Here’s Bazza’s report on our sunny day out at Watford
On a beautiful day it was comforting to know that the distance to Vicarage Road was a mere 40 miles and my two sons and I arrived in plenty of time to park in a multi-storey and fall into a pub called The One Bell opposite a lovely church in the town centre. One of the things I love about England is wherever there’s a place of holy worship there’s a public house nearby. In neighbouring Wales, I was told as a young boy that the rule for the number of pubs in a Welsh village is n – 1 where n = the number of churches! Anyway on to the rest of the tale; a nice quiet drink, a chat with a number of fellow noses and it was the short walk down to the ground, a venue I had never visited before. I had a good feeling about the afternoon on the way. I was confident that we would win purely on the grounds that we had to.
Blues started brightly and dominated possession. Loach was kept busy throughout a lively first half which apart from one half chance for them was punctuated with at least half a dozen openings for Blues. The best really clear cut chance fell to Sebastian Larsson on 39 minutes whose smartly taken volley was well saved by Loach. Bowyer also had a fierce drive saved a minute or so afterwards. Their custodian also kept out efforts from McFadden, O’Connor and Johnson. Their midfield was getting outplayed by Bowyer, Fahey and Johnson with the imperious Franck Queudrue and Raidi Jaidi ably assisted by Stephen Carr and David Murphy in the back line not giving Watford a sniff, it was one way traffic. Unfortunately, like so often this season, the breakthrough was proving difficult against dogged but limited opponents. Despite battering the Watford rearguard for the majority of the play the score remained worryingly 0 – 0 at half time. The pattern continued into the second half with Blues kicking towards the faithful massed behind the goal. Watford showed a little more going forward but were always second best despite a spirited display and they could have taken the lead when Rasiak, a second half substitute made good contact with a header that was destined for the bottom corner. Doyle needed all of his agility and his 6 foot 5 inches to divert the effort wide for a corner. A goal here would have been the biggest robbery since the Brinks Matt hold up but it served to show how precarious things can be when you fail to put teams like Watford away when you are on top.
I confess to getting a bit anxious as further half chances for Blues came and went. Kevin Phillips came on for Seb Larsson whose delivery had been below the standards normally set for him and the change struck me as reasonable but was greeted with derision by some of our supporters with mutterings of McCleish not knowing what he was doing. I’m going to upset a few people here by saying that I think he does. He may not always get it right and things may not always work out as we would wish but I would echo the words of a young man in front of me who turned towards some of the detractors and shouted that it was time to get behind the lads not boo! Amen to that! O’Connor was substituted by Cameron Jerome on 70 minutes and there were some ironic cheers by those who were glad to see the back of the Scot. Personally, I thought Gary O’Connor put a decent shift in and gave the Watford back four problems up to the point he went off. He certainly did a lot of selfless running off the ball and pulled their centre halves around. I believe he had softened them up sufficiently for the pacy Jerome to be introduced. He had been on the pitch for three minutes when an excellent through ball by Jonty was seized upon by Jerome leaving Jay DeMerit for dead. He drove into the area but appeared to have been forced wide. Rather than laying the ball off, he turned inside and smacked the ball across goal towards the far corner. The ball took a deflection off the toe of Ross Jenkins. I was dead in line with the flight of the ball as it looped up slightly to find the top corner. The roar of the fans was tangible. A goal is greeted by such emotion and is of a triumphant nature in the most part but there was no doubt that I detected an “OH MY GOD! THANK HEAVENS FOR THAT!” quality to it. I felt that had the goal come earlier we would probably have gone on to score a couple more such was Blues’ dominance. However, this is us and we of course continued on edge for the rest of the game. There was in truth no real scary moments after that but the three minutes of time added on were the longest of my life (not really but I couldn’t think how else to express it!)
A win is a win and on this occasion thoroughly deserved. It is a shame that our chance of the title has finally gone with Wolves win over QPR. They rode their luck as far as I can see but over the season I think we all have to concede that they deserve their reward of promotion and the title. Congratulations to our rivals in old gold and black are in order. We have to make sure we join them by beating Preston next week providing of course that Burnley do their part against Sheffield United on Monday. Hopefully they will as they need a win to cement their place in the play-offs. We need to be fully committed and behind the lads next week hopefully with our biggest gate of the season.