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Nationwide Division One, 17/10/00
Deep sigh
By Martin Blanc

Ever invited someone you didn't know very well round to your place to listen to music, stuck on some classy Mozart, Neil Young, Barry White - I don't know, whatever floats your boat - only for your guest to pull out a grimy tape recorder and turn on a D-90 of grotesque industrial feedback and Kerrang death metal at top volume? You have? Then you'll know how the Hornets felt last night...not to mention that, over the top of the racket, their visitors were yelling: 'We thought this was your sort of music...'

Someone asked me this morning how the football went. 'Nil-nil,' I sighed. 'Who were you playing?' she asked. 'Gillingham.' 'Gillingham has a team? God, is that the type of people you're mixing with now?'

Well, hopefully just till next spring, although if we're as frustrated by classier teams as the season chugs along, and we can't learn some new tricks, it'll be play-off-land once again. Having said that, my money's on the new tricks.

Can't fault Gillingham's workrate - they did a Hessenthaler-style Watford to a club that's moved on a bit since then. In the first half, we were everywhere. Who didn't have a shot on goal? From memory, I think probably only Alec Chamberlain and maybe Robbo. But we'd taken up where we left off against QPR, and although entertaining, that wasn't a place of decisiveness, penetration, accuracy, or clear thinking at the last crucial second. And it wasn't a place of much luck, either. The forwards, and best of all Darren Ward, took turns rattling the crossbar. Gifton missed a left-footed sitter when put through by Tommy Smith. Wave after wave, the cliché goes - but we could rarely put together the sort of moves that led to our set-pieces and goals at the weekend. On the subject of our forwards, Gifton on an off-night plays depressingly more like a Harlem Globetrotter than Michael Jordan; and with a wall of blue meanies facing them, even Tommy Smith back in a central role couldn't jinx a way through. Dropping Wooter after the game he had on Saturday demanded a real show from Smithy. He did his bit, certainly. But whether it was enough is, well, irrelevant now.

We could cope with the frustration for the first half, the chimes of doom weren't clanging particularly loudly. This was a team that certainly looked as if it would indeed, as we chanted, score in a minute. And then maybe another couple in quick succession. But the calming opener was refusing to come after the interval as well. Clearly Hessenthaler had read them the plot of "Watford: The Movie" at half-time. And it had stuck. They could see our every move coming, and we still weren't of a mind to up our workrate to compensate. The ticking clock seemed to have a panicking effect from rather early on. A blur of charges on the edge of the box, a sackful of errors from the Gills' defence, but no time, space, or any other dimension for that matter, in which to finish everything off.

The tide had turned, to continue the watery clichés. The benefit of the referee's considerable doubt was no longer going our way - Page was finally fingered for his third handball just outside the area, and other more dubious calls were evening up the ref's favours. Wooter at long last replaced an inconsistent Hyde, having spent what looked like ten minutes by the dug-out and touchline, so long in fact that he'd put his sweatshirt back on. Naturally, he got clattered by all concerned. Wooter features large in "Watford: The Movie", as Hessenthaler will have pointed out (no cracks about seven dwarves, please...), but despite having the shot of the night, from about the same angle as Delaney's cracking goal for Villa against us last season, and getting a lovely cross in at the death, that was all a man in great form had time to fit in.

Our heads never dropped, our self-belief never wavered. But neither did our methods. Our usual emergency plan, one T. Mooney, to be launched at recalcitrant opponents, is mid-suspension. Obviously, it goes almost without saying, our main set of plans are good enough not to warrant such a gung-ho fallback too often. But last night was the night, we had at least half an hour to try it out, and hindsight isn't much compensation for two easy home points dropped. Greedy? Not at all. Nights like this remind us how early in the season we 46-gamers are. Not even a quarter gone. Big ups to Palmer, Ward, and occasionally the forwards, but evidently we can't walk on water, guys. Can't scuffle, dummy or score on water either. Bugger.