Fran’s Watford Blog: The travelling fans who were still in the stand at the end of the game offered sympathetic support to the players when they came over to applaud us, but that didn’t mask the fact that it had been a poor performance. There had been a promising spell midway through the first half and a very good start to the second, but Middlesbrough were on top for most of the game, were incredibly dangerous when they attacked and, once they scored the second goal, the Hornets never looked like getting back in the game.
This game was the 100th anniversary of the first ever game played at Vicarage Road.
Sky Sports: Watford wore black and white striped shirts – a replica of the kit they wore in 1922 – for this one after the centenary had been marked by a pyrotechnics display, Elton John music and chats with former Hornets favourites.
BHappy: The thing is, it isn’t like anywhere else. Other places… homes, schools, where you work… might have similar long standing but nowhere has this permanence in significance and role. None of it looks like it did when I first came in 1980, not even the now-more-green-than-brown stuff in the middle. There are no longer busses visible trundling along the top of the northern end of the ground. There’s no longer a hotchpotch of bits of stand and terracing down the east side, nor is there any longer a place where you can swap panini stickers (is there?). The Shrodells Stand has long gone, as has the Watford Observer Clock (though – spoiler alert – only as far as the Museum’s excellent commemorative exhibition).
Sky Sports: Watford edged ahead in dramatic circumstances. Boro goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli first produced an impressive save to deny Ken Sema, but Marc Bola’s clearance fell kindly for Zinckernagel, who took control, though there were suspicions of handball as he did so.
BHappy: Xisco has spoken guardedly about securing a play-off place before we worry about anything else. William Troost-Ekong’s stock rose still further with his weekend Extra Time interview over the weekend. Troy Deeney has made the journey to Middlesbrough to sit in an empty stadium in the cold (and, you know, in Middlesbrough) to “ensure that standards don’t drop”. As the teams come out and Francisco Sierralta’s approach to the freezing sunshine that is cold enough to put condensation on your breath whilst watching in the warmth of your own home is to douse himself in water; you kind of feel that there’s not much wrong in terms of attitude.
The Hornets reacquainted themselves with the Championship after a five-year absence with the sort of gritty win you need to chisel out regularly if you are going to have a real crack at navigating a way out of this notoriously difficult division.
Boro’s Britt Assombalonga came close to levelling the scores on several occasions and the visitors’ best opening came when the frontman’s curling free-kick was tipped over the bar by Hornets ‘keeper Ben Foster.
Whether Ivic can maintain the momentum rests largely on which players are sold before the transfer deadline, with Deeney and Welbeck reportedly close to joining Premier League clubs. But in young, hungry players such as Pedro and Jeremy Ngakia – making his debut at right-back following his move from West Ham – coupled with old hands such as Foster, Murray and the match-winner Cathcart, he will be hopeful of a successful first campaign in English football.
The official justifications for our many, many absences – 17, reportedly… that it’s hard to keep track tells you everything – range from injured to ill to unfit, often vague and understandably so. There’s injured and there’s “injured”, one suspects. Twitter rumour claims that Craig Dawson has refused to play, which if true given his miserable half-arsed effort against Spurs is comparable to Andy Cole’s notorious retirement from international duty.
LIVE: Vicarage Road pays tribute to Graham Taylor as Watford play out uninspiring draw with Middlesbrough
Watford boss thinks side’s performance could have been affected by Graham Taylor tributes during Boro draw
Jon Mark’s 3CR commentary
Watford had barely threatened all afternoon but took the lead with a far more convincing strike from Holebas. The Greek international stole the ball from Cristhian Stuani and lashed a shot inside Victor Valdes’ near post from 20 yards.
report: If someone had warned me about the stress that would come with supporting Watford, I probably would have opted out. Unfortunately however, I’m too far in and as a consequence I found myself in Middlesbrough on a Sunday afternoon.