First Team 05/10/2019

Match Report: Watford 0-0 Sheffield United

By Kevin Affleck

Every rebuild has to start somewhere, every project has a ground zero and this might turn out to be the foundation on which Quique Sánchez Flores' return spell is built on.

The Head Coach stripped it back this afternoon, went back to basics, got his ducks in a row, his low block in place and, together with the excellent Christian Kabasele, engineered that all-important clean sheet he has been searching for. It wasn't always pretty and he would have loved a goal at the other end (wouldn't we all?) but this, he will believe, will set the team up for a more consistent crack at getting out trouble. You can't, he will figure, draw 2-2 one week, lose 8-0 the next and then 2-0 the week after that. He needs a solid platform to build on and this could turn out to be the first building block. 

It probably felt like two points dropped given the precarity of the situation and the newly-promoted nature of the opposition, but you get nothing for free in this league and every point is hard earned. It's another point on the board and a first clean sheet since February is not to be scoffed at. It's a start and it's all about small steps at this stage.

The early goal everybody craved, the one Sánchez Flores went to bed dreaming about so nearly arrived on ten minutes. Roberto Pereyra found himself in acres of space down the right after springing the United backline. He had the choice of picking out the virtually unmarked Andre Gray or Danny Welbeck in the centre. He opted for Gray, who was closer to goal, rolling the ball across the face. The 'keeper's dive might have slightly distracted him, but he knows he should have scored from there. He will have expected to and won't need anyone telling him so.

The miss affected him as not long after he half-hit a pass bound for Welbeck and Abdoulaye Doucouré that would have seen either hare clear of the United backline. It was reflective of the sort of half where passes were under hit, overhit and things didn't really flow. There was no rhythm to proceedings. The main task was to get to grips with the new-look defensive system, which altered between three at the back and five at the back depending on your viewpoint. With that in mind, Sánchez Flores would just have been pleased to get to the break with a clean sheet, the first time he has done in the league since he returned. It gave the team a platform.

There were one or two hairy moments, like when Daryl Janmaat stopped a cross reaching Callum Robinson at the far post and when Ben Foster had to be at his most acrobatic to prevent a mis-cued clearance from Craig Cathcart beating him, but the low block by and large did its job, especially with the Blades having nearly 70 per cent possession.

The concession of the ball won't have bothered the Head Coach one iota. He would rather his team play on the break, like they did to almost devastating effect three minutes after the break. Welbeck streaked clear, left his man for dead and bore down on Dean Henderson. He shaped to go one side, went the other only to see Henderson stick out a leg and deflect the ball wide for a corner. It was another big, big chance.

The plans suffered a minor set-back when the decent Sebastian Prödl limped off 11 minutes after half-time. If that was an enforced change, there was nothing enforced about the decision to swap Gray with Deulofeu, though. Sánchez Flores sent for the former Barcelona man personally, summoning him back to the dugout just before the hour. Now was the time for his fellow Spaniard, he felt.

He did the same 16 minutes later in abruptly ending the warm-up of Ismaïla Sarr and ushering him back to the bench. He sensed, with the game opening up, this was the moment for the Senegal international. The chances you hoped would come the way of the big-ticket players never really materialised. Deulofeu fizzed and sparkled and added some dynamism but he didn't really see enough of the ball.

The one big opportunity fell the way of Craig Dawson in injury time, a header from just over six yards out, but it summed up the way things are going right now that Henderson was equal to it. It was a save that preserved a point for the Blades and they, given the fact the Hornets created three golden chances, were definitely the happier of the two sides with that result. 


HORNETS: Foster; Janmaat, Cathcart (C), Prödl (Dawson 56), Kabasele, Holebas; Cleverley, Doucouré, Pereyra; Gray (Deulofeu 59), Welbeck (76). Subs not used: Gomes, Chalobah, Hughes, Femenía

First Team 04/10/2019

Match Pack: Watford v Sheffield United

As the Hornets prepare to host Sheffield United at Vicarage Road in the Premier League, here is everything you need to know about the fixture...


INFO

Watford v Sheffield United
Premier League
Vicarage Road Stadium
Saturday October 5, 3pm BST

OFFICIALS

Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistants: Simon Long, Peter Kirkup
Fourth official: Tim Robinson
VAR: Martin Atkinson
Assistant VAR: Harry Lennard


TEAM NEWS

The Hornets go into the game with a fully fit squad, with the exception of captain Troy Deeney who continues to recover from an operation on his knee in August.

