Whatever your reaction, to Javi’s departure, it’s surely not surprise. As countless pub-bore pundits have no doubt already reminded you, this is What Watford Do. (One might be forgiven for thinking that this is ALL Watford have done, since getting promoted, such is the limited range of opinion of such pundits. Chelsea, Huddersfield, Fulham, Southampton and West Brom have all had three managers during Javi’s Watford reign, incidentally).
Despite Newcastle’s encouraging, if unexpected, win at Tottenham last Sunday, the crowd of 44,157 was the lowest for a Premier League fixture at St James’ Park in seven years. Those that turned up saw Gracia enjoy the sort of morale-boosting start his side so desperately needed in the wake of three straight defeats. After two minutes Tom Cleverley’s 20-yard shot was deflected into the path of Will Hughes, who delighted in beating Martin Dubravka from close range.
It felt like hard work for all concerned. Two functional teams struggling to find their rhythm, delivering a contest so littered with mistakes you had to remind yourself it was a Premier League match.
Gracia finally made a double substitution with 20 minutes to go, and it was not the change that the crowd had been calling for as Doucouré made way for Chalobah and Success replaced Hughes. I have to admit that even I booed the removal of Hughes who had been the best player on the pitch. Will left the field on the side opposite the dugout, so walked in front of the away fans and his name was sung with some gusto. Success showed his worth to us naysayers as he received a ball over the top and put in a low cross for Gray, but it was intercepted. Not satisfied with the changes so far, the away fans were chanting for Deulofeu to make an appearance.
The Hornets shot themselves in the foot inside two minutes when Abdoulaye Doucoure caught Manuel Lanzini in the box, and Mark Noble stepped up to slot home from the spot on his 350th Premier League appearance.
But Watford responded to level with a well-worked Andre Gray goal, with the forward drilling home a right-foot shot from Will Hughes’ pass. However, the Hornets were punished for their wastefulness in front of goal with just three of their 23 shots finding the target.
Only Hughes will know how he did not improve that ratio when, in the 55th minute, he met Gray’s fizzed centre at the far post after the striker had skipped around Lukasz Fabianski. It was a sitter but, perhaps seeing the ball late, Hughes turned it wide from a matter of inches.
Reprieved, West Ham recovered some of the momentum they had at the start of the game and quickly punished the hosts for their failures in front of goal when Haller restored the Hammers’ lead in the 64th minute, turning home Felipe Anderson’s low cross. Haller’s second then came eight minutes later after Michail Antonio met Lanzini’s corner with a header that Ben Foster tipped onto the bar with the French striker reacting well to head home the rebound from close range.
The post-match mood was sombre. As last week against Everton, we faced a team that we could and should have beaten, but we were undone by our lack of clinical finishing and the generosity of our defence. Dawson is getting a lot of criticism, but he was left exposed by Femenía who certainly adds to our attacking options but is so often missing in defence. I was encouraged by a lot of the forward play but, too often, the players wait for the perfect sight of goal and end up losing out to a defender.
Bernard’s first Premier League goal of the season helped Everton edge a 1-0 win over Watford in a tight contest at Goodison Park. The Brazilian’s deflected strike into the bottom corner in the first half (10) proved the difference in the swirling conditions on Merseyside, but the visitors came close when Craig Dawson’s header hit the woodwork midway through the first half. Richarlison squandered two great chances to score for Everton. Despite Watford’s sporadic efforts to equalise, including Troy Deeney’s strike which forced a brilliant save from Jordan Pickford, the hosts held on for their first win of the season.
Moise Kean, a late substitute, missed two chances to secure victory for Everton, but Watford were the stronger unit throughout the second half. Keane and Mina proved immovable obstacles and the visitors, despite showing a vast improvement on last week’s performance against Brighton, departed empty handed once again.
Deulofeu impressed most for Watford, albeit – rather like the whole team – the threat sometimes exceeds the end product. When Deulofeu sent Troy Deeney through on 57 minutes it forced Pickford into a brave save to keep the score level.
It should be clear to all who indulge in such things that the First Home Game Of The Season and The First Away Game Of The Season are distinctly special things. The First Game Of The Season has a lustre of its own, of course, but above and beyond that there’s something special about returning to the Vic and something equally special about hitting the road again.
Everton had placed flags at each seat in the home stands which were to be waved as the players emerged from the tunnel. It has to be said that they were not a patch on the flags at Vicarage Road. Maybe we were unlucky with our positioning, but we were surrounded by some of the worst of our fan base and started the game with our ears being assaulted by an abusive song aimed at Silva. Now I have no love at all for the man, but he won’t give a damn what we think about him (that was obvious when he left), neither will the Everton fans, so chanting abuse at him is totally futile and detracts from supporting our own team.