Main Menu
What's New
98/99: Reports:

Nationwide League Division 1, 16/2/99
Watford 1(0)
Team: Chamberlain 4, Bazeley 2, Kennedy 2, Page 3, Palmer 2, Iroha 3, Wright 3, Hyde 3, Mooney 2, *Johnson 5*, Daley 3
Subs: Easton, Smith (for Iroha) 0, Ngonge (for Daley) 2
Scorers: Mooney (70)
Huddersfield Town 1(0)
Scorers: Beech (71)
No end product
Report by Ian Grant

No excuses.

All the current talk of transfers and new blood and "lack of ambition" is just a smokescreen, nothing more than the standard knee-jerk reaction of football fans. (It ceaselessly amuses me that the demands for spending on new players are never accompanied by sensible names. Sign someone, the supporters seem to cry...even if we're immediately going to realise that they're crap, start slagging them off and demand a repeat performance.) It is a smokescreen in two ways: first, it hides the considerable achievements of this squad of players; second, it allows them to get away with performances like this.

Because, even if you accept that the forward positions need some urgent attention, that doesn't excuse the rest. Whether it's Mooney or Batistuta playing centre forward, they have a right to expect some half-decent crosses to compete for. Whether it's Ngonge or Ronaldo up front, conceding a goal approximately thirty seconds after you've scored doesn't demonstrate great concentration. And so on, and so on.

There's no point in singling out individuals. Given that our striking options were minimal, there were simply too many poor and average displays last night - Peter Kennedy, Darren Bazeley, Steve Palmer, Tommy Mooney, Michel Ngonge, Tony Daley, Ben Iroha, Nick Wright. Some of these made occasionally distinctive contributions - indeed, Daley and Iroha were momentarily dazzling - but none of them really rose to the occasion. That's got little or nothing to do with our transfer policy; it's not even got too much to do with missing our regular forwards.

And it's all the more disappointing because we had an absolute stranglehold on the midfield for most of the match. Micah Hyde's headlines will again be about an appalling miss, but he was an able and willing assistant to the monstrous Richard Johnson. Back to his growling, prowling best, Johnno fought for the centre of the pitch like it was the last bit of green grass on earth...and won. But, having established his right to rule, he found his team-mates less than co-operative - time and again, particularly in the first half, we watched our play-maker turning in circles in search of someone to receive an incisive pass. His service was immaculate...but no-one seemed to want to be served.

So the first half was thoroughly grotty. Aside from a Huddersfield goal that was disallowed for a foul on Alec Chamberlain as he came to collect a cross, it took a full thirty minutes for any kind of noteworthy incident to arrive. Even then, that was only a looping header from Mooney that Vaesen collected with ease. Johnson and Daley both sent in off-target shots as the match spluttered into life, while Huddersfield might've done better with a couple of openings at the other end - particularly when Stewart headed weakly with two better placed but silent colleagues behind him.

Ultimately, however, we should've still gone into the second half in the lead. Mooney's break on thirty-six minutes was unusually potent, his pass to Kennedy out on the left provided time and space for an equally rare measured cross. Mooney met it in the centre and, although he couldn't direct the header, Wright nipped in to beat Vaesen to the ball. The cut-back to Hyde was perfect but the finish was awful, scraped hopelessly past the post. As long as he continues to turn in tidy, unselfish midfield performances like last night's, I'll be one of the first to defend Hyde from his critics - he doesn't half make it difficult sometimes, though.

So, after Huddersfield's Johnson had headed straight at Chamberlain from close range, the first forty-five ended with neither keeper having had to make a serious save. Grim. The (presumably forced) withdrawal of Tony Daley at half-time didn't make things any happier.

In truth, although the second half offered rather better entertainment, we ended it slightly fortunate not to lose. While the away side gained momentum, the Hornets remained abject - the forward play was disjointed and ineffective, the crossing that might've by-passed it was absolutely wretched, the defence was gradually pierced by pacy Huddersfield breaks, only the midfield held its ground proudly.

For twenty-five minutes, we did contain the visitors and create sporadic chances. We did so in the most uninspiring manner imaginable, but by this time no-one was being too fussy about how we won the game. Nick Wright sprinted onto a through-ball after five minutes, broke free but was felled by Phillips - a yellow card was the referee's verdict and, with Wright's theatrical tumble to take into account, it was difficult to argue. Kennedy and Johnson stood over the free kick. Vaesen's first move was to his right, expecting a curler over the wall, but Kennedy drove it low into the other corner - stumbling back across his line, the Huddersfield keeper got his fingertips to the ball for an excellent save.

Tommy Mooney's chance seemingly came and went after a quarter of an hour, when Iroha's foray into the box ended a rebound off a defender but was wasted by a scuffed right foot shot. Ten minutes later, after despair had really started to make itself at home, we made a bizarrely innocuous breakthrough. Johnson's free kick came from a central position, so he could do nothing but drift it into the area - yet the Huddersfield defence had elected to leave Mooney entirely unmarked on the corner of the six yard box, allowing him to direct a downward header across Vaesen and into the corner. More relief than joy.

The relief lasted less than a minute. Having posed little or no threat for the preceding seventy minutes, Huddersfield suddenly swarmed all over us and were immediately level. Baldry, who had Iroha in trouble for much of the night, cut his way through to the byeline, crossed, and Beech headed home from close range. Having struggled so much to get ourselves into the lead, we'd thrown it away with ridiculous carelessness.

Back to square one? Oh, worse than that. Having finally realised that the occasional bit of attacking endeavour would bring reward, Huddersfield went for the win and damn nearly got it. Only the brilliance of Chamberlain saved us. After half an hour, a lovely move down the left seemed to sell the whole Watford defence a dummy and Baldry was in, only for Chamberlain to spring forward and parry the shot. Even better followed, Stewart's acrobatic half-volley from distance leaving the keeper scrambling across to claw the ball out by the post.

With Stewart twice going close in the last five minutes - a shot that went narrowly wide and a bad miss following devastating work down the left wing by substitute Facey - hopes of a late Watford winner weren't high. Sure, we managed to ponderously build up some pressure in injury time, with Tommy Smith adding some much needed spark and Iroha rampaging forward on one occasion, but it was nothing for our opponents to be frightened of.

One late moment springs to mind as a neat summary of our faults. Huddersfield broke from their own area as a Watford attack faltered. Richard Johnson stood in the way, impassable, and won the ball with such pickpocketing precision that his victim seemed to carry on running forward for ten yards before he realised he was no longer in possession. He turned, spotted Bazeley coming forward on the right wing - the pass was a real gem, so accurate that it pretty much passed under the chin of the Huddersfield defender on its way to its recipient. Poetry in motion so far, and I guess you're waiting for the anticlimax - well, Darren just dumped a lazy, hanging cross to the far post, Nick Wright was barged out of the way, the attack was dead in an instant.

Great midfield play, no end product.

See also: The Huddersfield Net