by Dr John Dee on 14/08/08 at 9:14 am
Stood on a Box reports from Watford as Rovers crash out of the Carling Cup.
The M25 was pretty empty at half-past six, the rain stopped just as I left the multi-storey car park (when usually that’s when it starts), then I got into the ground and we could see two perfect rainbows over the other end of the ground. I had a feeling in my West Country water that this wasn’t going to be an ordinary night.
It was a very nice stand in a pretty decent ground, though with an unfinished bit of building which looked like ‘credit crunch corner’. I can’t help but think that it’s only a matter of time before the Mem looks like that, though some would say it would be an improvement.
Vicarage Road is one of those old grounds situated slap bang in the middle of a residential area, which is perhaps why the Watford fans keep so quiet. There was a decent turn-out from the Gasheads, especially for a League Cup round 1 match on a wet Tuesday evening, and they were, as usual, noisy and boisterous.
One large Gashead, sat next to Roger Cooper, was wearing a smart suit with a very bright tie in Watford yellow, which was diplomatic but let the side down a bit I thought. A fry in the ointment, you might say.
After an over-long build up, including an odd sort of a chap on PA, the teams came out and shook hands in the new FA-endorsed format. The bloke next to me said it looks silly and won’t last past this season, and I couldn’t help but agree with him.
We were wearing our new Cowlin blue quarters, which fortunately look just like our old Rovers blue quarters under floodlights, and fielded our current top team of Flapper, The Lord and Fatboy at the back, Alright Aaron and Pipey at the sides, Cams and Dis in the middle with Hughes and Lines running the lines, and Duffy and Lambo up front. I don’t know if Watford fielded their strongest 11 or not.
We kicked off with the usual move, and for the first 15 minutes or so both teams tried to play football. I found it quite entertaining, but it did lack a bit of bite, and the bloke next to me said it was like watching a ‘powder-puff’ pre-season game. I knew what he meant.
Elliot fell over outside our box, the big pudding, but then so did the Watford guy, and it was clear that the players were finding it a bit of a skid-pan. I don’t know if that was why we were standing off them at the back, but I thought that if we continued to give them time and space in our half then they’d make us pay at some stage.
It was fairly well matched, though I thought that Watford had a bit more bite at the front. Flapper pulled a good cross out of the air early doors, and then got down to save a shot. Watford should have scored after one of our clearances bounced off a Rovers face and into the path of one of their forwards, but the bloke’s first touch was with his kneecap and he really made a bit of a flub of it.
For the first 20 minutes or so, they belied their reputation as a physical side, though they seemed to try more and more little digs and shirt-pulls as the match wore on. The manager is apparently trying to get them to play a more fluid style, and my guess is that they are still working on it. They did move it around quite well though, but maybe we should expect that from a Championship side.
Elliot generally looked quite good, making some key interventions, and Aaron Lescott seems to have picked up where he left off last season, looking very composed except for one instance where the Watford winger did him for speed, though Aaron got away with a sly shirt pull. We looked decent though, always confident on the ball and looking to create (the best thing about watching Trolls’ Rovers in my view), and Duffy got a decent shot in near the end of the half.
Towards the end of half-time the heavens opened again for about 10 minutes of tropical rainfall. The Gasheads for some reason struck up with a retro medley which included Ollie Holloway and Ooh Aar He’s a Latvian. A nice touch, I thought.
We dominated more and more as the second half developed, and it was turning into a classic ‘last season’ performance of us playing some very nice stuff but lacking a cutting edge at the front. Elliot wasted a free kick from a very good position, Duffy did almost nothing that I noticed, and Hughes best moment was with a clearing defensive header.
Though it wasn’t clear-but, Watford seemed to be there for the taking if only we had anyone who could do any taking. Riggy ran up and down the byeline in a pair of JKD’s horrible boots (the bloke next to me said that you’ve got to wear black boots nowadays if you want to stick out from the crowd), then Willo came on for Duffy and made an immediate impact in winning a corner. He, at least, seemed to have some understanding with Lambo when he slipped into the old routine of trying to run onto Lambo’s flicks.
Hughes went off too, but whoever replaced him can’t have made much impact as I can’t remember who it was. We were pushing for a winner, but on the 88th minute two of our midfielders made a bit of a muddle, and Watford were clean through. Their guy buried it in the bag, and we finally heard from their fans.
That spared us all extra-time, I suppose, and we weren’t really too bad at all (to be honest, I think I’d be more worried if I were a Watford fan), but it was way too much like last year. Duffy and Hughes looked very poor value based on tonight’s showing, and The Lord is still not back to top form. Lescott looked good, and Elliot looked solid, though he didn’t win all the headers. Frankly, it was a very ordinary night indeed.