We are staying up. And for that credit is due. Mostly to the players; they kept the spirit, determination and focus that was necessary through the past few months. Jose Riga deserves credit too. He inherited a situation not of his making, helped to keep that spirit going, and achieved an end-result that was all that could be asked for. But tonight I hope one guy is raising a glass to himself, and that’s Sir Chris. It was the values that he helped to install, the players that he chose to bring to the club, that won out in the end. Take a bow Sir Chris, because you deserve it. Along with Jose.
We won tonight because we got the breaks when it mattered, but also because we had players that at crucial moments in a game took things by the scruff of the neck and made something happen. Of course there was a difference in motivation, which is not to say that Watford made it easy. Just that when it came to the crunch Hamer made an outstanding save, Jackson made a run that turned the game, Wilson made a run and delivered a cross – oh, and yes Harriott buried two on his left foot.
This isn’t really a match report. We’ve all been celebrating avoiding the final day dramas – and if Kermorgant can notch a few on Saturday it might be a perfect end: Morrison the worthy winner of player of the year (for his efforts in the past three seasons), Wilson a worthy runner-up, and Kermorgant deserving of the bronze. But a few details.
We set up with a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 depending on how you look at it, with Wilson and Harriott playing either side of Sordell. It offered the opportunity for more down the right side than before, but also nothing for either ‘wide’ man to create much, with Cousins once more in a sort of ‘in the hole’ position. No matter, much depended on how Watford approached the game: on their summer holidays already or in a carefree mood? It proved to be something between the two. Nobody could say they didn’t care, but they didn’t care enough and that counted.
The first half was all about two incidents. First, Harriott had the ball facing the goal and the world and his dog thought, if you’re a Watford defender, don’t let him get the space to shoot with his left. They did. The shot didn’t exactly find the corner of the net, but their keeper was a replacement and it went in. Well taken, but poor defending. Then they had a corner and from it Hamer pulled off what could reasonably be described as the save of the season, somehow scrambling to his right to turn the header onto the bar and safety.
Having grabbed the lead and held it to the break, it was tough to see what might happen next as thoughts of us scoring again tended to fade. We all knew we’d be happy with the final whistle. Again it seemed down to Watford as much as us in a cat and mouse game. And we let them back in. They’ve scored a bucket-load of goals this season and they are, quite frankly, used to scoring. So when Dervite allowed a ball to bounce over his head their guy took full advantage and buried one into the roof of the net.
At that stage, most neutrals would have backed a Watford win. You couldn’t see where a goal for us might come from. Thoughts turned to a draw not being so bad, perhaps allowing us and Blackpool to play out 90 minutes of keep-ball. But Obika came on for Sordell, who had worked hard enough in a tough ask, and one of his first contributions changed the game. He held the ball well and delivered one into the box that Jackson just thought might be his. He made it his, going through the defender’s lunge and then poking it past their keeper. As the scorer of a crucial goal no-one was more appropriate. He made the run, took the chance, and was rewarded.
Now with our tails up and something to defend again, Watford’s discipline went a little. Their spoilt brat of a left-back had previously lost his rag for a while and both the ref and the linesman failed to notice him tripping Wilson in an off –the-ball incident, one about as cynical as it gets. No matter, he was to pick up a yellow shortly afterwards and everyone had taken note. And then Wilson decided to make him pay, by getting down the right and delivering a peach of a cross to the incoming Harriott. He just will never hit a sweeter volley as this one did find the corner of the net.
3-1 and to round things off their guy picked up a second yellow – an iffy one as Poyet had ducked into the ball, but only justice for the one that went unnoticed by the officials. As last five minutes go this was as good as it gets, with few nerves and much to celebrate.
This isn’t the time to talk about what happens next. Suffice to say the players that won us the game tonight take the credit, along with the guy that brought them to our club. I’d quite like to see the team on Saturday made up of those that were brought in to ‘strengthen’ us in January turn out and see what happens. But that would be trite, and unfair on Riga. I can’t sing ‘Jose Riga’s Red and White Army’ but that’s not a reflection on him. Tonight we celebrate and our board should breathe a big sigh of relief, that the spirit that was in the team before they took over survived.