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98/99: Reports:

Worthington Cup 1st Round 1st Leg, 11/8/98
Cambridge United
Scorers: Benjamin (21)
Watford 0(0)
Team: *Chamberlain 4*, Hazan 2, Kennedy 2, Page 3, Palmer 2, Mooney 2, Bazeley 3, Hyde 3, Lee 4, Easton 2, Rosenthal 2
Subs: Millen (for Mooney) 4, Day, Robinson (for Easton) 3, Noel-Williams, Daley (for Bazeley) 3
Report by Mike Scofield

On Saturday against Pompey there were some redeeming features from a poor start and a strong finish.

Tonight it was very hard to find anything positive.

We were comfortably beaten in the pre season friendly a couple of weeks ago, and seemed to go into this game without taking any preventative measures, against a pacy, strong and willing team.

They constantly made our defence look ragged as they used pace as the main weapon against us. Like the first thirty minutes on Saturday, we looked clueless against it for the whole of the first half.

Only after Mooney and Easton were taken off, did Robbo and Millen bring some much needed defensive discipline. Mooney constantly left Kydd in space out wide and Kennedy was always way upfield and left sprinting to get back. Hazan had a good battle against Benjamin - a six foot six brick s*it house, with pace, but mostly was beaten by him.

In the air, we won nothing in the first half, and only in the second did Lee start to do the job expected of him - holding the ball up or flicking it on. When that did happen, inevitably, Ronny or Baze ran over the ball, or were nowhere in sight.

They had six chances to score in the first half. Two classic point blank saves from Alec saved us, as did their two clear headers from the penalty spot that were inches over the bar. Benjamin used his strength to get to a loose ball just outside the six yard box and it bounced under Alec and over the line. Kydd made Mooney look stupid and Kennedy did well to get back to assist on several occasions.

We had three attacks of note. Lee headed wide after a good move. Rosenthal's diving header was a yard wide and Ronny again had a shot well saved in a one on one with the keeper. But they had wave after wave of attacks down both wings as they won the ball time and again in the middle, where Easton was trying hard but was getting bruised out of it by their six footers. Hyde was having another storming game, but could not create much as he was too busy picking up pieces and cutting out yet more attacks. Kennedy and Hazan are not full backs and it showed.

The second half was mostly Watford midfield possession that we could not do anything with. Baze out wide never really delivered the goods and Daley came on to great acclaim. Unfortunately, the ball did not go near him often enough, but when it did, he looked really good skipping through tackles. But they were well organised and there was always another defender or midfielder to rescue them. Ronny had two chances in the six yard box but missed his kick on both occasions (to be fair, the ball came to him at a hundred miles an hour, on the first one) and Lee headed over from a corner near the end, but that was about it.

Very depressing to get stuffed in the way that we did.

Report by Pete Fincham

Report on last night's game as seen through the eyes of the disillusioned!

What were Watford thinking of? How could professional footballers not learn the simplest of lessons from a game only ten days ago? In short, Watford did not play like a team that knew how to approach a game of football against a team that wanted it more than they did. Cambridge were first to absolutely everything, with the exception of Micah Hyde who during the first half played like a trooper. Then again, this was his first competitive visit back to the Abbey Stadium since his £100,000 move to Watford in June 1997.

From the off Watford were pressurised, and with Mooney being turned inside out throughout the opening forty-five by a very strong Kyd on the left side of defence, again the plan to utilise our wing backs as the foil failed. Too often the wing backs were called back to assist in the last ditch defending that summarised the first half, and it was no surprise when Kyd got a flick into the area after twenty minutes, Palmer and Chamberlain collided and Benjamin stabbed home at the second attempt.

Cambridge thoroughly deserved their lead and it could have been doubled moments later when Benjamin got goal side of Palmer and appeared to dive in the area although opinion is divided. Whilst there was definite contact, I think Palmer just shaded the decision, and we breathed a sigh of relief again.

The game reminded me much of the Coca-Cola game against Walsall a few years ago where we were expected to win, lost 1-0 and Wilson missed a penalty. We could, like then, have been thrashed.

Up front, it appeared Lee was all alone with Ronny like a left winger. Very few of Rosenthal's balls went where anyone else was, and his sense of direction was that of a drunk driver. He was all over the place, and it has been very noticeable in the last few weeks that every time something doesn't go right he yells at whoever is nearest. He did it to Andrews at Aylesbury in a disgraceful way and last night he was exactly the same. He missed Watford's three best opportunities, and as a partner for Lee, it just didn't work. Lee was magnificent in the second period, holding the ball up well and playing it off. But Ronny was nowhere to be seen when it mattered, fifteen yards behind the play and making a total arse of himself!

