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Watford 0 Stoke City 0 – 15/02/2008

Wednesday 19 March 2008 by
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First off, it’s been a while.

There are reasons for this, some too boring to go into here, some to do with me being busy, others to do with me feeling a bit apathetic towards football in general. If you had the misfortune to read any of my earlier postings, you’ll know exactly what I mean…

The Stoke game on Saturday was a welcome shot in the arm for me, although it was something of a double edged sword. On the plus side, it reignited a bit of passion in me and also served as a reminder that Watford can play with pride, belief and a bit of oomph. On the downside, it did make me think that perhaps this year won’t be our year, and if this proves to be the case, sadly we won’t have anyone to blame but ourselves.

However, in the main, this is what Saturday afternoons should be about. A bit of atmosphere both in and outside the ground, controversy, missed chances, pantomime villains and heroes, the lot. All in all, good fun.

I guess the main talking points will be the sending off and the missed penalty.

The sending off
Well, at the time I was beside myself with anger, it looked like an awful, awful decision, and it didn’t take long for the cold facts to make it even more of a cause for concern. Not only were we to play one of the division’s frontrunners with ten men for 70 minutes, but we were also going to be without one of our most influential players for two very tough away games. Let’s hope it doesn’t prove pivotal.

Having seen the replay on Sky, I can sort of see why Styles made the decision, but it really was made with indecent haste, and I remain convinced that a yellow card would have been the most suitable and sensible course of action. Only time will tell how much of an impact Styles’ latest showing against us will have.

The penalty
It was a penalty. It wasn’t as most people thought, for a foul – it was actually for handball, and this is clearly visible on the replay. Soft, and I’m sure were it the other way around we wouldn’t have been happy, but hey, them’s the breaks. As it happens it didn’t matter one jot – the keeper made a good save to his right and that was that. At the time I was quite critical – my brother rightly pointing out that it would have been the perfect penalty “had the keeper gone the other way…”. Hard to argue with that logic really.

Being hyper-critical, Doris did seem to telegraph it a bit, but I have immense respect for Darius and the work he does week in week out for our team, and to shoulder the responsibility for another critical spot kick speaks volumes. Just one of those things Doris, keep your chin up.

The two major incidents aside, Watford could, and perhaps should have won this game. The Stoke stats of zero shots on target and zero shots off-target tell their own story, and the increasing number of tantrums and hissy-fits from Ricardo Fuller tell you all you need to know about the performance of the Watford defence (or of course further evidence of his suspect temperament).

Stoke provided absolutely nothing, and one can’t help but wonder what would have happened had Eustace stayed on. But then again, that is what this season has been all about. A whole load of ifs, buts and maybes.

Things are looking up though, and thanks to the rest of the division succumbing to a whole load of ifs buts and maybes, we still have a decent chance.

Let’s make a decent fist of it.

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