Nationwide Division One, 17/10/00
By Martin Blanc
Ever invited someone you didn't know very well round to your place to listen
to music, stuck on some classy Mozart, Neil Young, Barry White - I don't
know, whatever floats your boat - only for your guest to pull out a grimy
tape recorder and turn on a D-90 of grotesque industrial feedback and
Kerrang death metal at top volume? You have? Then you'll know how the
Hornets felt last night...not to mention that, over the top of the racket,
their visitors were yelling: 'We thought this was your sort of music...'
Someone asked me this morning how the football went. 'Nil-nil,' I sighed.
'Who were you playing?' she asked. 'Gillingham.' 'Gillingham has a team?
God, is that the type of people you're mixing with now?'
Well, hopefully just till next spring, although if we're as frustrated by
classier teams as the season chugs along, and we can't learn some new
tricks, it'll be play-off-land once again. Having said that, my money's on
the new tricks.
Can't fault Gillingham's workrate - they did a Hessenthaler-style Watford to
a club that's moved on a bit since then. In the first half, we were
everywhere. Who didn't have a shot on goal? From memory, I think probably
only Alec Chamberlain and maybe Robbo. But we'd taken up where we left off
against QPR, and although entertaining, that wasn't a place of decisiveness,
penetration, accuracy, or clear thinking at the last crucial second. And it
wasn't a place of much luck, either. The forwards, and best of all Darren
Ward, took turns rattling the crossbar. Gifton missed a left-footed sitter
when put through by Tommy Smith. Wave after wave, the cliché goes - but we
could rarely put together the sort of moves that led to our set-pieces and
goals at the weekend. On the subject of our forwards, Gifton on an off-night
plays depressingly more like a Harlem Globetrotter than Michael Jordan; and
with a wall of blue meanies facing them, even Tommy Smith back in a central
role couldn't jinx a way through. Dropping Wooter after the game he had on
Saturday demanded a real show from Smithy. He did his bit, certainly. But
whether it was enough is, well, irrelevant now.
We could cope with the frustration for the first half, the chimes of doom
weren't clanging particularly loudly. This was a team that certainly looked
as if it would indeed, as we chanted, score in a minute. And then maybe
another couple in quick succession. But the calming opener was refusing to
come after the interval as well. Clearly Hessenthaler had read them the plot
of "Watford: The Movie" at half-time. And it had stuck. They could see our
every move coming, and we still weren't of a mind to up our workrate to
compensate. The ticking clock seemed to have a panicking effect from rather
early on. A blur of charges on the edge of the box, a sackful of errors from
the Gills' defence, but no time, space, or any other dimension for that
matter, in which to finish everything off.
The tide had turned, to continue the watery clichés. The benefit of the
referee's considerable doubt was no longer going our way - Page was finally
fingered for his third handball just outside the area, and other more
dubious calls were evening up the ref's favours. Wooter at long last
replaced an inconsistent Hyde, having spent what looked like ten minutes by
the dug-out and touchline, so long in fact that he'd put his sweatshirt back
on. Naturally, he got clattered by all concerned. Wooter features large in
"Watford: The Movie", as Hessenthaler will have pointed out (no cracks about
seven dwarves, please...), but despite having the shot of the night, from
about the same angle as Delaney's cracking goal for Villa against us last
season, and getting a lovely cross in at the death, that was all a man in
great form had time to fit in.
Our heads never dropped, our self-belief never wavered. But neither did our
methods. Our usual emergency plan, one T. Mooney, to be launched at
recalcitrant opponents, is mid-suspension. Obviously, it goes almost without
saying, our main set of plans are good enough not to warrant such a gung-ho
fallback too often. But last night was the night, we had at least half an
hour to try it out, and hindsight isn't much compensation for two easy home
points dropped. Greedy? Not at all. Nights like this remind us how early in
the season we 46-gamers are. Not even a quarter gone. Big ups to Palmer,
Ward, and occasionally the forwards, but evidently we can't walk on water,
guys. Can't scuffle, dummy or score on water either. Bugger.