By Doug Lawson
I had to leave an extra hour to collect Kim from Maple Cross today, as the
Great British public redefined "gullible" and raced to cause a further
national disaster at the pumps. I must confess I felt quite smug watching
the growing queues of cars waiting to fill every available receptacle - I
filled my car yesterday!
We made it to the coach in Cardiff Road on time
anyway, but the driver then elected to stop at Toddington for a spot of
Panic Buying of his own (apparently, no-one at Cantabrica thought to fill up
before they left!). Perversely, after twenty minutes of queuing, the driver
decided the need was not so overwhelming and elected to rejoin the M1.
Sadly the nation's perceived shortages and accompanied expenditure did not
extend to Wuthering Cup tickets - in fact, on a good night to stay in, many
did. The crowd (around 2,500 apparently) was probably equal numbers of
Watford and Notts. County. The ground however, was very nice and not
dissimilar to Vicarage Road - it even had a Cattle Market nearby; theirs
actually sells cattle, ours...well, it's called Destiny.
Having finished a pre-match can of Worthington and had a good laugh at
Captain Todd and his mate's identical "very yellow" WFC anoraks, Kim and I made
our way to our seats. A very quiet stadium greeted us, with Hornets fans
laughing at the ridiculous lack of home support.
When the teams came on, Ramage was given a suitable "There's only one"
chant, but virtually as soon as play started this changed to "Always
cheating" shouts as he fell over...a lot.
The pitch was like a skidpan, very reminiscent of Anfield last season. Each
and every player was running on tiptoe to avoid sliding, every tackle looked
like an advert for Pirelli tyres - water spraying everywhere. Large puddles
claimed through balls long before they reached their target.
It would have been pompous to suggest that this would be a walkover, but
although the first half play was largely County's with lots of breaks and
attempts at goal, we never really looked like conceding, Pagey's head being
the mainstay in a defense that gets stronger every time they play. It
appeared in fact that the County players were merely better swimmers than
the Watford eleven. Chamberlain even had time to exchange banter with the
crowd. "Why don't you get injured and then Chris Day can play?" asked one
wag. Alec then dutifully started to limp to our great amusement. A few
minutes later the rain got worse and Alec asked us if we had any soap.
Then the PA fired up and we found out why Tony Blair has appeared so blasť
in light of the recent petrol problems - he has another job, making
announcements at Meadow Lane. His suggestion that Mrs Trigg should go and
see Mr Joy at half time led to more mirth in the crowd. He then requested
the presence of Mr Dwight, a sentiment echoed by the majority on this
particular trip, although I suspect a hardcore of Anti-Reginald protesters
were responsible for this and the new improved "Hertfordshire's Taylor-made
Army". Oh, please!
Just before thirty minutes was up County had a corner, a lone sausage roll
was proffered to Craig Ramage, its trajectory almost taking it to the corner
flag. He declined, and the pastry snack remained at pitchside for the rest
of the ninety minutes. Then the ball went to the other end and Cox had a
shot that went just over the top left of goal - the only real excitement of
the first half. The crowd said "Oooh" as they watched the shot in stereo,
the reflection of the action showing on the windows of the hospitality
suites behind the far-end goal.
Then it was half time. I went to chat with fellow Hornets, but on
discovering a queue for pies I joined it - I didn't actually want one, but I
was worried they may run out.
The second half was much better. The pitch had been swept of all but a large
puddle on the right. Watford took hold of the game, due in part to Easton
replacing Foley. After some neat work, Watford claimed a corner, and on
fifty-five minutes the unmarked Moonster climbed majestically to meet the
ball and we were one-nil up.
Perhaps the Watford players thought there would be a goal shortage this
night? Four minutes later and the ball was back in County's area. In a scene
that looked very familiar, their keeper parried shots driven in by Mooney,
then Easton, then Nielsen, then Mooney again. I swear at one point even
Chamberlain had a pop!
The ball was cleared, but two minutes later it returned to Mooney who fired
low and hard, the ball bounced off the sprawling keeper's leg and into the
After that, Watford took their foot off the pedal (very silly petrol joke
omitted). On seventy-two minutes, Alec had probably his toughest test, parrying
another low shot, and then rushing to smother it before the rebound was
converted. Five minutes later, and an "incident" in the box seemingly
involving the invisible man led to a penalty which whistled untouched into
the top left of our goal. Two-one.
Ngonge - who Tony Blair announced as Ner-Gong - then replaced the flagging
Gifton Noel-Williams. His through ball led to another goalmouth scramble
from which Steve Palmer won a corner. We sang his song, he shook his head in
resignation. Then the corner floated in, Mooney (on a hatrick) either
unselfishly or perhaps unwittingly provided a beautifully weighted header,
which dropped at Palmer's feet, and Steve dutifully fired through three sets
of legs to claim what was to be our last goal of the night. Three-one and
suddenly Steve had forgotten about his dodgy song.
At the end of the game, we all went misty eyed as each of the Watford players
hugged Ramage, although I did notice that none of them managed to make their
arms meet round the back.
Inexplicably our coach made it all the way back to Watford without filling
up. I'm off out now to get some petrol before it all runs out....