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02/03: Reports:

F.A. Cup Semi-Final, 13/04/03, 4.30pm
By Tim Tweddell

As I had done for the previous cup match, all contact with the outside world ended when the game kicked off, until it had appeared on American television some thirty hours later.

I was able to listen to live commentary of the first semi-final, and the lead-up to the second one which included comments from Steve Sherwood on "that goal". The announcement that GT would be helping with coverage of the Watford game almost caused me to change my mind and stay connected to the Real Audio feed, but the original plan allowed "live" viewing of the game.

The last thing I heard was the commentator asking GT if he was going to be able to be impartial. A clearly excited GT answered that he would try, but it would be difficult. Click. Silence.

I can sum up the first half with two observations. Firstly, Mike Riley was going to do us no favours. He falls neatly into the Royle/Bruce theory on Premiership referees, which states that the higher the team are in the league standings, the more help they get. Fouls on Chopra and Helguson, which had even Andy Gray incensed, went unnoticed and unpunished, whereas any minor infraction by a Watford player brought an immediate whistle. When Beattie almost scored in the first half, he had his hand in Cox's face, but this was also acceptable to the saintly Mr. Riley.

The second observation came in the twenty-seventh minute when a cross from the right found Beattie and A. Svensson in the box and the latter's header went over the bar. Marsden (a player I greatly admire) was five yards further on, completely unmarked. It looked ominous and so it proved as he was the architect of their first goal, which they just about deserved, and which highlighted my fear before the game that the right back position would be our biggest problem. Although the left back wasn't doing much better against the unorthodox Fernandes.

The half-time comments were provided by Luther (who else) and Le Tiss. A wonderful combination. More, please.

The second half showed more purpose from Watford and we were a far more potent attacking force and evened things up territorially. We were causing them problems and an equaliser was looking a distinct possibility, when the past reared its ugly head. We gave away a "Vialli" goal - passing the ball along the back line and losing it. 0-2.

A spirited reply brought us back to 1-2 but it wasn't enough. A fair result, and we couldn't have done any more really, as we had our best team out, with the possible exception of Richard Johnson, and they all played to their potential.

We were thus spared the deja vu of our first choice left back missing the final, Robinson having received his fifteenth yellow card of the season. But no complaints this time, after he decided to take out Fernandes in the centre circle - the only time he got anywhere near him all afternoon.

Appearing in the final would obviously have been good for the club as a whole, but a thumping by Arsenal on world-wide television may not have been so enjoyable, and I think a European campaign next season may have stretched the club just a little to much. Let's build up to that.