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7th February 2004- New Division One, Watford 2 Sunderland 2

BBC SportDarren Byfield’s goal on his debut just four minutes from time saw Sunderland claw their way back from a two-goal deficit to steal a share of the spoils.

BSAD imageReally, much of this was very good indeed. Not in a tidy, graceful, stylish way, for we can hardly expect to see much that’s glorious and elegant at the moment. Nor in an organised, solid, nerveless way either, for we courted disaster on a few occasions, even before the late Sunderland fightback. But in a battling, struggling, fighting way, it was pretty much beyond criticism. As we know only too well, there are barely three or four players in the entire squad who can reasonably be considered to be in good form at the moment, yet there were many more here who were giving it absolutely everything in an attempt to get through the sticky patch. That’s more than half the battle, right there. And it’s a battle that we seem ready to fight, at long last.

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4th February 2023- Championship, Reading 2 Watford 2

Attendance: 13,861

BBC Sport: Ismaila Sarr’s close-range effort put the Hornets in front after half an hour as Watford had the better of the first period. The visitors doubled their lead shortly after the break as debutant Ryan Porteous headed in a corner, while Sarr had a third disallowed soon after for offside.

Sky Sports: Reading, though, reduced the deficit in the 66th minute from a Tom Ince penalty and levelled 10 minutes from time through a superb Jeff Hendrick volley.

BHappy: I can’t claim to have had a close relationship with Oli Phillips.  We met a couple of times, he was kind enough to provide some appropriate words for the back of the book. Others have written meaningful and informed testimonies about the man himself. I often find my reaction to the passing of people that I didn’t know personally… stilted.  Limited, even if they were people I kind of respected.  I remember my now wife being aghast at my lack of hand-wringing  when Diana passed away, horrible and tragic as that was.  But the passing of someone who…  you rely on in some sense, or have relied on, is different. 

Fran’s Watford Blog: Last week we heard the sad news of the passing of Oli Phillips.  His reports about the Hornets in the Watford Observer were a vital ingredient to my falling in love with the club.  I had the paper on order at the local newsagents and, when I was away at university, my Mum would keep the pile of papers for my return.  Later, when I was on the board of the Supporters’ Trust, Oli was very helpful to me, calling from France to chat through his knowledge of some of the behind the scenes stuff that we were looking into.  It is fitting that the Media Suite at Vicarage Road has been named after Oli and I am so glad that he was made aware of it before he died.

2 Feb 2023- Watford Observer’s Oliver Phillips passes away

Oli was the chief writer about Watford FC for the Watford Observer for many many years. In the days before the internet fans would buy the paper in their thousands on a Friday to get all the latest news from Vicarage Road and read Oli’s ‘Just a Thought’ column. In 1991 he wrote the Official Club Centenary book. To those of us of a certain age he was as well known and linked with the club as Luther Blissett or Graham Taylor.

Official site tribute

Former sports editor Oli Phillips dies aged 81

The gifted journalist who became a Watford legend

‘A light has gone out in the press box at Vicarage Road’

Readers and ex-colleagues remember legendary Watford FC correspondent

Just one week before he died the club announced that they would be naming the Media Suite after Oli.

Official site: Media Suite: Club Honours Oliver Phillips

28th January 2023- Championship, Middlesbrough 2 Watford 0

Attendance: 25,469

BBC Sport: Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough side leapfrogged Watford and moved up to third in the Championship table by winning the meeting of two play-off hopefuls.

Sky Sports: First-half goals from Chuba Akpom and Marcus Forss enabled Boro to bounce back in impressive fashion following last weekend’s North East derby defeat by Sunderland.

Fran’s Watford Blog: The travelling fans who were still in the stand at the end of the game offered sympathetic support to the players when they came over to applaud us, but that didn’t mask the fact that it had been a poor performance.  There had been a promising spell midway through the first half and a very good start to the second, but Middlesbrough were on top for most of the game, were incredibly dangerous when they attacked and, once they scored the second goal, the Hornets never looked like getting back in the game.

21st January 2023- Championship, Watford 1 Rotherham United 1

WFC.Net Goal Commentary: 1

Attendance: 18,911

BBC Sport: Watford were left to rue a host of missed chances as they were held to a draw by Rotherham. Mario Gaspar hit the outside of the post early on for the hosts, before Shane Ferguson gave the Millers the lead as he blasted in from close range. Vakoun Bayo grazed the Rotherham bar soon after, while Matheus Martins also struck the upright for the promotion-chasing Hornets shortly after the restart.

Sky Sports: Joao Ferreira rescued a point for Watford in a 1-1 draw with Rotherham but the result did little to help their automatic promotion chances. In addition to Ferreira’s superb equaliser from 20 yards, which cancelled out Shane Ferguson’s first-half opener, Watford clipped the visitors’ woodwork on two occasions on what proved to be a frustrating afternoon for the Vicarage Road crowd.

BHappy: Rotherham aren’t dirty or particularly defensive, but they are strong and organised and, frankly, bigger than us.  With new, young signings and promising youngsters and that we are relatively lightweight…  Choudhury, stamping all over the midfield once again, and Sierralta stand out for their ability to give some back but Koné, whilst he has a good touch and the nous to spot and execute a long range pass isn’t nearly robust enough.  We get bullied once again, as we have far too often this season;  there’s a lack of physical presence up front in particular, where we simply don’t have a target for a direct ball and aren’t clever enough in trying to play through, but also in midfield despite Hamza’s best efforts.

Fran’s Watford Blog: At half time, Richard Johnson was talking about the week that the Academy players have had with the appearances in the FA Cup, the Youth Cup win against Everton and the league appearances including Adeyemo’s tremendous goal against Blackpool.  One thing that he didn’t mention was an event that the under 15s attended on Monday at which Eve Kugler, a child Holocaust survivor, spoke of her experiences during the rise of Nazi Germany.  I was lucky enough to be invited to join them.  Eve kindly spent her 92nd birthday talking to the group.  Her story was both chilling and very moving.  It is wonderful that the club educate the youngsters in this history and encourage them to learn about different communities.

14th January 2023- Championship, Watford 2 Blackpool 0

WFC.Net Goal Commentary: 1  2

Attendance: 19,679

Official site: Watford fans inside The Vic marked the GT Matchday by paying tribute to the club’s greatest ever manager before kick-off, raising their scarves aloft as the teams walked out onto the pitch, while all in attendance honoured the late Gianluca Vialli with a minute’s applause.

BBC Sport: Teenage substitute Tobi Adeyemo helped send Watford up to third in the Championship with his first senior goal in a win against strugglers Blackpool.

Sky Sports: The striker, 17, looked as stunned as he was elated to have found the net in the 72nd minute – just four minutes after replacing Vakoun Bayo for his first taste of league action. 

BHappy: His celebration is magnificent, and mirrors the response in the stands – pure joy to start with, he has the armspan of an albatross.  Then giddy disbelief as he clutches his fingers to his scalp before being mobbed, youth team colleague Jack Grieves first on the scene from his touchline warm-up.  The youngster’s popularity is evident from the reaction of his teammates, who make a bee-line for the mob in the corner.

Fran’s Watford Blog: As if a goal from a 17 year-old making his league debut wasn’t pleasing enough, he scored it in the 72nd minute on the GT matchday.  I am sure that the great man was celebrating with the rest of us.