Not very impressed
Report by Rory Jiwani
By way of brief introduction, I am a lifelong Horns fan from East London
who is fortunate enough to be studying at Bristol University. The only
consolation for me last season was that I would get the chance to see my
beloved Watford play Bristol's two sides. The Rovers match took place
during the summer vacation but I was delighted to see that on December 3rd
Watford would be coming to Ashton Gate. I managed to get another couple
of 'Orns fans (there's quite a few in Bristol), a QPR fan, a Cambridge
Utd.(?!) fan and a couple of others to come along to the game.
Who said us footie supporters aren't a hardy bunch? There we were,
freezing to death in the icy wind. My mates opted for the burger which
did not look particular appetising. Anyway, we got into the away end and I
was greeted with the old 'Yellow,Yellow' chant. You might have seen me at
the game unless there is another black Watford supporter about with
bleached blonde hair. Honestly, I didn't bleach my hair out of allegiance
to Watford but merely as a fashion experiment.
Sat down and was struck but the angle and miniscule size of the structures
masquerading as seats as we waited eagerly for the players to come out
onto the pitch. Cheered heartily as the PA announced that Devon White was
not playing (sorry, the man is a donkey) and settled down to watch the game.
From the start things did not look good as City had a shot straight from
the kickoff but after a scrappy first ten minutes in which neither team
did much the game took a pattern which remained for pretty much the rest
of the match: City attacking most of the time with Watford only having the
occasional foray upfield. I was disappointed to see Darren Bazeley playing
on the left side of midfield. Just because he scored that wonder goal
against Northampton in the Cup doesn't mean he can use his left foot. He's
always been a predominantly right-footed player and he is a right-winger.
We have the perfect left-sided midfielder in Tommy Mooney but I haven't
got a clue where he was supposed to be playing.
City always looked dangerous when their speedy right-winger Goodridge had
the ball but to be fair Paul Robinson did as well as can be expected for
someone so inexperienced at this level. I had been looking forward to seeing
Gifton Noel-Williams for some time now and he did not disappoint. He's
quick, holds the ball up well, makes good runs and is a real prospect
(he'll probably go in a couple of season's time like Brucie).
Unfortunately, his good work was not backed up by support from the
midfield and quite often he was crossing into the box with no yellow shirts
in there. Slater looked off the pace but Penrice was excellent all night.
My main gripe was that no-one in midfield wanted to test the keeper from
20-25 yards. There were plenty of shooting opportunities but instead we
passed and then subsequently lost the ball. Say what you like about Rambo
but at least he'd be willing to have a dig from outside the area.
In the first half, City had a couple of very good chances to open the
scoring and were unlucky not to go in front when they had a freekick on
the right side of the area which beat Miller but hit the crossbar. Their
Australian striker Agostino had a couple of half-chances but was well
marshalled by the impressive Robert Page. Like most of the people at our
end I couldn't see the incident when we had a goal disallowed but I
wouldn't have been surprised if it was legal since the referee was pretty
abysmal and gave very few decisions our way. All in all, a pretty dull
The second half was slightly more exciting with Watford not really showing
the form of a team which is supposed to go straight back up to the First.
Mooney had an acrobatic volley which, on a good day would have gone flying
into the top corner but ended up slicing harmlessly into the crowd.
We took an undeserved lead when Penrice whipped in a dangerous free-kick
form the left and Noel-Williams headed the ball over their keeper. There
was what seemed a split-second of silence (shock, probably) before the
inevitable delirium. Then Jackett brings White on, presumably to turn our
joy into disbelief. He didn't do much wrong but the point is he didn't do
much right either (although he had a firm shot from outside the area which
went a yard wide - one of our few long range efforts). Also, he seemed to
get penalised for simply challenging for aerial balls by the blatantly
home supporting referee.
Although City had most of the game they never really looked like getting
an equaliser and I felt that the only way they would was going to be down
to the referee. After a couple of unbelievable handball decisions (greeted
with sarcasm from our end who proceeded to shout handball every time we
touched the ball) the referee gave a very controversial penalty. Penrice
clearly slipped (TV replays confirm this) on the difficult surface (rain and
hail affected most of the game) and the City forward went down. I don't
think Penrice was even trying to make a challenge as the situation was not
too threatening and I'm not sure he made contact with the player. Another
harsh decision against, in my opinion, our best player on the night who
was booked in the first half for an inocuous challenge. Barnard put the
kick away and that was that. City pressed for the winner and Andrews
looked threatening when he came on for the last couple of minutes but the
decisive goal never came and 1-1 it was.
