lack of chocolate.

Simon’s here too, and has brought nine year-old Adam to that most significant of events, his First Game.  This is not, of course, Simon’s first game… he’s a veteran of many terrible football matches up and down the country, several of them with me and several of those on Watford visits to Oakwell in the early nineties when we were housemates in Leeds.  Simon is having trouble getting his head around the presence of Dan Gosling, bearing scars as he does of a teenage Gosling deciding a Merseyside derby in the dim and distant past so profound that I remember their existence before he mentions it.  I’m having similar issues with Andi Weimann, who made his first starts and scored his first senior goals whilst on loan at Vicarage Road several lifetimes ago but is somehow only 31 (and City’s captain to boot).

3- It’s a turd of a game.

Shorn of Sarr, João Pedro and Asprilla on top of Louza we lack any verve whatsoever and all the cracks that their presence renders ignorable are painfully exposed.  Those four aren’t… an unfair advantage of course, for all that they are each surely destined to return to playing at the top level with or without Watford.  You’re allowedto have good players. Had we sold Sarr and/or JP over the summer as we surely expected to, we’d have invested in some Polyfilla (other brands are available) to fill some of those cracks.

But without them we have a stodgy team, and this was a stodgy performance from the off.  Ugly, clunky, unable to retain possession, unable to even find a pass.  I’ve been in favour of giving Mario Gaspar time to adapt… we’ve seen glimpses of a fine right foot and of course his pedigree is exceptional.  He can have as much pedigree as he likes on this evidence, lumbering around like someone’s uncle tasked with looking after the kids but unable to keep up with them and realising that, given his duties today, going for a cheeky curry after the pub closed last night probably wasn’t a good idea.

Keinan Davis is quite tremendous though, receiving the ball, holding people off, looking for a lay off that isn’t there and getting no favours out of referee David Webb who lets quite a lot go in general.  There’s just nothing going on around him for much of the game… Samuel Kalu’s directness that has been so helpful off the bench never gets going here.  Ken plugs away but gets nowhere.  The midfield is congested… for all that Dan Gosling is nominally in JP’s place we effectively have three defensive midfielders, even if one did learn how to attack the box off Tim Cahill once upon a time.  

The big guns are brought on early in the second half… or at least the two that we have on the bench, or whatever shadows of them their ailments – be they knocks, viruses, or World Cup considerations – permit.  To disappointing effect really… we do look more fluid, the away end is briefly energised at the prospect of nicking something (an outcome that Simon says he’d be fearing were he a home fan, negating the possibility of this transpiring by doing so) but we aren’t noticeably more threatening until Vakoun Bayo’s cameo, which is conspicuous for having a bit of energy about it.  He’s responsible for our two efforts at goal, neither of which are particularly close to the target let alone troubling Max O’Leary.

4- City are much the brighter side, if only in the manner of young rabbits frolicking in a field that would be polished off pretty quickly if a bird of prey with a bit of self-respect happened past.  No birds of prey in evidence today – just fat wood pigeons, stupid bastards that they are.

City have dug up Nakhi Wells from somewhere.  Even in the days of inflated transfer fees, the fact that someone paid five million for him once baffles me.  He must be such a frustration to watch… ability evidenced by a fine early cross from the right that Tommy Conway does well to get on the end of (and having done so should have directed his header below the bar).  But then on seeing a newly relegated team (and therefore a prize, presumably) flailing around and desperately asking to be put out of its misery spends the game throwing himself around looking for penalties that only exist in his head.  The closest he comes is when Gosling injudiciously waves his boot around but Wells is ducking his head himself to get near it and no contact is made.  “You’ve seen them given”, but wrongly.

Conway and Weimann are more acute threats.  The former escapes after Davis is harshly denied a free kick following his latest “World’s Strongest Man” audition, this time dragging only one marker along with him. The young Bristol striker rolls his shot past Daniel Bachmann but wide of the far post, thus avoiding the potential for outrage in an away end still smarting at that lack of chocolate.

Weimann comes much closer… a fine cross from the left is met by the head of the Austrian provoking a tremendous save from his compatriot in the Watford goal.

5- That City’s energy, and the mood of a home crowd that must surely have smelt blood, only resulted in this one effort on target worthy of note is one of the plusses to take from the afternoon.  Certainly Hamza Choudhury and particularly Edo Kayembe continue to shield the defence, whatever the deficiencies of the pair as a unit.  Kayembe’s oblong stance makes him look clumsy and immobile, but he was one of our more dynamic and determined weapons here.

The result, too, and a fourth clean sheet in six games (though we’re going to need to go some to match Coventry’s 10 in 13 and counting, definitely a rival to be aware of coming up in the fast lane with home games in hand).  Keinan Davis getting through his first full ninety minutes without pulling any punches.  Any away point is a good one, fourth going into the break is the most that we deserve and gives us a platform.  And of course Adam survived his debut free of any expectations as regards What This Can Be Like (not like if he’d debuted with, I don’t know, a 4-0 win over Burnley a couple of seasons into the club’s golden era, for instance).

There’s a big “but” coming, and it’s painful to write about, the more so because you have to acknowledge it and yet words are moot because you all know this already.  Nonetheless…

Dan Gosling was signed two years ago as one of a number of experienced heads to bolster the squad and get us over the line.  That done, including a surely pivotal winner at Carrow Road and a bravura show at Dean Court, he stuck around whilst the likes of Carlos Sánchez and Achraf Lazaar were released.  Since then he’s been in and out of the squad, all but ostracised for a year, asked to fill in all over the place most recently and most effectively at right back.  All of this he’s done with professionalism and gritted teeth, even when things haven’t quite gone to plan.  An absolute diamond.  

