A complete absence of Gladys Protheroe, no sign of fish for a change - but the pies were nice
Report by Mike Scofield
When my match report starts by me musing "what has happened to Gladys Protheroe's
celebratory half-time announcements at away matches?", you can tell that
I am struggling to find much to report on today. No doubt Simon will
advise us in due course. Maybe, now that Watford look like having some
success, La Protheroe has found some other struggling team to follow to
the ends of the labour exchange. But I digress.
A complete sell-out in the away end as far as I could see, so there must
have been about 1,000 travelling 'Orns.
This was a dour game that only really became anywhere near exciting in
injury time, when Thomas had a good dribble and shot from the edge of the
area, but the keeper pulled off a great save and pushed it round the far
post. Gibbs then had a run through the defence and again the keeper saved
In the first half GNW was put through and rounded the keeper, but that
took him pretty wide, and he put in a reasonable shot, but it was too low
down and a defender managed to get back to clear off the line. He was
subbed at half-time for Thomas - maybe because he had got booked and GT
did not want to risk anything worse, he is after all, very competitive.
But he was not replaced because he played badly.
Their attack was quite lively, particularly Boli, but never really
threatened. Both midfields cancelled each other out, so nothing really
got created. Boli missed a great chance in the 1st half, when clean
through, but Mooney got in a last ditch block. Boli also missed in the
2nd half, when he shot wide when almost clean through. Mooney was on top
form and held the defence together with excellent covering tackles and gets
my vote for Man of the Match.
Jason Lee won loads of high balls, but GNW/Thomas/RRR all seemed to want
to go for the high ball at the same time as JL, so the head-downs and
flick-ons went into the space where the other Hornets should have
been. Kennedy had a quiet game, as he tried to stem the flow from their
midfielders who were skillful and pacy. Palmer had a good game, but he is a
spoiler, rather than a creator. Gibbs looked good, and had three excellent
shots on target, whilst being pretty solid at the back. There were some
very good long cross field passes from Lee, Mooney and Palmer in an
attempt to get some width into the game, but again, nothing really got
going from these.
No-one really played badly, but we could not really get the runs from
deep positions going. They did not look like a bottom of the table team,
and a draw was a fair result. Same team as at Southend.
Easton/Robinson/Thomas were the subs. By the way Gary Porter was sub for
them, and got a generous round of applause and chanting from us.
All good things...
Report by Dave Perahia
After seeing three victories out of three on my travels with Watford
this season, it was inevitable that things would have to go pear-shaped
eventually, and today was the day. Actually perhaps that's not quite
fair. Watford put in a workmanlike performance and battled to earn a
creditable point. It's a mark of our progress this season that not
having won today could be seen as failure. Not too long ago, an away
draw and no goals conceded would have been cause for celebration.
Having moaned about how crap Roots Hall, Southend was earlier in the
week, I'm afraid I'm going to have to moan about the Bescot as well.
It's a sorry little stadium - a soulless concrete box dumped by the M6
motorway capable of holding hardly any fans. A smaller and less
atmospheric league ground you'd be hard pressed to find. It certainly
wasn't big enough to hold the Watford fans, some of whom had nowhere to
sit and instead had to resort to standing on the far right of the
terrace and being harassed by stewards who couldn't understand why they
were unwilling to sit on the laps of those already seated. At least
1,000 travelling fans (or so it seemed), but a surprising lack of noise
Our team was that which began at Southend, with Bazeley, Hyde and Slater
still out injured. Oh, and Golden Gary Porter was on the bench for
Walsall, getting a touching ovation from the Watford fans. Unfortunately
(or perhaps fortunately ?), he was destined to stay on the bench for the
ninety minutes, but it's nice that he's on his way back to full fitness.
And so to kick-off. I guess Pagey won the toss as Watford lined up attacking
the far goal with the low sun in the eyes of the Walsall keeper, and the
Saddlers kicked off. The first half was notable for the lack of chances
created by either side. Defences were definitely on top, and the
respective midfields cancelled each other out. Some say they relish this
kind of 'tactical battle'. I find it frankly tedious, and Pete Fincham
summed up it up beautifully with a huge, deafening yawn at one point
which neatly encapsulated my feelings more eloquently than I possibly
could with any number of words. The Walsall forward line, with Frenchman
Roger Boli as a focal point, looked tricky and dangerous at times but
were expertly marshalled by our defence. I must single out Mooney for
extra praise today - he was at his fearsome best and apart from being as
solid as I've seen him was responsible for a couple of brilliant saving
tackles. We had the best chance of the half just before half time -
Gifton being put through, neatly beating the keeper but having his shot
impressively cleared off the line by a defender.
Half-time came and went, and the Horns kicked off attacking our end. As
seems to be the way these days, this was a signal for the Hornets to
surrender the initiative and the ball to spend most of the next 20-25
minutes at the other end. Play seemed to degenerate during this period
of the game. Both teams (Walsall in particular) seemed happy to hoof the
ball forward rather than looking to put a foot on it and pass as they
had tried to do earlier in the game.
Ironically, this policy almost paid
dividends for the home side, a powerful drive striking Alec's right-hand
post after a hoofed ball forward was brought under control and fired
goalwards by a Walsall player. Another long ball arrived at the feet of
Boli (I think) who shot wide from a central position under challenge
from Mooney (probably).
The Hornets were far less fluent than in recent
games, struggling to impose themselves on proceedings. It wasn't that
our team played badly, more that the ones we rely on to be creative just
weren't firing on all cylinders. Ronny made a few runs without really
threatening. Lee's flicks just weren't read by his fellow forwards and
Dai Thomas, on for Gifton at half time, huffed and puffed to little
effect. And yet just as I had come to terms with the fact that we
weren't gonna win this one, we nearly did, Dai hitting a stunning shot
from the edge of the area which was superbly palmed away by the Walsall
keeper. Immediately after that, Nigel Gibbs (yes, I did say Gibbs) fired
in a shot from a tight angle which was well smothered by the keeper.
Soon after, the final whistle blew and that was that.
So we remain well clear at the top of the table and unbeaten in seven
away. We're the team they all want to beat, however, and as this game
clearly showed, there'll not be many easy matches between now and next