Watford 1-2 Wolves: Not Even The Wind Could Mask Foster's Blushes
By Matt Cooper
The thought of playing Watford again was giving me nightmares. I’m still not fully over the Wembley heartbreak, the way we threw it away still haunts me as it does a good many of the players we’ve had the pleasure of watching this season. I’ve never really felt that way about a football match before and I’ve probably dealt with breakups in a better manner. The psychological scarring was still there heading into the game for fans and almost certainly the players.
We all said the same thing after the semi-final defeat, that we hope our season didn’t fizzle out. An abysmal performance at Southampton and a stalemate against Brighton left me thinking that our season was done with. Keeping in line with our form this season, we then went and turned Arsenal over meaning we went into the Watford clash with some hope.
We knew if this was a Huddersfield or a Burnley then we probably weren’t going to turn up but this was the biggest game of the season, with our fate ultimately in our own hands and we know what happens when this side play big games - they turn up. And turn up they did.
Followed by a raucous away contingent, Wolves started the game with great intensity, just like they did against Arsenal. One thing that Wolves have been guilty of this season is starting games half asleep with no real intensity. Whether that is a tactical decision to approach the first half with caution and then deploy tactics in the second half based on his observations, I do not know. Our goals scored in the second half this season would support that though. Wolves had the lion’s share of the chances in the first half as Jimenez should’ve converted from just a few yards out. Some good defending from Bennett denied the fleet-footed Deulofeu a couple of times after the pint-sized Spaniard caused Wolves so many problems in the game at Wembley. He’s the sort of player I’d like Wolves to be acquiring in the summer - someone who can link midfield and attack with his intelligence and speed but I know that’s easy for me to say.
A few glimpses of defensive panic ensued but it was Wolves who took the lead and there are no prizes for guessing who scored and assisted the goal. A pinpoint cross from Jota after he had the beating of his man for the umpteenth time this season was converted by Raul Jimenez. A real losers finish. Credit to Neves in the build-up, as his desire and tenacity helped retain possession and send the ball out wide with a peach of a pass. More on his awful passing later.
Wolves went in at the break 1-0 up, with his own saliva being the only thing to mark Patricio’s gloves but it took just 4 minutes for former Wolves man Andre Gary to level the scoring. A lapse of concentration from Ryan Bennett put Deulofeu through on goal with Rui making a great save, only for it to fall to Gray. You simply can’t be making that kind of mistakes in the Premier League as 99% of the time, you’re going to get punished by it. I feel for Bennett, he was terrific against Arsenal but with Wolves heading where they are and lapses of concentration like that, I don’t see him featuring as heavily next season (if at all) as he has done this season. It’s certainly an area that we need to strengthen in the summer. It’s harsh on Bennett but that kind of mentality that we’ve shown in the past of owing players hasn’t got us anywhere and we need to be ruthless. There is no place for sentiment at the very top.
I was absolutely fuming at the time, thinking has Ryan Bennett just cost us a possible place in Europe? I was ready to go around his house for some strong words. (I wasn’t). I’m just happy that his lapse in concentration didn’t cost us, for the sake of my Twitter timeline.
On the 77th minute, Neves had the ball on the right-hand side and he aimlessly lumped a ball forward and Diogo Jota shanked it over the line to give Wolves the lead - that’s how Ben Foster saw it anyway. A player who knows a lot about Wolves despite never playing for them. You’d think at 36 years of age, you might address a post-match interview with a bit more grace and decorum but what do you expect from a fella who’s pinnacle of intelligence is putting the numbers 1 and 5 in a word to replace the letters L and an S.
It was a pinpoint ball from the Neves of old (who’s been fantastic in his last two outings) finding the feet of Jota in what was an accomplished finish as the ball fell out the sky. Foster came for the cross and was caught between two minds but of course blamed the wind. That’s two victories this season that has come courtesy of the wind. Sign him up.
I witnessed one of the poorest refereeing decisions I’ve seen this year as Jota was poleaxed in the penalty area for the referee to wave play on. A stonewaller. Watford should’ve been reduced to ten men in the 96 minute, as Capoue, who was the last man, pulled Jota down on the halfway line but only received a yellow card. A distinct lack of bottle from the referee but it didn’t matter as Wolves managed the game out well, quite the contrast to Wembley.
A win Saturday could see us clinch 7th place meaning there will be one hell of a party in Liverpool come the last day of the season. We’re Man City fans until the end of the season. If they win against Leicester and Watford (and we get something against Fulham) it all but sends us to Europe. Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone….
Matt Cooper is a Talking Wolves founder, you can follow him here.
Images: Nigel French/PA