Report by Ian Grant
So much of modern football is about striving for a higher level. That's especially true
of the current First Division, at least half of which is completely obsessed with
And that ambition tends to obscure the here and now. Wins like Saturday's should be
enjoyed for what they are, not what they might lead to. That the three points takes
us up to fifth place really doesn't matter to me; that they were gained by having
so much hilarious, brilliant fun means everything. This was an absolute blast.
For half an hour, mind you, any kind of Watford win seemed like an insanely remote
possibility. For half an hour, we stank. The initiative was surrendered to a
Swindon side lacking confidence without any kind of struggle. Like an unpunctuated
sentence, our play was without structure or identifiable meaning.
Swindon weren't a great deal better, in truth. The home side's knackered old bandwagon
slowly lurched into life, belching out suffocating fumes at first, then gradually
struggling through the gears. Nought to thirty in ten minutes? Impressive stuff....
A full sixty seconds' worth of chaos in the Watford penalty area (my notes, ever useful,
just say "stuff happened") after ten minutes set the scene. Mark Walters, Swindon's
greatest threat throughout, fired the first of countless free kicks at Alec Chamberlain
shortly afterwards, then cut inside from the right wing to shoot wide.
Things began to get really alarming as Kerslake went on a charge and drove in a low
shot that was deflected wide by a defender. The resulting corner fell to Walters, whose
floated cross-stroke-lob was headed off the line at full stretch by Nigel Gibbs.
So, basically, there wasn't much arguing when Swindon took the lead. Still a pretty
hideous goal to give away, mind. Alec Chamberlain's clearance was headed back
unchallenged, catching Dean Yates off-guard. That momentary loss of concentration was
enough to allow Ndah to take control of the situation, brushing Yates aside and motoring
through to knock the ball past Chamberlain as he advanced.
Not good. Half an hour gone, one-nil down, no sign of so much as a Watford chance. The
only entertainment had come from childish self-amusement, giggling at the psychiatric
disorders on show among our increasingly agitated and irate supporters and occasionally
bellowing "IDIOT!" in tribute to Matt Rowson's vitriolic match preview. Fun, sure...but perhaps
not quite worth sixty quid....
Thankfully, the referee saved us. As his display of unrestrained buffoonery ("IDIOT!") reached
its magnificent crescendo with some completely mystifying decisions, we reacted as if
to a slap in the face. A sense of injustice got our blood pumping, momentarily unsettling
a Swindon side that had begun to look very settled indeed.
There were a couple of signs of things to come. Allan Smart failed to control a neat
through-ball from Micah Hyde, then stood stunned as soon as he realised that no Swindon defenders
had bothered to challenge him and he ought to have scored. Nick Wright, again lively in and
around the box, worked his way inside to hit a low shot that was gathered with ease by the
Even so, even with that mini-revival, the equaliser was still a laughable, hysterical, wonderful
injustice. Smart drifted into space on the edge of the area and was found with a Gibbs pass
from the right wing. As he brought the ball down, perhaps remembering the earlier opportunity,
he seemed initially unsure how to approach the situation. Then, like someone finding
the answer to a tricky crossword clue, he was suddenly inspired into action, flicking
the ball up and over the helpless keeper. Delightful finish.
The floodgates opened. What had begun as a slight fight-back against refereeing
incompetence suddenly became a full-on assault, the Hornets demolishing Swindon in a
twenty minute spell either side of half-time.
Kennedy might've put Watford in the lead just after the equaliser, only to slip at
the crucial moment as Smart played him in. Then Gibbs received the ball on the right wing,
and was given plenty of time and space to pick out the best crossing option. He delivered
the ball perfectly onto the forehead of Michel Ngonge at the far post. The Swindon keeper
pulled off a fine save, low down to his right, but Nick Wright once again showed that
knack of gatecrashing the penalty area party, prodding the rebound over the line from a yard
Bizarrely, that was probably the last time either Ngonge or Wright touched the ball before
being substituted at half-time. The interval changes were simply inspired, especially
the arrival of Alon Hazan for Wright. At the time, it seemed an extraordinary move -
taking off an eager, fit, lively player just a couple of minutes after he'd scored his
first goal for the club. In retrospect, it secured the result.
Wright had done well. Hazan was magnificent. At last, we seem to have found
a way of getting the best from him. Playing behind the strikers, he's more
involved in the play and has the options in front of him to make his class count.
Throughout the second period, he provided the links for our attacking play, taking
full advantage of the space donated by a Swindon side that regularly over-committed
itself. The threat of a Watford goal was always there.
