Watford At Home 2014/15 – End of Season Dinner and Awards

Every good club has an end of season dinner and awards and here at Brighton But Only At Home we’re no different, with the rather glaring exceptions that a) the awards are coming after the dinner, which was last night and b) I doubt the winners will ever know they won it. It’s not like there’s a trophy or anything. I’m a starving writer* FFS.

The awards take place today because I have run out of ways of saying the same thing. If ever there was a season to forget, on the pitch at least, this was it. So much has to change in the summer and the early announcement of the retained list suggests that it will. That’s not to say the season has been a total write off because, on a personal level it has, at times, been highly entertaining. More of that later.

So – the game. What is there to say about a game like that? Firstly it was terribly, appallingly refereed. I honestly haven’t seen as pathetic a display of officiating here this season and Andy D’Urso’s had a go. It wasn’t quite Pawson against Burnley but the extraordinary thing was that the Football League Show chose not to show a single one of the incidents. In general Watford were cynical, getting in little blind side nudges, all of which were missed, before throwing themselves to the floor. We had two penalty shouts, one good and one dubious, and there should have been a red card for an all out assault on Dunk. Why none of this was shown I don’t know. The timing of the refs departure from the pitch was unfortunate as the boos for him mixed with the applause for a departing CMS and possibly departing Calde (please don’t go Inigo!). Hughton was in his ear as he left and rightly so.

Other than that, well, we competed. The tactics were right (forcing Watford in to an early substitution), we had more of the ball and much of the territory. We created chances, Joe Bennett going close with a volley and O’Grady with a long range shot that was well saved in the first half. O’Grady narrowly missed with a header in the second and Stephens should have put away a brilliant low cross from Calde, who had also teed up the header. Yet we drew a blank. Worse, we lost as Watford demonstrated why they are top and we should be down. We are still carrying too many passengers and, unfortunately one of them is the club captain. Two of our three centre backs for the day conspired to set up Watford’s opener, a poor header straight up by Halford rolling down Greer’s shin in a display of control that would have disappointed an under nines’ coach, for Deeney to pounce and stick the chance away. Other than that Greer looked lost in the three as his lack of passing and pace was again exposed. I’m really not sure why we extended him but he needs to be a back up next season. We need a young, fresh , skilful centre back a bit like that Cooke chap we let go to Bournemouth. Rea might fit the bill, I’ve not seen him enough, but if we are to play three centre backs then we can’t have two of them liable to comedy moments.

With Watford leading one nil we pushed and pushed them until, inevitably, we pushed too far and they scored a second on the break. I don’t mind this given we were safe before kick off and, as other results came in later, it confirmed Watford’s promotion. Congratulations to their fans who were magnificent. However, if the players are a cynical as that next season they’ll end up as hated as us under Poyet.

By the time the results came in the dinner was in full swing. As I said, it’s been a write off on the pitch but off it I’ve had a blast. At the start of the season I agreed to travel over with another dad from The Boy’s school and his son and we have become firm friends with lots in common. This – friendship and community – is why I started going to football in the first place. Banter in the pub and sticking together on the terraces is my background and we are rediscovering it now as we take our kids. Yesterday they played happily in the pub and ate chicken nuggets (only we were in a gastro place so they were called goujons) and pasta (only it was my daughter so what she actually did was cover it in ketchup and then say “yuk”) while we had a pint and reflected on a poor season and an excellent friendship. Elsewhere I have taken The Boy to his first away game, got heroically pissed in corporate hospitality, ranted emotionally to the official twitter account and left The Cyclist at closing time to find an elderly Leeds fan pissing himself. Some of these things deserve an award. *squeezes klaxon*

End of Season Awards

The Unluckiest Player Award

This year and every year this goes to CMS. Nothing winds fans up more than players not trying. CMS always tries. There are beads of his sweat that are already permanent features of The Amex. Yet never was there a player who I have said “unlucky” to quite so often. First touch – unlucky. Header just missing our player – unlucky. Finishing – unlucky. And, as Barry Fry pointed out, being bought by Poyet and used in completely the wrong way – unlucky. Good luck with your next team Craig, you deserve some.

The Unluckiest Fans Award

I may just “out” myself here but it’s too good a story not to share. The Unluckiest Fans award goes to the two blokes who sit directly in front of me. Against Leeds – our best game of the season – I took a friend whose drinking exploits know no bounds. The second goal went in and said friend – who is not small – lost his balance celebrating. I looked up from my own celebrations to see a game of human dominoes taking place with several large men on their arses looking bemused. It was an old style surge. Apologies and brief Anglo Saxon opinions were exchanged and that – I thought – was that. Until yesterday when The Boy decided to berate the referee with a full bottle of water in his hand. A bottle that had no lid on, soaking the same two blokes. They were remarkably decent about it as I wished for the earth to swallow us up before three rows of fans collapsed in laughter.

