First Team 3 weeks ago

Match Report: Watford 0-0 Bournemouth

By Kevin Affleck

Quique Sánchez Flores launched his first spell in charge with three straight draws. He has repeated the trick here now he has his feet under the table to firmly establish a foundation, but the only trouble this time is the Hornets are now ten games in, over a quarter of the way through the season, and wins are the currency the team needs to be trading in.

There was no lack of ambition in trying to beat Bournemouth here in a typical high-octane encounter with the Cherries – eight yellow cards were testament to that – and certainly no lack of effort. This wasn’t a bore draw and a smattering of boos at full-time were a touch harsh.

Everyone is just feeling the frustration that a team with this sort of talent, this sort of depth, somehow remains without a win. Three points, in any size of shape, should, by law of averages, arrive soon, perhaps in the most unlikely of places, and instead of a season that peters out, we might just be in for a thrilling one. It could be strap-yourself-in time.

At least Sánchez Flores has sorted the defence out – that’s now one goal in three games after 12 in his first three – and when the goals start coming, and they should once Troy Deeney gets back to full fitness and provides a spearhead, the team know it might only take one goal to win a game. It’s not all doom and gloom. The team aren’t leaking goals or getting rolled over every week. However marginal, the gradual signs of improvement are there. It’s just we are behind the eight ball and playing catch up.

The Hornets came racing out of the traps and could have been ahead inside a minute. Daryl Janmaat nipped in front of Arnaut Danjuma in a classic piece of high pressing, sparking a move down the right that resulted in Gerard Deulofeu whipping a teasing centre across that fell into the path of Abdoulaye Doucouré. The Frenchman was ever so slightly off balance and couldn't keep his shot down, but it was a hugely promising start. 

Tom Cleverley was at the heart of everything the Hornets did well early on, setting the tone from midfield, so it was a blow when he limped off after nine minutes. He had just made a perfectly executed tackle on Joshua King in the middle of midfield, too. 

The loss of Cleverley, particularly his energy, resulted in a period of adjustment and allowed Bournemouth to, slowly but surely, establish a foothold in the game. They got into their stride and hit the bar with a thumping header from Steve Cook, forced Ben Foster into flying low saves to deny Philip Billing, Diego Rico and then the save of the match to deny Danjuma at the far post. It was one out of the very top drawer, classic Foster. The Vicarage Road crowd loved it. They knew how important that save could turn out to be. 

Sánchez Flores knew his side would feed off less possession and they did their best to make the 41 per cent they had in the first period count on the counterattack, particularly down the right through Janmaat and Deulofeu. They prompted and probed, twisted and turned but the ball just wouldn’t drop for Deulofeu, Roberto Pereyra or Doucouré in the middle of the area. It was helter-skelter stuff towards the end of the half and both teams probably needed half-time to catch their breath.

Whatever was said to Deulofeu during the break did the trick as he was at it in the first three minutes, at his corkscrewing best. He did Steve Cook like a kipper, twisting him one way, turning him another before attempting delicately chip one over Ramsdale. The idea was right, the execution was neat but Ramsdale pulled off a sprawling save.

Sánchez Flores sensed the game was there for the taking and made a surprisingly early attacking change, bringing on Andre Gray for Nathaniel Chalobah and asking Doucouré to sit deeper. It was a bold move by the Spaniard. The switch allowed Pereyra to get on the ball more centrally and slightly deeper and there was a period when he ran the show, dictating the game at his pace. 

Tempers flared briefly in what was a full-blooded game following a challenge by Callum Wilson and it needed some cool heads to restore order and a bit of composure. Will Hughes is one of the team’s more cooler customers and he rose above a bit of scrappy, fractious play to almost find the bottom corner with one left-footed effort from distance. Ramsdale, though, pulled off a fine low save to his left and turned the ball away for a corner. Hughes couldn’t believe he hadn’t scored. Neither could Sánchez Flores who turned to his bench in utter despair.

There was a free-kick from Deulofeu that flashed across the face near the end while Harry Wilson, on as a sub, almost curled a free-kick past a helpless Foster, but that was about it really and a game that promised so much, one everyone had pinned their hopes on winning, fizzled out. There was a bit of despair in the stands at the final whistle, and understandably so in some quarters, but keep the faith. There is still a long way to go and many twists and turns to come. Hold onto your hats.


HORNETS: Foster (GK); Kabasele, Dawson, Cathcart; Janmaat, Chalobah (Gray 58), Cleverley (Hughes 10), Doucouré, Masina (Foulquier 73); Pereyra, Deulofeu

Subs not used: Gomes (GK), Prödl, Mariappa, Quina

Under-23's 3 weeks ago

Under-23: Watford 3-1 Colchester United

Troy Deeney was in the stands to watch the club's Under-23 side come from one down to beat Colchester United at Clarence Park and cement their position at the top of the Professional Development League South Division.

The club captain arrived just after half-time after continuing his rehabilitation from injury at the club's training base in London Colney and proved a lucky omen as Hayden Mullins' team scored twice in the second half in the space of 13 minutes to bag their seventh win in 10 league matches.

"It's brilliant for the lads to see the club captain here," said Mullins. "A lot of the the lads in the first team comment on how the lads are doing when they train with them; Prodl, Capoue and Troy. It's great to see Troy come and watch as he's an inspiration for a lot of them."

Sam Dalby has said how he comes to first-team matches specifically to pick up some tips of the trade from Deeney, so he will have been delighted to score his seventh league goal of the season in front of the watching club skipper. 

"Sam has been doing really well and works hard for the team in and out of possession," said Mullins. "He's getting his rewards at the moment and I'm sure he is very happy with that. His recent goals come from working hard, both individually and as a team."

Joseph Hungbo also has seven for the season, but he showed the other side of his game by creating the first (an own goal) and supplying the pass for a trialist to ram in the third four minutes from time. 

"We didn't start too well today," said Mullins. "It took a goal from them to spur us into life and I was really happy with the way we reacted. We kept the ball really well in a period of play in the first half and played some good football. We got back in it by being patient, which was good as at times in the first half it looked like we were trying too hard. We lost our shape a bit so we spoke at half-time about being patient and waiting for our opportunities."

The win was a notable one as although Colchester are bottom of the table, they fielded 36-year-old Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Freddie Hinds, whose goal knocked the Hornets out of the League Cup a couple of seasons back, and Harry Pell, who has made 32 starts for the first team.

"It's good as it was similar to the test the boys might get in a league game," said Mullins. "Colchester had some experienced players with good league experience and it was really good for our boys. They showed good character to get back in it and they are really taking the information we are giving them on board."

HORNETS: Parkes; Balogun (C), Spencer-Adams, Barrett, Hudson; Hungbo, Whelan, Adebiyi, Bennetts (Cassidy, 75); Hinds (Trialist, 79), Dalby.

Subs not used: White, Lo-Everton, McKiernan.