Eat your heart out Nick Wright. Just over two decades on from that famous overhead kick against Bolton at Wembley, Danny Welbeck produced one equally outrageous that could, given its significance, be remembered just as fondly in years to come. Tim Krul, in the Norwich goal, didn’t stand a chance with the acrobatic effort on 55 minutes. What a time to score your first Premier League goal for the club and what a manner to get it in.
Watford put some much-needed breathing space between themselves and the relegation zone with a 2-1 win over bottom of the league Norwich City this evening. The Hornets had to come from behind in order to claim the three points however, after Emiliano Buendia opened the scoring after just five minutes. Craig Dawson levelled soon after, before Danny Welbeck’s sensational overhead kick clinched the points in the second-half.
Watford boss Nigel Pearson on Welbeck’s performance: “He’s a player with a lot of ability and he’s had a really good career. To have a winner of such quality is great for us because it was a difficult game.
You could argue that neither of them was very good. Certainly this would be true of Norwich: a side capable of such elegant football in possession but often a gibbering, blubbering wreck without it. Of the many truly useless teams in Premier League history, Norwich are by far the best of them: cultured, ambitious and yet likely to be relegated with three games to spare. Watford are a more complex proposition. This was huge for them and yet so laboured and inept was their performance that it offered zero reassurance for the tougher tests to come: Newcastle, West Ham, Manchester City, Arsenal. You would not really back them to win any of those. They may not have to
The last time Danny Welbeck scored a Premier League goal, he was still an Arsenal player and Boris Johnson was a backbench MP. What a way to emerge from a 23-month hibernation; a sensational overhead kick lighting up a drab game and securing Watford, the team he joined on a free transfer last August, all three points. It may prove the goal that keeps Waford in the Premier League.
If your only win in a dozen games is a riotous trashing of the then-unbeaten champions, that suggests you have more than a bit of a motivation problem. You can’t just wear deodorant on your wedding day.
In what was arguably the biggest game since our return to the Premier League, the boys talk about a performance that saw the Hornets come back for the first time in a long time, a wonder goal from Danny Welbeck and if Troy Deeney gave enough after many fans calling for him to not be in the starting XI.
Events at Stamford Bridge were never going to determine the team’s Premier League fate and it was always going to be a big ask to come away with something from a venue where the Hornets have won once in 34 long years. It’s just that a point, one similar to the one the team chiselled out here in 2015, would have been lovely, such a boost not only to the scoreboard but also to morale and not left so much riding on back-to-back home games against Norwich and Newcastle.
An Olivier Giroud goal and a Willian penalty had the hosts firmly in control in the first-half, before Ross Barkley’s finish in stoppage time sealed a miserable evening out for the Hornets, who remain teetering precariously above the relegation zone, after once again struggling to cause significant problems for their opponent’s goalkeeper.
The silence inside the stadium produced its usual revelations. Deeney really does spend a lot of time talking to, bonding with, and generally getting to know the linesman. Foster does a lot of shouting about metres and distances when the opposition has a free-kick near his goal. And Giroud’s agonised howl of pain on being fouled outside the box, a howl so loud you half expected to look up and see him holding his foot in one hand, was enough to draw an actual laugh from Frank Lampard.
Watford were so deep it was hard to see how they might be any threat to the Chelsea goal, and indeed, Pearson did eventually frontload his team and urge them forward. Deeney, who would only last 64 minutes before he was replaced, flew into a few challenges to set the tone at the start of the second half. It was still 75 minutes before the substitute Adam Masina struck Watford’s first shot on target of the game.
For all that the games are on top of each other, there’s something painfully drawn out about this narrative. Watching all of The Games That Matter means that we’re generally watching a lot of football matches, and a lot of football matches involving at least one terrible football team, what with lockdown and that making limited teams less fit, and less mobilisable by the presence of a crowd. The number of teams involved and the low success rate of the protagonists so far means a lot of this is reasonably enjoyable nonetheless, what with schadenfreude and so on. Man United toying with Bournemouth earlier was a popcorn event for all, surely, of a Watford, or Villa, or West Ham persuasion complete with mildly threatening twists and turns that briefly teased before the inevitable happy ending.
Following their defeat at Burnley on Thursday evening head coach Nigel Pearson said his side lacked cohesion, but there was even less of it on show at Vicarage Road as the visiting team took all three points with relative ease.
Ings curled home the opener from 20 yards following Will Smallbone’s pass. And he blasted home a second – his 18th Premier League goal of the season – after controlling Ben Foster’s poor throw before surging towards the box.
Watford were handed a lifeline on 79 minutes when Southampton defender Jan Bednarek put through his own net, but the Hornets’ hopes were extinguished three minutes later by James Ward-Prowse’s spectacular free-kick.
Southampton were good value for their second consecutive away win, secured thanks to a sharp double from Ings and a trademark free-kick from James Ward-Prowse. The anxiety weighed heavily on Watford, who remain a point above 18th-placed Bournemouth, and defeat was not a good look given that Nigel Pearson had to drop three players following an alleged lockdown breach involving Nathaniel Chalobah and Domingos Quina reportedly attending a party hosted by Andre Gray. “Until I know all the facts I am not making any further comment on that situation,” Pearson said.
