More games from 23rd February at https://oldwatford.com/tag/feb23
Queens Park Rangers had to wait for this moment. Their previous appearance in the FA Cup fifth round had come at Wimbledon in 1997 and it is doubtful whether any club has since endured a more dismal record in the competition. The London club had won only four ties – each of them in the third round – before this season.
A lot happened in both the lead up and aftermath of this game so I’ve tried to provide a bit of context which is shown below in bold.
Pre Match Articles
Post Match Articles
Pre Match Articles
Marco Silva: Independent inquiry into Everton’s alleged illegal approach for former Watford boss ongoing
Post Match Articles
After Troy Deeney had appeared to stoke the flames ahead of the encounter at a Watford fans’ forum, Gray made the most of the only moment of real quality in the game when he converted Will Hughes’ cut-back 20 minutes into the second period, scoring his fourth goal of the season.
Gray was a Silva signing early in the Portuguese’s short stay at Vicarage Road, which began in May 2017 and went sour in November that year when he was prevented from going to Goodison. Watford sacked him in January last year amid tapping-up suggestions as their form nosedived. The amiable Javi Gracia took over to restore stability – “he’s better than you” sang the home fans to Silva to emphasise a point backed up by the league table.
Pre Match Report
Post March Report
Before the match, the Watford captain, Troy Deeney, had distanced himself from comments he made at a fans forum this week where he promised to kick Everton’s players. Yet with passions running high in this part of Hertfordshire, as the chief executive, Scott Duxbury, said he would not engage with Silva in the opposition dugout, some supporters greeted their former manager with yellow inflatable snakes.
The Troy Deeney ‘comments’ mentioned above came from a Fan’s Forum which took place in London one evening in the week leading up to the Everton game.
Andy Lewers of the brilliant Hornet’s Nest blog and Love Sport Radio live tweeted what was said by those at the forum. Click on the tweet below to see the whole thread from the evening.
He later provided more details on what was said in a post on facebook.
The media then mis-quoted some of this which led to Silva’s motivation comments. This was how the Evening Standard reported the forum…
Troy addressed the mis-reporting of his comments on the morning of the game
Andy then talked about the controversy in his usual post match blog.
Now, you will no doubt be aware that some of Troy’s comments from the evening were picked up and published in the national media.
Many of you will have read my tweets quoted in the papers. My intention was purely to keep Watford fans who weren’t able to attend the evening up to date with what was going on.
Sadly, some of Troy’s comments were taken out of context. They were tongue-in-cheek, exactly what you’d expect from the Watford captain, there was no malice in anything that he said and you could tell he had genuine respect for Marco Silva and Everton.
I was perhaps naive in thinking that tweeting Troy’s comments wouldn’t have had consequences. Lesson learnt.
To be fair to Silva (not that I really want to be) he told 5 Live’s Vicki Sparks in his post match interview that he hadn’t really believed the reporting of Deeney’s comments and that Troy clarified them when they spoke before the game. (Apologies for the poor audio quality)
The atmosphere in the ground before kick-off was brittle. I must confess that I didn’t notice the widely-celebrated playlist, but there was no missing Emma Saunders’ pointed welcome to the visiting head coach over the tannoy.
As we walked along Vicarage Road away from the ground, we could see something going on by the Everton coaches. There was a crowd by the cemetery wall looking in and first reports were that there had been a stabbing, although that was proved wrong after the game. But two Watford fans were hospitalised, one with a nasty head injury. As someone who started to go to football matches in 1979, these scenes were seen on a weekly basis in those days but had become a rarity in recent times. I really hope that it remains that way.
The trouble mentioned was widely reported.
It was Brighton who were almost celebrating a winner 10 minutes from time. Gross’s inviting cross from the left was met by a flicked header from Locadia but Foster somehow leapt to turn it behind. He followed up that save by unconventionally keeping out Duffy’s acrobatic attempt with his feet and then smothered an effort from the onrushing Andone. Yves Bissouma was also narrowly off-target in the dying moments.
Much as you want to win, there’s always something thrilling about being in someone else’s ground when a game that’s in the balance suddenly tips and the noise starts echoing around the stands. Sets the adrenaline going, makes eventual victory all the more vivid. The noise at the Amex still seems to carry with it something of what this club nearly became, of building bonfires and Hereford and all of that. It’s still there, the knowledge that none of this might’ve existed. The pre-match build-up offers somewhat one-sidedly edited highlights of previous meetings, and the big screen malfunctions to obscure half of the picture, which seems a fitting reminder of the sightlines from both the away corner at the Goldstone and the temporary seating at Withdean. It’s thirty years since I was a student here; more than twenty since Fans United. This is a brilliant ground for a proud city. We should all count our blessings more often.
