Somewhere in the North Atlantic...
By Tim Tweddell
When you first get to your seat in the UR, and the first thing to catch
your eye is three small bald blokes jogging round the pitch, you have a
feeling it's going to be one of those days. The three in question were the
match officials, Messrs Butler, Ives and James, of whom more later.
The game started, and I had a first chance to see Pidgeley and Kelly, and a
nostalgic viewing of GNW. We scored after four minutes, and the one of us who
had predicted a 1-1 result before the game, settled back for an eighty-five minute
snooze before the equaliser went in. How wrong he was!
An hour later, we were 3-1 down, thanks to three errors, committed by
Pidgeley and Gayle and a linesman - Akinbiyi was offside for the third
goal, but since he ran half the length of the field without any significant
challenge before scoring, and it was academic anyway, no-one seemed to care.
It seemed to us that the referee had put on a wig for the second half, but
we later determined this was the fourth official; Mr. Butler having taken
up duty in the technical area, where he once had to escort Ray Lewington
from the furthest corner of the area allocated to Stoke, back to his own
side, as the manager lost his bearings while ranting at the players.
Only two events sparked any emotion in the second half; firstly an injury
to Cook, who lay on the ground for some time, but fortunately wasn't too
badly injured, and secondly the appearance of Johnno in a Stoke shirt. A
subdued Rookery came to life, and "shoot" echoed around the stadium the
first time he got the ball, before they resumed their slumbers.
With five minutes to go, we decided we'd seen enough. "When did you last
leave the game before the final whistle?" I asked a twenty-year season ticket
holder as we walked back to the car. "Can't remember - a long time ago,"
came the sullen reply.
If United Airways flew their planes as badly as Watford played today, I'd
have spend Saturday afternoon in a rubber boat somewhere in the North
Atlantic, which wouldn't have been a lot worse, come to think of it.