A review of last season month by month…
January really was a mixed month for Watford; who on one hand, provided two memorable victories which offered hope they could play a part in the automatic promotion race but equally saw disappointing defeats which indicted there was still an inconsistency which would ultimately see them miss out on promotion.
The new year started with a fantastic game but disappointing defeat when Charlton Athletic visited Vicarage Road on New Year’s Day. The seven goal thriller which ebbed and flowed saw the Addicks take the points after winning the game 4-3. The game saw Gianfranco Zola make a number of changes as his rotation policy got into full swing. Despite taking the lead through Daniel Pudil’s first goal for the club, Watford’s inability to defend set pieces saw them go into the break behind after thanks to a Tommie Hoban own goal and Yan Kermorgant. Watford did kick up a gear after the interval and turned the game around after an Almen Abdi penalty and a strike from Alex Geijo. However the set pieces came back to bite as Kermorgant again and Johnnie Jackson struck to see Charlton take the points.
There was some light relief for Watford on the first Saturday in January as they went to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City in the FA Cup Third Round.
A 3-0 defeat was a respectable score as City progressed to round four although things could have been different if Fernando Forestieri had buried a chance when through on goal at 1-0. The game was notable for the fact Jonathan Bond was thrown in at the deep end deputising for the injured Almunia, just his second start of the season. Also returning was John Eustace making his first appearance since the opening day at Crystal Palace after a back injury.
Watford went on their travels again the following Saturday this time to The Riverside, Middlesbrough to take on Tony Mowbray’s promotion chasers. It was a game which saw the Watford defence stand up to lots of first half pressure from Middlesbrough with Lloyd Doyley and Joel Ekstrand in particular excelling. Watford then did what they had become renowned for. Matej Vydra gave Watford a first half lead on the break after a mistake by the Middlesbrough defence. Vydra settled it late on in the second half with another clinical finish although Scott McDonald pulled one back for Borough.
The following week the snow came, meaning Watford puts its faith in their fans to sufficiently clear the pitch of snow for the game to go ahead against Huddersfield Town at Vicarage Road. The supporters` efforts were rewarded with a resounding 4-0 victory and the goal of the season.
Watford had struggled to break through a stubborn Huddersfield defence but a Troy Deeney penalty on the stroke at half time saw the floodgates open. Another brace from Matej Vydra put the result beyond doubt before Cristian Battocchio scored one of the goals of the season rounding off an excellent passing move.
The Hornet’s excellent form continued the following Saturday with a 3-0 victory at Nottingham Forest in the short lived reign of Alex McLeish. Watford again produced an excellent counter-attacking display with the link up between Troy Deeney and Vydra a particular highlight. Deeney scored one and Vydra two of Watford’s three that afternoon as they cemented their place in the playoff places.
However, that good form would not last until the end of the month as a cold and wet Tuesday night at Bristol City saw a much changed Watford side come unstuck, losing 2-0. Watford made a number of changes to their team including disrupting the in form striking partnership, but it was defensive deficiencies which saw Bristol City take all three points.
It was the first but not the last time Watford came unstuck in this fashion…