BHappy: And so the prospect of a second game against the same opponents in such a short space of time is unusually appealing, somewhat intriguing. Bournemouth took a kicking in the latter stages of the league game, but their approach was pretty successful until then, and they might well have squeaked out a lead to defend with more decisive finishing. No need to dig out Plan B just yet. As for us, even with a second-string line-up, there’s enough here to expect some artistry and adventure….
Both are little men with big ambitions but there the similarity ends. Gianfranco Zola is urbane and mild-mannered, Billy Davies fierce and feisty. And it remains true that teams naturally reflect their managers.
Forest weathered the sort of second-half fightback that is becoming Watford’s custom and would have had maximum points again but for the high-class save, low to his right, with which Manuel Almunia kept out Ishmael Miller’s goalbound shot.
In my head, we always draw one-all with Forest. It’s kind of an unwritten rule. Not strictly true in reality of course; nonetheless a glimpse at the record books reveals ten such outcomes in the last 30 league encounters spanning almost 30 years. It feels as if I’ve seen at least that many.
Diego Fabbrini scored a late goal to rescue a draw for Watford at Reading. The home side took the lead through Adam Le Fondre’s powerful left-footed strike and Jem Karacan bundled in from a set-piece to add a second. Watford’s Marco Faraoni scored a header but Karacan slotted in a Le Fondre knock down to restore a two-goal lead. Troy Deeney converted a penalty for the visitors after Danny Guthrie’s foul on substitute Fabbrini, who prodded home in the 89th minute.
It’s easy to paint the game as being of two halves. Actually, for the first fifteen minutes or so of the second period we looked perhaps even less likely to get back into the game… possession was suddenly being ceded cheaply as we struggled to up the pace and looked for ambitious passes. A recurring theme under Gianfranco Zola however has been that of continuous improvement; we saw it through much of last season, and within a game he’s proven himself capable of changing the lie of the land to our benefit. It helps to have such quality on the bench of course, and we’ll get to that. But no small credit is due to the manager here for a bold substitution that changed our shape subtly and gave Reading something else to think about. Reading fans will naturally focus on the contrast in their own team’s performance vs earlier in the game, but the R’s didn’t just “lose it”. Much of the game is psychological of course and as things started to run for us belief grew in our camp whilst doubts entered Reading minds on and off the pitch. Everyone who’s watched a football match has seen that before. But something had to start that ball rolling, something had to change the game and give us an edge. Sometimes it’s a lucky break, or a piece of individual skill…
Even for world-weary types like your correspondent, who prefer their battles hard-fought and their victories without any sense of entitlement, this is terribly hard to resist. It almost feels as if the anticlimax at Wembley didn’t happen; perhaps it was such a non-event, swimming in the spring heat haze, that any memories have simply evaporated and left little trace. What might’ve been a watershed moment just passed quietly into history, and here we are: the old gang, back together for another shot at the big time. Even for world-weary types, it’s a tantalising prospect.