Report by Ian Grant
Perhaps it's necessary to point out that any criticism of Watford players or
management contained in this match report is mere tedious quibbling which is
best ignored. Any Watford fan who hasn't spent the weekend gazing contentedly
at page 325 of CEEFAX or a Sunday paper casually left open at
the league tables is clearly the kind of joyless urchin that helps to keep Ocean
f***ing Colour b****** Scene out of the dole office.
It matters little that this was a slightly lethargic, occasionally dumb performance -
it was still a game that we deserved to win by a fair margin. Worth remembering
that it's only a few months since Chesterfield last visited the Vic, when they
did unspeakable things to us on the break, made us look utterly clueless (or maybe
we could've managed that on our own) and effectively ended our promotion hopes.
One thing that hasn't changed since then is that Chesterfield are still content
to defend and occasionally charge forward on the counter-attack. But we appear
able to deal with that now - after a season of trying and failing to beat such
sides, we showed enough guile this time to open up the massed defence on several
It took a while, though. Talking about Watford's territorial dominance is largely
pointless (the two teams' tactics made it fairly inevitable that we were
going to have most of the possession), it's all about finding space, using width,
turning defenders. None of which we did with any great regularity. Chesterfield,
more than competent at the back, seemed happy enough to soak
up the pressure, particularly when it became clear that our delivery of
corners (from Micah Hyde and Peter Kennedy) was lacking its usual danger.
And there remained the threat of a swift break from the away side. Aside from a
couple of occasions (Steve Palmer deciding to write a thesis under the heading "Shall I
Pass The Ball Back To Alec Or Not?" and needing a clattering challenge from Robert Page
to save his blushes after being robbed; Nigel Gibbs clearing a cross from the goalmouth;
Harry "England's No. 1,354,982" Willis shooting feebly at Alec Chamberlain), there
was little to see at the Vic Road end during the first half. On such occasions, it's
all about defenders keeping their concentration, making sure that they're ready for the
sudden attack when it does come - and we did that pretty well.
Down at the Rookery, the only real chance of a goal appeared to come from
Ronny Rosenthal's single-minded charges at the Chesterfield defence. Our
attempts at intricate passing through the middle were always likely to end
in failure, as were the unimaginative hoofs up to Jason Lee's head. We had managed to
hit the woodwork yet again, however - as another corner was cleared,
Richard Johnson played the ball back into the box and Rosenthal's flick bounced
off the top of the bar.
Width was what we needed and, just as half-time was upon us, width was what we
got. An unsatisfying, monotonous forty-five minutes ended with Unselfish Johnno
supplying Peter Kennedy on the left wing. The whipped cross was mis-hit by Jason Lee and
rebounded up into the air, with Rosenthal waiting as it dropped and controlling an
astonishing volley into the bottom corner. If the approach play was a trifle
messy, the finish was perfection.
It might not have been a lead that we particularly deserved but it was vital -
in these games, as we found out to our cost against Bournemouth last season, you have to
score first. As it turned out, we pre-empted any change of approach from Chesterfield
by coming out for the second half and forcing them onto the back foot once again
with an opening burst that included our best attacking moments of the afternoon.
Within minutes of the re-start, we'd come so close to creating an absolute
masterpiece of a goal. It was all Classy Johnno's work, turning a predictable
move into a scything attack. There was nothing on when he received possession
in the midfield so he made the run himself, passing the ball into Gifton Noel-Williams' feet
and demanding it back to rampage unchallenged into the area. His far-post cross
found Jason Lee, who produced a glorious header back across goal at full
stretch. The fans rose to celebrate...and it hit the post. And people say that
Richard Johnson's not creative, you know...
The goal arrived after another ten minutes of Watford pressure. Again it
was width that made the difference, again it was Johnson who was at the root of
it all. Chesterfield broke out of defence but found themselves unable to get
past Scary Johnno, patrolling the midfield with all the focused aggression of
a starving mosquito. The resulting move ended with Kennedy using his
strength (something none of us expected him to have) to hold off a Chesterfield
player and win a throw. He took it quickly, catching the Chesterfield defence
in a rare moment of distraction, and Tommy Mooney's cross arrived into the six
yard box with Jason Lee totally unmarked for a simple, yet well-taken header.
