The hosts struggled to offer anything beyond long balls but Andreas Weimann did have their first effort as his run and shot crept past the post. The Austrian crashed a volley wide but it was Graham’s involvement that brought them closest to a leveller. The big striker turned at the edge of the area and let fly with a shot that seemed destined for the top corner – until Guzan brilliantly turned it over the bar.
It’s hard to escape the impression of a team that’s gone about as far as its legs will carry it, walking home because it couldn’t afford the bus ticket and stumbling exhausted through the front door. That we’ve made it at all, let alone with several games to spare, is deeply, deeply admirable. But the eager zest that surrounds our best play has been replaced by something slightly heavier, slightly more saggy. One incident summed it up: Danny Graham breaking forward in the first half, delaying his pass too long, and running clumsily into a defender; just one moment, but so untypical of the player. We lacked a keen mental edge, a certain brightness. Who knows what effect a win might’ve had – that’s rather my point – but nothing about us suggests a team that’s ready to push on towards the playoffs.
Watford missed out on the chance to leap to the top of the Championship and extended their recent run of form to one win in 10 after a desperate performance against struggling Barnsley, for whom a second away win of the season was enough to soothe any FA Cup hangover and send them surging out of the bottom three.
This week I’ve seen a house purchase fall through, spent any amount of time with a bored toddler in queues on the M1, and my tickly cough is back. I really didn’t need last night’s gutless, passionless, utterly undistracting shower of shit.
Ahmet Brkovic’s first goal of 2006, 17 minutes from time, rescued a point for Luton at Vicarage Road to virtually end Watford’s hopes of automatic promotion. It also means Luton’s slim hopes of gaining a play-off spot were extinguished.
Aidy Boothroyd’s first programme notes.
BSAD report: I was there, obviously. But less so, much less so. That’s not to suggest that I didn’t fully appreciate that this was a vital match for Watford Football Club, nor that I didn’t applaud a courageous, occasionally inspired, and much less deeply flawed team performance that rose to the occasion and deserved to take more from it than mere encouragement. I saw it all, with nose pressed up against the glass, conscious of everything and yet not part of it. When we scored, I heard myself saying “Yes!” and felt myself rising to my feet; the instincts that would’ve done those things in a reactive blur don’t seem to be working properly. I saw it all, and felt only echoes, remote tremors.
Why? I don’t know. This is new to me, all new. What I do know is that, like so many amazing things that happen in football stadia, the total support demanded by Graham Simpson requires the suspension of disbelief. It needs the conjuring up of an “us” from so much that has so little in common; an “us” that encompasses the stands, the dressing room and the directors’ box to become a football club rather than just a PLC with employees and customers. But you can’t put all of that on hold for three weeks – three weeks of exercising absolute power and authority, of claiming leadership, of seizing complete responsibility – then expect to resume where you left off. “Us” is for fifty-two weeks of the year, or not at all. And you can’t generate genuine belief in a long-term plan for survival and eventual prosperity, then demand the same belief in a new approach when you suddenly change your mind.