Watford 4-2 Pompey
Saturday 09-04-07, 12:45pm
In typical Pompey fashion we followed up a tremendously hard fought victory over United with a defeat at a whimper to Watford as we lost 4-2.
Sol Campbell again missed out, his former Arsenal colleague Lauren joined him as an injury picked up against United ruled him out, Noe Pamarot returned in his place. The one other change saw Lomana LuaLua come in for Benjani. There was no place on the bench for Benjani or Svetoslav Todorov.
Pompey started brightly at a vocal Vicarage Road, with both sets of supporters doing their part and took the lead through Matty Taylor. Hameur Bouazza had Watford level from the spot before Gavin Mahon's pile drive gave Watford an injury time half time lead. Tamas Priskin made it three before Bouazza's second completed a rout. Arnold Mvuemba scored his first Pompey goal minutes after coming on as a substitute as a consolation late on.
There was plenty of neat play and some nice passing from Pompey early on but it was the Watford fans that gave furious howls for a penalty early in the game. Djimi Traore's clearance thundered against Dejan Stefanovic's hand but as he was only a yard away there was little he could do to get out the way, or little intent, so rightly so the referee waved away the appeals.
Fifteen minutes in and Matty Taylor gave Pompey the lead, also earning me a few quid in the process! Taylor picked the ball up, assessed the situation then picked his spot to curl past Ben Foster as the Watford defence backed off.
Watford pushed for an immediate reply but a brilliant save from David James denied Tamas Priskin, he was off side in any case. The equaliser wasn't far in coming though. A good turn from Priskin brought him some time as he got away from Traore. As Traore attempted to recover a clumsy challenge brought down the Hungarian and the referee had no hesitation in this time pointing to the spot. Hameur Bouazza stepped up and calmly slotted home sending James the wrong way, a shave would have to wait at least another five days.
As Watford slept after equalising Lomana LuaLua found himself through. Clark Carlisle's mistake allowed LuaLua in but he rushed his effort and his attempted lob only caused trouble for the crowd.
In first half injury time a free kick gave Pompey one last chance to threaten the Watford goal but a poor kick went straight into Foster's hands who sent Watford on an attack of their own. A quick break saw a ball delivered into the area, this was half punched away by James but only as far as Gavin Mahon and the Watford captain's screamer almost broke the net as Watford took the lead with the last kick of the half.
Pompey started the second half looking to get back on terms but as we lost out on the edge of the Watford box another quick break saw them away and they made the most of it as they went 3-1 up on 50 minutes. Bouazza's pacey break picked out Steve Kabba who delivered an inch perfect ball across the Pompey box for Priskin to volley past James.
3-1 almost became 3-2 but Kanu was denied by the bar after making himself space with Foster well beaten. Really Kanu should have scored and how we didn't with the follow up amazed me. Gary O'Neil saw his effort cleared of the line as we appealed for a foul on Richard Hughes as somehow Watford escaped with a goal kick.
For a good few minutes Harry Redknapp had been trying to get some subs on and finally he could on the hour. Rudolph Douala replaced the quiet and ineffective LuaLua and Niko Kranjcar Traore.
As Pompey pushed on the defence was stretched more and more and 4-1 was looking a certainty, more than once they broke but we managed to just get players back at the last, the best chance seeing Bouazza finding himself clean through, only a fine save from James prevented another goal.
The fourth goal as expected finally arrived on 72 minutes, with the defence again AWOL after two bites of the cherry Bouazza got his second and Watford's fourth. Kabba flicked onto Bouazza with the defence exposed and at a stroll he should have scored with his first effort but James denied him with another brilliant save but he made no mistake with his follow up.
Sean Davis had pushed hard but just could't get a break and he was withdrawn on 79 minutes, Arnold Mvuemba came on and within a minute he had scored his first Pompey goal to make an instant impact. O'Neil's battling qualities and determination saw him pull the ball back for Mvuemba who made no mistake.
We pushed on as Watford nerves frayed a little but couldn't muster clear cut chances, restricted to efforts from range with little or no chance of a back lift to add power and Watford came close to adding more, their impressive Bouazza sending a couple of efforts close, one screaming inches wide of James' goal.
Not the worst Pompey performance I've seen on the road this season by any means but also not the best. A defence that clearly missed Sol Campbell and Lauren, if not Lauren then Glen Johnson was stretched time and time again, especially down the right hand side.
Maybe I don't give Pompey the criticism I should, most would argue I rarely do. Again I will not do this, instead I would like to praise Watford. We didn't defend well but they've been one of the most fearless teams I've seen us play this season, they remind me a lot of us in our early Premiership years. We came up against a side in Watford with players playing for places in the side to face United next weekend in the Cup and also a side playing with the freedom of nothing to lose as not much is expected of them.
After the step forward at the weekend when we beat United we've stuttered again but we still have plenty to play for and will be looking to bounce back with three points against Newcastle on Saturday.
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Watford 4 - Hameur Bouazza 28 (penalty) & 74, Gavin Mahon 45, Tamas Priskin 50
Pompey 2 - Matty Taylor 15, Arnold Mvuemba 80
Djimi Traore (Niko Kranjcar 60)
Sean Davis (Arnold Mvuemba 79)
Lomana LuaLua (Rudolph Douala 60)
Substitutes Not Used
I don't want to take credit away from Watford, who I thought were superb today and don't want to really make excuses but I think Saturday took a hell of a lot out of the players, both physically and mentally, so although not many played particularly well today one man again stood out and that was Richard Hughes.
Hughes has been outstanding in our last four matches and could have easily been given MOTM in all four. The more he plays the better he becomes, if Pedro Mendes wasn't such a quality footballer Hughes would play far more games.