At 2-0 it should've been all over. What happened in the subsequent half hour
is anyone's guess - either we relaxed and, in doing so, lost control of the midfield
battle that we'd been winning so comprehensively or Chesterfield saw their
unbeaten run coming to an end and decided to fight a bit. Regardless, the
rest of the game was distinctly uncomfortable.
That we didn't succumb to Chesterfield's vigorous, if ungainly, attempts to get
themselves back into the game was entirely due to some mighty defending from
the back three. If we can rely on this kind of rearguard action when things stop
going our way, then we really are in a strong position this season. Despite
mucho possession, the away side rarely saw the whites of Chamberlain's eyes
numerous efforts sailed harmlessly into the Rookery simply because they were
unable to engineer better shooting positions.
That Chesterfield scored was frustrating since we were beginning to turn the
tide back our way. It was also thanks to the scoreboard, which had been
showing "Watford 2 Chesterfield 1" for some time (bizarre chant of the
afternoon: "Scoreboard, what's the score?"). A corner swung in and was
flicked on at the near post, floating over Chamberlain and into the far
corner of the goal. Bugger.
If anything, things were slightly less fraught after the goal had gone in.
We appeared to re-gain some energy from the realisation that the game wasn't
yet won and came close to adding a third, Rosenthal forcing a decent save
with a wobbly kind of shot that looked like sailing way over before dipping
I'd argue that over-stating our brilliance in matches like this merely sells
us short. The improvement since May has not just been evident on the occasions
when we've utterly out-played sides we'd previously struggled against, it's also
been there (Preston aside, I suppose) when that gorgeous fluency has deserted us.
On Saturday, we were strong and potent enough to beat a confident Chesterfield
side - we didn't stun them with our class, we didn't tear them to shreds, we just persevered, battled,
used our brains and remained organised for long enough to win the game. Graham Taylor
has added more than decoration, he's building a side with very strong foundations.
That counts for one hell of a lot (and it'll count for even more in the
middle of winter).
No false dawn
Report by Paul Goldsmith
Do not be fooled. This was a victory far more comfortable than the score
suggests. For the second week running Watford were left greeting the final
whistle with relief when they should have been celebrating giving their nearest
rivals in Division Two a right royal pasting. All that can be said in prologue
to this report is that it's been over ten years since such excitement about the
Hornets has permeated Vicarage Road. And watching Watford swarm forward time
and again with such a confident swagger this afternoon one can't help thinking that
this is no false dawn, it's for real.
The game began with an almost unchanged Watford team, with Gibbs replacing the
injured Melvang on the right. They immediately set up camp in Chesterfield's
half. A series of corners were run, which in truth did not really threaten the
impressive Billy Mercer in Chesterfield's goal. Micah Hyde is certainly no
Peter Kennedy when it comes to taking corners.
Chesterfield attempted to attack on the break, but looked toothless. They
lacked both height and pace in attack, where ex-Hornet Roger Willis attempted
to lead the line while summing up their paucity by being there in the first
In truth, Watford's first-half dominance never really looked like resulting in a
goal. While being a supporter of Gifton Noel-Williams, I would say that Wayne
Andrews' pace would have been more effective against the slow and cumbersome
Steve Palmer came closest, surprising the Chesterfield defence and, to be
honest, everyone else including himself by slamming in a 20 yard left footed
shot which looped over Mercer before hitting the bar. Ronny Rosenthal looked
dangerous as usual, but wasn't allowed the space to finish off what he had
started. At the back, Robert Page marshalled the defence with his usual
composure and aplomb, sliding in to spare Palmer's blushes on one occasion
after Tony Lormor had stolen the ball off the the Watford No.5. Surely it won't
be long before a Premiership club comes sniffing around Hertfordshire looking
for a class central defender and finding Page.
As half-time approached, Alec Chamberlain finally had to make a save, as Roger
Willis turned Tommy Mooney and shot relatively lamely to the Watford
goalkeeper's left. It has to be said that the save was probably easier than
Chamberlain made it look.