The investigation should not take long. Gray posted videos of the party on Instagram. His Watford team-mates who did play created virtually nothing of note for lone target man Troy Deeney, to whom they kept pumping long balls much to the delight of Southampton’s centre-backs Jan Bednarek and Vestergaard.
If, like me, you’ve spent far longer than is strictly healthy in front of televised kind-of-football over the last twelve days (yes, it’s really only been twelve days) you’ll almost certainly have come to the reassuring conclusion that our “rivals” in the musical chairs mini-league at the bottom really aren’t very good. Perhaps this should be no surprise, that teams in a relegation scrap are a bit crap. No doubt it was ever thus, we’ve just never studied a relegation battle quite so forensically. Never been able to, not actually needed to for some time…. the last time we were involved in anything resembling a relegation scrap was Malky’s first season ten years ago, a season that Tom Cleverley, Aidy Mariappa and Craig Cathcart all featured in.
Project restart continues to be a false start for Watford, as Jon, Jas and Mike gather in the aftermath of another damaging display, this time against in form Southampton. The boys don’t pull any punches in their assessment of a listless display in which Watford failed to record a single shot on target. This combined with a litany of errors mean that positivity is pretty thin on the ground; despite a heartwarming message from young Arlo.
Football can be a game of such terrifyingly fine margins. One minute, on the 66th to be precise, Dwight McNeill, the left winger, was on his own goal line clearing a header from Troy Deeney that would have put the Hornets deservedly in front at that point after the brightest of starts to the second half. Alas, six minutes later, and making the most of the reprieve, McNeill was doing what he was more renowned for and supplying a cross for Jay Rodriguez to head in the winning goal somewhat against the run of play.
Taking the weather into account, and the fact the home side were on the receiving end of a 5-0 defeat at Manchester City just three days prior to the match, it looked as if the Hornets would have the most positive mindset of the two sides, as well as the fresher legs. But it was Burnley who came out of the traps quickest and had the best of the first-half and really should have been ahead at the break.
Burnley manager Sean Dyche said it had “been an emotional week” after his side dealt a blow to Watford’s Premier League survival hopes The Clarets, who have had injury and player contract problems, were thrashed by Manchester City on Monday, with media reports questioning Dyche’s future at the club. To compound matters a banner reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was towed by an aeroplane over Etihad Stadium during their match against City.
Cleverley failed to reappear for the second half, though Watford began with a greater determination to get forward, putting the home side under sustained pressure for the first time in the game. Not much came of it, apart from a wayward Will Hughes shot and James Tarkowski preventing Troy Deeney reaching a cross from Ismaila Sarr, but it was the first indication that the visitors might be interested in more than a point. Craig Cathcart might have done better when Pope made an unforced error and dropped a Will Hughes corner at his feet, though the substitute had his back to goal and after managing to turn could only come up with a shot that struck the now prostrate goalkeeper. Pope left his line and his area alertly to deal with a threatening break from Sarr 30 yards from goal, before Burnley had their biggest let-off, when Troy Deeney reached an Étienne Capoue corner with a goalbound header, only to find Dwight McNeil on defensive duty by a post and able to clear off the line.
A unique kick off time but an all too familiar tale for the Hornets, leaving Mike, Jon and Jas to sift through the wreckage of a dispiriting defeat away at Burnely. A predictably unhappy Mike is balanced out by a pragmatic Jason, but there is no denying the sombre tone in this one!
The Hornets’ players and supporters had waited 98 days for the Golden Boys to resume their Premier League season with this home fixture against the Foxes, but there were two seminal moments before a ball was even kicked this afternoon. After walking out to an eerily quiet Vicarage Road, the players held a moment’s silence for all those affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, before taking a knee on the referee’s whistle for Black Lives Matter. Both moments demonstrated unity between the teams and an understanding that some things, sometimes, must come before football.
If the way Watford clambered back to their feet after Ben Chilwell’s heavyweight blow is how they mean to go on, Nigel Pearson can be confident his team will fight until the end. They refused to give in after falling behind to a cracking goal from Chilwell in the 90th minute and rescued a point just when all looked lost, Craig Dawson summing up their defiance when he fastened on to a flick from Christian Kabasele and volleyed past Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal.
During comms, Steve McManaman compliments the club on the colour in the stadium and the organisation of the day. He also mentions the work done in supporting the hospital over the last few months. We’re all aware of all of this of course, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted. We talk about Watford being a community club… well here’s the evidence, if any were needed. A sanctuary for hospital staff. Washing the scrubs. Free meals. Meeting room space. The sensory room adopted by the maternity unit for pre-natal checks. Players and ex-players ringing older and vulnerable supporters, accessing further support where needed. Matchday BT sport passes for season ticket holders. Even sorting out season ticket refunds was done considerately, professionally. Plenty of clubs haven’t managed that, or anything near it. Speaks volumes that where everything’s up in the air and the club (like so many other institutions) are suddenly deprived of cashflow, they’re prioritising this stuff. A club to be proud of. Let’s try to remember this next time we lose to someone shit.
It’s back! And so of course is From the Rookery End. Jon and Jason are joined by Mike, one of the lucky few to be inside Vicarage Road, to discuss Watford’s hard earned, dramatic point against Leicester as project restart, starts. The game is the focal point of the show, with the boys covering all the main talking points from a fascinating encounter, including praise for Watford’s late saviour Craig Dawson.