More games from 9th December at https://oldwatford.com/tag/dec9
More games from 9th December at https://oldwatford.com/tag/dec9
Vardy’s run off the shoulder of Watford defenders Craig Cathcart and Adrian Mariappa resulted in Foster clattering in to him for the Leicester penalty – the 13th the former England forward has converted out of 15 attempts in the top flight. And a sweeping riposte initiated by Maddison from a Watford attack then brought the second goal, with Vardy turning Mariappa and Albrighton picking out the midfielder, who had raced 50 yards to receive his pass.
Referee:Jonathan Moss Attendance:20,540
Watford had the ball in the net inside three minutes but the goal was ruled out for offside. A long ball was touched on by Troy Deeney, allowing Gerard Deulofeu to race through but, as he slotted past Alisson, the offside flag was correctly raised.
Although the tackle was clearly mistimed, it was hard to tell whether he made contact with Hughes. Watford’s players claimed there had been an obvious foul but the referee, Jon Moss, disagreed. Shortly after that Liverpool went in front thanks to the first high-class move of the match.
In a match where the opening goal always felt it would be decisive, it was crucial. Gracia was non-committal. “The last two games we have been unlucky with some decisions but I prefer to support the referees,” he said. There was still plenty to encourage Gracia in defeat. Watford willingly conceded possession, but were defensively sound. Ben Foster was outstanding. They had their chances.
So the first of two home games in ten days against ostensibly the strongest clubs in the country. Beaten fair and square, but the scoreline doesn’t do justice to our performance which was better than that, or to the strategy selected which asked a lot of us but wasn’t a million miles from earning a result. Good decisions don’t guarantee good outcomes, it’s difficult to conceive of an approach that would have had a better chance of success.
clips of Jon Marks BBC 3CR commentary Goals: 1
Despite Watford enjoying some good fortune to equalise, manager Javi Gracia also felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty when Ryan Bertrand appeared to foul Nathaniel Chalobah. “There were different situations that were difficult for the referee but it was a clear penalty,” he said.
The man at the centre of it all was Simon Hooper, the referee who up until the 57th minute was getting on with his duties with little fuss. But then came the meltdown. First, he failed to award Watford a clear penalty following Ryan Bertrand’s rash tackle on Nathaniel Chalobah and, six minutes later, decided to ruled out a second Southampton goal for what turned out to be a wholly incorrect reason.
The visitors found a way back eight minutes from the end. Southampton failed to deal with a cross from the left, a deflected clearance and there was Jose Holebas to lash home, via a deflection off Cedric, from just inside the penalty area. Southampton were unable to contain their frustrations.
“Tell you what Matt, the next time we come here, let’s not park in Portsmouth…?” Paul’s an affable sort of bloke, not one for unnecessary or exaggerated protest and in fairness he has a point. Our reserved parking space is actually only half a mile or so from the ground as the crow flies but with the River Itchen in the way it’s a good two miles as the Watford fan trudges. This seemed like a reasonable idea without the filter of the pissing rain, and on the way into Southampton the prospect of snarled traffic put us off from looking for something a bit closer. As it is we arrive damp and tired, and that classic football fan’s war wound, the burn on the roof of the mouth thanks to a hastily inhaled balti pie, doesn’t brighten the outlook. Loz materialises, over from gadding it in Spain, this helps, but as the teams come out it’s absolutely hammering it down.
Prior to kick-off there was a minute’s silence to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War which was accompanied by a rendition of The Last Post. The only other sound that could be heard was the rain on the roof of the stand.
I thought Watford were a bit sluggish in the first half, sloppy in possession and just generally a bit lackluster. Second half however we were much improved, the introduction of Deeney shortly before halftime I think was crucial. If you take away just one trait, one characteristic of this Watford side so far this season it’s that they never give up. We pushed Southampton right until the end and threw the kitchen sink at grabbing a winner. The team spirit that Javi has created in this side is infectious.
Newcastle recorded their first Premier League victory of the season as Ayoze Perez scored in a 1-0 win over Watford on Saturday. Having failed to win any of their opening 10 league games of a season for just the second time in their history, the relief around St James Park’ was clear to see when the striker headed home (64).
The joy that erupted was followed by anxiety, with 25 minutes still left to play. Watford should have equalised, Andre Gray denied a tap-in by a magnificent last-ditch tackle from Kenedy before Stefano Okaka scooped over from six yards in stoppage time. “If you don’t kill the game when you have chance to do it, something like this can happen,” said manager Javi Gracia.
Yeah. Defeat, then. A bloody long way to come for an underwhelming outcome. If there was a consolation it was that there are worse places to visit than Newcastle with its admirable carpet of proper pubs. We visited a third before braving the train journey home.
There were a lot of angry Watford fans after the game. There was some justification for this as Newcastle had been very poor and were there for the taking. But the first half performance had been impressive and the Hornets should have been 3 or 4 up at half time. If the Pereyra shot that hit the crossbar early in the second half had gone in, we would have won the game. But Newcastle worked hard, managed to get a goal from a set piece and it seemed to be game over from that point. Still it is very dispiriting to hear so much anger directed at the players who have entertained us wonderfully so far this season. We are half way to safety with less than 30% of the games played, so are already on the way to having a great season. There will be the odd blip, but that shouldn’t derail the support as we are all in this together. It would be great if some of our more volatile supporters could remember that.
The current Watford manager could not be happier with his squad, but does not expect them to emulate Leicester’s shock title of 2015-16. “This is the best squad in the Premier League,” he said. “I don’t think we’d be able to achieve to win the championship. But we are going to try to enjoy every game, and try to do that for our supporters, help them enjoy it with us.
“It wasn’t our best game. We need many things to improve. Our first two goals were fine, but I preferred the last one when Isaac Success scored his first goal of the season from something we had trained for.”
Nonetheless, here was a challenge we’ve rarely experienced before, certainly since the 1980s. That of being the side… not just favourites but comprehensive favourites, odds-on favourites, expected to win in a top flight game. As with all unfamiliar things it doesn’t feel altogether comfortable, as positive an indicator as it may be of the status to which we’ve elevated ourselves. You’re much less open to disappointment – and pressure – as the underdog. Nor had this edginess been improved by finding ourselves placed at exactly the same spot in Wagamama as we had been pre-Bournemouth. Or by discovering, now as then, that it was much bloody colder than anticipated necessitating hat purchase for the second home game on the trot. (Or, as an aside, that the hat was too small. The costume fitters of the Adhoc theatre group will roll their eyes, full of complaints at the the prohibitive size of my head. Nonetheless… a one size fits all hat shouldn’t be too small…).
The joy was tempered somewhat by the worrying news of Glenn Hoddle’s collapse. Then, when I returned home, I heard of the Leicester owner’s helicopter crashing and the death of a Brighton fan after their game. The Leicester owners have been such a boon to both the club and the town, when something so awful happens, all football fans share the pain. My thoughts are with the family and friends of all affected this weekend.