Now why was Gifton not introduced? In the friendly he crucified Cambridge with his ball running and his sheer presence. The balls played to Lee were being flicked on, but Lee couldn't get in and ruffle the keeper like Gifton could. Rosenthal being so far behind the play had one go and was lucky not to get booked for what I thought was a pretty cynical challenge on a keeper who looked competent all night. I would have thought GNW would have deserved a run.

Instead Daley came on to make his Watford debut and indeed ran at people as we love! Bazeley had not really been effective either as a forward player in the first half, or as a right wing back in the second. It was a shame as he showed passion but was not getting the service, or when he got the ball failed to deliver. Daley swopped from left to right then back again and showed a lovely touch. Meanwhile Ronny plodded along like a pedestrian, unaware that what is expected of a footballer is that they at least try.

The second half was made interesting by a superb Chamberlain save from Butler, and an incident where a kid was ejected for throwing a cup of lemonade or water over a linesman who was as inept throughout as the referee (D'Urso from Billericay). It was perhaps the first sign of frustration from a Watford crowd that numbered about seven hundred, and was fully supportive throughout.

On a lighter note, I met a girl at half-time who I was at University with and hadn't seen for three years. She is the fiancee of Nick Wright! All the best people come to Watford eventually!

Driving away from the ground, and then passing it again as we got lost, the overwhelming feeling was that of being sweaty and Watford missing the plot again. In a competition like this, it will be a miracle if we win it. As a result perhaps we should have a go at the opposition rather than struggle to play on the back foot and hold out for the home fixture. GT must persist with Easton for at least a couple of games just to see if he can handle this level. We did miss Johnson, so perhaps the acquisition of Barnes or another midfielder (as this is the area in which we have absolutely no strength and depth in the squad as Grieves is definitely not ready, and there are no other creative midfielders that spring to mind) is more of a necessity than we thought over the summer. Our defence looked slow and was turned inside out by mediocre strikers. Maybe the old head of Gibbs should be introduced to bring a stability in that has not been there for the pre-season and the first two games.

Maybe it was just the performance, but maybe it is more serious than that. We were sh!t last night and deserved nothing. We have to improve as I for one thought the result against Portsmouth was a fluke. Last night was the wake up call.. let's hope that the team learn from this as they so evidently didn't learn from what went on ten days ago.

Not very pretty
Report by Ian Lay

It's difficult to be coherent about the drivel of last night.

A dismal Watford display and stagnant game have dulled my despondent mind and battered my emotions. The drive home was a battle between utter despair and desperately clutching for straws of optimism. I've yet to find many.

Baze started instead of Smart, which at least meant Jase didn't spend too much time on the right wing. Micah was bright early on but couldn't really create on his own. Sadly, Clint was found wanting. Cambridge are a big, robust team, not afraid to tackle and often late. Their number seven (Wanless?) for one won't last the whole game if we have a decent referee for the return - see below. They quickly bossed the midfield and most of the first half. They didn't really outplay us; they were just the stronger team.

Up front, particularly in the first half, we again were able to compare a team attacking with strength, mobility and danger against a team punting, often aimless, balls towards a seemingly isolated centre forward. No prizes for guessing who was who. Their early dominance resulted in a scruffy goal, a number of clear chances, a plausible penalty appeal and a couple of classy, crucial saves from Alec.

Our back five were at sixes and sevens. They looked embarrassed about their work, confused about their roles and clueless about a solution. I've never seen a team talk to each other in such hushed tones. We needed a leader on the pitch to sort the mess out and bawl everyone into action. We also needed a catalyst to get our game going.

Our attacking endeavours produced a couple of half-chances in each half, usually and significantly coming from out wide. Sadly, all bar one fell to Ronny who should have done better. Once more we failed to work the opposition goalie, who again looked dodgy.

The substitutions at half time saw us changing to a 4-4-2 (or was it 4-4-1-1?). We instantly looked better at the back and easily contained them from then on (ish). Page appeared more comfortable with the dependable Millen at his side and Palmer did a passable impression of a dominant right back. Hazan went into the central midfield trenches and disappeared. Baze didn't have a decent free run all night and was replaced by Daley, who was tricky enough to deserve another shout.

Meaningful entertainment was provided by the officials. With a referee and linesman named D'Urso and Clingo, it's not surprising they looked to be from another planet. Their decisions were laughable/crap and their performance was entirely in keeping with the whole evening.

My next outing to see the boys is away to Sunderland in two week's time. I hope by then last night will be history. An isolated blip followed by three dominant, incisive displays. If not, we're in for a very long night.

See also: U's Net