The most unusual story (and thank goodness for that) was the one that led to the emotional shows of support for Nic Cruwys before and during the game; the players’ T-shirts, a giant banner, a moving round of applause during the 44th minute, more during the half-time interview with Ollie Floyd. Little that occurred during the match roused the crowd to such levels of passion.
That’s because of another odd story that probably had more bearing on the final result than any of the others; the scheduling of Reading’s FA Cup replay with Bradford on Monday evening, giving them a fixture sequence of Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Monday. In the circumstances, it wasn’t much of a surprise that, with only a couple of exceptions, the Reading line-up elicited a reaction of “Who?” from all but the most knowledgeable Hornets fans. Nor that they were no match for a Watford team coming into the game on a run of 6 wins from the past 8 games.
In that team, the big story last weekend was Fernando Forestieri’s altercation with Bakary Sako – like many Hornets, I’ve spent the week fending off the jeers of fans of other teams. So, given a rare chance to play pretty much an entire game, the big question was whether he would take it. And boy, did he. After his two exquisite assists, it felt like the whole crowd was willing him to score one for himself, and when he did, the catharsis was there for all to see. Fessi is back, and that can only be a good thing.
There are more stories, of course. Troy Deeney’s relentless progress towards becoming the first Watford player to score 20 goals three seasons running. Matty Vydra’s unerring touch when put through on goal. Heurelho Gomes’s alarming distribution. Daniel Tozser’s irritating habit of hitting simple passes approximately three times as hard as they need to be, creating problems out of nothing.
But the biggest one of all is the one we don’t know the ending to yet. Are Watford writing the story of a promotion-winning season? I have to say, it feels increasingly like they are. Slav has built a machine for winning football matches by any means necessary, using different formations and styles, showboating or slogging it out toe-to-toe with the opposition, with the end results ranging from extravagant tonkings to slim victories. It’s a real page-turner, that’s for sure.