Stoke were given early impetus when Steven Fletcher converted Nick Powell’s low cross. But Watford drew level when Tom Cleverley’s shot was judged to have crossed the line after being tipped on to the bar by keeper Angus Gunn, who was himself then barged over the line by Joao Pedro after gathering the bouncing ball.
Tag: Stoke City
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.
Mark Hughes told Troy Deeney he “should know better” after the Watford captain sparked a late melee in their 1-0 Premier League defeat by Stoke City. In stoppage-time Stoke put the ball out of play after a player went down injured, but rather than pass the ball back Deeney appeared to attempt a cross into the visitors’ penalty area. Joe Allen reacted angrily but found himself being grabbed by the face by the burly Hornets striker.
Much as we tried to convince ourselves that this was going to be a case of New Watford putting a struggling side to the sword, the day hadn’t felt right. Wonky. Our reserved table set for the wrong number of places at the restaurant. Harry the Hornet heading resignedly into the Red Lion pre-match. Empty seats in the stadium. Lots of them, despite what was officially a 20k+ gate. And a confused pre-match process involving a bagpipe recital and a minute’s silence in recognition of Remembrance Day in which nobody seemed quite sure what was happening. Wrong. Wrong.
Back to Vicarage Road again and, after a busy week, it was lovely to sit down with the crowd for the pre-match pint. I bumped into someone that I hadn’t seen for a while, a regular who had almost given up in the dark days at the end of Mazzarri’s reign. He was all smiles again, thoroughly enjoying the football as we all are. I must admit that, going into this game I was less confident than last week against Chelsea. There is something about Stoke and their negative style of play that made me think that we could struggle.
Jon, Mike and Jason are joined by old friend Curtis from Denver, who’s not been at Vicarage Road for a few years. We didn’t get to see the Watford we’ve fallen in love with, and they boys do their best to talk through the game and get past how Stoke Stoke were.
Previously v Stoke City