The second half was pure laugh-a-minute comedy. Swindon's luckless attempts at getting
back in the game resulted in a kind of Basil Fawlty-style exasperation,
fighting an endless losing battle against insurmountable odds. Basking in the September
sunshine, it was tremendous theatre, classic farce. I loved every moment.
After Walters had sent yet another free kick over the bar, a lovely move made it 3-1
to the Hornets. Allan Smart's control, turn and lay-off was simply sublime; Alon Hazan
finished it off with a firmly-struck shot.
Ten minutes of hilariously ineffective and desperate Swindon pressure later, it was
four. Gifton Noel-Williams broke down the right wing, played the ball across to Smart, and
he unselfishly knocked it on to Richard Johnson on the left side of the area. The
Swindon keeper saved the shot well, but was unable to prevent Smart from heading in
A word, before we continue, about Allan Smart. The word is "fan-flipping-tastic". Not just the goals,
although God knows we've needed a decent poacher in the last few months, but the
overall contribution. A team player; a willing worker, full of intelligent, constructive
touches; an absolute star. He may not be the most eye-catching player on the block but he
ought to be proud of this victory, his baby.
Swindon hit the woodwork for the first time a couple of minutes later, Gooden smashing in
a (surprise!) free kick that flicked off the bar with Chamberlain beaten. Rather
than increasing anxiety, it only confirmed beyond doubt that this was to be our day. All
the luck was with us, all the joy was ours.
Micah Hyde had what appeared to be a decent claim for a penalty turned down after he'd
wriggled into the box and beaten a defender - but that was to even itself out later.
Then Borrows, who's been playing football for about as long as I've been alive, was left
all on his own by a curious defensive manoeuvre that seemed to involve leaving the entire
left side of the pitch empty of Watford players - fortunately, he skied his shot ("IDIOT!") and
howled his annoyance in a most amusing manner.
The entertainment just kept on a-comin'. Ndah, already frustrated to the point of
explosion, was barged over in the box and remained on his knees in absolute torment
when the referee turned down his appeal. Funny beyond belief. After Noel-Williams had set up Kennedy for a shot
that was brilliantly saved, Ndah could control himself no longer, getting involved in a
kerfuffle with Johnson that ended with both players receiving yellow cards. That meant
yet another free kick, from which Walters hit the inside of the post, the ball bouncing
along the goal-line as Chamberlain watched and Swindon players looked to the sky in
helpless frustration. By that stage, some of us were nearly crying with laughter.
Did we deserve to win this 4-1? No, not really. Will we find it as easy against Ipswich next
week? No, not really. Do I care? No, not really. Y'see,
I haven't enjoyed forty-five minutes of football so much in eons. We weren't great, we
weren't efficient, but for an hour this was ludicrous, fab, wobbly, goal-tastic fun. A great
big raspberry jelly of a football match. With ice cream. (Sorry, am I getting carried away?)
So, having stayed to observe a pitch invasion and protest by Swindon fans, we wandered
station-wards as happy as can be. The homeward-bound trains were delayed but for once perfectly so, the
late departure timed to coincide with our arrival at the station; news filtered through of heart-warming defeats for
Luton and Palace. Perfect, just perfect.
Good times. Enjoy.
Report by Chris Lawton
Of all the footie grounds up and down the country, Swindon is the one I
have visited most (after the Vic of course). I have never seen Watfod
win there - in fact, I have rarely seen us get a draw. A typical game at
Swindon consists of cold, damp weather, poor refereeing and a poor
With warm late summer sunshine blazing down on the fans it seemed
possible that just for once we might enjoy ourselves. The opening
exchanges were fairly even although two trends were set. Firstly the
linesman with the yellow flag appeared to be linked into the Swindon
crowd - whatever they appealed for he gave. The other trend was the
referee was intent on give Swindon every free kick under the sun, even
when a Watford player won a clean tackle.
Slowly Swindon took control, although not totally through their own
skill. The Watford defence developed an alarming tendancy to dive in at
the first opportunity and consequently give the Swindon players,
in particular Mark Walters, time and space to cross and shoot. The other
mistake commonly made in this opening quarter was the inability to clear
the ball. Too often players tried to be clever and keep the ball in, only
to end up conceding the ball and position.
