By Pete Fincham
The British public reacted with their usual sense of hysteria for the second week running to ensure that the journey Northwards was less than easy. Despite the driving rain and near zero visibility, many more than expected braved the return to this once regular Hornet haunt. Our last visit to the home of the 'pies might have been remembered for Wayne Andrews solo finale, but it was really the display by Tommy Mooney that won the game that cold Division Two evening...and, as if by magic, Mooney managed to single-handedly turn the mediocre circus of a first half into this most professional of away wins.
Frankly, by modern standards the game should not have been played. But with conditions resembling those that were common up until a few years ago - namely a deteriorating quagmire - the battle commenced. The warm reception for once Hornet hero Craig Ramage was not reciprocated, and one feels that his non-recognition of those who offered him his deserved round of applause was a disgrace and thoroughly representative of the man's contribution throughout the evening. If people wanted to see the Ramage of old, then they would have been very disappointed.
The surprise inclusion of Foley, and the resulting overuse of the flanks, made sure that the first half was excruciatingly forgettable. In fact, the only bright spark was Alec Chamberlain's gesturing to the effect that he was cold, wet and thoroughly bored. Who can blame him? When it was suggested that Baardsen was not injured, instead showing common sense on seeing the weather forecast, Chamberlain readily agreed and hobbled as if to indicate that it was Chris Day's turn between the posts, and that was that. Forty-five minutes, £6.50's worth of entertainment and not a comment to make. It was that bad.
However, the introduction of Mooney into the front line was the key factor, as Smith moved into the centre giving Super Tom the freedom of Meadow Lane on the left. His first was so reminiscent of his goal at Blackburn seven days before, as almost to the minute he repeated last week's powerful header from Robinson's well-delivered corner. After years of never scoring from these set pieces, we appear to be finally getting it right.
His second followed soon after, as with more than a little luck his shot ended up in the back of the net, a cruel deflection ensuring the match, and hopefully the tie, are now all but over.
Simply, it was all Watford. The home side tried to attack, but with conditions in our half of the field totally unplayable, they stood little chance of succeeding. By an extraordinary stroke of fate comparable to the 1996 game, Mooney's two-goal lead was halved thanks to a dubious referring decision. From where we sat the referee seemed fairly oblivious to the minor collision involving the excellent Darren Ward, but nevertheless awarded a penalty. The chance for County to make a game of it had been given, and it was a chance they temporarily took.
The match equilibrium was re-established soon after as once again Mooney's presence in the box set up Palmer for a low drive between the keeper's legs. 3-1, and on the basis of the second half domination the score was a fair reflection of what the Hornets deserved. For the first time in my confused memory, Watford have scored three or more in six successive games for the first time. Trefor Jones, please confirm.
We're on the way to Cardiff.