Date: 6 October 2018
A number of people in the morning had wished me a Happy Birthday, and I’d replied that it would depend on the result at Watford. But one friend who’s a Watford fan had said, “It will be a draw, it always is.” (That had actually been true in seven of the previous nine meetings of the two teams.) How wrong could he be!
Watford High Street still looks like a giant building site, as it has for years. Weaving my way around all the obstacles in torrential rain – enough in one day to last a month, which it will probably have to – I wasn’t convinced that this was a great way to celebrate a birthday. But things started to look up when the nominated pub, though packed to capacity, served up a delicious meal that was back at my table almost as fast I was – and at a rock-bottom price too.
At the ground it was good to see that I was under cover, as the rain was still pouring down. Eddie named an unchanged team from Monday (making me wonder whether Smith is now first choice left back rather than third), except that Ibe had replaced Mousset on the bench.
Watford started brightly – in particular being awarded countless corners – but it was Bournemouth, on the break, who scored first. King crossed from the left and Wilson at the far post put in a shot, that was saved. But Brooks, who’d charged up the right wing in anticipation, met the rebound and scored the first goal for the second match in a row. Later in the half, Watford’s Kabusele pulled King’s shirt in the box, and then tripped him up – a yellow-card offence except that he’d been yellow-carded earlier at the opposite end (right in front of us) for a foul on Begovic; so he was off! Not that we thought, from experience, that playing against ten men would help us much. But King scored from the resultant penalty – shooting into the right hand side of the net – so we were now 2-0 up against ten men. (The scoreboard named the scorer as Wilson – it would be half an hour before this was corrected!) There was still time for one more Cherries’ goal before half time, with Wilson and King having reversed roles from the first goal, i.e. Wilson crossing from the left and King at the far post. But King’s header didn’t need any rebound: it went straight in! 3-0 to us at the break, and some Watford fans leaving already.
Bournemouth were playing towards their own fans in the second half, and Wilson scored at close range within two minutes to effectively put the game to bed. Having missed several chances in the first half, he was visibly relieved, and performed his celebration into a nearby camera. Interestingly the assist (a cross from the left – again!) had come from Fraser, but Fraser otherwise had a very quiet match. He did nothing wrong, but wasn’t his usual self; so it was unsurprising when he was replaced by Stanislas. Later, shortly after he’d received a slight knock, Brooks was replaced by Gosling (although it looked as though this might have been planned even before the injury). And towards the end, Lewis Cook was replaced by Surman, who wasn’t on the pitch for long but still managed to receive Bournemouth’s only yellow card of the match!
But another record mattered more to us now than anything else: keeping the clean sheet. So the Bournemouth fans were amazingly nervous towards the end of the game, and as we clung on through two minutes’ added time that felt like an eternity. Watford certainly weren’t giving up going for the consolation goal, even though the home stands were now almost empty! But we did it: 4-0! Francis somehow managed a couple of foul throws in a row during the second half, suggesting he might have been lacking concentration somewhat. But more significantly Ake made so many wonderful clearances in both periods, and Lerma never stopped running and organising the midfield for all 92 minutes. Needless to say, we gave our team a great ovation at the end; and Ake once again threw his shirt to a grateful female supporter! We left happily, no longer even noticing whether it was raining or not. Things are looking good. With our solid backbone of Begovic, Ake and Lerma; despite not having a prolific striker; we’re surely on track now for our best season ever, aren’t we?
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (7), S Cook (8), Ake (9), Smith (7);
Brooks (8), L Cook (7), Lerma (9), Fraser (6);
Wilson (7), King (7)
Francis, S Cook, Ake, Smith;
King, Lerma, Surman, Stanislas;