Re-read Growing the Grecians #105.
We move on from a somewhat disappointing late point and are on the road again.
Date: Saturday 2nd December 2017
Opponent: Watford (6th)
Odds: Watford=4/6, Draw=9/4, Exeter City=7/2
Weather: Dry, 12C
Referee: Mr. Keith Stroud
It’s a reasonably slow start to the game. Twelve minutes in, Bertin Matip swings a corner in. Federico Cenci meets it at the near post, but he’s unable to keep his header from six yards down. Three minutes later, Anakoglou fires over from 25 yards. One minute later, Michel shoots from the same distance. He has no problem keeping the ball down, but it’s wide as the goalkeepers remain untroubled.
With 24 minutes gone, Michele Marconi chases after a long ball. Hanley also goes after it and is edging ahead. Hanley gets to the ball first in the Watford penalty area, but Marconi slides in to win it. He brings Hanley down. Mr. Stroud’s whistle goes and he comes running over. Mr. Stroud reaches into his pocket and produces a red card. Marconi is off! So we only have 66 minutes to play away from home against a team featuring a nemesis of mine in Jay Rodriguez.
As Marconi trudges off, I decide that I will make no immediate change and we’ll play without a striker. No focal point does cause a problem seven minutes later when Cenci takes a shot from 18 yards. It goes over, but it was a poor angle and he’d have been better crossing. If someone was in the middle.
Diogo elects to cross from the left in the 35th minute. He picks out Rodriguez, who meets the ball with a header from 8 yards out. I’ve been here before and know how this ends. It’s a… what? He’s headed over. Maybe we will be able to claw something from this game. Then again, Rodriguez has had games against us before where he’s barely had a kick and then grabs a couple of late goals.
With a man down, set pieces become even more important to us if we’re to grab a goal. With 6 minutes to go until half time, we win a free kick 20 yards out. Cenci steps up. It’s over the wall. And over the bar. Two minutes into stoppage time, we win another free kick near the Watford goal. It’s on the right hand side and Cenci crosses the ball to the far post. His free kick has picked out Matip, who connects well with his header from 8 yards. It’s straight at Akif Akkayo – he’s unable to hold onto the ball, but Watford clear to safety as they finish the first half surprisingly on the back foot.
The Watford manager has evidently had some strong words for his side over the break and Watford come out with renewed purpose. Three minutes into the half, Bangura slots home from 8 yards to put Watford into the lead. He wheels away to celebrate, but his celebrations are cut short when he sees the linesman on the far side has his flag up for offside. We’re still level and have something to hold on to.
Eleven minutes into the second half, Snodgrass takes an outswinging corner. Rodriguez meets the ball six yards out and sends it goalwards. Thankfully, I have men on the posts and Lubomir Zapotoka prevents Watford taking the lead. The pressure continues though and two minutes after the hour, N’Guema shoots from 25 yards and Ben Amos watches it over the bar.
Mr. Stroud’s cards return to the game in the 64th minute when Gibbs’ name is taken for fouling Zapotoka. Eight minutes later, Matip joins Gibbs in Mr. Stroud’s book following a foul on Anakoglou.
With thirteen minutes remaining, Michel shoots from 16 yards out. It cannons into Rogne and loops up. Akif Akkoya makes a comfortable catch under no pressure. Three minutes later, Snodgrass lets fly from 16 yards and Amos makes a good save. With seven minutes remaining, Cenci crosses from the left and finds David Bentley 16 yards out. Bentley shoots low and finds the net.
It’s Bentley’s second goal of the season and his second in two games as he strikes late again. Surely we’re now going to come away with at least a point and considering how long is left, we’ve a grant chance of somehow snatching all three.
Watford push forward in search of an equaliser and as the 90th minute appears on the clock, Viergever shoots from 20 yards. Unlike the other shots from distance in the match, this one’s on target. Amos keeps it out, but can’t keep hold of the ball. Ake preserves the lead by dispatching the ball into Row Z at the expense of a throw. I bring on Reinier Breu for Michel with two minutes of stoppage time having been played. Breu goes up front as a target man so we have someone to hit with clearances in an attempt to stop the ball coming straight back at us. It works as one minute later, Rogne enters Mr. Stroud’s book following a foul on Breu. We take the free kick and Mr. Stroud blows for full time.
Man of the Match: David Bentley
Ratings: Amos 6.5; Zapotoka 7.2; Ake 6.8; Byrne 7.3; Riccardi 7.5; Matip 6.9, booked; Johnson 6.8; Bentley 7.6, goal; Michel 7.0, sub 90; Cenci 7.0, assist; Marconi 6.9, sent off 24. Sub- Breu, on 90.
League Position: 13th
I warn Michele Marconi following his red card and he accepts the warning. David Bentley announces he will retire from football on Monday 16th July 2018. Marconi receives an additional two game ban from the FA after they review the sending off. I don’t ask him to reconsider, but if his form continues then I might.
The Sunday Mirror runs a story that I’m interested in signing right back Gianni Zuiverloon from Udinese. I deny any interest, primarily based on the fact that he’s not on my shortlist; considering that my shortlist comprises of over 5,000 players, that in itself is quite an achievement.
Rune Daugaard returns from his loan spell at Plymouth Argyle.
As January approaches, transfer rumours hot up. The biggest rumour from our perspective (and certainly the most worrying) is that Chievo and Sampdoria are interested in signing Federico Cenci. I’m asked for a response to the rumour and issue a hands off warning to any interested parties.
The draw for the 2018 World Cup is made. England are drawn in Group H along with Bahrain, Senegal and Switzerland. Will the summer of 2018 be a successful one?
Read Growing the Grecians #107.
Read from Growing the Grecians #1.