For our fourth installment we’re making a chronological leap to the final day of the season. That is to say the final final day of the season. It was a day that didn’t live up to its billing, in any respect, but the match itself was reward for an extraordinary season, and did still have one thin strip of silver lining…
4) Lloyd Doyley’s Defending at Wembley (27.05.13)
Considering that it was the high-profile culmination of such a fantastic and unexpected season, the Play-Off Final – “the richest game in club football”, played in front of 80 000 people, at the Home of Football© – doesn’t offer up too many nominations for Moment of the Season. It was a classic case of ‘it’s the journey, not the destination’, as a tired Watford side served up a tepid defeat after ten months of swashbuckling entertainment.
There was one aspect though, that in a way bookended the season to reflect the way that for many it started. Sunday August 5th saw some 9 000 Watford fans descend upon Vicarage Road for the first time since the Pozzos chucked down a ‘Benvenuto’ doormat outside the office. We were there to honour the man who refused to change over a decade of tumult. Once more, however, after a fairly dull 1-0 defeat to Spurs, there were doubts that Lloyd Doyley would find a place in a reinvigorated and potentially-attractive Watford side.
We needn’t have worried.
Going into the Wembley final, Lloyd was the first name in the back three. He may not catch the eye quite like Marco Cassetti, Joel Ekstrand may trump him with the occasional blinder, but of the three he is the best all-round defender.
It showed as Ekstrand was kept occupied by Aaron Wilbraham and Cassetti was torn asunder by Wilf Zaha. Lloyd without a modicum of fuss mopped up most of the danger, flung himself at any loose ball in the area and generally kept the Horns in the game.
The moment that manages to yank the final into the Top Five list came in the 80th minute, when Wilbraham was once more played in with an incisive ball through the Watford back line.
It may be a personal thing, because watching the Sky recording back later, the feat seemed less impressive, but from our angle behind the goal, Wilbraham was well away. Finally, he would beat Almunia. But there, appearing from nowhere like a ghostly baby dinosaur, was Lloyd. He caught up with and effortlessly glided in front of the striker, before taking the ball away from danger and intricately skewing it into the crowd.
There, late on in a losing effort and with our backs to the wall, Lloyd had given us another reprieve. I was ready to surrender, ready for the decisive blow, but in swept Lloyd, in his eternal uncomplicated style. He gave me hope.
It wasn’t the most desperate or heroic defending, but then that’s not Lloyd. Everything was going against us, but with Lloyd, and behind him Manu Almunia, looking so unflustered when all around him was crumbling, all wasn’t lost.
Until it was, of course.
There wasn’t a lot to take away from Wembley, but the display that Lloyd – the sole remnant from our last Play-Off final (you may remember him getting booked for committing two foul throws in a row) – was a rare highlight. It was a superb, if ultimately fruitless, culmination to the testimonial year of a Watford legend, and a bloody good defender.
Join us again tomorrow for the final installment, you’ll never guess what it is.