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Match Report: Watford v Bolton Wanderers

Dougie Freedman took his Bolton Wanderers team, which was dutifully followed by over a 1000 supporters, down South to play Watford on the opening Saturday of the 2014/15 Championship season. We all should have stayed at home.

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Dougie Freedman wanted to set his team up in such a way which would make sure Watford "don't see a lot of the ball". Which is obviously why Darren Pratley started. Along with Dazza Prazza, Freedman opted to start Craig Davies upfront on his own, which was seemingly what everybody wanted. The rest of the team was pretty much as expected. Watford lined up in a 352, which contained the dangerous partnership of Deeney and Vydra.

The atmosphere inside the ground prior to kick off was joyful, loud and seemed so optimistic about the season to come.

We were soon dragged back down to Earth and reminded of the pleasures of supporting Bolton Wanderers a whole twenty seconds into the game. Dean Moxey failed to communicate with his fellow defenders when he stupidly hit a weak back pass towards Lonergan. The pass played through Troy Deeney, who thankfully only hit the side netting.

Watford soon created another opportunity, with left wingback, Daniel Pudil, dragging a shot wide of the post.

Bolton did try and craft some chances of their own, despite the really shaky start, but there was a painful lack of movement and creativity in the final third, which just boiled are attacks down to Neil Danns trying to keep hold of the ball whilst several defenders descended upon him.

The slight spark of anything good in the first half was coming from Chung-yong Lee, who looked fit and hungry, more so than he has for a while. It was his through ball that gifted Pratley some space on the edge of the box, but being Darren Pratley, he fell on his arse.

Watford were in complete control of the game. Midfielder Daniel Tozser was dominating the midfield, winning every loose ball and dictating the tempo of the game with his quick passing. Him combined with the dynamic Lewis McGugan and Almen Abdi, was proving too much for our static and one dimensional midfield to handle.

Watford's new signing, Ecuadorian wingback, Juan Carlos Paredes, was also proving difficult to contain with. He was continuously stretching the Bolton back line and twisting Moxey into knots. It was his dangerous cross, after outfoxing Moxey again, which forced Medo Kamara into an awkward defensive header.

You could sense that a goal was coming.

And funnily enough, it arrived on the 17th minute.

A lovely series of passing from out of defence from Watford resulted in Pudil lofting a long ball forward which sailed over the Bolton defence. Deeney stole in between two defenders then lifted the ball over Andy Lonergan, who was hopelessly caught out in no mans land and  could do nothing but watch as the ball nestled into the back of the net.

All that early optimism and hope was completely snuffed out and chants of "Gartside out!" soon rang aloud.

And the fans were given the opportunity to get even more furious only a mere six minutes later, as Watford doubled their lead.

Pratley lost the ball after trying to do something with it with his head, I don't know what. The ball fell to Tozser, who hit another long pass which our defence were again incapable of dealing with, the ball landed at Matej Vydra's feet, the Czech international cut inside from the byline, leaving Tim Ream in his wake, then as it looked as if he'd square the ball, he instead slotted past Lonergan, who really should have done better. God help us if Adam Bogdan leaves.

Watford weren't done there and continued to press, with Abdi smashing a shot over the crossbar from distance.

The Whites finally had a shot on goal themselves. A clever touch from Medo created him some space 25 yards from goal, he then hit a rasping drive goal wards, but it sailed over the bar.

The biggest cheer of the day from the Bolton end was heard when the atrocious referee finally gave something in our favour, blowing up for a foul on Craig Davies.

The resulting free kick was swung into the area by Jay Spearing and was met by Matt Mills, but it hardly troubled Heurelho Gomes in the Watford goal, as he collected the ball.

Watford continued to control the game as the half drew ever closer to it's conclusion. Good defending from Mills kept Deeney from connecting with the ball in the six yard box and Abdi again tried his luck from distance, but Lonergan got himself behind the ball to keep it out of the goal.

Then the full whistle blew to an echo of boos, as the referee brought a painful half of football to an end.

Freedman made one change at the break, introducing Liam Feeney for the utterly pointless Darren Pratley.

But the change nearly proved completely futile only a minute into the second half, as Paredes picked up the ball from distance and crashed a shot off the underside of the crossbar.

Despite that early scare, Bolton started the half a lot brighter, with Feeney making all the difference down the right hand side. His direct running earned us a corner, which Spearing nearly capitalised on, as he brought the ball down on the edge of the box and then saw his effort deflected just wide of the post.

The game really opened up with both sides looking to score. Lewis McGugan made light work of Moxey as he swept him aside to set up Abdi, whose effort somehow went wide and Vydra saw a goal bound effort blocked away.

At the other end Feeney forced Gomes into a stretching save with a powerful shot from distance, after more good work from the winger.

Mills managed to get his head to the resulting corner, but he failed to test Gomes.

Dean Moxey's pretty awful debut was put to an end on the 60th minute, as another debutant, Dorian Dervite, replaced him with Ream moving to left back.

Davies, who'd tried his best to make a presence of himself but was let down by a real lack of service and by his poor first touch, finally managed to get a shot away, but his volley from the edge of the area went well over the bar.

Abdi then saw yet another shot blocked by the Bolton defence and soon after Lee nearly caught Gomes off guard with an audacious looping cross-cum-shot, which the Brazilian 'keeper had to tip over the bar.

Freedman was only 70 minutes late in switching to a 442, as he brought on Jermaine Beckford for Danns. The striker had a golden opportunity after being on the pitch for only a moment, Lee hit a low, dangerous cross right into his path but he failed to connect with the ball with the goal gaping.

Watford introduced Fernando Forestieri and I believe the words I said were: "He'll score. The fast, tricky little..."

Sometimes it hurts to be right, as only second after coming on, he did.

A foul should have been given after a Bolton player was unfairly apprehended, but it wasn't and another long ball was sent forward which Dervite embarrassingly failed to deal with, allowing Forestieri to poke past the outrushing Lonergan.

Que the mass exodus.

Those who did stay though got to see Bolton come close to adding a consolation on a few occasions: Lee's header from McNaughton's delivery was pushed onto the post by Gomes, an unmarked Dervite headed inches over and Lee again, this time hitting his effort well wide of the post. But despite Bolton's pressure, the Watford defence remained solid.

And with that, the full time whistle blew.

Awful defending, lack of creativity, woeful refereeing, bad passing, anger, frustration, disappointment.

Football, it's good to have you back.