Here we go, Rochemback scoring a goal!!
Many years of watching Boro tends to promote cynicism. The lack of enthusiasm amongst fans going into today's game was understandable. Last week's spineless defeat at West Ham, the absence of Woodgate and Arca and inept, bottom-of-the-league opposition seemed the perfect recipe for a 'typical Boro' performance and dropped points. Instead, the players inspired the fans for once and three valuable points were secured. The importance of the victory is only heightened by the sudden and unexpected competence now being displayed by West Ham and Charlton.
It already seems a common theme of this blog to state that the opposition were of previously unseen ineptitude. Charlton before Christmas were far more disorganised, clueless and spineless than the 2-0 scoreline suggests. Bolton were truly dreadful in January but it still felt like they may have escaped with a milder beating if they'd had someone better than the hopeless Nicky Hunt to mark Downing. Watford managed to beat all of these challenges to set a high (low?) standard in the battle for the title of most inept visitors to the Riverside this season. They did not just look like a Championship team - they looked like a bad Championship team.
It took just five minutes to forge a lead as, not for the last time, the bright, jinking play of Adam Johnson unsettled the visitors' defence. Johnson's cross was headed back across the goalmouth by Downing to set up an easy finish for Mark Viduka. Johnson's inclusion on the right wing transformed the balance of the side. With two genuine wingers on display, Watford's defence was struggling from early on.
The Hornets briefly levelled as the Boro defence switched off. Damien Francis smashed a flick-on past Schwarzer from close range. This seemed to spark the home team into life. Johnson deliberated before picking out George Boateng. The skipper's innocuous strike flicked off Chris Riggott's heel and speared into the top corner. The half-time lead was just about deserved.
After the break, Boro poured forward with Viduka and Johnson proving particularly dangerous. De Merit and Shittu were reduced to frequent shirt-tugging and the American was extremely fortunate not to concede a penalty while grappling with Viduka. Ben Foster demonstrated the benefits of a season's practice behind Watford's porous defence by superbly blocking a Rochemback follow-up, while Shittu bravely deflected a close range strike from Yakubu that seemed destined for the net over the bar. The breakthrough seemed inevitable.
With a little over fifteeen minutes left and a defence beginning to appear a little nervy, Viduka struck. Adam Johnson was again involved. His early run from a throw in flummoxed the Watford defence and Viduka eventually carved an angle to smash the ball into the top corner. Soon after, Yakubu harried De Merit out of possession and Viduka slid the ball into the path of Rochemback. The portly Brazilian controlled and poked the ball past Foster.
Overall, it was a surprisingly enjoyable afternoon which had seemed to promise only tedium and anti-climax. There were many impressive performances as a dismal Watford team were dispatched with confidence and flair. On today's evidence, only the commendable goalkeeping of Ben Foster is sparing Watford from total humiliation. They are team of such limitations it is practically impossible to describe them without becoming incredibly patronising. Nonetheless, these three points seem to have just about banished any lingering relegation fears, particularly with the unimpressive Aston Villa to follow next Saturday. Hopefully, this level of performance can be kept up and everyone can set off for summer holidays smiling.
1 Schwarzer 6 Barely touched the ball. No chance with goal.
17 Xavier 8 Burst forward with attacking intent in second half. Crazy man, crazy hair.
33 Taylor 6 Not his finest afternoon but solid enough.
5 Riggott 7 Untroubled.
14 Huth 7 He kicks the ball very hard.
28 Johnson 9* Lively and positive. Attacking intent crucial for first 3 goals.
19 Downing 7 A constant threat.
10 Rochemback 7 Thrived against hopeless opposition. Well taken goal
7 Boateng 8 Dominated midfield. Classic Boat.
20 Yakubu 7 Direct running troubled defence.
9 Viduka 9 SIGN HIM ON!!!!!