Away From Home: Inevitable injury-time issues
Journalism student Billy Hawkins discusses Gianfranco Zola`s position & the Hornets` knack of conceding injury-time goals…It`s still happening.
After coming within a moment of relief with a 2-1 lead away at Middlesbrough, Watford`s hopes for a return to (scrappy) form were undone in the third minute of injury time when Daniel Ayala - partly at fault for Fernando Forestieri`s earlier finish - headed in a remarkably easy equaliser. Somehow
Watford still sit only one point off the play-offs, although Burnley, Leicester and Queens Park Rangers - currently occupying the top three spots - are slowly opening a widening gap over the teams below them.
The result aside - a draw at the Riverside Stadium is respectable for a team chasing promotion - the most startling aspect of the match came with the announcement of Gianfranco Zola`s team selection.
The furore surrounding the continuing appearance of Troy Deeney - who redeemed his selection with a goal and assist - and the apparent lack of faith in both Cristian Battocchio and Javier Acuna was rife on Twitter.
The confidence in Zola is starting to wane - through the calls for different team selections and formations - and although his job is still in the realms of safety, the knowledge that three points could have been gained with a better grasp of defensive positioning fills the perpetual pessimist with a sense of miserabilia.
Middlesbrough`s first goal - including a piece of technical brilliance from Rhys Williams - was less about poor defending and more showcase of good attacking football - although Manuel Almunia was beaten very easily at his near post.
The last minute equaliser was classic Watford though. A victory almost a certainty, the box packed with defensive bodies, an equaliser from a man who outjumped three defenders looking on in disbelief as their footballing ability left them - as it so often does - in injury time.
The cliché is that 'goals change games,` yet, for Watford, it seems that injury time changes games. It is hard to tell if the international pedigree of the back line - Marco Cassetti, Gabriele Angella, Essaid Belkalem - have always suffered this concentration drought at the 90 minute mark of every match, or whether it is part of playing for Watford. The latter seems most likely, seeing as the same problem has leached into the ability of every Watford side, under every manager, for years. Sean Dyche had the same problem, yet his Burnley side have become the well drilled unit who sit atop the table; scoring late goals - Danny Ings` equaliser against Bournemouth came in the 84th minute - rather than conceding them.
It doesn`t seem too much to ask for a team who play for the entire length of the match, rather than drifting out a few minutes early. Yet, it is so ingrained in the psyche of the Watford cult - players and fans alike - that it has become an inevitable truth that a goal will be conceded in injury time.
Maybe the inevitably stems from the dread seeping through the crowd as the game nears its end; the players losing confidence as the fans lose faith.
Maybe if everyone stayed positive until the final whistle the team would succeed.
But, as football fans, we are not allowed to be positive.
There would be nothing to talk about with success.