Neutral football fan Mark Britton went to last night’s match, and we spoke to him straight after the game to get his unique perspective
Vital Watford: Tell us a little about yourself and what brought you to Vicarage Road last night.
Mark Britton: My name’s Mark, I’m an Arsenal fan and I currently live in South Buckinghamshire. I run @_the12thman and freelance write/podcast for a few different sites. Other sports work includes marketing and media for a couple of ex-players.
I go to lots of football, not just Arsenal, in the last 3 weeks alone I’ve been to Chelsea, Wycombe, QPR, Arsenal and now Watford! Can’t get enough!
In all honesty, last night’s game was a late decision, I was at work Monday morning and was flicking through some of the weekend’s highlights. I watched Watford’s destruction of a tough Wednesday side and wanted to see them for myself. I looked on the fixture list and a top level clash was just the one! So I booked three tickets and came down with a couple of friends.
VW: What did you make of the ground?
MB: Well, it wasn’t my first time inside! Around a year ago I drove past around noon midweek and stopped to have a look. One of the big gates at the right of the Rookery was open and I wandered straight through. I was in a suit (work) and had a some architects’ drawings in a folder. Security didn’t even question it!
MB: The ground has a charm to it, the Kop-style banks of the stands behind the goal encourage atmosphere and it’s nice to see the East Stand being completed – hopefully in time for a Premier League Watford! The ground’s surrounding roads could do with a lick of paint and some organisation of human congestion – but you can tell the plans are in place.
Views were good and the leg-room wasn’t an issue (I’m 6ft 3). The atmosphere seemed a little cagey, but with it being a) a huge game, b) a midweek match, and c) freezing cold – it wasn’t a big surprise. It was about the same as any club would be.
VW: What were you expecting before the game?
MB: A tight, cagey affair; I expected Watford to try and impose themselves on the game and Forest to try and have spells of pressure. I didn’t think it would start so open.
I was excited to see Vydra and Assombalonga battle it out as two division heavyweights. I was also nervous at Gomes’s name on the team-sheet.
VW: Who stood out for you over the course of the game then?
MB: Forestieri did. I liked his energy and ambition from the off, he links up well with Vydra and I think his work-rate makes up for what Vydra lacks. Most impressive is his decision making on the ball, when to pass and when to drive. A few times he collected it deep and went past players while getting in front of them to tempt fouls. Excellent in terms of relieving pressure. A joy to watch.
VW: What did you make of the first half decision to book Michael Mancienne instead of sending him off after taking down Matej Vydra?
MB: From where I was (the right hand side of the Rookery) it looked as clear as you can get. Vydra appeared to be one-on-one and it’s outside the box. The fact Darlow gets to the ball before anyone else after the foul speaks volumes of Mancienne’s ‘cover’.
In all honesty, I think the referee bottles it. If that’s a red card I think Watford go on to win comfortably. Bizarre decision by the referee and I’d love to know what he thinks he saw.
VW: Do you think it was a fair result on the whole?
MB: On the balance of play, no. Possession, control, passing – it was all with the home side. Both Forest goals came out of lapses in concentration and weren’t off the back of sustained pressure. The key point for me, and this is where I felt Watford threw points away, was the introduction of Deeney.
Deeney looked leggy, slow, and lacked aggression. He failed to match the tempo that the game required. Worst of all, Forestieri went deep to try and make things happen and Vydra occupied a wide position he hasn’t the discipline to succeed at. From that moment on it was disastrous.
I used to label it ‘the Bendtner effect’ at Arsenal; Wenger would throw on the Dane when we needed something and our players would take the easy route and begin lumping it upfield. Watford controlled the game playing passing football then abandoned it. Worst of all, Deeney barely won a header, and Vydra’s decision making when wide was poor.
VW: Yeah, I tend to agree with you there, and so does Jokanovic it seems. He suggests that in the ‘last 30 minutes we lost a bit of tactical order and tried to win the game with hearts and not minds.’ Whether this had something to do with Deeney coming on specifically I don’t know, but it certainly coincided with his introduction.
MB: Another key point is that Burke wasn’t fouled in the build up to Forest’s second goal, something I watched Karl Henry fail to achieve on Raheem Sterling on Sunday. I hoped this would be fresher in the tactics of managers. Players need to be wiser and learn when a booking is a smart one – I fear Watford miss that ‘old fashioned English centre-midfielder’ who has the nouse to hunt opposition like that, and hopefully it’s addressed soon.
Keeping on the point of the second equaliser, I didn’t think – with a neutral outlook – that the whole ball was out of play on the touchline. Maybe I need to see it again.
VW: I was on the complete other side of the ground for that one, all I can say is a lot of fans in the Rookery and Community Stand, as well as a whole lot of players, were definitely annoyed at that linesman…
MB: Of course, all things considered, Forest should have been down to 10 – it’s an unfair result from that point alone but sadly it wasn’t given; so on the tactical errors by Jokanovic, and the pressure building in the last 15 minutes, a draw was about right. Had Forest sneaked it, it would have been desperately cruel on Watford.
VW: Will you be coming back for another game?
MB: I hope so! £24 for an excellent view of a good football game. Despite the cold we were protected from the elements and Watford do one of the best steak and ale pies I’ve had at a football ground.
VW: Well, I suppose our tickets are certainly better value than Arsenal’s are! Extortionate prices at the Emirates… Anyway, thank you very much for talking to us, and let us know when you’re next back.
MB: Been a pleasure, Hornets! Over and out.