Then, on 44 minutes, it came. Jason Lee's snap shot cannoned off a Chesterfield
defender's leg on the penalty spot, and the
ball looped up into the air. It could have come down in front of Gifton, who no
doubt would have smashed it into the stands, or it could have come down in
front of Richard Johnson, who would have frozen, realizing that he was in the
opposition's penalty area and therefore was too close in to score. Thankfully,
it came down in front of Ronny Rosenthal, who made time for himself to spot
that Billy Mercer was covering the near post, and so blasted the ball on the
volley into the far corner. One word to describe where that finish came from -
It was a great time to score, and the Hornets came out for the second half
pumped up. Quickly, Watford went on the attack, a fantastic move featuring
about five passes left Richard Johnson bustling into the Chesterfield penalty
area. Before the North Stand could even find the "sh-" part of "shooooot"
Johnson had placed a delightful chip to the far side of the goal. Jason Lee
came stealing in, on his own. Seeing Mercer racing across his goal, Lee placed
the ball with his head towards the far side of the goal. It was a great idea,
but not quite great in practice, as the ball hit the post.
Watford smelt blood, they proceeded to bear down on the Chesterfield goal.
Gifton Noel-Williams was asserting his now more customary physical dominance,
while still suffering from the usual referees' thinking that someone of his
size can't really have been fouled. He was hurled down, tripped up, had his
shirt pulled, with no fouls given. He also managed to return the compliments
with some late shoulder barges on the Chesterfield defenders, leaving even the
considerably large Mark Williams on the floor.
We were also treated to the almost comforting sight of Tommy Mooney steaming
forward from centre-back. His forays into the Chesterfield half were well timed
and not usually picked up by any defenders. And it was from one of those
undetected forays that the Hornets' second goal came. Peter Kennedy, who once
again produced a performance full of effort, skill and verve, had attacked down
the left, and the ball was fed back to the advancing Mooney, who swept the ball
into the box. As the ball came across, time seemed to stop. Were Jason Lee,
Gifton Noel-Williams and Micah Hyde really standing in the middle of the
Chesterfield penalty area, completely unmarked? My eyes deceived me not, and
Lee composed himself, picked his spot, read a paper, made himself a cup of tea,
ate a pineapple, and calmly nodded the ball into the corner of the net. The
scoreboard blasted out the message : Luvver-Lee Jubber-Lee. The crowd rose to
scream that "We are top of the league" and acknowledge for the second time in a
week the man who has now scored three goals in five league games and looks a better
buy with every game.
It didn't end there, Micah Hyde and Richard Johnson had tied up the midfield
completely, typical of this was a Chesterfield attempt to play out of defence,
whereby they passed the ball about six times, but couldn't get anywhere as
Johnson and Hyde were snapping away at their heels like terriers. Inevitably,
Johnson stole the ball, fed Hyde, who swung the ball out to Rosenthal on the
left. Ronny gathered himself momentarily, and embarked on a diagonal run
towards the penalty area, before unleashing a piledriver which Mercer had to
stretch to tip over.
The effect that the Israeli has on the crowd has not been seen since John
Barnes prowled the left wing in the early eighties.
When he gets the ball, an audible frisson of excitement flows through the
ground, and he doesn't usually disappoint. One thinks that if Watford do make
it up this season, it will be on his back.
In the last ten minutes, Watford relaxed, and allowed Chesterfield to come back
at them. They forced a corner in the 80th minute, which Willis took. The ball
sailed over the Watford defence, including Lee, who in hindsight should have
made more of an effort to meet it, and kept on going, right into the net.
Thankfully, that was it. Watford chose to ward off pressure by throwing
themselves forward again, coming close on many occasions. Kennedy and Rosenthal
seemed to irritate the crowd by trying to keep the ball in the corner. But that
was probably the best idea, as at that time of the game it was more important
to run down time and keep the ball than to try and increase the lead and risk
losing the ball. After five minutes of injury time, the referee blew for time, and
the Watford fans celebrated a well deserved victory.
To be honest, I cannot see many teams getting the better of Watford this
season. Apart from the abberation at Preston, they simply haven't looked like
losing. The feeling is that the only people to defeat them will be
themselves. They really look good bets to win the league. And now, more people
are going to believe us.
Thanks for coming!
Report by Matt Bunner
Luver-Lee Jubb-Lee! I had a laugh at that when it came on the
scoreboard, perhaps because we had just gone 2-0 up. Incidentally, this
was the same scoreboard that forecasted the result half-way through the
second-half; where were the National Lottery numbers? A big cheer came
from the Vic end as the scoreboard scratched out Chesterfield's 'goal',
but was drowned by the away fans' groan. Somebody then piped up that we
always give away a soft goal and just before I turned around to say,
"Another prophet of doom...", I realised that he was totally correct...
