Report by Ian Grant
Matt Rowson's preview for this match directed some thinly disguised vitriol at the
new Craven Cottage regime, casting the occasion not as a meaningless cup fixture but another
chance to remind Kev 'n' Ray of their mortality. Well, that seemed like a
whole bundle of fun so I'm going to join in.
The Fulham Saga disgusts me. From the media circus (the idea that Mohammed
Al Fayed 'rescued' this once great club from oblivion is particularly repellent - they'd just
been promoted, for heaven's sake) to the parade of signings (it's entirely appropriate
that the most successful one should also be a cheating asswipe - Paul Peschisolido, he of
the dive to get Paul Furlong sent off), it fairly reeks of an arrogant disregard for
supporters' views and club tradition. Sitting cherry-like atop the whole stinking mess is
the sacking of Mickey Adams, done with enough haste to demonstrate that no-one in the
new regime had the slightest intention of even pretending to listen to those who actually knew best -
I trust that those Cottagers fans are taking everything with large pinches of salt. I fear
for Fulham, I really do. Everything that has happened thus far has pointed to absolute
ignorance of football and its culture on the part of the new board. That's a
dangerous precedent. If you ask me, Mohammed Al Fayed is Bill Archer with a Santa Claus hat on - there's
more than one way to strip the heart and soul from a football club.
In the end, though, not even the desire to see Kev 'n' Ray humiliated could elevate
this ridiculous game to the status of a competitive fixture. For that to happen
there would have had to be some reason for not wanting to be beaten. While the players
had places to fight for, the fans had no incentive to look for victory whatsoever -
I'll be quite honest and admit that I wanted us to lose.
The Auto Windscreen Shield is simply a ludicrous waste of everyone's time. Even the reward of
a trip to Wembley is rather dubious compensation for half a dozen dreary evenings
like this one. Graham Taylor, in his infinite wisdom, reacted to the fixture exactly
as I'd want him to react - he treated it as a reserve game. Not one of Saturday's
starting line-up played and only Steve Palmer and a half-fit Jason Lee could claim
to be first team regulars. We even had the obligatory Swedish triallist at left wing-back.
Of course, playing your reserve side removes the last possible argument in favour
of wanting to win - the old "you don't want to get in the habit of losing" chestnut. Since
the first eleven was at home in front of Eastenders and the second eleven is well accustomed
to being beaten anyway, that's not an issue. Slightly strange, then, that some Watford
fans appeared to get quite excited at the prospect of a late equaliser.
But this was not just a meaningless fixture. This was a very bad meaningless
fixture. Shapeless, directionless football played at a fairly pedestrian pace in
front of a completely silent crowd. No sooner had it started than I wanted it to end as I remembered
exactly why I'd moaned so much during last season's AWS matches.
Fulham had the better of the opening exchanges and, by the time Moody rose to
head in from a right wing cross, they deserved their lead. Further chances
came their way as Chris Day excelled with a superb double save, blocking a striker's
run with his legs before parrying the rebound, and a Fulham player poked a cross wide when it seemed easier to score.
Although we gradually tightened things up a bit at the back, there was little
improvement further forward. You could only feel sorry for Nathan Lowndes in the
first half as he chased hopeless through-balls time and again. On this evidence,
I'd like to see more of Lowndes - it'd be about time since, as a relative veteran, he's
in danger of becoming a permanent reserve teamer. Football's full of functional
players and it seems to me that Lowndes is more than that - whether he's good enough remains
to be seen but he was certainly the only Watford player showing any signs of
invention or imagination last night.
We ended the first half having had just one shot on target, a feeble long-range
effort from Jason Lee. The forwards were largely blameless, though - it was in
the midfield that we were being out-played. Too many Watford players, particularly
the likes of Steve Talboys and Clint Easton, offered neither presence nor
influence in the middle of the pitch. It was bloody dreadful.
The second half was only marginally better. We did manage some more shots at
goal, Lowndes wasting the best chance with an extra touch that allowed a defender
to get in and deflect his shot wide, but we were no more composed or creative. At the
back, further youthful lapses allowed everyday situations to escalate into
minor crises and at least two shots skimmed across the face of goal.
An evening that's best and easily forgotten, then. It says much of our team and performance
that Steve Palmer was the outstanding Watford player simply by virtue of being
Steve Palmer - he did what he always does, sweeping up the debris around the penalty
area, but he did it in less auspicious surroundings than usual.
Anyway, none of that really matters - what counts is that we don't have to
waste any more Tuesday nights on this wretched excuse for a tournament.
Kev 'n' Ray are welcome to it.