The most entertaining moment of the first half came on the half hour as Holebas battled with March on the wing and ended up giving away the first corner of the game. In typical Jose manner he then walked towards the goal to defend the set piece, looking furious as only he can. He was looking for someone or something to blame, and suddenly focussed on his gloves which were ripped from his hands and thrown behind the goal line. I realise that this loses a lot in translation, but it caused great amusement to the Holebas fans in our party.
Javi Gracia has said Watford striker Isaac Success should ‘behave better’ after ball boy incident at Wembley
Such is the media obsession with the ‘big six’ that the following four reports barely contain a mention of us.
Late goals from Heung-Min Son and Fernando Llorente rescued a tough week for Tottenham with a 2-1 comeback win over Watford. Watford took advantage of a Spurs side looking jaded after exiting both domestic cup competitions in the space of four days when Craig Cathcart bundled home from a corner (37).
As Javi Gracia said, his side “missed a very good chance to get points against a very good team” and while the visitors were second best in terms of possession and territory, they arguably deserved a draw given the togetherness they showed throughout. Instead they remain ninth having lost for the first time in 2019.
As he had done in the previous round, Watford boss Javi Gracia made 11 changes for the trip to St James’ Park but saw his understudies outplay Rafael Benitez’s reshuffled side, whose record of not having made it past the fourth round since 2006 remains painfully intact.
Watford at least had the wherewithal to find a couple of decent passes after the interval, which led to the decisive goals. From the first, delivered by the clever left foot of Will Hughes, Andre Gray rattled in a low shot just past the hour. From the second, supplied by the lively Domingos Quina, Isaac Success tapped in at the far post as the clock ticked on to 90 minutes.
Both teams had chances to score and the home side could have taken the lead as early as the second minute but Heaton denied Gerard Deulofeu with his right foot after the forward went through on goal. Heaton was called into action once more on the stroke of half-time when he dived to his right to parry Troy Deeney’s crisp side-footed effort to safety.
Sean Dyche, back on his old stamping ground where he spent three seasons as a player before cutting his teeth in management on the day home supporters honoured the memory of Graham Taylor, could afford a smile at the final whistle despite seeing Chris Wood’s goal ruled out for offside in added time.
The highlight of the day was the GT stuff, quite obviously. Two years on the club provides all attendees with a drinks voucher, then orchestrates another tremendous scarf display as the players enter the arena. This might have been more effective still but for the unwanted, unneeded and sadly non-negotiable twaddle that is the Premier League anthem as the players solemnly shake hands. It could have been so much more than a stunning visual spectacle. But it is a stunning visual spectacle. There are scarves aloft in the away end too – Claret and Blue stands out a little less than Southampton’s red and white of a year ago, but it’s still a fine thing.
As the teams took the field, the crowd (including a number of Burnley fans) raised their scarves in honour of GT (the fellow next to me was given my spare so he could join in). It really was quite a sight. That was followed by a minute’s applause for both GT and Duncan Welbourne who passed away this week. Chopper’s family were guests of honour of the club for the afternoon.
At half time, the family of Thomas Sawyer, a young soldier who was killed in Afghanistan 10 years ago, were on the pitch and Thomas’s father paid heartfelt tribute to his son. Then, as the players came out for the second half, the 1881 lads unfurled the Legends banner which we held over our heads in the Rookery in the knowledge that it features both GT and Duncan Welbourne. Both events were touching tributes and a clear sign that the club has not lost its community focus.
A huge scramble in the Watford area saw the ball turned home by Craig Cathcart’s thigh (38) to put Crystal Palace ahead, with goal-line technology confirming it had gone over the line. But the defender redeemed himself in the 67th minute as he nodded home the Watford equaliser before a wonderful volley from Tom Cleverley (74) completed the comeback and handed the visitors the victory.
The narratives off the pitch seemed rather more interesting than those on it. Watford’s Troy Deeney was charged for comments about the referee David Coote following his team’s recent game at Bournemouth. Crystal Palace’s Wayne Hennessey is also under investigation by the FA after making what appeared to be a Nazi gesture during a meal with team-mates following the club’s FA Cup victory over Cardiff last weekend.
It’s tempting to say that we would have lost this last season. In fact we DID lose this last season. And the season before. And coulda, shoulda this time too. But there’s more to us now… good enough that our bad days aren’t that bad, good enough that when we flame on we’re irresistible, plenty enough to blow Palace, albeit a blunt, stunted Palace, right out of the sky.
Back home watching Match of the Day I notice, during the interview with Javi Gracia, that he is wearing a Graham Taylor matchday badge on his jacket. I must admit that made me cry. Javi has been a joy since he arrived at Vicarage Road. His football is enjoyable and his conduct is exemplary. I think that GT would have loved him and, from me, there can be no higher praise.
In GT’s final programme notes as Watford manager he listed the 120 games which were special to him. Read through the list and smile at the memories and as he says if you can’t remember them then talk to someone who can.
Taken from the programme on 28th April 2001- New Division One, Watford 1 Tranmere Rovers 1