Monday, March 01, 2010

Saturday afternoon's alright (for fighting)

Watford 1 - 2 Newcastle Utd

A battling rather than swashbuckling performance - epitomised by Fabricio Coloccini at one end of a gluepot pitch and Bigger Lad at the other - was enough to see off Elton John's Watford, completing another league double and bringing us our first away win since the trip to the Ricoh Arena in early December.

Chris Hughton for once resisted the temptation to shuffle his pack, his only change from the side which beat Preston 3-0 being the enforced replacement of the injured Peter Lovenkrands with Leon Best.

The Hornets could easily have taken the lead in the opening few minutes, Steve Harper taking the sting out of a Jon Harley shot before gathering at the second attempt. But instead we gained the early advantage, Coloccini nodding into the net after the home side failed to clear a Danny Guthrie free-kick.

Bigger Lad had set up the goal, and from a Spiderman cross went close himself with a hooked volley over his shoulder that was cheeky, audacious and very nearly brilliant. If his court appearance had fazed him at all, then he certainly wasn't letting it show.

Watford may have gradually grown into the game, but Harper was rarely troubled and we struck again decisively early after the break. This time Bigger Lad did get on the scoresheet, escaping the attentions of his marker (Geordie Martin Taylor, perhaps?) from Guthrie's corner and powering a header past Scott Loach. The set piece had been well won by Patrick Van Aanholt, whose capabilities going forward have meant Jose Enrique's absence through injury has been less conspicuous - so it's disappointing to now have to wave him off back to parent club Chelsea.

Bigger Lad could have settled the result but strayed offside and put his header wide in any case, subsequently remonstrating with Best that the ball should have been delivered earlier. Not quite the slick link-up play that resulted in the equaliser at Swansea.

As we contentedly sat back, happy to soak up any pressure, Watford naturally came more to the fore, but the assured Coloccini continued to remind Diego Maradona that he might yet be worth a place in his Argentinian World Cup squad alongside Spiderman (even if he is only excelling against weak Championship strikeforces). Alongside him, former Hornet Mike Williamson ignored the boo boys in the home areas to help preserve our clean sheet with a capable performance.

In the event our goal was breached, but only in the last minute of normal time and only in unsavoury fashion, Will Hoskins profiting from a deflected shot and what appeared to be an offside starting position to fire between the exposed Harper's legs.

We saw out injury time without further alarm and celebrated an impressive achievement on Hughton's part - his side having lost once in 19 matches since his permanent appointment in October means that the beginning of his managerial tenure is now the most successful in the club's history.

Elsewhere, the Baggies came from behind to beat Derby 3-1, but Forest suffered a fourth consecutive away defeat without scoring, this time routed by Nigel Pearson's Leicester, and so we've now extended our lead over second to six points and (more importantly) over third to eight points.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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