Watford at Home 2017/18 – Happy Christmas

23rd December, Portslade, 2am. Several adults who should know a lot better by now are attempting to leave an 80s disco together. I’m vaguely trying to issue instructions but I might as well be talking Swedish. It’s possible it is Swedish. No good, it’s like herding cats. The last time a big group of people talked such nonsense there was a referendum a week later.

23rd December, Portslade, 7 am. The children in my house wake me up. All the children. Noisily. Yep, I was going to have to do the Watford game hungover, sleep deprived and ever-so-slightly grumpy. It had better be good, I thought.

Probably the last thing you need in that sort of condition is to get on the train and bump in to the Honey Monster and Luigi from Mario and Luigi but that’s what happened. “Sit next to the Honey Monster” I told The Boy, probably for the first and last time. These were Watford fans in fancy dress, proper fans who’d been around the block a bit with a real injustice complex to go with it. “How many times is Knockaert going to dive?”. “How many players will Watford have sent off today?”. Then they told me they were shit and we’d win easily. I replied it was highly unlikely we’d take any of our chances. It was nearly all so prophetic.

In the stands there was a forced change. Out went Steve with a chest infection. In came Gareth, a man who once tried to play his own game of human dominoes from the top of the West Upper. Changes on the pitch too. Goldson in for the suspended Duffy, Hemed up top. Meanwhile Suttner had beaten Bong at Christmas Top Trumps and got to start at left back. The game started and we charged out of the blocks

So complete was our early dominance that anyone watching who hadn’t seen the rest of our season would have assumed a goal was coming any minute. Groß was finding a lot of space in between their lines. Knockaert, to a chorus of boos from the away end, was seeing a lot of the ball out wide. March was seeing even more of it, though mostly losing it. Goldson made an early mark on his Premier League debut with a crunching tackle and it was he who really should have opened the scoring with a free header from a corner straight at Gomes. Individual mistakes in front of goal were once again costing us. Knockaert twisted and turned and was free to cross in yards of space when he tried to beat his man once again to a howl of frustration from the West Stand. “He’s gonna cry in a minute” sang the Watford fans. We just wanted him to score, knowing the celebration that would follow, but instead, when he got free on his left peg he hit a weak shot straight at the keeper. Half time came. 0-0 despite our domination.

Unlike Burnley, though, we kept up our domination in the second half. In fact we made even better chances – and missed them again (what’s better than a penalty you ask? A free header from 2 yards, Mr Dunk, or a shot from three Mr Hemed). Again March saw a tremendous amount of ball and gave it away a tremendous amount. Just like Knockaert he had a perfect chance to cross but wouldn’t because he forgot his right foot was attached to his body. Yet, in the middle of all this we actually took one of the harder chances. Groß went wide left, cut inside by himself and shot low. Gomes should have saved it but parried it under his body and in. Everyone went bananas. Everyone.

Three minutes added on at the end and everyone was thinking “don’t mess it up” or words to that effect when we did. Ryan – who’d been excellent up till then – dropped a cross and Watford missed from a yard out, proving at least that we weren’t all that special when it came to in front of goal bloopers.

One nil at the end though and it felt like a cup final. All the players (except Izquierdo who’d been given a 30 second cameo) stayed out and soaked up the cheers. And for all the whinging about missed chances we WERE excellent. Groß put in a huge shift, Propper and “Sideways” Stephens broke up the play and Goldson – and just take this in for a moment – in his first Premier League game and his first game back from heart surgery, was fantastic. Duffy may not get the shirt back.

Other observations? Suttner was marvellous and should start going forward. Watford were niggly. Not filthy but bloody annoying, No wonder they get cards. We need a clinical finisher and God only knows how much that will cost at this level. But we’re more than surviving. Half the games (though Watford twice and Chelsea not at all) and we are 12th and on target for the magic 40 points. For a sleep deprived, hungover man this was the best Christmas present of all. Have a good one everyone.




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

Fight Follows Light on Fright Night – Watford at Home

Jekyll and Hyde. Beauty and the Beast. Esmeralda and Quasimodo. Just six characters that no one dressed up as on Fright Night. But there were more than a few scares before the end of a match for which those characters are the perfect metaphor.