I was slightly apprehensive before the kick-off as I didn't know what to
expect from Chesterfield: they were also unbeaten, had beaten us 2-0 a few
months ago and nearly reached the FA Cup Final and yet I knew that if we
played reasonably well they would have to be at their best to beat us.
The first chance we created saw Micah Hyde clear through on goal after
about 7 minutes, but instead of burying the ball, he chose to play in an
unmarked Lee, except that the ball didn't reach him, the 'keeper
deflecting it away. After that little happened: Willis won most of the
early aerial exchanges with Page; Gibbs booted clear a cross from the
goalmouth, Page slide magnificently to recover where Palmer had dawdled
and Willis scuffed a shot which Chamberlain held comfortably.
Watford enjoyed the majority of the possession in the first half, as you
would expect from a team at home, but there wasn't the fluidity in the
passing and supporting play that has been so evident in recent weeks.
However, we still looked reasonably dangerous. A cross was headed out by
Chesterfield and it fell to Steve Palmer on the edge of the 'D' who
tried a volley and, truth be told, mis-hit it and it looped on to the
bar with the 'keeper flapping. Rosenthal, after he realised that
spending half of the time on the deck looking for justice wasn't going
to pay, should have done better with an opportunity presented to him
inside the left edge of the penalty area. He had time to pick his spot,
but as so often, the ball was placed rather than 'wellied' and the
'keeper made a comfortable save. It was a mistake that he learned from.
Just as Chesterfield and their annoying supporters ("Stand up if ya
Northerners", being the most annoying) had thought their tactics had
been spot on in the first half, a miscue from Lee sent the ball
spiralling to Ronnie who delivered a sling-shot volley into the corner
of the net before the 'keeper had time to think. Best time to score they
say: not 'arf!! The tea we brought at half-time was all the more sweeter
and we didn't get a peep out of the Northerners!
The second-half was similar to the first, except that Chesterfield did
more defending. Johnson and Hyde spent most of the time picking up the
rubbish in midfield, Rosenthal was in his 'give to me NOW!' mode and Lee
won EVERYTHING in the air: all we need it to learn is where Lee is going
to flick the ball (he doesn't flick it down the line from a ball played
down the flanks, he guides the ball to the centre of the pitch where,
hopefully next time, there will be a golden shirt). I was also
encouraged by the attitude of Lee towards GNW: he was appreciative of
everything that GNW did and was not afraid to show it.
The best move of the match came after the kick-off, when lovely inter-
play between Johnson and GNW enabled Johno to whip in a cross to the far
post for Lee to head against the post. We continued to press, but not
convincingly, until reward came in the 62 minute. Kennedy fed Mooney who
delivered a cross of exquisite proportions to Lee and after accepting
the space and time granted by the blushing Chesterfield lads, planted a
header to the 'keeper's left hand side. That gave us breathing space,
well, enough space to give away the mandatory 'soft goal'. In the end,
it came down to us defending too deeply. We kept their best efforts to
long range, but on 82 they won another corner. The ball was swung in, I
thought harmlessly, but no Watford player jumped and it was left to
Willis to flick on a ball that, embarrassingly for a poorly positioned
Chamberlain, looped over and dollied in at the far post. Not the best
piece of defending. The expected onslaught from Chesterfield never
materialised as we realised that we had been defending too deeply and
put into place the old Watford theory that attack is the best form of
defence: Ronnie's dipping effort that the 'keeper spooned over from
under the bar was most notable. After 5 minutes of injury-time the ref
called it a day and the points had gone deservedly to Watford.
It's refreshing to know that even when you don't play well, you still
manage to win. That is what defines successful sides from ordinary
sides. We beat Chesterfield, unbeaten previously, fairly comprehensively
without extending ourselves. As I said earlier, the same Chesterfield
side that hit the headlines earlier this year. It is a measure of how
far we have progressed and this was re-inforced by Brian Butler doing
his match report on the game for Radio 5-Live: he said summated by
saying the difference in class was obvious. Our next test will be how we
play in the mud-bath pitches of winter.
So, Chesterfield, delighted that you turned up and realised that we are
deserved of our position at the top: we are (hopefully!?) here to stay!
Thanks for coming and see you next year, if you're going up!