Team: Cerny, Ramage, Gorkss, Tosic, Leigertwood, Buzsaky (Oastler), Faurlin, Ephraim, Taarabt (Cook), Vine, German (Simpson).
Subs Not Used: Putnins, Brown, Parker, Priskin.
This could also be called a ‘season of two halves’. As we all know, the corresponding game at Watford earlier in the season ended with Buzsaky getting all the headlines and not for his on-field performances. Last night, he’ll get all the headlines in what was an awful spectacle for both sets of fans. This game, re-arranged from back in February due to monsoon type weather, was played out on another bone hard surface like the Cardiff game on Saturday. Two changes from Saturday saw Antonio German replace the out of form Jay Simpson, and Rowan Vine replaced the never was in form Tamas Priskin. Cerny was protected by the same back four as Saturday, with a midfield of Ephraim, Buzsaky, Faurlin and a man in gloves. Watford also made two changes. Thankfully Jay DeMerit was injured as we never get anything out of him, particularly in the air. Unfortunately, he was replaced with the even taller Martin Taylor.
We started off well with Akos buzzing around the edge of the box, playing some lovely passes alongside ‘man in gloves’, who also was spraying some lovely passes to all parts of the pitch. On 2 minutes, an inch perfect corner by ‘MIG’ to Akos lurking on the edge of the box, was volleyed goalwards only to swerve wide with the keeper having it well covered. Then on 6 minutes, Akos had our second shot, a 30 yard free kick from dead centre of midfield. He feigned to cross into the box, then at the last second, hit a shot straight as an arrow, forcing the keeper to go down to his left and palm the ball away.
Shortly after, it was Faurlin’s turn to have a pop, with his 25 yard shot sailing over the bar. These first 15 minutes had seen German showing some lovely touches as he turned Taylor inside out on a few occasions. Vine was looking lively, making some good runs to create space for German and the midfield. The midfield were playing some lovely passes in and about the Watford rearguard and our defence, marshalled by Ramage, were never in any danger. The ball was being played about the pitch on the deck and the Watford players were mere spectators along with 2,200 (approx) fans in the School End.
On 16 minutes, Lee Cook warmed up down the touchline and the away fans awoke from their slumber and to a man loudly abused him. It’s been six years, get over it ! Then for the next 20 minutes, Watford began to get more and more possession and three of our players, the two upfront and ‘MIG’ (who had taken a knock), hardly touched the ball in this period. Our back four were now being employed to clear anything that came their way, which they did very comfortably. The only incident of concern was when Watford broke into our box and Ramage had to show his experience and use his body strength to shepherd the ball back to Cerny with Henri Lansbury breathing down his neck. Watford time and time again were caught offside, with Lansbury being the main culprit, I think I counted him being caught six times in the 1st half alone.
On 32 minutes, we created another chance, but Ephraim’s 20 yard shot sailed high and wide when he should’ve done better. Then on 37 minutes, following some neat play between Faurlin and Vine, Tosic burst into the box and went down under a needless challenge. Watford fans were up in arms, but then they had been up in arms at every single decision not given in their favour from the word go. It was at this time that ‘MIG’ decided it was time to spit his dummy out when he demanded to take the penalty. He had to be calmed down by Vine, did his customary ‘take me off’ gesture to the bench, then went and stood 20 yards from the edge of the box as Buzsaky stepped up and buried the penalty, giving Loach no chance. It was only our second shot on target, and both were by Buzsaky. Three minutes later ‘MIG’ got his wish as he was replaced by Lee Cook. I honestly believe the knock he took had affected his game, but mysteriously it was only an issue once Buzsaky had won the pointless argument on who our penalty taker is. How was he supposed to take a penalty if he was injured ? Half-time 1-0
The 2nd half started with Watford making two changes in personnel and a change in attitude and effort. Luckily for us their application was as poor as it was in the first period. Despite their increase in possession, Watford only created a couple of chances. The first one, on 64 minutes, saw Ramage miss the ball as he attempted to clear 30 yards out, leaving Sordell to run down the left wing and put a peach of a cross on the head of Graham on the 6-yard line, who somehow put it 10 yards wide. It was certainly a lucky escape.
On another occasion, a scrappy half chance ended with Cerny clearing with his feet. And we certainly hadn’t helped the situation by deciding that due to the ban on flights in the UK’s airspace, we would now occupy the area below the ozone layer by just lumping the ball skywards. Even Faurlin joined in. And seeing as I sit in the back row of the Lower Loft, I rarely saw the ball as I have a low roof obstructing my view of the clouds. Some may say I was one of the lucky ones. The only thing of note I can remember in the 2nd half for our benefit, was when Vine, coming in from wide right, put a slide rule pass into the feet of Simpson, who had replaced German on 73 minutes. He was in the inside right position at an angle and as the keeper narrowed the angle, he forced him into a fine save and the ball was cleared to safety. That was basically it as we held out for the 3 points in a scrappy, awful game of football.
I thought the game was a microcosm of our season overall in general. Started off brightly, looking comfortable in all positions, then being reduced to a shambolic mess at times. And just like the volcanic ash hanging like a dark cloud over this country, I believe a huge dark cloud has disappeared that was hovering over our club. It’s still not fully clear, but things are looking a lot brighter than they were six months ago. This season can’t end too soon. I wish last night’s game had ended sooner. Thirty eight minutes would’ve been fine.
Player ratings: Cerny 7, Leigertwood 6, Gorkss 7, Ramage 8, Tosic 6, Ephraim 6, Buzsaky 7, MIG 6, Faurlin 6, German 6, Vine 6. Subs: Oastler 6 (for Buzsaky 71 mins), Cook 6 (for MIG 41 mins), Simpson 6 (for German 73 mins).