Watford will have returned home last night wondering how they were on the end of such a sobering scoreline. They were by no means a shambles. Yet, in sport, ability generally finds a way of shining through and Salah’s class is so clearcut, so emphatic and so enjoyable that he is comfortably the Premier League’s most attractive sight at present.
There were some positives for the Hornets. Karnezis, despite letting in five goals, put on a decent show. But my highlight was a decent performance from Pereyra, who put together some lovely moves which cheered me up greatly on a day when there were few moments of joy. He seems to shine against more talented opposition as he clearly feels that he is less likely to be clattered.
Whilst in the ground I obviously took a few obligatory selfies. As I was taking them a very kind steward asked if I would like him to take a proper photo of me. What a kind gesture I thought and so I took him up on the offer. I always get very anxious about other people taking a photo for me. It has to be done right and I can get a little bit picky about what needs to be in it and angles and stuff.
This steward however had a different idea. Instead of taking a few dodgy ones where I’d have to be very British and say “they’re great, thanks very much” he in fact held the camera button on my phone down and put it into ‘burst’ mode and thus took 100 photos.
clips of Jon Marks BBC 3CR commentary Goals: 1
Not that the home supporters cared. Having roared with delight in response to a goal that lifts them up to ninth, they turned their attention to the opposition manager. It soon spread to the away end and all Pardew could do was stand motionless and look on. His suffering may soon be over.
Troy Deeney profited from a West Brom mistake, as Grzegorz Krychowiak gave away the ball in midfield and Will Hughes played in the Watford captain, who coolly clipped the ball over Ben Foster in the 77th minute.
Six points in two games have sent Watford into ninth, and all those fears of being dragged into the relegation zone have washed away since the arrival of Javi Gracia. “I think today we have many positives,” the Watford manager said. “One of them is Troy scored again. I am very happy with him.”
But it was the arrival of Hughes that was the catalyst for the victory. As with Femenía’s return last week, the Spaniard missing ill today, it was gratifying that the transformative effect that injured players are inevitably imbued with in our mind’s eye had a basis in reality. Hughes announced himself with a resilient holding off of aggressive Albion attention, and then set about his nimble, clever, precise work from the right flank. It set a tone… Okaka was unlucky not to score, receiving Holebas’ cross, stepping across a challenge and slamming a low drive past Foster only to find Gibbs on the line.
Another ugly 1-0 win at home, another clean sheet and another Deeney goal almost in the exact same minute. Great Scott! It was like someone had crammed the whole of Vicarage Road into a DeLorean and sent us on our way at 88mph back to last Saturday.
clips of Jon Marks BBC 3CR commentary Goals: 1
Blunt as ever, Troy Deeney described this match as “pretty dire”. That may have been something of an exaggeration but it was not wholly inaccurate – yet ultimately this was an occasion to savour for Watford’s captain.
Any sense of blood and thunder and scores to be settled was short lived. The teams arrived to a particularly densely packed wall of flags in the Rookery and an unexpected cannonfire of yellow and black streamers from the base of the stand. Briefly this had the desired effect as the crowd roared the Hornets on, until it became clear that said streamers had been fired with sufficient welly to reach and entangle themselves into the hooks and anchors in the ceiling of the stand which has never received more attention during a game as the tendrils of streamers blowing in the wind provided an unusual frame to the action, a garish new Instagram filter for the rest of the evening.
Absolutely nothing happened in the first half. Complete naff all. It was so bad that I felt sorry for the pundits and editors of highlight shows who had to desperately search for something to talk about and show.
Watford were uninspired. They displayed none of the brio that allowed them to crush Chelsea last week, with Gerard Deulofeu and Richarlison failing to find space on the flanks, and were fortunate when the lively Hernández had a goal ruled out by a tight offside decision in the 31st minute.
Javi Gracia, the Watford manager, accused his players of not being “aggressive” enough, saying: “Our last match against Chelsea showed us how we can get points: running, fighting. And, today, we didn’t do it enough.”
Watford had played considerably better in the second half but, while it could be said that the score was a little flattering to the hosts, some poor defending and equally poor finishing meant that it felt as though the Hornets didn’t deserve anything from the game.