1. Separated at the joints.
2. Out of joint; dislocated.
3. Lacking order or coherence
Ah Christmas, a time for busily trying to cobble together enough money to buy a seemingly endless amount of presents, a time for wandering around various towns desperately trying to judge hundreds of items through the eyes of a female, a time for worry, panic and the occasional seeing of friends and family. All of which means that this recap of Saturday’s buzz-kill will be a bit shorter than usual – which is fine, because it was rubbish.
‘Twas Aidy Boothroyd, he of 2006 promotion fame, who pronounced his Watford side’s 3-1 loss at Coventry in September of 2005 as ‘the best result of the season’. This was, of course, the at-that-point bubbly and always-positive Boothroyd putting a good spin on a poor result, but his point still stood – good starts to the season mean very little and that if you start to think you’re invincible, you’re destined for a fall.
I’m sure many Watford fans were approaching this game a bit more guardedly than usual, given Hull’s league position, and it is encouraging that despite playing so bloody awfully we could have, on the balance of chances (hitting the post, couple of goal line clearances and what not), got ourselves a point, but nevertheless, defeat might hold back a few from arranging their ‘Champions 12/13’ collage just yet.
To the game then. It was a match that won’t live long in anyone’s memory: Hull dominated our three man midfield, completely stifling our creative output, but did not create much themselves, leading to a pretty tedious first half. Watford were missing the silky link-up in the middle third that we have become so used to over the last few months.
No doubt, Hull’s bodies in the area contributed to this, diminishing space and cutting out passes with regularity, but almost all of the Watford players were not at the races. To say that the midfield were not on the same page is putting it lightly: while Mark Yeates was mouthing his way through the prologue of Twilight, Nathaniel Chalobah was finishing off Thus Spoke Zarathustra (judging by my girlfriend’s swooning, Marco Cassetti was probably busy by the corner flag penning his own version of Casanova’s memoirs). In the opening stages, several simple passes went astray and Manuel Almunia rolled a goal kick straight to a Hull attacker – setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Teams have come with bulky midfields before, and though the horrors of being completely shut down by Paul Jewell’s Ipswich still haunt my dreams, I thought that we had moved on, become savvier and had learnt to take a step back to take two forward. On Saturday, however, there was no patience; the defence didn’t calm down proceedings by getting their foot on the ball, playing around a bit and waiting for the gaps to develop in front of them. Instead, it was played directly into midfield, where it was quickly lost.
Meanwhile Almunia was having his first shocker in a Watford shirt. I counted three occasions where goal kicks played short ended up right at the feet of the opposition, and a few more quick throws to try and ignite counter attacks that just heaped pressure back on the defence. For the first goal he was beaten by a fine Corry Evans effort from the edge of the area that rebounded off the crossbar, but should have done much better with the weak header from Sunderland loanee David Meyler that he dove past as it looped into the middle of the goal. Joel Ekstrand, who has looked assured in the most part so far, should also have done more to challenge Meyler, who got his head to the ball unimpeded.
It was Ekstrand who was sacrificed by Zola at half time, with Cassetti moving to centre half to accommodate for the more direct Ikechi Anya at wing back.
The second half was a bit better. The bulk of play was certainly migrating towards the Hull goal. A goal up away to the form team in the division, Hull were not hell-bent on having a football match in the second half, eating up as much time as possible by writing around on the ground and kicking the ball away with regularity. In their defence, I would have expected it from my own team in their situation, though the referee did little to control the game management.
The second goal presented a microcosm of Watford’s failings: Fitz Hall controlled sloppily on the edge of the area and in trying to recover the situation scythed down the lurking attacker. Robbie Brady struck the free-kick well, hitting the crossbar, only for the ball to cannon back into Almunia’s flailing arm and into the goal.
To Zola’s credit, he did not give up, and made more attacking substitutions, bringing Alex Geijo on for Hall and Almen Abdi on for the ineffective Daniel Pudil. For the last fifteen minutes or so, Watford lined up with a 2-3-5 formation, one that did not cause the excellent Tommie Hoban any issues, but which did not prevent a glut of chances itself.
A goal was clawed back when David Stockdale completely bottled a challenge with Troy Deeney who slid onto a through ball from Abdi to roll the ball off the post and into the back of the net.
There wasn’t really much more to it than that, Watford didn’t play well, Hull did. It could be that this knockback is good for us at this stage of the season, that we know that we have to go into games expecting a battle. This could be a defining game of the season, or it could be completely forgotten within a week or two (you’ve probably already forgotten it).
Almost certainly the latter.