Watford seemed to have weathered the storm, clearing a couple of chances
off the line and surviving a couple of penalty scares. Chamberlain, who
in my opinion still looks suspect, then cleared the ball straight to a
Swindon player who unchallenged fed the ball through for some big bloke
up front to run onto and slot easily past Chamberlain as he raced off his
A goal down, away from home and being making too many mistakes. The best
we could hope for was half time and a few changes from GT. Suddenly our
luck turned. After thirty-five minutes the referee finally gave us a free kick -
our first of the match. The kick was quickly taken and as the ball
dropped in behind the defence Smart and Ngonge left it for each other
with it eventually rolling to the keeper off Smart's shin. Still it was
cause for encouragement.
Three minutes later we were level. A sharp cross from Gibbs was helped
over the advancing keeper my Smart and the ball went in at the far post.
In an instant the game had changed. Swindon's heads started to fall and
Watford realised that they would probably go in level when in reality
they should have been two down. Right on half time though the situation
changed again. A pinpoint cross from Gibbs was met well by Ngonge who
headed the ball downwards in textbook style. The keeper only parried the
ball back to the feet of the advancing Wright who bundled the ball home.
Half time arrived and the disbelief amongst the fans was overshadowed by
the fact that we were actually winning.
The second half saw two immediate changes with Hazon and Gifton on Wright
and Ngonge, both of whom had done well in a difficult first half.
Swindon blazed an early free kick over, from the goalkick Watford built
slowly and steadily from the back moving the ball well to make an opening
for Hazon to latch onto a through ball and guide the ball past the
keeper. This was game over and ten minutes later a similar build up led
to a Johnno shot being half saved ony for Smart to dive in to head the
With thirty minutes to go and 4-1 up Watford controlled the game.
Swindon's best chances came from two free kicks, one of which hit the bar
and the other the post with Chamberlain stranded on both occassions. When
Watford wanted to they easied forward and Johnno had two long range
efforts curl wide and Kennedy was denied by a sharp save by the keeper.
In the end 4-1 flattered us slightly but the feeling was that we did
deserve to win. We made as many chances as Swindon if not
more. Although we were outplayed in that opening period we recovered our
composure well and played a controlled game in the second half which
denied Swindon any chances from inside the box.
The team for ten minutes either side of half time looked keen and sharp
and passed the ball around very well using the spaces on the pitch to
good effect in creating goal scoring opportunities. In that opening
quarter we were dismal and lacked and confidence in ability or self
belief that we could win. Once we went a goal down that seemed to vanish
and the team realised that they had a job to do and got on with doing
I still think that Chamberlain is suspect. I know this might cause some
debate amongst fans but my concern is not totally without evidence. At
least three times on Saturday Chamberlain was nowhere near the ball when
shots were fired in from the edge of the area, something I had also noticed
against Portsmouth. No doubt time will tell on this one but I wouldn't
be surprised if we had a new keeper by the end of the season. As for the
rest of the team, Kennedy looks out of touch at the moment, Smart looks
an excellent purchase and will do well for us, Wright I am uncertain of
with the same being said of Ngonge. Overall we have a solid balanced
team that perhaps lacks a bit of confidence and self belief. Long term
we have the nucleaus of a squad that could go all the way but I think
that will be next season not this.
This was magic, groovers
Report by Rupert Licht
Losing 1-0 and with only seven minutes of the first half to go, I was very
depressed. Swindon were crap and Watford were playing that special kind of
fanny football that goes sideways and never forwards. Pfff. Suddenly Alan
Smart is through and he lobs the keeper and it drops sexily into the net -
the ball seems to be in the air for ages like a balloon, which
transpires to be a magic sign - more of that later. With a minute to go
Ngonge powers a header in which the goalkeeper can only parry and Nick
Wright is poaching to poke the ball into the net. Woo-hoo.
Half-time was memorable as the attendance was announced. It would make my
football much more enjoyable if more clubs could follow Swindon's great
In the second half, GNW and Alon Hazan come on. Alon is really fired up -
he does not deserve the stick he gets and it looks like he has got some
powers recently as he is playing like a demon, he scored a wicked long
shot. Finally to wrap it up, a shot comes in from Johno I think, the keeper
parries it, and Smart scores with a diving header - an excellent goal as
the ball was bouncing around and was very low.
Swindon hit the post a couple of times, but this was to be our day.
Also, I shouted out "I have in my hand a piece of paper" to Alec
Chamberlain again. Wow, what a man. He turned round, acknowledged me for a minute,
looking right at me and then giving me a special secret Watford power wave.
Then on the way home, over in the sky, there are giant ballons above the
M4. There really was a giant fire extinguisher in the air, along with a house
and giant faces. Flying in the sky, they were signalling that magic is in
See also: The Norris Family Website