The game where Lloyd Doyley scored his other goal.
Well that was very odd. Like a match that had been cut into pieces and put together in a random order to inappropriate bits of soundtrack. Danny Drinkwater being effortlessly put through on goal in the opening seconds surprised everyone, not least him… like a cliffhanger in the opening minutes of a TV episode. He did a reasonable job with it, steering the ball wide of Grant, a significant obstacle all afternoon, if narrowly past the post. Then the frankly ridiculous own goal, which looped back into the net over Loach’s head painfully slowly as if time was bending to allow it to drop in whilst presenting the illusion, observed by my neighbour, that any of us had time to trot down to the front of the Rookery, step over the barrier, and amble around to block it on the line. Dale Bennett’s nerve seemed to rather decimate at this turn of events, perhaps contributing to a an extremely nervous first half which saw our defence creak and rattle and yet somehow not concede any more goals despite Burnley flinging bodies at any number of crosses… we got away with 1-1 at half time. The second half… from my vantage point we tightened up an awful lot. And yet lost two goals. One of these, just as the home crowd was up and riled and behind the team in voice for the first time following Danny Fox’s crude hack on Buckley. Fox’s last game for Coventry saw him dismissed at the Ricoh against us for a similarly violent challenge, from memory. Justice would have him red carded and Burnley caving in under our indignation. Instead, Burnley took the lead and cantered off. If there’s any consolation, it’s that Danny Fox presumably lives near Burnley.
The key to winning the Championship play-offs, according to Hull City’s manager Peter Taylor, whose team has played three of the clubs involved in recent weeks, probably lies in having your top striker fit and in form. After watching his defenders, helped by a couple of fine saves from the excellent goalkeeper Boaz Myhill, prevent Watford’s Marlon King adding to his 21 league goals this season, Taylor reckons the fact that Andy Johnson will suddenly have the World Cup on his mind makes Crystal Palace favourites to go up.
The first goalless draw at Vicarage Road since the start of October…and not an entirely unpredictable one, in hindsight. Since Sheffield United stumbled over the finishing line, we’ve covered up the meaningless nature of the fixtures rather well, with some help from our opponents: Ipswich were kind enough to take part in an entertainingly shambolic end-to-end friendly, while Queens Park Rangers’ general ill-temper spiced up what might’ve been thoroughly bland. Hull, on the other hand, weren’t nearly so obliging.
This was the final game in Ray Lewington’s reign as Watford Manager.
Football is a game with ever-altering ambitions, where the only goals that never change are those at each end of the pitch. When the season started these sides will have shared the same aim but by the time this match ended their immediate desires will have been entirely opposite. One side are dreaming that their form will carry them out of this division while for the other precisely the same possibility forms a nightmare.
There’s a point, at about quarter to five on an otherwise sunny and bright and cheerful Saturday afternoon, when this becomes almost physically unbearable. While the rest of the country celebrates the arrival of spring, the effort required to maintain the connection between backside and plastic is virtually impossible, and the commitment to doing so utterly inexplicable. Only sheer paralysis causes eyes to remain focused on the pitch, rather than returning to concrete and feet, or being closed in torment or buried behind palms of hands.
An important home match in front of a sell-out crowd before two tricky, long distance away games, Watford had to win this. It was made even more vital by stupidly throwing away a two-nil lead against Leicester on Tuesday night. However, the ninety minutes which we witnessed were very bleak, and gave us little confidence in the now forthcoming relegation fight. A team lacking our star performer of recent weeks in Jay Demerit saw an unconvincing defence line up of Smith, Cox, Doyley and Chambers. Lewington played an unadventurous midfield line-up of Ardley, Mahon, Gunnarsson and Jackson. Webber partnered Helguson up front.