Letting us down
Report by Ian Grant
Looking on the bright side, at least I don't have to bother updating the goal stats page today. On the other
hand, I do have to attempt to write a report on one of the worst performances I've seen from a Watford
side in donkey's years.
At least Tuesday's defeat against Peterborough was relatively easy to explain - we were over-confident and
we didn't play with sufficient desire. This, however, is more worrying - there was no shortage of effort at Adams
Park on Saturday, merely a shocking lack of anything vaguely resembling quality football. Injuries may well
be hitting the side hard, exposing some of the weaknesses in our squad, but we do still have enough decent players
to expect considerably better than this.
The absence of Steve Palmer and the lack of a left winger, with Tommy Mooney injured and Craig Armstrong back at Forest, forced major changes
to our formation. They didn't work. Keith Millen returned and Nigel Gibbs was moved in from the right to play a sweeper-type role in a
three man defence - but that didn't stop Wycombe from creating numerous chances in the second half as our defenders looked completely
lost. Darren Bazeley and Dominic Ludden were used as wing-backs - fine in theory, except that neither managed to cross
the half-way line more than a handful of times, leaving our attacks agonisingly short of width. Up front, Kevin Phillips made his first start of the season alongside Keith Scott - both players battled hard
but were absurdly isolated, the midfield failing to provide any kind of support.
The first half was awful. I hate to say it but watching Watford really isn't an enjoyable pastime at the moment. The
unbeaten run, currently the only great cause for encouragement in what has been a fairly depressing season, has been
built from dour negativity as much as anything else. We are, obviously, difficult to beat. We're not, equally obviously,
pleasant to watch. Sooner or later, we're going to have to come out of our shells a little, risk a defeat or two by pushing
forward rather than accepting yet another worthless, useless draw.
We started the game by defending ridiculously deeply, inviting Wycombe to come at us. That resulted in a
number of insecure moments in the early stages, most notably when Kevin Miller had to pull off a smart save to keep out a curling
shot bound for the top corner. It took us about twenty five minutes to manage a significant attempt at
goal, Richard Johnson's slashed shot from outside the box forcing an excellent save from the Wycombe keeper.
By half-time, the game was fairly evenly poised. We'd managed to overcome our fear of the opposition half, pushing
forward with a bit more conviction and winning a number of corners. From one of the flag kicks, Kevin Phillips (?)
did well to get an awkward chance on-target but it was deflected wide by a defender on the line. At the other end,
Miller had had to make another good save, tipping over a close range header after Wycombe had used their
height advantage to win the ball from a corner.
We emerged for the second half with a greater sense of purpose and briefly hinted at a more attacking
approach. It didn't take long, however, for Wycombe to start hitting us on the break and gradually they
took control of the match. By the end of the half, we were more than fortunate not to be a couple of
It was a disgracefully shabby display. Our attacking efforts consisted of little more than long balls
cleared in the general direction of our strikers. Even when they did win the ball, there was no support anywhere
nearby - towards the end, Keith Scott was twice forced to take on the entire Wycombe defence and shoot
from outside the box simply because no-one was around to help him. The movement when we had possession
was pathetic, players just standing around waiting for something to happen. The passing was laughable.
Things were little better in defence. You'd have hoped that, since our wing-backs were making a minimal
impact going forward, they'd have been using their time to keep things secure at the back. Not so, sadly -
the number of times Wycombe found themselves in acres of space on the wings was frightening. The barrage
of crosses gave our central defenders an afternoon of hard work and we didn't look particularly well-organised
in that department either.
Elementary mistakes only added to our problems. Both Gibbs and Johnson committed the unforgivable crime of
being caught in possession when acting as the last line of defence - in Gibbs' case, he can be very
thankful to Miller for a wonderful save, pushing over a shot that appeared to be looping into the net. That was
the closest that Wycombe came to scoring but they had numerous chances throughout the half - the scoreline
really doesn't reflect their superiority.
We could've stolen it right at the end - it would've been a monumental injustice, although I don't suppose
any of us would've cared too much. But Johnson's curler from outside the box went a few inches past the post - our
only meaningful goal attempt of the second half.
It's difficult to know what to say, to be honest. Apart from the fact that I'm recovering from a bout of 'flu (so if you
sense a lack of coherence to this report, it's because I'm feeling considerably less than human - I'll re-write it when I'm back among
the living), the task of dissecting a performance that was so stunningly poor in so many areas is a daunting one. Kevin Miller aside, there wasn't
a single Watford player who could've been proud of their contribution on Saturday - with one of the largest
away followings we've had this season watching, they let us all down. This was wretched.
God knows where we go from here. One thing's for sure - without a serious improvement, climbing the table isn't a