Watford on the telly
Report by Ian Lay
Watford on the telly. Watford lose. Has a familar ring about it. Ooohh I'm in a bad mood today. Mainly because I believe that it could have all been avoided. How you ask? By slipping laxatives into the West Brom players' Isotonic Lucazade at half time? By getting Rupe to tar and feather each and every offical, steward and caterer at the ground so the match would have to be postponed?
No, nothing so complicated. It's very simple. Why wasn't Robert Page playing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We arrived at West Brom (Rupe, Dr. Dave and I) after a pleasant drive up listening to such wide variety of music as "Useless Man" by Minty, "Take On Me " by Aha, and The Smurf song.... by ... erm.. the Smurfs, I suppose. Rupe does like to bring a wide variety of CDs. I just wish he'd choose the selection before he takes the drugs rather than after!!! Only joking.
I hate West Brom's ground. Not visually though. To look at it, it's a very nice ground with good facilities. No, what I hate is their stewards. I'm sorry but there is only one word to describe them and I'm not going to say it as it's far too rude and this is a family Web Site. Isn't that right, Ig? (Abso-f***ing-lutely! - Ed)
I mean, they were searching everyone as they came in. Everyone. You know the drill. Arms up, feel all down your side and down your leg. If I was that way inclined I would have found it rather erotic. I'm not, so I didn't.
I actually find it insulting. And I'm getting a little fed up with being treated as a hooligan despite the fact that I'm not and never will be.
As we settled in our seats we heard the teams being read out and the noticeble abscentee was Dean Yates. Which was one hell of a blow as he has been playing so well at the back recently. What was more suprising was that Page wasn't playing in his place. Now please someone tell me that he was injured because if not then I'm really really mad. Though Steve Palmer is a nice guy and has done a great service for this club filling in in a number of positions, he isn't a better centre back than Robert Page.
My apprehension about our defensive capabilities was not misplaced. Even though we had the better of the opening exchanges (a header just past the post from Wright after a good cross from Gibbs was the highlight) we looked all over the place at the back.
It was not surprising then that West Brom took the lead. A long throw by Flynn was back-heeled by Murphy and somehow the ball came through to Kilbane who beat Gibbs to poke the ball past Chamberlain. It was pathetic defending.
But despite the set back we were playing well and it wasn't long before equalised. Wright, who was causing all sort of problems for the Baggies defence down the right , managed to get to the by-line and stabbed it back to Kennedy. Van Blerk tripped Kennedy and the only decision available for the ref was a penalty. Kennedy himself stepped up himself to notch his second spot kick success in a week.
And at this point the game was very open. In fact for the neutral watching on telly it must have been riveting. It was end to end stuff. Unfortunately it was our end that was springing the most leaks.
In the thirty-seventh minute Kilblane's shot took what looked like several deflections off Watford defenders and Hughes was on hand at the far post to stick a foot out and make it 2-1. Another scrappy goal and totally avoidable if we'd closed their forwards down quicker.
At half time I was still feeling optimistic. We were behind, but we were creating chances and I felt if we could stop leaking goals we had the ability to get something out of the game.
I can dream I suppose.
The game in the end turned on a two minute period. Still at 2-1 we created two good chances. The first a cross to the far post which looked like it was going to go out for a goal kick before somehow Nick Wright managed to hook a foot round the ball and send it back across the face of their goal. Unfortunately there wasn't a Watford player close enough to stab it home. Then moments later Hazan and Smart linked up well to leave Smart with only the keeper to beat. However, the angle was not the best and though Smart kept his shot low, the keeper spread himself well and saved with his feet. The attack was not finished though, and the ball came back out to the wing. Someone passed in field to Hyde and with the WBA defence pushing up, Micah attempted to push the ball through to Smart again who would have been clean through. The pass was awful though and went straight to Hughes. He sent De Freitas racing clear and despite a gallant effort from Johno, he rounded Chamberlain and slotted the ball home. It was effectively all over. Two minutes when we could have easily been 2-2, but ended up being 3-1 down.
We sent on Robinson, Bazeley and Noel-Williams to little effect. One of the players who went off was Micah Hyde who is truly having a bad time of it at the moment. To be honest whether he will snap out of it or not, it's time to give someone else a go. Whether it be Easton or Gudmundsson. I mean, what is the point of having players in the reserves if they don't get a chance when they are playing well and a first team player is playing poorly. There has to be competition for places. And the midfield seems to be the only area where there isn't any competition.
