Referee: Simon Hooper Attendance: 20,323
Wolves moved four points clear of Watford in the race for seventh place in the Premier League as goals from Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota helped Nuno Espirito Santo’s side earn all three points at Vicarage Road.
Ryan Bennett’s mistake gifted Andre Gray an equaliser four minutes into the second period, only for Diogo Jota to take advantage of another error – this time from Ben Foster – to win it for Wolves with 13 minutes to play.
Last time these teams met was in the white heat of a Wembley FA Cup semi-final, won by Watford’s stirring comeback from 2-0 down.
Wolves now sit seventh in the league – which would secure a Europa League qualifying spot if Manchester City win the FA Cup – four points clear of Watford and Everton, though their manager claimed they are not eyeing European football.
The player we could least afford to lose for, effectively, four games was Troy. He’s the one. Not the best player in the side, perhaps, but the one we are least equipped to cope without. It was harsh, yes, the red card. He made it possible too, undoubtedly. Equally beyond doubt that, like Ben Foster and Craig Cathcart he’s well, well in credit. “People who do things make mistakes”. We’ve paid heavily for this one… at least three points across the four games by any reasonable reckoning.
The teams ran out to “I’m Still Standing” and I was left cold again. It is not growing on me, but at least you can hear it, unlike the Superman theme. The game kicked off and some of our fans decided that this was a good time to goad Wolves after our cup semi-final win. I always think that pride comes before a fall, so the chants worried me greatly.
We’ve been using ‘I’m Still Standing’ now for three games and we’ve not won a single one. Based on this fact there can only be one logical conclusion… We have angered the footballing Gods and Z-Cars must be re-introduced as a matter of urgency if we are to win any game at home ever again.
Referee: Craig Pawson Attendance: 20,480
A Ben Foster howler and a needless Troy Deeney red card helped Arsenal climb back into the Premier League top four with victory at Watford.
It is sometimes said that teams play better with ten men and this certainly applied to Watford for the remainder of the half. Craig Cathcart went close in the 20th minute with a close range effort, but was denied by the leg of Bernd Leno.
“I don’t agree [it was a red card],” said Gracia. “Troy put his arm there but there was no contact with his elbow. I never saw an aggressive movement. I don’t understand why the referee took the decision.” The Spaniard’s frustration was clear but he was also right to praise his team for how they reacted to the loss of their leader. As was the case at Wembley, Watford showed resilience in the face of adversity and created enough chances to feel they were somewhat unfortunate to suffer their first loss here since Boxing Day.
As it happened
Watford went on to strike the woodwork twice, and Arsenal were reliant on an excellent performance from goalkeeper Bernd Leno. The German turned Craig Cathcart’s effort on to a post and saved acrobatically from Etienne Capoue’s free-kick before half-time. After the break it was much of the same, with Adam Masina smashing the bar from range. Arsenal were also in the debt of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, on as a substitute, who did brilliantly to block Andre Gray’s effort when an equaliser appeared certain.
The majority of Graham Taylor’s most successful players, of either era, experienced the pinnacles of their careers at Watford. We all did it together, but they bought into it, at least partly, because it was a passport out of the lower divisions. That isn’t the case this time around. The real triumph of this season has been to reconnect the modern reality of the Premier League with a basic idea of Watford Football Club, of what it is in our heads and hearts, of what it once was in Graham Taylor’s imagination. It’s true that times have changed, and we’re not going to bump into Etienne Capoue in Our Price. But it feels as if this is a group of players which understands – or has been made to understand, whatever – why this football club actually matters. (A small part of why it matters is Z-Cars, incidentally. Hands off.)
When a match falls on 15 th April, you can’t help but think of the events at Hillsborough 30 years ago. On that day, I was standing on the terrace at the County Ground, Swindon. Don was propped up on a crush barrier next to me and a police officer told us that a wall had fallen down at the cup semi-final between Liverpool and Forest. On the coach on the way home we listened to the horror unfolding on the radio. I still find it hard to believe that 96 fans just like me went to a game that day and didn’t come home. What is even harder to take is that those lives were used for political grandstanding and their families have had to fight for justice for so long. As Bill Kenwright said, “They picked on the wrong mums.” I have always thought that what happened to them could have happened to any of us, so we all stand together in the fight for justice.
The first nine minutes was great. The next two were interesting.