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FA Carling Premiership, 10/8/99
By Simon Devon

I've just spent the last 20 minutes in the car park at work, with a bit of card and a bit of paper (never look directly at the sun, kids!) looking at the eclipse. It got a bit dark and a bit cold, at which point I asked myself why I didn't just go inside and watch Phillipa Forrester on TV.

At this point, IG would insert some kind of metaphor about last night's game (That's my intro to Saturday's report screwed, then! - Ed). Seeing as I got home at about 3:30am this morning and was in work at my normal time, I don't think my brain is up to that yet, so you'll just have to make do with the 'musings of Simon'.

Watford lined up with the same team that took on Wimbledon on Saturday. The only changes were on the bench where Gudmundsson and Foley were included. Sunderland gave a debut to ex-Arsenal men Stefan Schwartz and Steve Bould and included Jon Oster in midfield, but apart from that the team looked familiar to that which we saw in Division One last season. Surely Super-SuperKev wouldn't even consider breaking his duck against his former club....

So, to kick-off. I think both teams were a bit hesitant after their games last weekend, Sunderland more so than Watford. Anyone at the Wimbledon match would have recognised our neat passing in midfield and the drive shown by the team. Sunderland looked very nervous and when the crowd began to get on their backs, they resorted to hitting Niall Quinn with long balls. The ref, Mr Jeff Winter, also looked a bit nervous, resulting in a twitch that meant he kept reaching for his yellow card. In the opening 20 minutes he booked Easton and Johnson. Neither would have been a booking in Division 1, but I think the players will soon have to learn that the referees in this league operate on a different planet! Easton also had our first chance of note, his stinging 20 yard drive was well saved by Sorenson. Bonnot got to the rebound, but Sorenson again pulled off a good save.

A few minutes later a Steve Palmer pass set up Michel Ngonge just inside the area. The shot was good, but again that man Sorenson pulled off a good save. The first resulting corner was well cleared by a defender and the second didn't trouble the Sunderland defence. Suddenly Sunderland's crowd decided to have a good old moan. The Wearsiders ditched their plan of passing accurate balls onto the head of Niall Quinn, and decided that perhaps it would be best just to hoof it up to good old Quinny (spot the difference?). Every ball that was aimed for the big man was met superbly by Mark Williams. The defence held out well in the first half, and Easton, Page and Williams acquitted themselves well. The jury is still out on Des Lyttle. It's too easy to say that we should be playing Gibbsy at right back, let's give Des a chance to settle in.

Half time came to boos from the Sunderland crowd, and cheers from the Hornets. The defence was playing well, but I was worried that the missed chances would cost us the game. For all Johnson's and Bonnot's running in midfield and Palmer's passing, we still don't have a quality finisher in the team. True, Sorenson made a couple of great saves but all our approach work is crying out for a quality centre forward. Ngonge looked sharp, but I'm struggling to remember any shots by Mooney (at least I don't have any written down in my notes). I know we've written him off before and he has come storming back, but I'm wondering if this step up might be just a bit big for him.

The beginning of the second half was marked by another burst of Prokofiev and the Hornets again came out fighting. Sunderland still looked a bit nervous at the back, but now their mid-field and front players looked a little less nervous and they began to look a more dangerous. The partnership of Page and Williams was still holding firm, though, and the impressive looking Easton was giving them a good option down the left. The penalty incident happened at the other end, so in true Trevor Brooking fashion, I'll sit on the fence here. There was a lot happening in the area, so their could have been a push by Williams. Anyhow, Mr Winter pointed to the spot and Phillips hit the penalty past Day. This was the first shot Day faced and it came in the 60th minute.

A brief flurry by the Horns followed resulting a foul by Bould (Rupe reminded us he, Bould, wasn't the Queen Mum. Nice of him...). Kenno hit the free kick into the wall. He needs a few more weeks for his left boot to find form again! Watford continued to work hard, but the final ball was often missing and I really think we should have tested Sunderland a bit more. The second Phillips goal was magnificent. Just outside the area he looked up and curled a shot inside the right hand post. Beautiful goal. Day didn't move (for which he was unfairly criticised by some) but even if he would have dived full stretch there is no way he would have got to it.

And that was it. Again we finished a match more than matching the opposition and ending up with nothing. Sunderland had as much play as us, but the difference between the two teams was in the finishing. I'm worried already that this is going to be the story of our season. I agree with everything that GT has said about not wanting to waste money on players, but last night showed what we are missing. We work hard and create chances, but we need to finish them off. Against other teams, chances will be even harder to make, and the ones we do, we have to score.

A word about Chris Day. As you have seen I have given him a 3, but in truth he had very little to do. We all know about penalties, but to criticise him for not diving for the second goal is, well, stupid. Does the fact he didn't dive mean he had a bad game? The shot was superb, let's give a bit of credit to SuperKev here, and the rest of the time on crosses and kicking he did okay. If Alec had been there, the result would have been the same and no one would have mentioned him at all.