ZOLA’S MEN ARE TALKING ITALIAN
TROY DEENEY’S goal ensured there was no play-off hangover for Watford – and Gianfranco Zola says his side will only get better.
Deeney’s 11th-minute strike was enough to separate the sides, despite a determined secondhalf performance from the Blues and difficulties in fitness and communication for Zola’s men.
He said: “In the first half we were excellent for long spells, although maybe we should have taken more chances and tried to score more than one.
“We didn’t do that and they came back strongly in the second half as our condition is still not perfect and we dropped a little bit physically.
“I’m also looking forward to seeing improvements in communication, which will come as they play more with each other.
“At the moment, they speak English, Italian-English and a combination of all of them, but we’re working on that.
“I’m not the best person to teach them, but I’ll do my best.
“Overall, there are some good teams out there, but we are more prepared for the league this year and we are looking forward to challenging this season with more to give.”
Deeney’s 20 goals had fired Watford to the brink of promotion in 2012-13, only to suffer Wembley play-off heartbreak at the hands of Crystal Palace.
The 25-year-old put the Hornets ahead within 11 minutes, exchanging passes with Fernando Forestieri before side-footing neatly beyond Darren Randolph.
Birmingham’s forward line, meanwhile, was led by their free transfer signing from Mansfield, Matt Green.
The former Non-League man was unlucky to see the ball trickle wide after he challenged goalkeeper Manuel Almunia strongly for Neal Eardley’s through ball on the half-hour.
Five minutes later, Green pressurised Marco Cassetti into lobbing his own keeper with a header – and the ball, again, bounced agonisingly wide.
At the other end, Lewis McGugan’s 25-yarder in first-half injury time was well saved by Randolph as the score remained 0-1 at the break.
Ikechi Anya’s left-wing dribbles had been a feature of Watford’s attacking play during the opening 45 minutes.
And the well-travelled winger was at it again five minutes after the interval, only for the impressive Randolph to eventually smother his effort.
The Blues, however, were still fighting for a leveller and Wade Elliott’s speculative 25-yarder drew a magnificent acrobatic save from Almunia.
The Spaniard saved impres- sively again moments later, this time low down from Dan Burn’s close-range effort.
And the Birmingham defender went close for a second time with a header that bounced inches wide. For all the Blues’ second-half endeavour, they failed to find an equaliser.
Boss Lee Clark said: “Even when we won games here last season, we didn’t play with that intensity, tempo and energy.
“That’s what I call a proper home performance in terms of giving your supporters pride in the jersey – and the Birmingham City crest meaning a lot to the players. I’m a supporter at the end of the day.
“When I stop being involved in the game I will go back on the terraces and become a fan.
“If fans see a player giving everything, they will excuse a mistake or two and back them every time.
“That’s what my players have shown and I need that every week. Then, with improvements in the final third – which will come because the players have determination to improve – I think we’ll be fine.”
BACK IN THE OLD ROUTINE: Troy Deeney quickly returns to his old scoring ways with Watford’s winner
GET IN: Deeney celebrates his strike