West Brom made it 4-1 through Hughes after being put clean through by a James Quinn pass and it was all over.
Only one person stood out for Watford. And that was Nick Wright. He worked hard, showed some lovely touches and was involved in all of our best chances.
Honourable mentions go to Tommy Mooney, who tried his best and won most things in the air. Alec Chamberlain for a couple of excellant saves and Nigel Gibbs who was as steady as ever but didn't have enough people around him playing well enough to help him out.
In the end we got what we deserved through poor defending. West Brom played well but we made them look better than they really are. And at the back, I'm sure most Baggies would agree, they look vulnerable. Going forward however they are resourceful and imaginative and I feel that they will be pushing for a play off spot come May.
So don't get too upset, folks. We're still sixth. Hopefully Yates will be back on Saturday and most importantly of all..... we may not be on the telly again for a while. That has to be good news.
A dip in form
Report by Dan Exeter
Somewhat depressingly, this was only my second game of the season.
Looking on the bright side, it meant I could see how some of the new
boys - ie Smart, Wright and Yates - were
Once I finally got in the ground (the stewarding was a nightmare,
they hardly had any cash turnstiles open) I managed to get a decent
seat quite high up on the right and looked forward to seeing it all
together. Unfortunately Yates was neither on the pitch nor on the
bench, with Palmer in his place, while Gifton was replaced in the
starting line-up by Alon Hazan. Apart from that, as far as I can
gather it was the same team as against Sheff Utd the Tuesday before.
We played 3-5-2 with Gibbs and Kennedy as wing-backs, Mooney,
Millen and Palmer in the back three and Hyde, Johno and Hazan in
midfield. Wright (whom I gather is a support striker type of player)
and Smart were up front.
The first thing I noticed was that Hazan looked a little like a fish
out of water. I don't know if it's just having been in and out of
the team recently, he just seemed uncomfortable with his role,
which as far as I could gather was right side of central midfield.
He never picked up opposing runs and never seemed to be in space when
we had the ball. Yet when he did receive it, to my mind he had an
instant control and touch that was a class above most of the rest of
Despite Alec spooning his first goal kick into the Watford dug
out (made me think of Kevin Miller) we matched them pretty well up
until their first goal (although Chamberlain did have to produce a
really top notch save low and to his left quite early on). Wright
had a fantastic header from a near post cross after some excellent
work by Gibbs and Hazan down the right hand side - Wright flew in
totally unmarked with Miller rooted to the spot. Unfortunately the
header flashed wide.
However, it was clear that defensively we were at sixes and
sevens and the ref wasn't going to give us anything. While the West
Brom front two of Hughes and De Freitas are both mobile, quick and
strong, I'm not sure if the rest of the team is really of a quality
to support them fully. West Brom caused us enormous problems in
defence yet it wasn't particularly fantastic play, merely quality
delivery from wide positions which we failed to deal with. Both the
goals in the first half came from a stream of crosses which
eventually one of their players (I'm not sure about the first,
definitely Hughes for the second) got to before anyone else. We
seemed scared of the ball and scared of West Brom's determination and
physical power. From where I was I thought that Millen might have
had a claim for a foul in the run-up to the second goal -
unfortunately none of the people that mattered (ie the ref) agreed, so
we had no-one to blame but ourselves.
We had fought our way back after the first goal however,
constructing well from midfield. At one point Smart was in a great
position on the left hand edge of the box seemingly with the goal at
his mercy - yet rather than try a twenty yarder, he tried to play Wright
in with a little pass which nearly came off but unfortunately didn't.
Kennedy equalised with a penalty after Wright chased a lost cause
near the touchline, somehow won the ball and in a melee of flying
West Brom tackles and falling Watford bodies (I think Kennedy was in
there at some point) even this ref had to give us a penalty. PK
buried it low and to his right, sending Miller the wrong way.
That was one of the few decisions the ref gave us that half. At
least on one occasion, when Hughes and Palmer were chasing a long
ball down the middle (sorry Alan Brazil, I forgot, it's only
Watford who ever play long balls, isn't it?) which Palmer managed to
control back to Alec, Hughes fell to earth clutching his face very
theatrically. The ref was suitably unimpressed. However, after one
corner, whipped in by West Brom from the right which eluded everyone
to go out of play on the other side of the goal, the ref was
insistent that it was a corner for West Brom. Luckily the line-o had
the courage of his convictions and continued to flag for a goal kick
even after the ref gave the corner.
