Much has changed at Watford this season. The old main grandstand, known as the East Stand, has been closed for safety reasons (although it is still considered secure enough to house the media), players have been sold to help balance the books, and the team, almost incredibly, is playing passing football.
For a club of Watford's recent traditions, it is virtually a revolution. For a generation, from the "Rocket Man" days of Elton John and Graham Taylor, Luther Blissett and John Barnes, Watford were branded as a family club that played uncompromising, direct football. The ball was kicked as far as possible, from end to end, in a belief that multiple-passing moves achieved nothing more than one long pass did. Beauty? No thanks.
Now their young manager Aidy Boothroyd, is seeking more fluency. "Last season, we lost our identity a little bit," he said. "We were neither a long-ball team nor a short-ball team, but a give-the-ball-away team. Now we need to be more fluid, but it's no good being aesthetic if you don't win." On Saturday, his new philosophy was tested. Aided by a harsh red card, that saw Charlton's left-back Kelly Youga sent off shortly before the interval, Watford confirmed their evolution, received warm applause at times and took the points.
"It was a fair result," Boothroyd said. "It's a very difficult game against Charlton. We've had a lot of score draws and no-score draws against them, but I felt we had the edge."
Alan Pardew was less impressed, notably with referee Iain Williamson's swift decision after Youga, the last defender, tackled Tamas Priskin on the edge of the Charlton penalty area. "I thought it was harsh," he said. "It obviously changed the game in terms of making it very difficult for us."
Few neutrals would disagree with Pardew, whose team also produced some pleasing stuff. But Watford were already ahead when Youga was dismissed, Tommy Smith having opened the scoring when he controlled a Priskin knock-down on his chest and steered a low shot beyond Nicky Weaver. It was a classic "direct" strike.
Goal: Smith (28) 1-0.
Watford (4-3-3): Poom; Doyley, Bromby, DeMerit, Sadler; Eustace, Williamson (Francis, 77), Harley; Smith, Priskin (Rasiak, 65), McAnuff (Mariappa, 90). Substitutes not used: Loach (gk), Hoskins.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Weaver; Semedo (Dickson, 72), Fortune, Hudson, Youga; Sam, Racon (Holland, 58), Bailey, Bouazza (Basey, h-t); Gray, Varney. Substitutes not used: Elliot, Shelvey.
Referee: I Williamson (Berkshire)
Booked: Watford Eustace, Harley, Francis, McAnuff. Sent off: Charlton Youga (45).
Man of the match: Harley.
Attendance: 14,413.Reuse content