Clean sheet on ‘awful’ pitch was plus point says Ismael

There was still some patient build-up, but both central defenders and keeper Ben Hamer were equally happy to hit the channels.

It was a direct result of the surface the game was played on – a pitch that was equally difficult for both teams and one which Wednesday manager Danny Rohl chose to say very little about when asked by the media afterwards.

“When you are faced with this sort of situation in this period of the season, it’s not a time to play nice football from the back,” said Ismael.

“It’s about taking the right decision, and do whatever you have to in order to avoid putting yourself in difficulties.

“We know we cannot have a proper build-up so it’s better to put the opponent under pressure.

“We knew they wanted to try and play football too, and they also made a lot of mistakes. That’s what we knew would happen.

“Before the game we said to the players we have to adapt tonight.”

It all made for a pretty wretched spectacle, where long periods of not much were interspersed with a few chances at either end.

The draw keeps Watford three points outside the play-offs and extends their unbeaten away run to seven games.

“We have to take the point because I think the pitch was awful, and was difficult to play football on,” said the Watford boss.

“We knew that before the game and we prepared the boys but it was really, really bad.

“That’s why it was difficult for us to control the ball as usual, and we struggled more than usual.

“Nonetheless we had some great chances in the first half, especially for Matheus Martins.

“But we were disciplined, calm and we stayed focussed on our game. It was a tough away game.

“Finally we have a clean sheet, and our unbeaten run away is still there. We take what we can get at the minute, and now we have to recover and get ready for Saturday.

“We’ll be pleased to be back at home on Saturday on a great pitch.”

It was the first time in 15 league and cup games that Watford haven’t conceded.

“I think the players deserved a clean sheet and I’m pleased for them,” said Ismael.

“So many times we have deserved a clean sheet because the players work so hard and are very focussed.

“They have huge desire and tonight I could feel their disappointment in the changing room.

“I said to them that this is a process and we are still in the mix. Now go and focus on the next game.

“There is a long way to go still, but it’s important to stay in the mix, continue to be unbeaten and to get the confidence.”

The head coach said that it was unrealistic to expect every performance to be top-notch during this run of six games in 18 days.

“We are playing every three days currently and we cannot expect everything to be perfect.

“The schedule is massive for the players, and what we have to do is use our moments in the games properly.

“When you are having a schedule like ours the need is to stay calm, stay patient and make sure we have the freshness to take the right decisions.

“Plus tonight the pitch was very difficult which means players have to take more decisions to make sure they get it right.”

Right at the death, Ben Hamer made a save that secured the point.

“The one at the end was a big save, but I have to say the referee got the decision really wrong before that as it was a clear throw-in for us,” said Ismael.

“It was a big relief that Ben then made the save, and the other big chance they had was when they hit the post in the first half.”

There was admission from the Watford boss that his players made it overly difficult for themselves.

“Today at times we put ourselves in difficulty when we lost the ball, and even in transition we had some great situations to have an attack but the last pass from midfield went straight to the feet of an opponent.

“We have to work on that last bit so that we can hurt the opponent more often.

“I do have a little more understanding of my players today because the pitch was so difficult. We’re not used to playing on a pitch like that.”

After a first-half where he was booked, fouled and booed by the home crowd, Matheus Martins didn’t reappear after the interval.

“You feel the crowd and their pressure. He’s a young player on a bumpy pitch and anything can happen,” Ismael explained.

“Maybe in the second half they would put more pressure on Matheus, and we didn’t want to take any risks.

“We did the same thing with Mattie Pollock, just to make sure we finished the game with 11 men.”

Just before he headed for the coach home, I asked Ismael if he was expecting a busy day and a late night tomorrow.

“Why?” was his immediately reply, before adding: “Ah, because it’s deadline day? Let’s see.”

Watford Observer | St. Albans News