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97/98: Reports:

Nationwide League Division 2, 8/11/97
Walsall 0(0)
Watford 0(0)
Team: Chamberlain 3, Gibbs 3, Kennedy 3, Page 3, Millen 4, *Mooney 4*, Noel-Williams 3, Palmer 3, Lee 3, Johnson 3, Rosenthal 3
Subs: Thomas (for Noel-Williams) 3, Easton, Robinson
A complete absence of Gladys Protheroe, no sign of fish for a change - but the pies were nice
Report by Mike Scofield

When my match report starts by me musing "what has happened to Gladys Protheroe's celebratory half-time announcements at away matches?", you can tell that I am struggling to find much to report on today. No doubt Simon will advise us in due course. Maybe, now that Watford look like having some success, La Protheroe has found some other struggling team to follow to the ends of the labour exchange. But I digress.

A complete sell-out in the away end as far as I could see, so there must have been about 1,000 travelling 'Orns.

This was a dour game that only really became anywhere near exciting in injury time, when Thomas had a good dribble and shot from the edge of the area, but the keeper pulled off a great save and pushed it round the far post. Gibbs then had a run through the defence and again the keeper saved it.

In the first half GNW was put through and rounded the keeper, but that took him pretty wide, and he put in a reasonable shot, but it was too low down and a defender managed to get back to clear off the line. He was subbed at half-time for Thomas - maybe because he had got booked and GT did not want to risk anything worse, he is after all, very competitive. But he was not replaced because he played badly.

Their attack was quite lively, particularly Boli, but never really threatened. Both midfields cancelled each other out, so nothing really got created. Boli missed a great chance in the 1st half, when clean through, but Mooney got in a last ditch block. Boli also missed in the 2nd half, when he shot wide when almost clean through. Mooney was on top form and held the defence together with excellent covering tackles and gets my vote for Man of the Match.

Jason Lee won loads of high balls, but GNW/Thomas/RRR all seemed to want to go for the high ball at the same time as JL, so the head-downs and flick-ons went into the space where the other Hornets should have been. Kennedy had a quiet game, as he tried to stem the flow from their midfielders who were skillful and pacy. Palmer had a good game, but he is a spoiler, rather than a creator. Gibbs looked good, and had three excellent shots on target, whilst being pretty solid at the back. There were some very good long cross field passes from Lee, Mooney and Palmer in an attempt to get some width into the game, but again, nothing really got going from these.

No-one really played badly, but we could not really get the runs from deep positions going. They did not look like a bottom of the table team, and a draw was a fair result. Same team as at Southend.

Easton/Robinson/Thomas were the subs. By the way Gary Porter was sub for them, and got a generous round of applause and chanting from us.

All good things...
Report by Dave Perahia

After seeing three victories out of three on my travels with Watford this season, it was inevitable that things would have to go pear-shaped eventually, and today was the day. Actually perhaps that's not quite fair. Watford put in a workmanlike performance and battled to earn a creditable point. It's a mark of our progress this season that not having won today could be seen as failure. Not too long ago, an away draw and no goals conceded would have been cause for celebration.

Having moaned about how crap Roots Hall, Southend was earlier in the week, I'm afraid I'm going to have to moan about the Bescot as well. It's a sorry little stadium - a soulless concrete box dumped by the M6 motorway capable of holding hardly any fans. A smaller and less atmospheric league ground you'd be hard pressed to find. It certainly wasn't big enough to hold the Watford fans, some of whom had nowhere to sit and instead had to resort to standing on the far right of the terrace and being harassed by stewards who couldn't understand why they were unwilling to sit on the laps of those already seated. At least 1,000 travelling fans (or so it seemed), but a surprising lack of noise despite that.

Our team was that which began at Southend, with Bazeley, Hyde and Slater still out injured. Oh, and Golden Gary Porter was on the bench for Walsall, getting a touching ovation from the Watford fans. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately ?), he was destined to stay on the bench for the ninety minutes, but it's nice that he's on his way back to full fitness.

And so to kick-off. I guess Pagey won the toss as Watford lined up attacking the far goal with the low sun in the eyes of the Walsall keeper, and the Saddlers kicked off. The first half was notable for the lack of chances created by either side. Defences were definitely on top, and the respective midfields cancelled each other out. Some say they relish this kind of 'tactical battle'. I find it frankly tedious, and Pete Fincham summed up it up beautifully with a huge, deafening yawn at one point which neatly encapsulated my feelings more eloquently than I possibly could with any number of words. The Walsall forward line, with Frenchman Roger Boli as a focal point, looked tricky and dangerous at times but were expertly marshalled by our defence. I must single out Mooney for extra praise today - he was at his fearsome best and apart from being as solid as I've seen him was responsible for a couple of brilliant saving tackles. We had the best chance of the half just before half time - Gifton being put through, neatly beating the keeper but having his shot impressively cleared off the line by a defender.

Half-time came and went, and the Horns kicked off attacking our end. As seems to be the way these days, this was a signal for the Hornets to surrender the initiative and the ball to spend most of the next 20-25 minutes at the other end. Play seemed to degenerate during this period of the game. Both teams (Walsall in particular) seemed happy to hoof the ball forward rather than looking to put a foot on it and pass as they had tried to do earlier in the game.

Ironically, this policy almost paid dividends for the home side, a powerful drive striking Alec's right-hand post after a hoofed ball forward was brought under control and fired goalwards by a Walsall player. Another long ball arrived at the feet of Boli (I think) who shot wide from a central position under challenge from Mooney (probably).

The Hornets were far less fluent than in recent games, struggling to impose themselves on proceedings. It wasn't that our team played badly, more that the ones we rely on to be creative just weren't firing on all cylinders. Ronny made a few runs without really threatening. Lee's flicks just weren't read by his fellow forwards and Dai Thomas, on for Gifton at half time, huffed and puffed to little effect. And yet just as I had come to terms with the fact that we weren't gonna win this one, we nearly did, Dai hitting a stunning shot from the edge of the area which was superbly palmed away by the Walsall keeper. Immediately after that, Nigel Gibbs (yes, I did say Gibbs) fired in a shot from a tight angle which was well smothered by the keeper. Soon after, the final whistle blew and that was that.

So we remain well clear at the top of the table and unbeaten in seven away. We're the team they all want to beat, however, and as this game clearly showed, there'll not be many easy matches between now and next May.