Watford at a Junction
But surveying a Watford side beset with enforced changes of personnel was informative. Certainly, the first half hour was bright for the golden boys. Matthew Taylor, huge and hulking like never before, powered an exocet of a header over the bar and relatively recent first teamers Matthew Whichelow and Andreas Weimann spurned gilt-embossed chances – the latter’s strike after a keystone cops scramble was scant reward for firm domination.
One batch of loanees has been swapped for another at Vicarage Road. As the likes of Andrew Taylor and the forceful Jordon Mutch have departed, Weimann has joined from Aston Villa and Danny Drinkwater from Manchester United. In addition, Malky Mackay has chosen to pitch additional youngsters into the mix – Whichelow is one of these and he was joined in the starting line up by another man with previously few opportunities, Adam Thompson.
Northern Ireland international Thompson enjoyed a fabulous afternoon; especially as he was up against experienced ex ‘Orn Jobi McAnuff. Roared on by an away crowd clearly unimpressed with the contribution the £1.7 million pound man had made to Watford, the blond right back grew in confidence as the game rolled on and looks a fine prospect on this showing. With Taylor, Aidy Mariappa and Lee Hodson all effective in defence, the typically impeccable screening of John Eustace made for a steely rearguard indeed, only to be sadly let down by keeper Scott Loach’s error that denied Watford two points.
Ahead, Don Cowie and Stephen McGinn were Mackay’s midfield picks on this occasion, both tucking in to forge a diamond formation; and if Drinkwater’s poise stood out on his introduction in the second half, the manager’s tampering with the starting eleven might have come a tad early. If Marvin Sordell will feel aggrieved that he was left out for Weimann – he seemed to try too hard when he came on and was too often isolated from Danny Graham – the ex-Carlisle man looked every bit as dangerous as his reputation suggests. Whichelow played very far forward in midfield – in the proverbial ‘hole’ and betrayed the inexperience of his 19 years with those misses – his time will come though.
So overall, even compared to before Christmas, this is a Watford forever beset by change and, like their opponents, one that refuses to compete when the auctions the clubs around them have been drawn into when they are held. That is a possibly risky strategy as far as preservation of long term Championship status is concerned, but remember that the Hornets saved themselves with a win over Reading in the penultimate game of last season. Mackay continues to impress in this corner of Hertfordshire.