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97/98: Reports:

Nationwide League Division 2, 16/8/97
Carlisle United 0(0)
Watford 2(0)
Team: Chamberlain 3, Gibbs 3, Kennedy 3, Page 3, Millen 4, *Mooney 4*, Noel-Williams 4, Hyde 3, Lee 3, Johnson 4, Slater 3
Subs: Rosenthal (for Lee) 3, Palmer (for Page) 3, Talboys (for Gibbs) 3
Scorers: Kennedy (60), Johnson (78)
It's a long way to...
Report by Ian Lay

I know it is fairly obvious, but it is a long way to Carlisle. Even if youíre not driving. Luckily my brother didnít mind taking myself and Rupe up there, and I can tell you that having gone such a long way every other away game this season will be a doddle. Met up with Pete Fincham before the game, and also bumped into Dave Loveday, Pete Goddard, Tim Brennen (finally!!!), Chris Stride and a number of others.

So why did we go such a long way to watch a football match? Quite simply addiction. I am addicted to Watford at the moment. I need my fix. If we keep playing like this, I am going to find it very hard to miss a game this season. Though we didnít have it all our own way, and certainly this was our least impressive performance this season. But it was still a good performance, with everyone contributing in some way or another.

Carlisle started very well. They look well organised and certainly had players who could knock the ball around. And even though we escaped with three points on Saturday I donít think that will be a regular occurrence for visitors to this very pleasant town.

Watfordís first chance came when Micah Hyde intercepted a Carlisle pass half way inside our half. He took the ball forward and played it out to Slater on the right wing. Stuart managed to get past his man and send a cross in but Leeís effort was blocked.

Then Watford put together a very good move involving Slater, Hyde, Johnson and Kennedy. Though it didnít come to anything, it was Watfordís best attack of the afternoon. Something we are seeing more of these days.

Carlisleís best chance of the half came after a mistake from Johnson following a free kick for our hosts. He mis-judged the bounce on the edge of the box, which allowed a Carlisle player to turn inside him and send in a shot which Chamberlain did well to palm away, the resulting follow-up shot going over the bar.

A few minutes before that Mooney unleashed a 25 yard effort which beat the keeper, but unfortunately shaved the outside of the upright.

I must admit that when half time came I was quite relieved. Carlisle were certainly having more of the possession and creating the better chances. But I had faith in a defence which looks as rock solid as it did last year and I felt the longer the game went without a goal the more frustrated Carlisle would get.

The second half saw Watford come much more into the game. We started to pass the ball better and we would break from defence with a lot more urgency. Lee produced a good save from their keeper on about 58 minutes after excellent work from Gifton on the right had enabled him to get a cross in.

Then, about a minute after that, GT made a double substitution. Palmer came on for Page (donít know why, he didnít look injured) and Rosenthal replaced Lee. The effect was almost instant. With virtually his first touch of the ball Ronny sent a pass out to Gifton on the right wing. Noel beat two defenders and then took the ball to the by-line just inside the box and crossed for Peter Kennedy to head home from a couple of yards out. A simple, well-executed move. With two of the new signings involved again. It is great to see Kennedy getting so far forward and with more and more confidence Iím sure we will see him getting on the scoresheet more often.

Moments later our hearts were in our mouths as the ball rolled agonisingly across the face of our goal after a throw in for Carlisle and a cross/shot. In the end Mooney cleared but it was the closest Carlisle had come to goal in this half. And in the end the closest they would come again in the remaining fifteen minutes, because on 78 minutes the game was put beyond their reach.

Having won a free kick, Rosenthal tapped the ball to Richard Johnson who took the ball forward a couple of paces and hit a shot from all of 35 yards into the top right corner. Goal of the Season? Well, it is going to take something very special to beat it.

We played out the remaining time quite comfortably. Carlisle were understandably a little dejected, though to be fair to them they were missing a few regular first team players. Iím sure they will comfortably survive this season. Probably somewhere in mid-table, and expect them to defend their AutoGlass trophy with passion.

As for the Horns, this was certainly not like the first two games. But then it never was going to be. I always thought that of the three opening matches, this one was going to provide the biggest test. I was not wrong, but the lads stuck at their tasks and produced a very well organised and workmanlike display.

At the back the defence looked solid. Chamberlain had to pull off a couple of good saves and looks like he could well keep Day from taking the number one shirt. Millen and Mooney were the pick of the bunch, the latter getting my man of the match award. It was a very close run thing between him and Millen. But I think it is a testament to the hard work he has put in, in adapting to play in the unfamiliar role of centre back over the past few games, that he should be awarded the MotM.

The midfield didnít have as much room as they had in the two previous games. Hyde probably had his poorest game to date, though he still had a good one. This rather demonstrates what a good start he has had to his Watford career. Slater made some good runs, and Johnson was tackling as hard as ever.

Up front, Lee looked a bit jaded. I think the sending off may have knocked his confidence a bit. But he still won a lot of balls in the air, and if it hadnít have been for a good save from the Carlisle keeper he would have got on the scoresheet.

His partner in crime, Gifton Noel-Williams, had another good game. He worked hard, set up the first goal and is looking better with each game. This could be a very important year for Noel. Though only seventeen still and obviously with time on his side, if he can hold down a fairly regular place in the side then he will know he is going to go onto big things.

So three games, and three wins. The bubble will have to burst sooner or later. I donít think it will be against Brentford, though, or Swindon for that matter. No, the next big test is Preston away. If we can come away after that game still unbeaten then Iíll know we are in for a special season.