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95/96: Reports:

Endsleigh League Division 1, 9/3/96
Watford 2(1)
Oldham Athletic 1(0)
Team: Miller 4, Bazeley 3, Barnes 3, Hessenthaler 4, *Page 5*, Foster 2, Mooney 4, Palmer 3, Ramage 4, Porter 4, Moralee 4
Subs: D White, Dixon (for Moralee) 4, Pitcher
Scorers: Ramage 2
Feeling optimistic
Report by Kate Holmes

Approaching this match, I think most Hornets felt that if we were unable to beat Oldham, there would be little point in playing out the rest of the season. I mean, if you can't beat Oldham, who can you beat?

After the hard-fought draw against Derby, we made only one change - Keith Millen out through suspension, meaning the return of Colin Foster. We were also hit with the news that Super Kev is going to be out for at least four weeks.

In a desperate bid to change our fortunes, we chose to shoot the wrong way, meaning that we have to watch our defence defending the first ten minutes of the second half right in front of us.

The first few minutes showed us how nervous the players were. Once we had realised just how bad Oldham were, we relaxed. We took the lead after about fifteen minutes when Gary Porter's pinpoint cross was superbly headed in by that lazy git Ramage. You could feel the relief all around the ground, although after the Ipshit game most of us were not over-confident.

I think my memory is not what it was, as I am struggling to remember much about the game itself. I do remember how bad the linesman was - managing to flag "Well 'Ard" Moralee offside when he was still in his own half. Well 'Ard had a pretty good game, chasing down everything he could and with Ramage actually putting a bit of effort into things, it made a big difference. We reached half-time pretty much in control, but once again none of us got carried away with this winning lark.

We got off to the best of starts in the second half, by actually scoring a goal within the first ten minutes, instead of conceding one. Tommy Mooney played Ramage in, beating the offside trap. Rams raced through, one-on-one with the keeper and coolly lifted the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net. What a wonderful feeling and what an effect it had in the Vicarage Road stand. For the next twenty minutes, the chant of "Luther's Taylor-made Army" was greeted with mass boogying (is that a word?) (It is now - Ed) at the back. I have never experienced an atmosphere like this at Vicarage Road and, considering our current situation, it is very encouraging.

Unfortunately, I think this mood was felt by the players, who relaxed a little too much, and allowed Oldham to score a very soft goal. It was almost in slow motion - we all knew the ball was going to trickle in, but there was nothing we could do to prevent it. Both fans and the players reacted well to this major panic attack, but the desperation begain to set in.

Well 'Ard went off, and was given a standing ovation. The look on his face was great, and he stopped to applaud the fans before he left. During the remaining ten minutes/years, our defending became totally panic-stricken. In one awful moment, Kevin Miller appeared to be fouled, then the ball headed towards a seemingly unguarded net, until Super Scum Kerry Dixon got in the way. That proves to me that he is a true Hornet, and I will try to be considerate to him in future.

Throughout all of our manic defending, Robert Page remained the coolest person in the entire ground. I am pleased that he is finally getting a chance to prove how good he is, as I have been saying it since I first saw him play about six years ago.

Every time the ball was cleared anywhere near the half-way line, mass celebrations started. Ramage also produced the greatest pressure relief by taking a blatant dive to win us a free kick inside our half. It was nice to be able to breathe again for a couple of seconds.

When the final whistle eventually came, it brought a great feeling to most fans. We actually won a game, and I could go to work without the usual comments from Spurs and Arsenal fans. As for Oldham, they look like a relegated side already. Their number 2 in particular put up a display that even the almighty Lavin could not produce. The brilliance of the throw-in that went for a goalkick, the bal up the line ending in the top tier of the Rous. At least none of our lads have played that badly - touch wood!

If Ramage can play like that more often, then we stand a chance of surviving. It is no coincidence that when Ramage plays well, we get results. Still, whatever happens, it is great to feel optimistic (this is being written before West Brom). I even looked at the league table today, just to see what our prospects are. If we do go down, then we won't have to play Swindon, Charlton or Crystal Palace, and the likelihood of Carlisle on a Tuesday night is also doubtful, as they are going down as well. I suggest Wrexham on New Year's Day?