The St Jude Storm that battered Southern England for about half an hour on Monday morning, leaving my neighbour’s front garden in pieces and pictures of upturned chairs all over twitter also accounted for the total cancellation of the trains during the morning rush hour. Trees were cleared from lines, tracks cleared and an emergency plan was enacted. That emergency plan being, presumably, to sit around drinking tea while Network Rail finished the tree clearing job, rather than planning for what went after. Long after the final big gusts blew trains were being cancelled randomly like some small child had been let loose on the timetable with a red marker. I didn’t get the train and neither did Scoffers, which is a good thing as, when we arrived, the Amex was half deserted. There were therefore very few people around to hear his “Inigo Calderon should be renamed ‘Cauldron’ for the evening” gag. Ha ha. Sigh.

But if Mr Barber had missed a trick in not ordering hundreds of commemorative t-shirts bearing our reserve right back stirring up a spell while clutching a cat, it seems Oscar has missed a trick in making Senor Cauldron our reserve right back. Kick off was put back to 8pm to cope with the train SNAFU and it appeared that Bruno had spent the extra 15 minutes having a stereotypical siesta. One he was still indulging in on the pitch. It didn’t help that Watford took the lead after only four minutes. A deflected long range strike may be considered an unlucky way to go behind but it isn’t if you don’t do the basic job of closing down the man with the ball. We allowed Watford to fire at Will which was a little harsh as after that he became our most dangerous player.

With Bruno going in the book early and some fairly flaky distribution from both him and Andrews, as well as JFC looking frankly lost, we still somehow clawed our way back in to the game by way of finding Buckley by any means necessary. The former Watford player was enjoying himself and, for once this season, the crosses were matching the dribbling and pace. One particular scamper down the right led to a tremendous headed chance as the ball threaded through Watford’s three centre backs but Almunia made a fantastic reflex save. I’m sure he never did that for Arsenal.

Too often, however, Watford looked dangerous on the break. The side that gave Poyet’s team a footballing lesson last December may have been shorn of some of it’s dodgy loanees (noticably the magnificent Vydra) but they were still pretty pacy. Too often we were second to the ball. Too often we over complicated our passing. Too often the midfield went missing. Barnes and Buckley apart the feeling at half time was that we had under performed somewhat. Mind you this is the opinion of two blokes who saw the delayed kick off as an opportunity to have an extra pint and tell Fright Night gags.

What would have been a disaster would have been if we had got sliced open immediately from the restart and gone two down. So of course that was exactly what happened. Only a referee I had been berating for over fussiness and under-punishing a late challenge on the Pole in Goal in the first half suddenly became my favourite man on the field. Watford whipped the ball round our static defence but PIG got a touch to the finish and Greer cleared off the line. Then he didn’t. Then he did again. During the ‘didn’t’ bit the Watford fans and 60% of NSC responders saw the ball cross the line but the officials were convinced that the whole of the ball had not crossed the whole of the line and it stayed 0-1.

We woke up. I’m not sure yet if that moment is a turning point in what has been a wretchedly unlucky season but it was a turning point in the game. Barnes MARAUDED. The previously derided Bruno now linked up effectively with Buckley, doubling the threat down our right that had already been our best feature. Ok he also committed a foul that could have seen a penalty and sending off on another night but, that apart, it was the Bruno of old. We finally saw flashes of why we’d signed Conway. The midfield energised itself. And, glory of glories, we equalized with a simply stunning finish from from that man Crofts again following a dangerous corner. Whatever you think of Oscar he has revitalised Crofts, considerably to our advantage.

This being fright night there was still time for one last scare as we needed to clear off our line again but a much improved second half performance secured a draw that would have been a fair result but for the disputed ‘goal’. 1-1 to a team that took us to bits last season with the injury list we have at the moment is fantastic.

At Falmer station afterwards I saw a skeleton. Finally someone had joined in I thought. It turned out to be a bloke who’d been waiting for a direct train to Eastbourne.