The second half saw no changes at the start. Straight away there was
a period of West Brom pressure, yet we started to exert more of an
influence as Hazan came into the game more. Although quiet, Johno
started to appear more and Hyde's industry started to produce
something of note.
In the meantime, the Watford shouting of 'AAhhh' when a 'keeper runs
up to take a kick provided no end of amusement for the locals. All
credit to both sets of fans, all sides of the ground seemed to join
in and it was moderately amusing for a while. They even started
making up some chants of their own (aren't they clever?!!).
The turning point was a period of intense Watford pressure which saw
Wright, Smart and Hazan all go very close and force Miller into a
number of superb saves which led to a Watford corner. The first ball
in was cleared - Johno had the ball on the left hand edge of the
area. He played a short ball to Hyde, who looked up at his options.
He could shoot, cross the ball in to the gaggle of Watford players
at the back stick, or try and play a runner (Wright or someone) in.
Instead, he chose to play the ball to Hughes, who played it on to
De Freitas, who although in his own half was totally free on goal.
Johno ran manfully after, but didn't have the pace. The rest of the
defence had been up in the penalty area, having been called up by (I
think) Johno just before the corner, while the West Brom number eight was
off getting treatment.
Maybe it was just because I was concentrating so hard but it felt
like the whole ground hushed as De Freitas ran down on goal. Alec
had made a fantastic save from Hughes when he'd been through on goal
one-on-one. De Freitas made no mistake, however, rounding Alec
before having an easy finish to score the killer third.
Hyde was immediately substituted for Robbo, who slotted into the
left hand side of the back three while Mooney went into the left wing
back role and PK moved into the centre.
We seemed to lack the heart to try and pull two goals back - it was
quite late on, too. Hughes scored a fourth when he was put through one
on one against Chamberlain, unfortunately not making the same
mistake as before. I actually missed the build up to that goal,
just noticing when he ran into the box with only Alec to beat.
We threw on Gifton and Bazeley for Hazan and Wright but I think it
was a gesture more in hope than in expectation. As usual, nasty
Watford centre-forward set about fouling poor sweet innocent cherubs
in central defence. It really does start getting tiring seeing
centre-backs foul and niggle Gifton only for the decision to go
against him. Bazeley looked like he was spoiling for a fight, at
one point chasing a lost cause a la Wright and throwing the West Brom
player (more or less) into the advertising hoardings.
It was all going through the motions by then, and with many Watford
fans having left with the fourth goal it was with relief that most of us
greeted the final whistle.
On the positives; I think Smart and Wright look a class combination.
I also think Hazan could be the man to supply them from midfield.
He clearly has a good touch and I think he does have a bit of class -
however, too often he was out of sorts or just looking uninterested.
I hope it's just a dip in form rather than anything more permanent.
On the negatives; well, we conceded four, which tells its own story.
Much as I like Alec, I still have my doubts about him when it comes
to coming for crosses and organising his defence - maybe I'm just
exceptionally picky, but I always feel that keepers should be kings
in their area, shouting at people and organising them rather than
just waiting for the shots to rain in. I don't mean to criticise
Alec directly - it's just my perception of what an ideal goalkeeper
Mooney tried his heart out but I remain to be convinced that he's a
Division One standard defender. I'm already convinced Millen isn't -
I wish Page had been available (not even on the bench). Hopefully
Ward will be in a position to be considered for a regular first team
Hyde has some nice touches but too often his mistakes cost us
possession or, of course, goals. The impression he gave me was
that he's still trying to adjust to the pace of Division One, and
the fact that his mistakes tend to get punished so much more
Johno was quiet, and unfortunately may be quiet for a while longer,
as he seemed to pull a muscle late on and I'm sure he limped off.
When he's on form he's the midfield powerhouse that we need so much;
I hope his injury isn't serious.
As for West Brom, well, they've a cracking front two. Defensively I
thought they had their suspect moments, and I think with a couple of
signings in midfield they should be pretty safe play-off contenders.
See also: Baggies, Cudden's Baggies Web Page