The wonderful football cartoonist David Squires featured Roy’s return in his weekly Guardian strip.
Sky Sports: Ranieri has failed to turn around the team’s fortunes since being appointed in October, with the Hornets dropping into the Premier League relegation zone for the first time this season after Friday’s 3-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Norwich.
Watford Observer: The embarrassing loss was the final straw for club chiefs, who had become increasingly concerned about the Italian’s record, which ends with just two wins and a draw from 14 games in all competitions.
BBC Sport: Josh Sargent’s first Premier League goals capped a “crazy couple of weeks” as the new father helped Norwich City to a crucial victory over 10-man Watford which moved them out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.
Sky Sports: Watford manager Claudio Ranieri was in need of a spark, but there would be an 11-minute stoppage due to floodlight failure to further frustrate the hosts’ attempts to respond. After the lengthy stoppage, it was Norwich who doubled their lead as Sargent rose above Hassane Kamara to give the Canaries daylight (74).
BHappy: There was an edginess about the atmosphere at Vicarage Road, not abetted by the fact that plenty will have planned to arrive in plenty of time for a 7.45 kick off and instead arrived very early for 8 (and the magnificent GT scarf display which Norwich, oddly given the cold, were the first visitors on such an occasion not to really join in with). But expectation too (yes, extraordinary). We’re not very good at that really, traditionally, winning when we’re expected to but we’ve done well enough against the Canaries in recent years and reports from Norfolk suggested that the eye-catching win over Everton wasn’t borne of some great about-turn in form on Norwich’s part. They were still pretty awful. Nonetheless, as the flares warmed our cheeks and the fireworks went off and the yellow smoke dissipated (all of which adornment feels rather desperate in hindsight, though it would of course been a glorious opener to a fine evening if we had won) we were all hoping for an early goal to settle the nerves.
Fran’s Watford Blog: So, half-way through the season and we have dropped into the relegation zone for the first time. We have been on a downward trajectory for some time, despite some decent performances against the better teams, which makes it very hard to see us recovering from this. The frustrating thing is that we have the talent in the team, but there didn’t appear to be enough fight today. It has to be said that each of the Norwich goals came from individual mistakes and there was a horrible irony in the fact that Norwich only had two shots on target but scored three goals. To survive at this level, we have to cut out the mistakes and start getting results against the poorer teams in the division. We seem to be incapable of doing that.
Sky Sports: The 20-year-old popped up in the 88th minute to nod home from a fine Kiko Femenia cross to cancel out Allan Saint-Maximin’s early second-half strike – the Magpies have now dropped 21 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season.
BHappy: Perhaps reflecting that we look like a side that hasn’t won in a long time. On top of the unfamiliarity of three new senior players there’s a tentativeness borne of thinking about things rather too much. This was evident in much of our attacking play, even in a vastly improved second half (accommodated, it must be conceded, by Newcastle’s own caution in sitting back at one goal up). So many of those counters were just a little bit of cockiness away from bearing fruit, King and Sissoko in particular overthinking what should have been straightforward finishes.
Fran’s Watford Blog: Just when the Hornets looked to have run out of time, they grabbed an equaliser. Femenía played a one-two with Hernandez before putting in a lovely cross, João Pedro rose to meet it and beat Dúbravka to send the travelling Hornets wild. At that altitude, we really should have conserved our energy, but it was a goal to gladden our hearts and well worth the energetic celebration. There was four minutes of added time and there looked to be only one winner but, despite the action mostly being in the Newcastle half, the nearest the Hornets came to a winner was from a corner that went straight to Dúbravka.
WFC.net Jon Marks goal commentary: 1
BHappy: On the pitch, Daniel Bachmann – whose good days aren’t nearly reliably frequent enough – pulled out a couple of smart saves but the second of those saw a kind rebound fall to Albrighton to complete the scoring. At the other end, Cucho spent the last fifteen minutes scampering around after scraps. His persistence saw him through on goal in the dying minutes, a lack of confidence borne of however many defeats on the hop now meant that he didn’t apply a finish that would have been automatic and instinctive in happier times. The contrast with Leicester’s kids, who were visibly growing in confidence in the light of their experience, couldn’t have been starker.
Fran’s Watford Blog: Of the lads making their debuts, it was hard to rate Forde and Conteh as they came on so late, but I thought that James Morris acquitted himself well. I hope that he gets more first team opportunities.
BHappy: It wasn’t to be. And you can focus on Kucka’s ill-judged foul as Spurs once again tried to find a way into our penalty area, or Sierralta being outjumped by Sánchez, or Bachmann flying out and getting nowhere near the cross. There was always a chance of this happening… tickets, raffles. The strategy of ceding possession and blocking space relied on absolute concentration and a bit of luck and in the 96th minute, after an interlude for a fan to receive treatment, both failed us. The defeat also owes a lot, in fairness, to the relentless focus of the visitors – something not always associated with Spurs teams in the past. Very few histrionics here, very few tantrums as the frustration at lack of progress must have built, not much in the way of testing the referee after he’d set a tone in the first half. Just a concentrated belief in what they were doing, something that was true of both sides.
Fran’s Watford Blog: It was a heart-breaking end to the game. Watford had done really well to contain the Spurs attack and had had a couple of decent chances themselves. The second half had been much more positive from the Hornets. Joao Pedro had been a menace and, had he been allowed to continue his run, may well have grabbed a goal. The man of the match award was given to Kucka, but I thought the midfield three all did well with a decent showing from Louza and the sort of impressive performance that we have come to expect from Sissoko.