The Piss Up In a Brewery Award

Goes to Sodexo who couldn’t organise one. They certainly haven’t organised one in a concourse anyway. Yesterday was a story of “no pies” from all around the ground. I am quite happy to go without eating from 3 to 5 on a Saturday but running out of food at lunchtime or evening kickoffs is criminal.

Wish I Was Here Award

As I sat listening to the radio with a mince pie and a beer just after Christmas it became clear that I really, really should have gone to Fulham. I could have but chose not to, my mojo being at its lowest ebb. That game effectively kept us up.

Favourite Game of the Season

So as I wasn’t at Fulham I have to say Charlton away. First away game for the two boys, cracking atmosphere, a win, the goal right in front of us and funny on very many levels. And we did it sober.

Best Away Fans

Goes to Watford. As noisy as Arsenal without being nearly as nasty.

Fattest Bastard Award

Goes to Steve Evans again.

The Andy D’Urso Award for Refereeing Ineptness

So many candidates. So little column space left. Yet, just when you thought Andy would retain it for the third year running in came Keith Stroud yesterday with a performance of such mind boggling ineptness that a foreign call centre operative was heard to exclaim “at least I’m not as bad as that referee there sir”.

The Wonderful Readers Award

Thanks for reading this season. There are lots of you who read regularly and give excellent feedback. Writing a blog is a weird thing to do. On the one had I enjoy it and get a buzz from chatting with you all on Twitter. I’ve even had comments from a couple of proper writers. On the other hand I get the feeling that if I stood on a soap box outside The Amex after a game and shouted this I’d get pelted with beer. That I’m not metaphorically pelted every Sunday genuinely cheers me up. I’ll hopefully be covering a busy transfer window this summer and adding more Opinion and silly stuff to the site to keep it fresh. Thanks for reading again. Enjoy the summer.

*not actually true

Bournemouth Away 2014/15 Season – Blunderland

Poor Sami.

A rare away report from this blog, given that its USP is home games only (along with brutal honesty and brutal flatulence). I’ve said before that watching on the telly isn’t quite the same as being there  but our performance yesterday didn’t need the sort of close up analysis that being there would have afforded (though if I had been there I suspect the beer would have put analysis beyond me anyway). Very simply three defensive errors equalled three goals, no points and a bit of a downer on my fireworks bbq.

I can only imagine Sami tripped over a black cat and fell head first in to a mirror before the game, such was the level of his luck. His side did many of the things we’ve been  crying out for. Calde was given a much needed rest having run like a trouper in the previous four. Holla came back in, CMS was restored to the bench and COG wasn’t even in the squad. What’s more, earlier that day, came the news that fans favourite Elliot Bennett was back for a month. Initially we seemed tighter at the back and we had more of the ball and more of the territory. It was an entertaining and open game, perfect for watching with a hotdog and a glass of Zinfandel which was lucky, because that’s exactly what I was doing. The Boy who had put his new replica shirt on for the occasion looked hopeful.

Then, inexplicably, Bournemouth were ahead. Defensive howler number one took place as Greer, on his own and under no pressure, managed to head a Simon Francis cross straight in to his own net. It was an awful and glaring error and it gave Bournemouth an undeserved lead.  But wait, what’s this? Within minutes we were level with a goal from a striker! Colunga finished neatly after being put clean through by a wonderful ball by Teixeira. It was the sort of link up the two had threatened during the Charlton home game but rarely since. We were back on terms.

Again this didn’t last long. Bournemouth retook the lead just before half time. At first glance it was a piece of acrobatic brilliance from Pugh who twisted to strike the ball home, aided by a slight deflection. However the one thing you get watching at home that you don’t at the ground is instant replays. The Bournemouth player was able to execute such a finish because he was unmarked and in ten yards of space. He had the freedom of the whole back post portion of the penalty area. Once again our defenders had switched off.

By this point Calde was already back in the fray, an innocuous looking clash doing for Aaron Hughes who had replaced him. It looked like a bad ankle injury and he was stretchered from the ground.

Even then we managed to claw it back. In the second half a route one kick and flick put Baldock through and to his delight he finished perfectly. 2-2. Had I mentioned it was open and entertaining? Boy was it. But we really needed to not make another defensive mistake.

Oh dear. Oh deary, deary me. Bournemouth launched a rare attack but it looked to have petered out, Callum Wilson being forced wide to the sort of angle that only Joe Bennett can score from, when Dunk basically assaulted him for no reason. It was one of those challenges that could have been made in a bad Hollywood movie in slow motion as the hero stood up yelling “nooooooooooooo”, voice lowered by its slowing down. So stupid was it that actual village idiots took a break from chewing straw to wonder if their position was safe. Naturally Bournemouth tucked it away.

And that was it. Everything we had hoped for going forward came off. Two goals, both from the strikers. Lovely, neat, entertaining interplay. Good ball retention. Not too much getting caught on the break. The faults of the Rotherham and Middlesboro games corrected. Only to be replaced with other, more serious faults at the back. Like I said, poor Sami. In one way this strengthened his hand and in another it made the case for the P45 even stronger.

