Watford 3-2 Wolves AET: The Verdict
By Matt Cooper
I thought it probably wouldn’t be best to reflect on yesterdays result until I had properly come to terms with what happened. It’s the sort of collapse I expect from Wolves but just not this Wolves side under Nuno. A side that has been, on the whole, so regimented and organised but buckled under pressure when it really mattered. Take nothing away from this side, it’s been an unbelievable season and whatever the outcome of the remaining games, this season will go down as a successful one but the manner of yesterday made it just that little more heartbreaking.
Wolves looked sloppy from the outset and struggled to move the ball quick enough so the opening goal definitely came against the run of play. “Fucking short corners!” some fella screamed next to me before Jota ultimately put the ball on a plate for Doherty to nod home the opener. Those short corners, where we move the ball slightly to angle a better delivery and move opposition players out of their positions have worked well this season but some supporters would rather us lump a ball into a crowded 6-yard-box. From then, Wolves seemed to get into the game a bit more with Jota making a mockery of the Watford defence. I felt that Wolves’ midfield 3 struggled to get going and often seemed sluggish, with the majority of Wolves’ energy coming through Jota and the tireless Jimenez. The second goal was a ridiculous bit of control from Raul in a tight area and an accomplished finish from him.
62 minutes in, 2-0 up and Wolves looked to be coasting towards the final. The introduction of Gerard Deulofeu changed that. The little Spaniard changed the game. As soon as we scored the second we shut up shop and we deserved everything that happened to us after we scored our second. We dropped way too deep and invited copious amounts of pressure. It seems harsh to single out players but it is Coady’s job to organise that back line but it got deeper and deeper and couldn’t relieve the pressure that Watford pushed with. Wolves looked tired and a lapse of concentration/moment of madness from Dendoncker cost us dearly. From being 2-0 down to 2-2 in injury time, Watford had the wind in their sails and Wolves looked shellshocked and it was the same for the supporters. We all know what happens next so it’s pointless even mulling over the extra time period. This team dared us to dream but it just wasn’t to be.
I walked away from Wembley gutted, thinking that’s our season over now, there’s no way this team is going to bounce back from that - until I saw Troy Deeney’s comments in a post-match interview. I’ve never seen a grown man get so irate over a mask - simply pathetic. Deeney, having previously arrested for an awful assault has apparently ‘turned himself around’ and is a ‘refreshing’ change as ‘he says it how it is’. He’s not, he’s made a living out of being an anger merchant. I guess eventually he’d revert back to type - a scumbag who was dragged up as a child. Those comments from him could fire Wolves up and reignite the end of our season after such a heartbreaking loss.
I’ve seen mixed messages on Twitter from Wolves fans after the performance. Some expressing the thoughts that we bottled it and that yesterday was unacceptable and others reflective on where we’ve come from in such a short space of time. I agree with both points somewhat. We absolutely bottled the game, 2-0 with half hour to go, to then lose the match against a Watford side who didn’t offer too much isn’t acceptable and Nuno and his players need to be held accountable. However, if you’d have said to me at the start of the season we’d get to an FA Cup semi-final and still be in pole position for European football by that date then I’d have laughed you out of the building and I think it’s important to have a little perspective.
A lot was said about the atmosphere too. It’s so hard to generate an atmosphere in such a vast space. The same super fans who were moaning about the plastics coming to Wembley and not making noise were the same ones who scoffed at Watford fans having a designated singing section for Wembley. You can’t have it all. That’s one thing that’s really irritated me this season - fans who think their opinion is fact and that they’re untouchable because they’ve been to more games. Football is a game of opinions, so if you can’t accept that someone may have a different opinion to you then either come to terms with that or delete Twitter.
Southampton this Saturday is going to be one hell of a tough game but I’ve got faith the boys will go some way towards repaying us for the heartbreak we had to endure at the weekend. This season isn’t over, so until it is, get behind the boys and back the team. This team could still make us dream.
Matt Cooper is a Talking Wolves founder, you can follow him here.
Image: Catherine Ivill