More games from 14th January at https://oldwatford.com/tag/jan14
The best aspect of this season thus far from our point of view has been the entertainment value. Twelve league games in, plus three in the League Cup… how many have been anything less than gripping? (Even if, admittedly, some of that excitement has been our own doing in situations where you’d prefer dull defensive competence). The opening fifteen minutes or so here were suitably mundane… Derby’s notorious vulnerability at corners was manifest and Essaid Belkalem ghosted in (or as close as a monstrous Algerian can get to “ghosting”) at the far post. He should have scored. Two minutes later and Jamie Ward, half Belkalem’s size and with what looked a tougher heading chance, outjumped his marker to put the Rams ahead from Bryson’s brilliant cross. Another five minutes and Fernando’s levelled it again with a gorgeous dink. Same old, same old.
The first surprise was that the game was on at all. Yesterday’s rather testing weather conditions had made that seem highly unlikely (even if it’s difficult to judge quite how the rest of the world is getting on from the arctic isolation of a cul-de-sac, media updates or otherwise). So… big respect to those who answered the call and turned up with shovels early in the morning, and to all others involved in getting the game played.
Home ties with Leicester are becoming unmissable (remember this one? Or this one?), and this stood comparison with any of them. Indeed, if the quality of the football wasn’t always the highest, the level of excitement and drama was unparalleled. It was Prison Break as a football match, rejecting credibility in favour of a script that rolled ludicrously from one side to the other affording any number of dramatic cameos and contributions and leaving all those in attendance, surely, buzzing on adrenaline and reliving the highlights in their heads long after the match had finished. This, as I wrote after the corresponding fixture last year, was what you bloody go to football for.
Will Hoskins’ late strike helped Watford edge away from the drop zone and dragged Ipswich back into trouble. Henri Lansbury opened the scoring for the Hornets when his 35-yard free-kick eluded everyone and sailed straight in.
Yes, yes, Will Hoskins. We’ll come to him in a moment, for we must first pause to salute Lord Doyley. The bravura pirouette in the first half, followed by splendid left-footed cross onto the head of Heidar Helguson at the far post, was the stuff of ten minute standing ovations. But the defending often deserved a similar response: one early Ipswich attack bounded eagerly over the halfway line, discovered Jay Demerit too far forward, threatened to burst dangerously into the penalty area…and then found itself quietly shepherded to somewhere near the corner flag, any spark of danger suffocated by a gigantic, inescapable wet blanket. He must be utterly miserable to play against, ninety minutes of having your bright ideas tied up in red tape by the local health and safety officer.