Here’s where we are. One point and one place above relegation. A manager who has now gone twelve games without a win in both his current job and his previous one. It’s like watching a junior programmer trying to fix a badly designed system, Fix this bit here and something goes wrong over there as a result. Fix that and something else pops out.  When the system works the players let you down and when the players try the system fails.

We go in to Tuesday’s game with Wigan – a must win – with a loan keeper who can’t play (and whose lack of familiarity with the centre backs may have contributed to the own goal), Bruno maybe out injured (we can’t be sure because the club won’t tell you any more), Hughes definitely out injured, Greer and Dunk a card each from suspension and Calderon exhausted. And it’s our defence we need to work on now. Make no mistake, from now until May we are in a relegation battle. Are Hyypia and Jones equipped to lead us over the top? And do they have the luck?



Reading At Home – Questions

So this week’s match report will be conducted entirely in question and answer form. Mainly this is because, since I took the seven year old Boy with me, answering questions was all I did all day. His are in italics and are prefixed “Daddy”. They remain unanswered. If you can accurately answer all of his, either in the comments or the NSC thread I’ll start, you win a prize*. Mine are in bold and are answered by me. Get it? No?

<deletes blog and goes back to gardening>

The questions are roughly in chronological order from the time I left the house.

Daddy, how do they get that writing on the bottom bit of the train track and what does the ‘A’ mean?

Daddy, what’s a Fire Door?

Daddy, why isn’t Lua Lua playing?

Daddy, why do half of Reading’s team have black training tops and the other half have white?

(Note, while I couldn’t answer that I suspect the answer is ‘because when you have parachute payments you can’t spend the money quickly enough’)

Daddy, what happens if all the players get injured? Do the mascots get to play?

Now some from me…

Is Jesse Lingard any good?

I believe he’s too good. He’s certainly wasted standing out on the left wing. After perhaps only ten minutes he was already drifting inside looking for the ball and making runs that, while they made certain people in the West Upper drool, could not be picked out by his team mates. However, one such run on 16 minutes led to the opening goal as the much maligned Spanish Dave tried to pick him out and Chris Gunter scored one of the best comedy own goals yet seen at the Amex.

Is Royston Drenthe any good?

Reading’s answer to Kemy Agustien was an annoyance from start to substitution. In my humble opinion a former Real Madrid player tipped to be the next big thing in world football shouldn’t be a mere annoyance but at least he was playing, which is more that he’d done since Boxing Day. Dived more than Tom Daley and wasn’t going to be happy until he’d tried to effect at least two sendings off and a penalty. On the other hand he also scored and the goal showed his Real Madrid quality. He was barely moving yet managed to shape the ball on to his left, create about six inches of space and put the ball straight through it and in to the bottom corner. All in all I was mightily relieved when he went off.

Was Gordon Greer’s first yellow deserved?

Undoubtedly. In fact he was very lucky that La Fondre was near the touchline and we had a semblance of a covering defender. No complaints about the first.

Daddy, what is this burger made of? It tastes a bit funny.

(Again, while I couldn’t answer this I pulled a long face and answered ‘neigh lad, I don’t know’)

Daddy, why does the linesman keep getting the offside wrong? Does he hate Brighton?

Was Gordon Greer’s second yellow deserved?

Now. It’s confession time. The challenge was described by about twenty different people to me but I actually missed the contact because I was bringing said seven year old back up from having a poo. Again this doesn’t happen to Andy Naylor. Luckily there’s the Football League Show. I have replayed the challenge five times to make up for not seeing it live and if that’s a yellow I’m Kylie Minogue on Thursdays. Foul? Yes. A bit silly as he was on a caution? Yes. Actually a yellow? Never. It was obstruction. What I did see – and what annoyed the stripy hordes – was Reading, led by Adkins talking the ref in to giving it. So….

Is the referee’s decision final?

That’s what I was always told when playing junior football. “Get back, there’s no point in arguing” my coach used to say. Clearly he was a fuckwit. Or at least not an ex physiotherapist.

Was a draw a fair result?

I think so. Obviously Reading had the better of it after went down to 10 and McAnuff of all people should have won it for them. However both Buckley and March went desperately close for us and we showed real fight. We didn’t leave a bead of sweat out there in general. Ulloa looked frustrated and Spanish Dave bottled a few challenges (but then he’s there to create goals, not be Norman Hunter) but otherwise it was a top effort.

Could it have been predicted?

Oh yes. Just call me Mystic Meg.

Will Brighton or Reading go up?

Oh no. Reading have now failed to beat a team with eight men and a team with ten men in successive weeks. The last time we scored two and won the game people were a bit worried about the plague. No damage was done to either team but that just shows how weak this league is again this season.

Daddy, why is Peter carrying two beers again?

He just does, son. He just does.

*Nigel Adkins’ new book How to be An Annoying Speccy C**t Called Nigel