Flying Easter eggs
Report by Ian Grant

Christ, we've bloody done it at last! Twelve games after stuffing Tranmere, we've finally rewarded the fans' loyalty with three points - it appears that scrappy draw at Reading may have been a turning point after all.

Certainly, I was unnecessarily negative about the midweek draw with Derby - must have been lack of sleep or something, when a side that's nine points adrift at the bottom draws with the team that's nine points clear at the top, they deserved to be applauded. There's a new resolve at the club and things are beginning to change for the better - now's not the time to pick holes.

Both sides must have seen this game as a vital one - a chance to start turning things around. That was reflected in the match - I think we're unlikely to see much pretty football between now and the end of the season. Players like Tommy Mooney come into their own at times like these, simply because they never say die, never accept that a cause is lost and that attitude spreads to other players.

It was Mooney's persistence that brought the first goal after fifteen uneventful minutes. Mooney chased after an over-hit cross, played the ball back to Gary Porter, who hit in a first-time cross and Craig Ramage stooped to head in at the near post, narrowly avoiding getting his head kicked off by Andy Hessenthaler in the process. I've never understood why Watford fans couldn't have more faith in Ramage - I knew he'd come good in the end :-^)

This wasn't a game of many chances and we didn't make much of an attacking impact in the rest of the half - it was all too hurried, too frantic. That said, Oldham aren't up to much and they didn't force Kevin Miller into action very often. He had to get down quickly to grab a deflected shot, otherwise it was mainly a case of dealing with crosses and he did that with typical efficiency. The only other highlight of the half was the tannoy requesting that the kids in the Rookery stop throwing their toys onto the pitch - fortunately, there were only a few Oldham fans to witness our embarrassment.

We seem to have stopped the habit of conceding seventeen goals in the first two minutes of the second half, so much so that we actually scored in the 49th minute, to the horror of all present (clearly the new management has no respect for the club's traditions - harrumph). Oldham were throwing men forward and they got caught on the break - Mooney wellied the ball up to Ramage, who ran half the length of the pitch, avoided the flying Easter eggs and planted the ball in the top corner. Fine goal.

We attempted a rendition of "2-0 to the golden boys" but no-one knew the words (ho ho). Instead, the Vic Roaders went into a mental "Loofa's Taylor-made army" session that lasted an exhausting 25 minutes, during which everyone at the back was involved in delirious festivities. I've got a short memory but I can't recall seeing Watford fans supporting their team like that at home - quite magnificent. Surprising, then, that only a couple of the players saw fit to thank the fans at the end.

The chanting paused briefly when McCarthy's weak shot bobbled through a crowd of players and past the unsighted Miller, then returned with renewed vigour. After a while, though, blind panic took over - I had one hell of a sore throat afterwards, let me tell you. The pressure on our goal built up until we were under siege - the last fifteen minutes were almost unbearable. Thankfully, Oldham showed little craft in attempting to get past our massed defence and we were able to break up attacks, keeping Kevin Miller protected. However, it took a goal-line block from Kerry Dixon in the last couple of minutes to prevent an equaliser.

Ramage's ludicrous dive by the touchline in injury time fooled the referee and finally relieved the pressure. The players trudged off at the end but we knew what it meant. So did Robert Page, who did more than anyone to earn the victory. For a player with so little first-team experience, he reads the game superbly - in fact, he was carrying Colin Foster for much of the time- and remains unbelievably calm in high-pressure situations. On this evidence, we've got few worries about losing Holdsworth in the summer - Page is a ready-made replacement.

But this was a team performance. Even Ramage. Not attractive, not particularly brilliant, just a bloody important result. We've already hit rock bottom, anything that comes now is a bonus - imagine the passion that'll be generated if we get within a couple of points of safey. Contrast that with a team like Oldham, who still have everything to lose and look so nervous as a result. The gap's down to six points, thirteen games left. It can be done.