Fun in the Sun as Watford stun Ipswich
The business end of the season. The home straight. Squeaky bum time. That time of the season where virtually every football match dictates the ups and downs of teams between leagues is upon us once more and the excitement levels get cranked up as interested observers watch the narrative unfold all acrossEnglandandScotland.
It’s also a time when many students write their final dissertations and prepare to put pen on paper against the clock in a desperate bid to rubberstamp their bid for 1sts and 2:1s.
Leeds is a quieter place over Easter as university scholars head home and lap up the comforts of family life for a month.
Such is the wide-ranging organisation of sport that it is likely that wherever Leeds’ students end up there will be ample opportunity to support your local football/rugby/tiddlywinks team as taxi drivers and barmen count down the days before their main clientele return to the city.
What could be more analogous to the battles faced during the final term of university than witnessing professionals engage in testing encounters that will define their clubs’ futures?
I find myself ever more drawn to the thrill of football at the end of the season when I seek inspiration to motivate myself and over the coming weeks, new tales and heroes will be born in the success-hungry world of the beautiful game, thus, giving me reason to believe in my own destiny as a student. And football is everywhere!
Being based in Hertfordshire inevitably means that a trip to Vicarage Road is on the cards and on my first weekend back home my Dad and I went to check up on the county’s ‘Golden Boys’.
Unlike most games taking place over the weekend the visit of Ipswich Town to Watford appeared to have very little riding on the outcome of the fixture.
Both teams are comfortably positioned in mid-table and, barring an extreme run of form, will play each other in the Championship next season too.
This didn’t stop 12, 757 (1, 785 from Ipswich) fans forking out the money to watch their clubs play.
Both teams had endured an inconsistent term in the second-tier but March’s glut of fixtures meant that the two sides went into the game off the back of a 5-game unbeaten run.
Effectively, these recent encouraging results had ensured that any fears of dropping out of the division were wiped away and that they could play without the pressures familiar to most footballers at this time of the season.
From Watford’s point of view, Sean Dyche’s first season in charge has been a huge success as he averted his team from the dangers of the relegation zone that many pundits had predicted would ensnare the Hornets considering their modest financial budget.
An encouraging debut season as manager will have appeased the Watford fans though he can expect a harder test in the next campaign and will be happy to have a head-start on planning for 2012-13.
Ipswich, on the other hand, spent big last Summer but thoughts of promotion were soon exchanged for hopes of survival following a run of seven defeats in a row that left the Tractor Boys one place above the relegation zone and only above 22nd-placed Nottingham Forest due to goal difference at the start of December.
Other teams may have dispensed with the services of their manager in similar circumstances but the Ipswich board kept their faith in Paul Jewell and the experienced Liverpudlian has since guided them to safety.
Watford had won at Portman Road at the end of Ipswich’s losing run and the Suffolk club were hoping to clinch their first win over the team from Hertfordshire in eight years.
The sun was shining and many families were present such is the nature of Watford as a family club which are second-to-none in ensuring visitors to Vicarage Road feel welcomed.
Ipswich then took the game to Watford and took the lead courtesy of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas when Carl Dickinson didn’t clear the danger for the home side and the ex-Arsenal striker nipped in to stroke the ball home.
The game was slipping out of Watford’s grasp and were it not for Michael Chopra’s miss in front of an open-goal and several other Ipswich chances going begging then the game could have been out of sight before half-time.
The interval was the lifeline Watford needed and the introduction of Prince Buaben and Chris Iwelumo in the second-half gave the Golden Boys the impetus to play a more physical and direct style of football.
Ipswich couldn’t cope with the new ‘up-and-at-‘em’ approach and Watford’s turnaround got underway on 71 minutes when Iwelumo flicked on for Buaben who played in Troy Deeney and his shot was blocked before falling to Sean Murray who calmly slotted home for the Hornets.
Ipswich looked drained and a misplaced back-pass from captain, Carlos Edwards, saw Deeney retrieve the ball for Watford and scoop the ball over Alex McCarthy in the Ipswich net to put Watford into an unassailable 82nd minute-lead.
Deeney’s reward for his match-winning goal was the extension of his current contract for a further year but the real man of the match would have to go to Watford’s mascot, Harry the Hornet.
At various times throughout the match the furry figure played to the crowd, variously threatening to soak quiet Watford fans with a water hose, stealing a xylophone off one of the pre-match entertainers and asking the referee to come on when an Ipswich player was down injured, replete with a basic first-aid bag.
All in all, it had been an enjoyable day out and proof of the fun to be had when attending your local team’s football ground. Now back to the dissertation…