A huge scramble in the Watford area saw the ball turned home by Craig Cathcart’s thigh (38) to put Crystal Palace ahead, with goal-line technology confirming it had gone over the line. But the defender redeemed himself in the 67th minute as he nodded home the Watford equaliser before a wonderful volley from Tom Cleverley (74) completed the comeback and handed the visitors the victory.
The narratives off the pitch seemed rather more interesting than those on it. Watford’s Troy Deeney was charged for comments about the referee David Coote following his team’s recent game at Bournemouth. Crystal Palace’s Wayne Hennessey is also under investigation by the FA after making what appeared to be a Nazi gesture during a meal with team-mates following the club’s FA Cup victory over Cardiff last weekend.
It’s tempting to say that we would have lost this last season. In fact we DID lose this last season. And the season before. And coulda, shoulda this time too. But there’s more to us now… good enough that our bad days aren’t that bad, good enough that when we flame on we’re irresistible, plenty enough to blow Palace, albeit a blunt, stunted Palace, right out of the sky.
Back home watching Match of the Day I notice, during the interview with Javi Gracia, that he is wearing a Graham Taylor matchday badge on his jacket. I must admit that made me cry. Javi has been a joy since he arrived at Vicarage Road. His football is enjoyable and his conduct is exemplary. I think that GT would have loved him and, from me, there can be no higher praise.
Watford reached the fourth round of the FA Cup with a routine victory at National League side Woking.
Watford took the lead in the 13th minute through Hughes during a first half in which the Hornets dominated possession. The second half contained few goalscoring chances for either team, but Watford substitute Deeney wrapped up a comfortable victory for the Premier League side with a simple tap-in (75).
Yet it was still a day to feel the glow of FA Cup romance. The competition is too predictable; it has had its day? Do not say that to Alan Dowson, the old-school Woking manager, whose north-east tones remain loud and proud. He talked of his thrill at seeing Kingfield sold out, of his young players coming up against established professionals (even if Javi Gracia made 11 changes to his Watford team) and of the uplift that the tie has brought to this corner of England.
Javi Gracia, Watford’s former Villarreal and Malaga manager, has certainly also never received a post-match gift from an opposing manager quite like it. A bumper bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. “He took it and he gave me one of his sangria,” said Dowson, who was born in Gateshead. “I thought he was a bit tight. The Newcastle Brown was bigger.”
The first action of the second half was the rather thrilling sight of the lino on the opposite side falling backwards over the hoardings. It is dreadfully childish, but you can’t help but laugh when the officials come a cropper.
Watford captain Troy Deeney said “Sunday League” defending contributed to his side’s astonishing 3-3 draw at Bournemouth, with all six goals arriving in a frenetic first half. “It was an end-to-end game that could have been 6-6,” said Deeney, who scored two of his side’s goals.
Troy Deeney’s two goals gave Watford a commanding lead (14 & 27) before Bournemouth responded in quickfire fashion with goals from Nathan Ake (34) and Callum Wilson (37). Seconds later, Ken Sema put Watford back in front again with a fine half-volley (38) before Ryan Fraser levelled the game with a composed finish (40) in an action-packed first half.
At half time, a number of supporters from each team were invited on to the pitch for a “beer goggles” penalty shoot-out. I couldn’t help but wonder if the defenders had been wearing these goggles for the last 15 minutes of the half.
Tempers boiled over time and again, just as they did in the corresponding fixture at Vicarage Road in October, after which Troy Deeney was retrospectively banned, and it was something of a surprise the game finished with 22 players on the pitch.
Watford’s choice of Javi Gracia as Marco Silva’s successor might not have been an obvious one to many supporters but the 47-year-old Spaniard came with a sound record and a solid reputation and there were at least signs that the latest through the revolving door at Vicarage Road might be able to lift flagging spirits.
I’m here as the result of a phonecall from fellow former fanzine editors at Stephen Todd’s funeral back in October, suggesting that we take on the season’s least inviting midweek away trip in his honour. Toddy knew how to do football supporting better than pretty much anyone I’ve ever met; I’ve lost the knack, but something in the idea has remained sufficiently appealing that I haven’t wheedled my way out in the meantime. We arrive in Stoke at not long after four o’clock, settle into the local Harvester, avail ourselves of the salad cart, try to build a list of every goalscorer from the Pozzo era. Shenanigans and indeed misdemeanours from away trips of yore are mentioned; Dave keeps that flame alive by ordering gammon with egg and pineapple.
It wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t a game that we’ll recall as we lie on our death bed. What it was however was a game where we showed a vast improvement on Saturday, in both quality and character.
After a swift glass of red at the pub, we headed back to the hotel and spent a late night in the lounge with a large number of Watford fans. Everyone in attendance had thoroughly enjoyed the performance and were happy to have been part of a more positive crowd.