More games from 23rd September at https://oldwatford.com/tag/sep23/
More games from 23rd September at https://oldwatford.com/tag/sep23/
clips of Jon Marks BBC 3CR commentary Goals: 1
Ben Foster was excellent in the first half despite the scoreline, and made a wonderful save from Alexis Sanchez in the 32nd minute as a long ball from De Gea was put into the Chile forward’s path by Lukaku. He then dribbled down to the right of the area before taking aim, but Foster was equal to it with a fingertip stop at the near post.
Referee:Andre Marriner Attendance:20,141
Tottenham had scored a fortuitous opener as Watford midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure bundled into his own net but, after winning their first four league games for the first time in 30 years, it is the Hornets who join Liverpool and Chelsea on maximum points at the top of the table.
To the delight of Elton John, who sat in the posh seats, and every one of their other supporters, it was Watford rather than Tottenham who maintained their 100% start to the season. It is four wins out of four for them in the league and, for the first time since 1987, Watford triumphed in this fixture.
Next up for Watford, after the international break, are Manchester United and a group of players with their own vulnerabilities. The likes of Deeney, unapologetically destructive on days like these, will target United’s pressure points with snarl and venom. “He is the captain, the spirit” said Gracia. “You can see always his example. He has not changed, he wants to win.”
Having had to man the barricades at the end of the first half, Spurs’ goal came from nothing eight minutes into the second. A loose clearance, an aimless low cutback from Moura and a freak deflection off Doucouré that wrong-footed Foster. The sort of goal that would normally be a hammer blow. “You don’t give away goals like that against teams like this. It can’t be our day. They haven’t had to do much to earn that…”.
There was a certain inevitability to the goal and we settled back to witness the defeat that was sure to come. But the players were of a completely different mindset and the goal seemed to galvanise them into action. First Gray hit a powerful shot that was just over the bar. Then Deeney hit a shot across goal that took a deflection off Vertonghen before coming back off the inside of the post. So close! Spurs were rattled and Dembélé went into the referee’s book for pulling down Hughes. Holebas took the resulting free kick which was met by Deeney who powered the header home to level the game and send the Rookery wild.
Referee:Andy Davies Attendance:9,265
There are certain prerequisites when it comes to the early stages of the Rumbelows Cup. Some of these are met in sunny Berkshire tonight… a half-empty stadium (albeit a respectable enough 2500 make the short journey from Hertfordshire), much-changed starting line-ups (eleven changes for the Golden Boys in the green away kit’s first outing). Check, check.
Team news was that Gracia had made 11 changes with debuts for Navarro, Masina, Wilmot and Quina and the return of Chalobah, so the starting line-up was Gomes; Navarro, Mariappa, Prödl, Masina; Femenía, Chalobah, Wilmot, Quina, Sema; Success. I have to say that looked like a pretty decent team. Reading had also made 8 changes, but the main Watford connection with the opposition was in the dug out in the person of Sir Nigel Gibbs.
Watford’s record in this competition is infamous. In the past ten seasons we’ve been knocked out by lower league opposition a total of eight times. So it’s no wonder I was surprised when Watford won comfortably away at Reading on Wednesday evening.
Referee:Anthony Taylor Attendance:20,014
Wilfried Zaha struck 12 minutes from time at Vicarage Road to raise hopes of a visiting fightback but the hosts held on as Roberto Pereyra’s 53rd-minute strike and Jose Holebas’s freak second (71) proved enough.
Graham Taylor never managed three straight wins at the start of a first division season, a run that carried Gracia’s team to second place ahead of Chelsea’s game against Newcastle United and pegs Watford above champions Manchester City for the week. They might not have played any of the title contenders yet, but amongst those for whom survival is the first thought – Brighton, Burnley and now Crystal Palace – Watford have been ruthless.
This snarl of a game was deep into stoppage time when Luka Milivojevic swung over one last hopeful corner kick and, with the majority in the arena anxiously holding their breath, Joel Ward leapt unchallenged into the six-yard box only to head wide of the post. The locals’ outpouring of relief at the miss was almost as deafening as the raucous delight which greeted the final whistle moments later.
The build-up to this game was all about Harry Hornet who, in answer to a question from a journalist, had been branded a ‘disgrace’ by Roy Hodgson for an incident two years ago that I doubt Hodgson had actually ever seen, when Harry collapsed behind Zaha while the post-match handshakes were happening. Sticking up for your player is all well and good but Roy lost all credibility when he claimed, with a straight face, that Zaha didn’t dive. Sorry, Roy he gets booked for it, which was what provoked Harry’s action. You couldn’t help but feel that Roy’s words would come back to haunt him.
It feels more like March than August bank holiday weekend. Palace have brought the traditional Croydon microclimate with them and it dampens our quick start before it gets going. Only the hissing, spitting hot fat of this fixture burns on unperturbed, and it hadn’t needed Roy Hodgson ambling into a Harry-shaped animal trap in the visitors’ pre-match press conference to ignite it. Our encounters have a bad-tempered, even spiteful undercurrent all of their own.
It only took four minutes for the game’s first talking point to occur. As Capoue tripped Zaha in the middle of the pitch, the referee awarded the midfielder a yellow card. At the time and due to where I was sitting I thought this decision was harsh. Replays show however that Capoue may have been lucky to stay on the pitch, after a potentially dangerous challenge.
Referee:Paul Tierney Attendance:18,822
Watford took advantage of leggy-looking hosts, who alarmingly ran out of steam in what was their sixth competitive game in 25 days at the outset of the campaign, thanks to their ongoing attempts to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League.
Gracia paid tribute to his strikers. “When you score three times it makes it easier to manage the game,” he said. “I know it is not easy to get points here, but I can only be pleased at the start we have made.” Gracia had not even seen an away goal since becoming Watford manager but he had to wait only three minutes for his side to nose in front, Andre Gray scoring against his old club after pushing the ball out to Troy Deeney on the right and moving up to meet the return with a sweetly struck right-foot volley.
As I was on a flight to the US last Saturday for work, I missed the Brighton game, so I was really looking forward to my season starting properly. But, as Watford hadn’t scored away from home since January 2nd and we never get anything at Burnley, my expectations were pretty low prior to kick-off.