10/02/2018

Report | West Ham 2-0 Watford

The white-knuckle ride the team have taken the fans on this season continued this afternoon after the Hornets followed up the champagne stuff against Chelsea with a somewhat flat performance against West Ham.

The upshot was a disappointing 2-0 defeat, a result that leaves the Hornets still with a bit of work to do before everybody can really start planning for a fourth straight season in the Premier League. A point here really would have been very welcomed, another small step towards safety. It wasn't to be. West Ham were just that bit hungrier, that bit more desperate for a win.

It was always going to be a tough ask to expect this same group of players to scale the dizzy heights they reached against Chelsea and there was a definitely hangover in the first half. Watford were off the pace and West Ham could have been in front long before Chicharito did eventually score on 38 minutes.

Watford, to their credit, had more of a go in the second half, with the positive Javi Gracia making three attacking substitutions, including a debut for Dodi Lukebakio, but they looked a bit toothless in attack and failed to muster any chances of note from open play. It's now more than six hours since Watford scored on the road. West Ham were a bit more clinical and they made the game safe on 78 minutes with a goal from Marko Arnautovic that will not make for pretty viewing when it's reviewed by the team next week.

Gracia now has the full house from his three league matches in charge of the Hornets, a draw, a win and now a defeat, and the Head Coach will be looking forward to the next fortnight without a game so he can further implement his ideas on the training ground and, fingers crossed, get some of his injured players back.

They could have done with freshening things up here but just couldn't as Gracia was down to the bare 17. They looked a bit leggy in the first and a bit at sixes and sevens when the ball was delivered into the box. They certainly couldn't say they weren't given warning before Chicharito headed in the opener.

They needed a save from Karnezis at the near post to stop João Mario on 11 minutes, were a touch fortunate that Chicharito was ruled just offside when heading in a Mario free-kick and then Karnezis denied Arnautovic from point-blank range. As good as Karnezis's save was, and it was very good, Arnautovic really should have scored.

Arnautovic's blushes were spared, however, when Michail Antonio, who had given Daryl Janmaat a tough time every time he got the ball, sped down the left flank and laid one on a plate for Chicharito to plant the ball past Karnezis. He couldn't really miss.

Watford couldn't really get any rhythm going at the other end, the ball just wouldn't drop for them and they couldn't really get Richarlison and Gerard Deulofeu into the game. The best they could muster was a header after six minutes from Adrian Mariappa that forced a flying save from Adrian and then a grass-cutter from Ètienne Capoue that caused a few Hammers' hearts to flutter. That was about it.

The signs were encouraging at start of the second half. The visitors won a free-kick around the edge of the box and then forced the first corner of the half. This was more like it. Sensing a momentum shift, Gracia sought to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and send on Roberto Pereyra for Marvin Zeegelaar and play the Argentine in the No.10 role. No sooner had he come on than Deulofeu forced a flying save from Adrian with a dipping free-kick.

But the Hornets didn't create much else from open play, despite the raft of attacking options on the pitch, and a long-range effort from inside his own half by Capoue, that went out for a throw-in, kind of summed up their afternoon.

January signing Lukebakio was sent on for his first appearance in a Watford shirt with 17 minutes to go but before he even had time to get his bearings, West Ham put the game to bed. Aaron Cresswell smashed one across the face of goal following a corner and it was spilled by Karnezis. The ball took a couple of ricochets before Arnautovic poked it home from close range. It was all very messy. And it was game, set and match to the Hammers.

HORNETS | Karnezis, Prödl, Mariappa, Holebas, Janmaat, Capoue, Doucourè, Zeegelaar (Pereyra 56), Deulofeu (Lukebakio 73), Richarlison (Gray 82), Deeney. 

Subs not used: Bachmann, Ndong, Carrillo, Mukena

10/02/2018

U23 Report | Watford 3-3 Coventry City

Hayden Mullins' comeback kings were at it again this afternoon, clawing their way from a losing position to salvage a draw in another highly-entertaining game. You certainly get your money's worth watching the Under-23s at the minute.

It wasn't quite on the scale of the 5-5 draw at Bristol City on Monday but Mullins' side again dug deep, recovering from a 3-1 deficit after an hour to grab a point in the Professional Development League game. And they almost won it at the death, too.

It was again some effort by Mullins' side who were without five players out on loan, Louis Rogers who was injured and Lewis Gordon who was training with a Scotland youth team. Joy Mukena, who was on the bench for the first-team on Monday night, was also unavailable.

Ryan Cassidy did start for the second successive match and he was again among the goals, scoring the second with virtually his first chance of the match to take his tally to four in a week. Dion Pereira got the other two, including the first after just four minutes, rifling into the bottom corner with his supposed weaker right foot.

Sixteen-year-old Cassidy has now scored four goals in two Under-23 games

But Coventry always posed a threat. Former Queens' Academy pupil Bilal Sayoud hit the post and the tricky winger then forced a smart save from Sam Howes.

Watford got to half-time with their noses in front but Coventry were back on level terms within five minutes of the restart, Jordan Brown rounding Howes to make it 1-1.

The Sky Blues then took charge and went ahead through substitute Sion Green before extending their lead soon after with a goal from Billy Stedman. It looked, at that stage, like Tuesday's heroics at Bristol City had taken their toll on the young Hornets.

But they kept plugging away, kept having a go and the more direct they went, the more joy they got.  They were given a glimmer of hope on 77 minutes when Cassidy, Mr Johnny on the spot, was again in the right place at the right time to convert a cross from Dennon Lewis. Carl Stewart had launched the counter-attack with a lovely ball out to the right to send Lewis racing clear.

Pereira scored the Hornets' first and third goals

Roaming across the front three positions, Lewis was becoming increasingly influential and he popped up on the left this time to get to the byline and cut the ball back for Pereira, who slammed into the roof of the net on 81 minutes. Game on.

If anyone was going to grab the winner it was going to be the Hornets - and they almost got it, Lewis again getting down the sides and flashing the ball across the face only for Lewis Green to produce a last-ditch interception and prevent Cassidy scoring from close-range. But it wasn't to be and, to be honest, we've had quite enough excitement and drama already this week.

HORNETS | Howes (GK); Eleftheriou (C), Ryan, Jones, Kaikay; Sesay, Charles (Stray, 70), Stewart, Pereira; Cassidy, Lewis.

Subs not used | Gartside (GK), Tricker, Adedeji, Cruz Cabrera.