Vicarage Road: Lodgings Available
In his recent post on the loan system, my fellow blogger Lloyd drew attention to its clever exploitation by Watford in recent seasons. Tom Cleverley was perhaps the best known of the Vicarage Road lodgers but Ben Foster did strikingly before him, while Henri Lansbury and Andrew Taylor also starred in gold.
More recently, Sean Dyche has repeated the trick. An unbeaten run that took the ‘Orns up until the end of 2011 and which was finally extinguished by Portsmouth on January’s second day, was largely fired by the good form of Michael Kightly and Nyron Nosworthy — the former in particular showing a heartening return to the public consciousness after an injury-wracked two years – it was the ex-Grays Athletic man, you’ll remember, who performed particularly well as Wolves raced to promotion in 2008-9.
A streak that started with a win in the previous fixture against the south coasters was peppered with ties but nonetheless signalled a new stability under Sean Dyche, the man called upon to replace Malky Mackay after the latter headed to the Severn Bridge in the Summer.
I like Dyche. He conducts himself well in interviews (to employ one of football’s most bafflingly clichà©d phrases) and as a centre half and leader in his time as a player, it’s clear that a board chaired by storied manager Graham Taylor were looking for stability. With little actual cash to dispense permanently, temporary signings would be allied to a sound youth policy — Watford benefit from their location within half a day’s drive from a sizeable proportion of the British population.
Earlier this season, I saw a young side cruise to a comfortable victory at Reading’s Madejski Stadium — another short term tenant Andrea Weimann featuring prominently along with his former Villa team mate Jonathan Hogg. Yesterday, both were absent as a patchier looking XI hosted the Royals in the return fixture.
With Kightly also having returned to the metropolitan area from whence he came, the Hornets were forced to rely on Troy Deeney and Marvin Sordell for most of their attacking initiatives. The latter, profiled by ourselves very early on in his first team career last season, always looks athletic and hinting of danger — but a rumour that has seen him linked to West Ham may have unsettled him as he wasn’t quite at his best — players should perhaps realise that everyone is being associated with that ragbag of east Londoners these days.
Deeney did relatively well — scorching Adam Federici’s fingertips with a fizzer at one point and indulging in carefully thought out hold up play. The game was an even one and for a twenty minute spell in the second half, Watford were well on top — Craig Forsyth in particular showing up well on the wing until a couple of ill-advised challenges begun to endanger the amount of time he might have hoped to stay on the pitch and Dyche withdrew him.
On the opposite flank, the hangdog Mark Yeates, author of a brilliant goal in the earlier game, again showed an ability to adjust his sights well from range, but centre midfield pairing Prince Buaben and John Eustace were shaded out by the industrious Jay Tabb and Jem Karacan. Buaben showed slinkiness in a perfect through ball leading to Watford’s goal and Eustace is ever the general, but perhaps time is catching up with him?
Crucially, the Golden Boys were missing their strong man at the back — Martin Taylor may be agricultural in a way that gives combine harvesters a bad name but my, can he be dominant? His replacement Nosworthy is also a colossus but struggled at times to cope with Simon Church’s niggling attentions and can be pulled out of position too easily. Lee Hodson and Carl Dickinson at full back had mildly torrid afternoons given the pace of Reading’s wingers — although neither had an absolute ‘mare per se and the former in particular has settled well into the right back spot over recent weeks. Between the posts, Scott Loach remains crucial to the blueprint and cannot be blamed for the defeat.
So it seems likely that Dyche may look to augment the blend again soon. Ross Jenkins came on (too late on this occasion) and the club possesses other youngsters of note — most notably Matthew Whichelow — but stalwarts such as Lloyd Doyley and Adrian Mariappa, the latter ever solid here, may need greater talents around them. At the moment, the club hover above a cluster of clubs with seemingly more money to spend — Nottingham Forest and Doncaster most notably — and Dyche will have to make some smart decisions over the coming months.
Do read Ian Grant’s remarkably similar account of the game at superb Watford blog BHaPPY.