So to see him go down as if he’d been shot, far from any opponent, punching the ground in pain and fury, was heartbreaking.  A ruptured achilles tendon isn’t something you’d wish on anyone, least of all a pro with six months on his contract who will be 33 when it expires.  Just so, so sad.

(As an aside, the muppets in the home stands – stronger choices of noun are available – who chose to jeer his exit on a stretcher are welcome to lock themselves in a room, preferably with the muppets in the away end – again, stronger words available – who saw fit to interrupt the Last Post, and merrily screw themselves.  We’ll let you know when you’re needed again, really we will.  A minority in the home stands admittedly, there were plenty of decent human beings responding more appropriately visible too).

And so we go into this odd month “off” in reasonable shape all things considered.  Enjoy whatever you do with it – it might be worth keeping half an eye on this blog in the meantime.  I’ll see you for the Hull game.

Yoooorns.

Bachmann 3, Mario Gaspar 1, Kamara 2, Kabasele 2, Troost-Ekong 3, Choudhury 3, Kayembe 3, Kalu 2, Gosling 3, Sema 2, *Davis 3*
Subs: João Pedro (for Mario Gaspar, 56) 2, Sarr (for Kalu, 56) 2, Bayo (for Sema, 75) 3, Cathcart (for Gosling, 83) NA, Dele-Bashiru, Sierralta, Okoye

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Comments»

1. Harefield Hornet - 13/11/2022

Awful watch and so unfortunate for Dan. Somebody last night in the pub post mortem maintained that he’d signalled something was wrong just before he went down and this was either ignored or not seen by the bench – allegedly explaining his anger and frustration as well as the obvious pain? I never noticed this at the time ?

Matt Rowson - 13/11/2022

No, nor did I. Yes, that would explain it.

davejackson - 13/11/2022

That paragraph about Gaspar is priceless!

Matt Rowson - 13/11/2022

😊

2. iamthesunking - 13/11/2022

Oh my! We have a football checklist and we aren’t allowed to leave the house until everything is crossed off. “Tickets” is number one on the list …

Matt Rowson - 13/11/2022

You’re not helping.

iamthesunking - 13/11/2022

Hehehe, sorry! At least you remembered half an hour in, and not longer (or not at all).

3. Who Deeney? - 13/11/2022

Very sorry for Dan Gosling. He has done everything asked of him and done so with professionalism. A great guy to have around. Wish him well but I that might be the last we see of him in a Watford shirt.

Is it a generational thing or can you not just scan your phone to get into grounds these days? Or are we a bit ahead of the curve of the tech front at the Vic?

Matt Rowson - 13/11/2022

It’s a paper ticket, so wasn’t going to risk scanning my phone. Expected success rate not high. Would have hopefully noticed earlier had I pinned my phone to the notice board also. 😉

I don’t think we’re ahead of things but having been to most of the away games since the lockdown I think only Brighton did etickets for visiting supporters. I don’t know if we do.

Who Deeney? - 13/11/2022

Ah, Brighton. Watching Estupinan start for them today gave me a pang of “If only…”

4. Harefield Hornet - 13/11/2022

Yep 97 games out on loan and never kicked a ball for us ?!

Matt Rowson - 13/11/2022

Played pre season vs Spurs…

Harefield Hornet - 13/11/2022

Ah must have been away on holiday still and missed that !

5. John Smith - 13/11/2022

Thanks Matt, so sorry regarding Dan who has truly helped us out at right back, a sorry end. If we don’t play any of our creative players we perform as we did yesterday. Let’s hope we use the break to rest & get some players fit and ready to resume. Quite a gap at the top, so need to hit the ground running on resumption.
Enjoy your break Matt

6. Nick B jnr - 13/11/2022

Gosling was seen (not by me) to mouth: “I f***ing* told you so” as he slammed the pitch in anger.

Make of that what you will.

Harefield Hornet - 14/11/2022

As I mentioned above – I heard he’d already signalled a problem at some point – which just made it even worse !

7. grahamsmith - 14/11/2022

Great match analysis very much as I saw it and I wish I hadn’t bothered seeing it. Completely rank performance across the board with the exception of Davis who Watford should be lining up to try and buy in my opinion. There are players who can play and there are players who can only play off others. The problem with Watford’s playing list is there are too many players who can only play off others. With Louza out it’s critical that either Pedro or Asprilla start. Hopefully Tom Dele Bashiru can offer something if/when he get’s his chance after the break but he’s barely played so maybe a bit of a long shot there.

8. David - 14/11/2022

I have no idea what Gosling earns but this is a cautionary tale about the life of a professional athlete. I hope the club does all it can to help him make a full recovery irrespective of the cost.

As for the current table position, I will bite your hand off for a top 6 position.

9. Ian - 14/11/2022

Regarding the ‘muppets” in the home and away ends, there does seem to have been a marked increase in antisocial (I use the term in the broadest sense) behaviour since lockdown. I think as football fans we’ve long been used to fruity language aimed at the opposition players and supporters, the ref, Luton etc, but at Bristol five or six blokes in the row in front of me spent the entire match hurling really quite offensive abuse at all our players for any action that they didn’t deem perfect. Without wishing to sound like an old man, it’s obviously counterproductive but it also makes the whole day out much less pleasant.

Matt Rowson - 14/11/2022

Yeah, I don’t think there’s much doubt that this is the case Ian. I know folks who aren’t going to away games for precisely this reason. There have been other developments, without wishing to labour a point, that have seemingly legitimised being an idiot.

Ian - 14/11/2022

Very true


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