The Blades will be without David McGoldrick, who remains unavailable due to a groin injury, but Billy Sharp will be back again having served a three-game ban for a red card picked up against Southampton.


OPPOSITION FORM

Having won automatic promotion from the Championship last season, Sheffield United have started this Premier League campaign brightly. The Blades currently sit 12th in the table with eight points from seven games, and felt unfortunate to lose 1-0 to Liverpool at Bramall Lane last time out. Missed chances from the hosts and a mistake from goalkeeper Dean Henderson were all that stood between Chris Wilder's side and an upset.


HEAD TO HEAD

Overall:

Won 13, Drawn 11, Lost 19

Last Six:

Mar 2011: Watford 3-0 Sheffield Utd (Graham, Taylor, Jenkins) (Championship)
Oct 2010: Sheffield Utd 0-1 Watford (Sordell) (Championship)
Feb 2010: Watford 3-0 Sheffield Utd (Cleverley, Helguson, Cowie) (Championship)
Aug 2009: Sheffield Utd 2-0 Watford (Championship)
Jan 2009: Watford 0-2 Sheffield Utd (Championship)
Sep 2008: Sheffield Utd 2-1 Watford (O'Toole) (Championship)


GOLDEN FLASHBACK

January 5, 1985 — Watford 5-0 Sheffield Utd: The biggest winning margin between the two sides came in the FA Cup under Graham Taylor in January 1985. Luther Blissett scored four goals and Les Taylor also netted in a convincing win for the Hornets, who had reached the competition's final the previous season.


PLAYED FOR BOTH

Robert Page

The Wales international made over 200 appearances at centre-half for Watford from 1993-2001 and was a vital part of the side which achieved back-to-back promotions to rise from Division Two to the Premier League under Graham Taylor. Page joined Sheffield United in 2001 and made over 100 appearances in three seasons for the Blades.

Stewart Scullion

Three seasons and 57 appearances at Sheffield United were sandwiched between two impressive spells at Vicarage Road for Scullion, who played over 300 times for the Hornets. The skilful winger was influential under Ken Furphy – who also managed Sheffield United – during the 1960s and 70s and helped the club earn promotion to Division Two. He also played in the same side as Keith Eddy, who turned out over 100 times for both clubs.

Darius Henderson

The forward scored 15 goals to help the Hornets rise to the Premier League during the 2005/06 season and was a vital asset up front alongside Marlon King. Although he scored just three times during Watford’s season in the top-flight, Henderson netted on 13 occasions when the team returned to the Championship before joining Sheffield United. He scored 20 goals in three seasons for the Blades but was sent off on his return to Vicarage Road in 2011. In the same game Lee Williamson, another former Hornet, was also sent off for Sheffield United and the Hornets went on to win 3-0.


WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?

Quique Sánchez Flores:

“We are no longer preparing matches, we are preparing finals. It is like this, but I am really happy with the response of the players at the training ground.

“The players want it, they are training very hard and know they need to try harder if we want to improve. But all of us are conscious about the situation, the situation is not good, at the moment we know. But the positive thing is we have many matches to play, many finals. We have chances.

“If we get good results we are able to change the situation and this is the first opportunity we have this week. We know the opposition will be very tough, they are really good, but we have the necessary players, the necessary squad, to win.”

Chris Wilder:

“This is another difficult game. I think one of their players said no disrespect to Sheffield United but they expect to beat us and they should be expecting to beat us. We're bookies' favourites to go down.

“From our point of view it's the same us, same performance with and without the ball. Nothing changes in our approach to the game, we're going to have to defend very well and be solid.

“Who's to say Watford can't win the next four, five six games and push themselves into the top half. Any club that doesn't pick up points at the start of the season or goes through a period won't improve their table position, and that includes us.

“I respect Watford in terms of what they've done over the past two or three years, cup finalists, and sometimes it happens and you just don't get out of the traps.”


TICKETS

Tickets for Watford supporters are still available. Paper tickets will need to be collected in person from now - supporters can buy online (until 10am on matchday), over the phone by calling 01923 223023 or in person at the Ticket Office.