Nationwide League Division 1, 9/1/99
Team: Chamberlain 3, Bazeley 3, Kennedy 3, *Page 4*, Palmer 4, Iroha 3, Smart 2, Hyde 2, Noel-Williams 3, Johnson 3, Wright 2
Subs: Bonnot (for Smart) 3, Mooney (for Iroha) 3, Daley (for Wright) 3
Report by Ian Grant
Mmmm. In writing a report about a match like last week's demi-classic at Tottenham,
you can let the game speak for itself. Let a game like this speak for itself,
however, and all it'll say is "flibble".
Not great, then. If the season's only previous goalless draw against Barnsley had more
merits than the scoreline suggested, then this was your authentic "move along, there's nothing to see
here" stalemate. The least entertaining spectacle of the campaign so far by, ooh, that much
and a flashback to what life in the First Division frequently used to be like for the Hornets prior
to Graham Taylor's return.
Let's get on with it, shall we? As we found out to our cost during Kenny Jackett's reign, when teams come to
Vicarage Road happy to leave with a point, you have a simple choice - get an early
goal or spend ninety frustrating minutes bashing away at a brick wall. And we ought to
have got that early goal after eight minutes - Peter Kennedy's glorious left wing cross
was flicked on by Allan Smart, bounced up nicely at the far post and Nick Wright dived in
but headed wide. Not the easiest opportunity...but, in games of very few chances, you can't
afford to pick and choose.
Richard Johnson had a long range effort saved a minute later, but that all too brief
flurry of activity heralded a big fat nothing. The rest was busy but unappealing, squalls
of midfield combat yielding nothing for the forwards. With Allan Smart uncharacteristically
sloppy (apart from one surging run through the middle) and Nick Wright unable to involve
himself in the game at all, we were significantly below par in key areas. Add in several
other mediocre performances - Darren Bazeley, Peter Kennedy, Micah Hyde - and the reason
for the disappointing result is clear enough. Portsmouth, fighting for everything with
tremendous backing from their magnificent supporters, must've started to wonder what
all the fuss over this Watford side has been about.
It was a scrappy, messy game. Igoe shot over twice from distance; Kennedy whipped a free kick
through a crowded penalty area but into Petterson's arms; Johnson curled wide. Chances
were non-existent, entertainment likewise.
As always on such occasions, we waited for half-time in the hope of some GT inspiration in
the dressing room. But half-time came, half-time went and there was no improvement.
Indeed, for a spell after the break, there was a very real possibility that Portsmouth
might snatch the lead. Playing by far the more relaxed and coherent football, albeit without
overly endangering Alec Chamberlain's goal, their attacks romped towards the Rookery
as the home side disintegrated. Igoe had the best opening - finding that a mis-hit drive had
arrived at his feet, he turned and shuffled a shot with unnecessary haste straight at Chamberlain. That was
their chance. Hillier blasted a drive a few yards wide a couple of minutes later, then
Vlachos headed back across the face of goal from a corner.
With half an hour remaining, Graham Taylor, like most of us, had seen more than enough. Portsmouth
were the better side, we were cruisin' for a bruisin'.
The triple substitution (Tommy Mooney for Ben Iroha; Tony Daley returning for Nick Wright;
Alexandre Bonnot making his debut for Allan Smart, with Peter Kennedy moving forward to partner
Gifton Noel-Williams) was brave and at least partly successful - that is, it arrested
the decline and gave Watford some measure of control. Victory still eluded us, but we
didn't slip to the defeat that was looking imminent.
As it happens, that victory didn't elude us by very much. Within seconds of his arrival,
Daley sent a cross skipping through the six yard box. Petterson got a touch to push it away from
Noel-Williams but it ran out to Johnson - with defenders converging on him, he did the only thing
he could and blasted it goalwards from five yards, only to see his shot blocked by a combination
of opponents and team-mate. That was our chance.
After that, we attacked but without building up any significant momentum. Portsmouth
got men behind the ball and simply swarmed around us, giving us no time to think and forcing
us into resorting to stock moves. If this is to be an emerging pattern of the second half
of the season, the glorious flowing football that we've loved so much may become a memory.
There were still chances to win it, mind. Petterson tipped a Noel-Williams shot over (probably
unnecessarily, in fact); Mooney twice failed to hit the target with free headers from corners; Daley
and Bonnot both had shots blocked in a late break. And Richard Johnson managed to clear
the roof of the Vic Road stand with a mis-cued attempt....
Let's not get all doom 'n' gloom about it, for heaven's sake. It's one match...and we didn't
even lose it. But, as a pointer to the rest of the campaign, it highlighted some key
See also: Pompey Web
- When we play teams from the wrong end of the table, they're going to be scrapping like
anything. We're going to have to break them down. That's never easy.
- So far we've hugely exceeded expectations and we've done it by playing superbly. It stands
to reason that, if we're to sustain our challenge, we can't afford sub-standard
performances but we can't afford average performances either.
- The teams that get promoted win matches like this; the teams that get relegated lose matches like
- As fans, it's about time we paid the team back a little. In very stark contrast
to those who travelled up from the coast, the home stands were full of "we're here to
be entertained" silence. That's not good enough.
- Whatever comes next, it's been lovely....