In this series, I review my in-ground experience throughout the campaign, this time for Watford away. It’s split into two columns, one for home games and the other for away days. I run through various topics from atmosphere to a game review and give some unique observations directly from stadiums up and down the country.
Journey to the Game: Watford at Vicarage Road
After the previous away day at Leicester, there had been two home games in between in the form of Juventus and Manchester United. Four points out of a possible six wasn’t bad, but heading into this one I did have a small sense of trepidation as I travelled to the match.
An away trip in midweek can be difficult to organise, but being in London the journey itself was fairly simple. One train from Euston had me at Watford Junction in just over 20 minutes, which in itself was around a 20 minute walk from the ground.
As it was on a Wednesday night, I wasn’t at the ground particularly far in advance for kick-off. However, as I arrived around half an hour before the game began, it had already filled up nicely in both the home and away end.
As a fairly small stadium in comparison to the rest of the league’s grounds (the capacity is around 22,000), it’s tucked into the local area fairly inconspicuously. That said, while it may only be single-tier, there is a relatively large allocation for away supporters at 2,300.
Due to its fairly small size though, there was one issue that it feels worth mentioning, it being worse than at any other ground I’ve visited so far. The concourse where fans gather to eat and drink before the game is extremely tight for space and, particularly at half time, things felt pretty squashed.
As for my seat itself, I was, like all the visiting fans, situated in the Vicarage Road Stand. It’s on the South side of the stadium, behind the goal, and is joined onto by the Sir Elton John Stand and the Graham Taylor stand.
I was positioned in Row V and, due to the quriks of the row lettering system, in which some double letters came first, it meant I was fairly close to the back. However, much like at Leicester, it’s relatively advantageous to be further away in a one-tier stand in order to see what’s happening on the other side of the pitch.
My only complaint would be that I felt rather far wide of the field of play itself, in seat number five. It wasn’t too bad given the fact I was further back, but it did still feel as though I was slightly out of the atmosphere at times, but that would be a minor point.
Watford 1-2 Chelsea: Game Review
The game got underway and it’s fair to say it was a poor start for the Blues. We couldn’t keep the ball, we couldn’t string passes together and we couldn’t seem to thwart an incessant Watford attack. Then, however, focus shifted from the game.
There was a worrying half an hour in which the game was paused due to a medical emergency in the ground. Things were suddenly put into perspective and football just didn’t seem to matter as much. Thankfully, after 30 minutes the fan was stable and the game could continue.
Once again it wasn’t a great first half showing, but a well-worked move ended in an excellent Mason Mount finish, putting the Blues ahead. That wasn’t enough the dent Watford hopes, and the Horners equaliser two minutes before half time through Dennis, leaving the scores level at the break.
Many might have hoped that Tuchel’s team would come out flying in the second half but in fact it was far from it. Players seemed exhausted, and the attack wasn’t working whatsoever – even the substitutions couldn’t inject any life into the game.
Finally though, with 73 minutes on the overrunning clock, Mason Mount was set free down the left hand side. He crossed a ball into the box where Hakim Ziyech put it home into the roof of the net, giving the away side the lead once again.
A nervy final 20 minutes of the game ensued, with chances for both sides coming and going throughout. Yet, despite all the injuries and stoppages in a game which, in truth, was never really allowed to get going, Chelsea breathed a huge sigh of relief as the full time whistle signalled three points for the Blues.
Things you don’t see and hear on TV
The first thing to mention is that of the terrifying incident in the first half. What began with a few murmurings of home fans trying to get the referee’s attention turned very quickly into a medical emergency at Vicarage Road.
Thankfully, it seems as though the supporter is now stable and recovering after being saved by the emergency services. Speaking of which, the unity between home and away fans in applauding the paramedics and physios was good to see too.
Moving onto the game, there was an excellent noise from the away fans considering the circumstances, and indeed the performance itself at times. An interesting feature at this ground worth pointing out is how, when the game is in-play, the lights above the seats are turned off, and during an evening game that really does add to the atmosphere.
Much like at the King Power Stadium, there was a sign showing the distance travelled by the away fans, thanking them for their support. The only problem being, when that distance is only 15 miles it does feel as though it is slightly patronising. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention a certain new Edouard Mendy chant which garnered lots of enthusiasm late in the first half. It may not be the smoothest lyrics, nor the best fitting name for the tune, but any song is better than nothing when you have the best goalkeeper in the world in your team.
In the end, this is the sort of game which, unlike United, proved that Tuchel’s Blues do have the grit and determination they need to go all the way this season.
It might not have been pretty, it might not have been convincing, but three points are three points when it comes to the league table.
Let’s just hope there’s many more to come.
Written and Edited by Noah Robson (@noahrobson_)
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