If we're going to get promotion we're going to have to play a darn sight
better than this. We lack ambition in midfield and edge up front.
Noel-Williams is a fine player who works tirelessly but he needs
assistance from someone like Connolly or Phillips; someone who can stick
the ball in the net. Our defence is fine and Gibbs is still a class act
despite his age and injuries. Hopefully, Connolly, Phillips and Ramage
will return soon and add some zest in the attacking third of the field. If
we don't start winning soon we might have to settle for a play-off place.
Round in circles
Report by Ian Lay
Aaaaaahhhhh!!!!! I don't think I have had so much trouble getting to a
ground in my life. I suppose it doesn't help that is was my first visit
to Ashton Gate, but hell I went to Walsall's new ground for the first
time this season and never had this problem!
Things didn't go well from start to finish. First of all I was
supposed to be picked up by my brother, from my workplace at Harlington
Corner near Heathrow at 3.45pm. He finally arrived with our friend John
at 4.35pm. I had been waiting 50 minutes out in the cold, and I wasn't
feeling that well to start with. So I'm in a pretty bad mood already.
The M4 was fine. A flaming miracle. No hold ups. Only a minor
decrease in speed necessary to get through some road works. Then we got
to the M32 and short drive done into Bristol. So far so good. We had
made good time and were in the centre of Bristol at 6.30pm. This is
where the directions in the program went wrong. It's not Watford FC's
fault, they get the info from Bristol..... I think..... I hope. The
instructions said follow the M32 into the city and then take the A38
towards Taunton. There is no such sign. At the first roundabout there
is no mention of the A38. At the second it is marked A38 North??? We
have just come off the M32 which should go straight onto the A38.
According to my brother's map the A38 only goes SOUTH from the M32.
There were no signs saying Bristol City Football Ground or anything like
that. They should take a page out of Walsall's book. Now that was a
well signed posted ground. Anyway after about 20 minutes we found the
ground. No thanks to the locals who led us round in circles with their
So into the ground. A quick stop for a burger..... very nice and I was
feeling a little better. Went through the oldest looking turnstiles I
have ever seen in my life. I mean I've seen better ones at non-league
grounds. Much better ones.
Got searched by a steward on the way in. Seemed very interested in my
keys, my watch, my packet of three, the kitchen sink.... everything but
the 4 inch blade I had in my back pocket.... only joking!
When he put his hand on an object strapped on my belt, he suddenly
stopped, looked slightly surprised, then relaxed as I revealed that it
was in fact a mobile phone. "Thought you were a copper for a moment
mate," he said. Next time I'll bring a bloody truncheon and really scare
the **** out of someone.
So anyway...in the ground. Sat down drinking my tea. And then suddenly
realised that my seat was a bit dodgy. Felt like it was going to give
way any minute. So I moved to the vacant one next to it. Same feeling
of slowly slipping of the edge. Then I realised that they were all like
this. The seats tilted down a few degrees so that it looked like you
were literally on the edge of your seat. Maybe this a marketing ploy by
Bristol City for any live games that might be shown. The commentator
might say something like "This game is really hotting up. Just look at
all those Watford supporters getting behind their team, on the edge of
their seats..... Oh what's happened here, all the Watford supporters are
on their knees. Are they praying for a goal..... No, it looks like they
all fell off their seats."
So... what do we have so far.... set off late....crap directions....
lousy seats.... oh nearly forgot, another football ground with a lousy
PA. But then again that's no surprise really.
So onto the game. Let's be fair. Bristol played well. I knew they
were going to be a difficult team to beat at Ashton Gate. They have
only lost two games there all season. One of which was a narrow defeat to
Brentford when they were playing at their best. Also they have only
conceded six goals at home this season. That's less than anybody else
The first shot was from Bristol which came about fifteen
seconds after the kick off, a low 25 yard shot which Miller took
comfortably. For the next ten minutes it was all Watford. We camped in
their half. Got a couple of corners, a shot over the bar. And then we
lost our way a little. Bristol took over and for about half an hour
they dictated the play. They had a good chance with a header at the near
post which if it had gone either side of Miller it would have been in.
