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04/05: Reports:

Football League Division Two, 08/03/05, 7.45pm
Nottingham Forest
By Tim Walklate

"Huh - I'm a stumble-john!"

The pinnacle moment of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, in Act Seven where Jim O'Connor has kissed Laura, realising that he's been a blundering fool, he hasn't performed correctly and has (temporarily) made young Laura feel on top of the world.

The same could be said about Tuesday night's match at Vicarage Road. "Stumble-john", or "blunderer", sums up the Watford performance fairly well, granting naive Nottingham Forest fans blind optimism in the hope that they may well avoid relegation after all.

After leaving my work at 7.15 to be picked up and driven very promptly towards Watford, we managed to get to our seats just in time to see kick off. With the smell of smoked Waitrose Craster Kippers coming from my hands, whilst scribbling on a Tottenham Hotspur notepad, heads started to turn as the match got underway - just about.

During a fairly passive first ten minutes, two early Jackson corners resulted in nothing, as well as some light pressure from Forest including some decent crosses from Commons, who was looking the most promising player on the pitch. However, the blend of Dyer, Bouazza and Eagles combining in quick, nifty breaks along either flank entertained the Rookery for a time.

The next ten minutes were the most exciting of the match from Watford's point of view. Darlington made a run on the left hand side to meet Chris Eagles' awaiting head, powerfully urging the ball towards the net, but unfortunately a blundering Bruce Dyer got in the way of it, knocking it away to the left hand side. A drilled header from Jackson also went wide. The format for Watford that night seemed to consist of constantly counter attacking, with no end product. One of our best chances of the match was one of Bruce's trademark turns around the defender to drill a shot with his right foot inside the box, but that was also blocked.

I must stress now that all who stayed in and did not pay the 15 to watch this atrocity had the right idea. From this point on it was blunder after blunder, with a weak Forest side trouncing all over us, mixed with some absolutely terrible decisions from the referee.

Mr P Melin, I believe, is now the worst referee we've had at Vicarage Road this season, just beating the Cardiff bloke who 'missed' the spectacular diving save from Jobi McAnuff inside the area. The referee, who missed clear Forest handballs, gave wrong decisions on throws and fouls, and refused to play advantage to Watford at any time increasingly became frustrating. This was one of the contributing factors which built up the pressure from Forest, such as several free kicks and corners, and made us all feel that this pressure would result in a climax.

And unfortunately it did. Kris Commons on a run, turning past a defender and painfully, yet sweetly, drilling a shot from twenty yards out past a stranded Richard Lee to give Forest the lead. But credit where it's due, this was a fantastic goal, and not only the first from the youngster who looks to be one of the best players in the League. At half time the players went in, probably to be told to put a bit more effort in their work. But the fact remained that a team in the relegation zone was beating an under-performing, lacklustre, mid-table club.

I was told by Ian that hopefully this match would be a better one than the one he had to write about on Saturday. I wasn't lucky. The second half was much more turgid than the first, and poor quality from the Hornets' players just frustrated the fans. My notes mainly consisted of substitutions in the second half, sadly.

Poor errors from both teams, including a low and pitiable corner from Commons, a mis-kick from Richard Lee and a shot from Gareth Taylor landing in row Z did anything but entice the crowd. And the crowd, it had really given up hope with driving the players on. When Webber came on for Jackson, there was an air of optimism, but that was all, thin air. McNamee and Ardley were put on to add support on the wings, which did start to put pressure on the Forest back line.

Perhaps he sensed an onslaught from Watford, which he was definitely not Mr Melin decided to make countless poor decisions. This season it's surprising that with so many poor referees that have come to Watford and messed us up, we are still in a safe league position, and we still have not had one player sent off.

The last twenty minutes did see a slight improvement in our attacking play, McNamee confusing Wes Morgan with his mesmerising skill, forcing in some good crosses, but once again lacking the end product. And then Gav surprisingly had a crack at goal from eighteen yards out, which just, only just, went wide. Mahon, it has to be said, was on form tonight, he was one of the few who didn't put a foot wrong, our best player. Gunnarsson was non-existent, however, and not his normally commanding presence.

But on seventy-eight minutes Watford relaxed and were made to pay once again. Darryl Powell managed to get past Chambers and cross the ball low past Lee, towards Commons for a comfortable tap in to secure his brace. Job done, Forest. Not good enough, Watford. Cue the boos. The fans flooded out, leaving about three quarters of the stadium empty, most of which were the Forest contingent.

It was just waiting to be finished, everyone wanted to go home, awaiting the whistle to be blown by the biased referee so we could all leave. A long range shot from Mahon was saved by Gerrard, a left-footed volley from Bouazza was cleared off the line acrobatically by Doig, and Dyer had a shot which was well caught by the Forest keeper, finishing the match off.

There was a general downer about the stadium at half past nine last night, most of the players avoided the boos from the fans and just ran into the tunnel. Webber came over and clapped the Rookery, who, in return, jeered him away. I left the stadium questioning the fact why we play so poorly against the weaker teams, and that on Saturday we will almost certainly raise our game against an in-form QPR side, who are on the fringe of the playoffs.

Not one player on Tuesday had passion, all lacked heart. And whilst they weren't a great side, the Forest players made sure that they'd include the fans in celebrating their glory by running up to them and encouraging them, a sense of unity between them, which we did not have. Poor refereeing contributed to the scoreline, but only fractionally, lack of effort and general chaos around the pitch from the Watford side added to probably the worst match they've played this season. The booing, albeit harsh, was rightful, almost needed. It may remind the team that we are not yet safe from relegation. So hopefully, they will not be a bunch of 'stumble-johns' and slip up, otherwise the Watford-Luton derby may not occur next season....