It’s so often the case. After memorable highs, come instantly forgettable lows.
Producing a performance to follow the extraordinary scenes we witnessed at Vicarage Road on Monday night was always going to be difficult, but I suppose it is a measure of how far this squad of borrowed players, youngsters and journeymen have come under Malky Mackay that Saturday’s home defeat to Derby was as disappointing as it was unexpected.
It was a cold day, and the sticky looking pitch was never going to be conducive to free flowing football. Add into the mix Derby’s hard working, tough tackling game plan and an early Danny Graham miss from distance, and it quickly became apparent that it was going to be one of those days.
Credit to Derby. From the first whistle to the last they didn’t let Watford have any time on the ball, and the previously effective Cleverley and Cowie were shut down time and time again. Derby battled, tackled, huffed and puffed, and whilst they didn’t look like scoring, neither did we.
As the game wore on it occurred to me that Derby were doing to us what we have done to so many other teams in recent years, and why so many opposition fans had derided us and our tactics. Effective, most certainly. Enjoyable to watch? Even an episode of X-Factor would have provided a tempting alternative.
Watford didn’t play well, but we shouldn’t be too downhearted. This was a well organised Derby team, desperate for their first away win. As much as it pains me to say it, Robbie Savage was a picture of experience and know how – marshalling the game from seemingly the same spot on the pitch for the entire 90 minutes. Additional footballing know how and niggle came from Lee Hendrie and the much travelled Paul Dickov. Compare the careers of these guys to those of Lee Hodson, Liam Henderson and Ross Jenkins, and you get an idea of what we are up against in this division.
More often than not, our youngsters have proved up to the task this season, and it is for that reason that I doubt many Hornets fans will have trouble moving on quickly after Saturday’s 0-1 defeat. This Watford team has already given us much to cheer this season, and despite the increasing spectre of financial meltdown off the pitch, on the pitch has in the main (unexpectedly) been a joy to behold.
Speaking of which, I can’t close without mentioning last Monday night. 7 December 2009, or “Lloyd-D Day” as it shall now be known.
Since the news emerged that Adrian Mariappa and Lloyd Doyley had been locked in fierce competition to be the first to break their goalscoring duck, the attention of many Watford fans turned from the duos defensive performances to their chances of scoring at the other end. Aidy Mariappa comfortably beat Lloyd in their personal duel, but since then Watford fans have been collectively willing Doyley on, and this season the performances of the team had allowed him to creep ever closer to his first ever goal.
Well, against QPR, it finally arrived. Described by the Sky commentary as looking as if he had been “fired from a cannon” Lloyd Doyley met Don Cowie’s cross with a thundering header and for a couple of seconds everything stopped. The massed ranks of Hornets fans exchanged looks and cautious smiles, seeking confirmation that what they had just seen was real and not some bizarre optical illusion.
Realisation dawned and then – bedlam.
A celebration of joy, of togetherness. A celebration that will live long in the memory of all that were there, and one that reinforces the good feeling that is back at Vicarage Road. A feeling that we are all in this together and are once again pulling in the same direction. There was genuine affection towards “Lloydhino” from fans and players alike, and the noisy, joyous, quite frankly bonkers celebrations felt like a truly shared moment.
Such moments are infrequent in modern day football, and this was an occasion to savour. I am relieved, proud and delighted to be able to leave you with the refrain…”I was there when Doyley scored!”