Luckily it came straight at him. They also had a volley that went just
wide. But the biggest heart stopping moment came when the Ref (or
should I say prat, coz that's what he was) gave a free kick to Bristol
about five yards outside our area for a very dodgy hand ball decision. The
ball looked like it was going to go easily over (I think Miller thought
this too) and then it dipped at the last moment and bounced off the bar
for a goal kick. So we survived that one. In the middle of all this
Penrice got booked for a tackle which, though a little late, was no worse
than the one made on Robinson a few minutes earlier which went
unpunished. The Ref was definitely a 'homer' and got on my and everyone
else's nerves all night. We ended the half slightly stronger, a couple
of good runs by Slater. We got the ball in the net but it was
disallowed for a foul on the keeper. Couldn't really tell if it was a
foul or not, as it was done the other end and my eyesight isn't that
good! We should have had a penalty when Slater ( I think ) was pushed
blatantly in the area. But he made a meal out of it so that's probably
why he didn't get it. Bet Ramage would've though!!!
The second half was much the same pattern. Bristol did most of the
attacking, we tried to catch them on the break. But, I felt the way the
game was going that it was going to end 0-0. I thought both sides had
wasted the best chances they were going to get. However, I was
wrong.... shock ... horror. On 55 minutes we won a free kick on the
left side, about 5 yards in from the touch line. Penrice whipped in a
great cross, and Gifton Noel-Williams (fanfare please) rose above all
the Bristol defenders and sent a looping header over their goalkeeper.
We went potty.
Shortly after Jackett made a tactical switch. He took off Slater, who I
must admit was looking tired, and brought on Devon. Presumably for
Dev's extra height to defend set pieces. We absorbed a lot of pressure
for the next 10 or so minutes, but eventually something had to give.
At first I thought the penalty decision was a bad one. It looked like
the Bristol player made a meal of it. But both my brother and John
thought that it was very blatant. So I didn't argue. They scored, of
course, and with 20 minutes still left, anybody's game. But I still had
a nagging feeling that the penalty should never have been........
Well it was crazy mayhem for the remainder of the game. Bristol again
providing most of the attacking play, but we created our own chances.
We would have scored if the Ref hadn't blown up for a foul which no one
around me could see or even guess at. But then that was the Ref for
you. He was useless. For example..... White went up with one of their
guys. A fairly good 50-50 challenge. The Bristol player falls in a
heap. The Ref blows for what I thought was a foul. He lectures White,
I thought he was going to book him. Then ... wait for it... gives a
drop ball and makes the Bristol player kick it back to us because we had
possession!!! I'm not complaining ... but.....
So we escaped with a draw. Bristol will say that they created enough
chances to win. And they are right. But they didn't. We defended
well. Page in particular was excellent. Our defence looks so more
secure when he's playing. Millen was sound as usual, and looked happy
to have his partner back with him. Gibbs also had fairly good game, but
Robinson struggled most of the evening with Bristol's lively right
winger Goodridge. Having said that he did have his good moments, but
generally a poor day's work considering how well he has been playing.
But then he's only played about five first team games, so you can't be too
hard in him. In the midfield, Bazeley had his most ineffective game for
a number of weeks. Palmer was solid and comfortable back in his normal
holding role in front of the back four. Penrice was delightful as
ever. Good control, nice turns. Set up Devon with a chance late on.
And Dev was unlucky not to score. Slater didn't play as well as he did
on Saturday, but two games in the space of four days probably took its toll
on a player who isn't yet match fit.
Up front Mooney worked hard giving his normal 110% and Gifton... well
Noel had a very good game. Held the ball up well. Laid off nice
passes. Scored a good goal. What more can you ask from a guy who is
only 16. Offer him 10 year contract ..now... somebody please.. Jackett
are you listening to me.....
Devon played well while he was on, could have had a goal and comitted
his normal bit of incompetance which nearly lead to Bristol goal.
Andrews came on for Gifton with about 3 minutes to go. And nearly
created a half chance for himself but it wasn't to be.
So, a good point. Many will lose at Bristol City this year. We may
have dropped down to eighth in the table but it is very tight up there. We
are only four points off the top two. Who we have a game in hand against.
Going home was about as good as coming. We took about 1/2 hour to get
out Bristol and I slumped into bed... knackered at about 1am. As my
brother lives in Watford, I went back to my mum's for the night rather
than go back to Hounslow. So I had to be up early to get into work.
....... you remember that penalty.... well I was reading the paper in
the morning and I was right. According to the report , Penrice slipped
and fell, accidentally caught their player who made a meal out of the
dive... and the Ref... well enough said.
See you all on Saturday for Ashford.