The Wrap – Watford – 2-3

With most expecting a heavy-defeat at a Watford side that were in the Premier League just a few months ago, the Sky Blues caused their opponents plenty of problems in an entertaining and competitive game of Championship football.

After a solid first-half from Coventry City, Watford took the lead soon after the break. The Sky Blues rallied impressively soon after, with Gustavo Hamer catching the experienced Ben Foster unaware with a looping header from just outside the penalty area, before some delightful link-up play between Maxime Biamou and Tyler Walker saw the latter calmly put the away side ahead.

Any hopes of holding onto the three points were soon eroded as the Sky Blues switched off, in typical fashion, from a corner-kick to allow Watford to level the scores. With the game nicely poised heading in to the final ten minutes, Callum O’Hare foolishly attempted to charge down a shot in the penalty area with his arms in the air, handing Watford the chance to win the game from the spot – which they did.

We’re Getting Better

This could have been a famous win against a side just relegated from the Premier League. In stark contrast to recent performances against Brentford and Bournemouth, we played with a level of composure and bravery in possession that demonstrates that we are capable of taking the game to the better teams at this level.

The change to the 3-5-2, along with a few tweaks in personnel, continues to benefit this team. Players constantly look to have options in possession and we’re capable of moving the ball both side-to-side and back-to-front effectively. We’re starting to play with a level of control and attacking threat.

Ben Sheaf looks to have been a particular beneficiary of the recent changes. Perhaps he’s been aided by coming up against teams who aren’t pressuring him as much in his opening few performances, but he looks far more composed in possession and his decision-making with the ball seems to have improved, which is getting us into dangerous areas more quickly than before.

In addition, unshackling some of the defensive responsibility from Gustavo Hamer has reduced the threat of him getting sent-off, which means he can show what he is capable of in possession. Ryan Giles is getting into dangerous areas more consistently because we’re seeing more of the ball and have players capable of picking him out quickly when he gets into space.

Having looked a long way off Championship quality for periods of these opening few weeks, we’re looking far more competitive and capable of getting results consistently. At least, from an attacking perspective.

Naivety

What cost us the result here was the sheer naivety of this team.

Having matched Watford until the first goal went in, we went through a period where we seemed to lose completely lose our heads. We tried to up the urgency, but ended up hitting passes a little too hard, forcing team-mates into heavy touches and creating half-openings for Watford. This was epitomised by Leo Ostigard bringing down Ismaila Sarr, after the forward had seized on a loose pass to get in behind our defence.

We eventually calmed down and did well to take the lead. We started to play with energy and a zip to our passing, which caused an experienced Watford side problems. This is why our experienced players – Liam Kelly and Kyle McFadzean – have been dropped from the side, their alternatives – respectively, Ben Sheaf and Leo Ostigard – gave us that quality on the ball to play at a quicker pace.

The problem was that once we turned the tempo up, we were unable to turn it back down. The back three remained pushed high up the pitch, which meant that when Ben Sheaf was closed down around the halfway line, the pacey Ismaila Sarr was running at Dominic Hyam one-against-one, which led to the corner that led to Watford’s equalising goal.

Then we move onto the penalty. It was clearly a brainless moment from Callum O’Hare as he raised his arms above his head in the 18-yard box to close down a shot, but it felt like that lapse in concentration from O’Hare was driven by his team-mates appealing for a foul just before the penalty incident. There’s a reason why ‘play to the whistle’ is such a cliche.

The Beginning Of A Beautiful Partnership?

Along with the level of composure in possession we showed in spells here, perhaps the biggest positive to take from this game was the threat that Tyler Walker and Maxime Biamou gave us in partnership in attack.

As well as Matt Godden has done for us this season, the missing element from his game is the ability to either run in behind or threaten opponents with physicality. That’s exactly what the combination Biamou and Walker provided for us here.

Biamou consistently sowed doubt in the minds of Watford’s defenders whenever he challenged for the ball. Even if he didn’t win the first ball, he used his physicality to make it difficult for his opponents to take a comfortable first-touch and get Watford going quickly. Walker played on the shoulder of the Watford defence, constantly looking to run in behind and anticipated Biamou’s flick-ons well. This led to the goal that put us ahead but it also led to an excellent chance in the first-half that Biamou should have put away.

There were signs here that Walker and Biamou can dovetail very effectively together to not only threaten the goal, but to occupy opposing defences. That all-round threat they provide could help make this team more effective at both ends of the pitch – leading to more goals, as well as an ability to relieve pressure on the back-line as out-balls.

With Godden having shown that he can score goals at this level, it means that Walker and Biamou will have to justify their places in their side every week. That competition will surely only be good for us.

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