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
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.