Goalkeeper Richard Lee and wideman Jobi McAnuff have suddenly emerged as key players in Watford`s promotion bid, having been promoted from being bit-part men in the impressive start to the season.
Once again the unlikely Hornets duo played a huge role in Watford`s solitary point against an impressive, and at times, rampant, Cardiff City.
For much of the 90-odd (?) minutes, this was Boxing Day football at it`s best but certainly not Aidy Boothroyd’s boys at their best (the VitalWatford boys are definately sick of turkeys now after seeing what was served up by those headless chickens in yellow for much of this clash).
Cardiff, struggling near the foot of the league, were by far the better side for the large majority of the game and had they had a cutting edge to match their free flowing football would have notched up 5 or 6 on another day. Unlike Watford their passing was precise, crisp and 9 times out of 10, accurate to the feet of a on-runner in blue.
Watford gaffer Boothroyd evidently hasn`t learnt from the win of Sheffield Wednesday last week. To break the habit of his coaching career, Boothroyd`s side played wide – knocking the ball to the wingers on every occasion without really threatening the Bluebirds fullbacks. McAnuff and Smith`s combined talents were utilised, today but the end product was disappointing.
Lump it up the middle. O`Toole was a pioneer of this unsuccessful tactic and sadly paid the price for it with his early replacement.
The first half change was perhaps a reaction to going one-nil down as Roger Johnson nonchalantly headed the ball past the unsighted Richard Lee to give the Bluebirds a priceless lead from a set-piece routine that caused havoc in the Watford box.
“Same old, same old” you would have been forgiven for thinking. Having not won at home in five, the odds were stacked against a Yellow leveller.
Despite that, it came, after a string of chances and a spell of Hornets pressure early in the second half. New club captain Jay DeMerit was the man to profit from Matt Jackson`s intelligent flicked on header leaving the Yankie centre half with the task of poking under Schmeichel to help erupt the Rookery.
But the old cliché about teams being at their most vulnerable having just scored came into play as soon after Peter Whittingham let fly a rocket that powered into the net from just outside the box to put the Welsh side back in front.. Last week his speculative efforts from distance put Paddy Kenny under some pressure in the Sheffield United goal without notching the ex Villa man a place on the scoresheet but his efforts were rewarded today with a cracker that beat a flat footed Lee all ends up. Good scouting there lads!
But for a couple of excellent first half stops from Richard Lee, both when one-on-one with a Bluebird through on goal, this game could have been out of Watford`s grasp and it appeared to be when in injury time, Tommy Smith missed when well-placed.
The Cardiff resistance lasted only a few seconds longer though to spark pandemonium in the stands as Jobi McAnuff thumped a beauty past young Kasper from an impossible angle, over by the corner flag somewhere. McAnuff the point winner for the second time in five days.
Who can`t get Anuff of Jobi?!
No blame for goals, kicking improved, two quality saves.
Best attacking option going forward bar Jobi?! Defensively one of worst games in a Watford shirt.
Did a decent job. Lacks the pace to last the season but could be decent cover when Shittu goes to Ghana.
Captains example, brought the ball forward and scored with a tidy header.
Not his worst game, but a new left back is severely needed.
Beat Capaldi 9/10 but crosses were nowhere near the standard required. Picked up his game when Hendo came on and looked to move inside a lot more.
Brought off after ineffective start. Didn’t deserve to be replaced.
Little better than midfield partner. Had run out of puff by the 70th minute but Aidy had no sub options left.
Fast turning into the Jobi on view at Palace though his unwillingness to track back and defend is frustrating.
Poor, poor, poor, no concept of teamwork, no concept of ‘the simple pass’ and subbed. Hallelujah.
Ok, wasn’t brilliant, but keep playing the boy and he will return the favour, undoubtedly has quality and showed it patches.
Replaced O’Toole to mix it up a bit. Did a lot of grafting without doing anything to get the fans excited.
On for Jackson with 10 to go. Almost scored with his first touch. Opponents are scared of him and for that alone he needs to play.
Replaced King. Held the ball up and bought others into play. The Vic seemed to lift when Darius came on. He should start with Ellington against QPR.
Subbed his adopted son, Marlon King, threw on Dan Shittu to mix things up and stuck to his guns from Sheffield Wednesday. Just needs to act quicker with subs.
Ridsdale and co. would be mad to sack him, his side outclassed the Golden Boys with smooth passing and creative sparks.