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02/03: Review:
"Turning the corner"
By Martin Patching
First published in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette, 06/02/03

Have the Hornets finally turned the corner on their travels? If Saturday's win at Highfield Road is cemented with three points against Rotherham United this week-end, I will say confidently, "Yes, they have".

Three points earned against Coventry City, unbeaten in their previous eight league games, confirmed Ray Lewington's men as true play-off candidates. Contrary to reports, Watford's win had nothing to do with the dismissal of City's Youssef Chippo. The Hornets dominated play from the start and were ahead on points before the home side's loss. However, Watford did score three minutes after the sending-off and away wins are now synonymous with the home side being depleted in numburs. The late aerial bombartment apart, City rarely threatened Watford's goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain.

Homegrown youngster Jamie Hand was recalled in place of Arsenal loan-star Jermaine Pennant. Jamie stated his case by helping to create the winning goal with perseverence and skill. At the opposite end of the spectrum their strengths may be, my feeling is that Jamie is heading for a long, steady climb to the top, as opposed to the meteoric rise Jermaine has experienced. However, Jermaine will return this Saturday, right midfield, to torment the Rotherham United defence (K.OFF 3.00 PM). Jermaine is also available for the 5th round F.A Cup tie, before returning to Arsenal. As I sat in the press box, prior to the Coventry game, Simon Michaelson, a Radio London presenter, gazed in awe as Pennant gave a ball juggling display during the warm up session. Impressive, it certainly was and to have a Jamie and Jermaine in a Watford team whets the appetite somewhat. The drive and determination of Hand, dovetailed with the precocious, unpredictable talent of Pennant is a right-side midfield combination of dreams.

Alas, the Champions League beckons for Pennant, a canvas to paint elsewhere.

I will therefore climb down from the tree, and look ahead to a tough fixture against Rotherham United. My home town and all that goes with it. In the sixties, London had Carnaby Street; in the seventies, Birmingham had The Bull Ring; the eighties and the nineties by-passed Rotherham United in terms of development. Things have changed, some for the better, others for the worse. Millmoor, on the other hand, hasn't, at all. The United players will bring to Vicarage Road a sense of commitment. However, The Millers have somehow lost their way of late, inconsistencey de rigeur. On their day, Ronnie Moore's men are a match for any team in this division. One win in their last six games conceals six goals in away wins at Millwall and Burnley respectively earlier in the season. Consequently The Millers have the best away goals for record in the division. They are in a transitional stage, the long ball, long throw strategy cast away.

The Yorkshiremen were victims of an unfortunate refereeing mistake at Derby County last Saturday. United manager Ronnie Moore has joined others in pleading for immediate video evidence to assist referees. The stakes are high and with a fourth official to view the video tape, in the long term, I think this will happen. In the short term a "Sorry, I made a mistake" from the ref has enabled Rotherham goalkeeper Mike Pollitt to escape suspension. The points lost at Pride Park, however, cannot be retreived. It is not so long ago that two or three judges sat fifty yards or more from the winning post at race meetings, deliberating on tight finishes. Along with tennis, horse-racing embraced technology. It is available at every league fixture, including the Football Conference. To ignore it would be a mistake.


In the charts:
Down Under by Men At Work

FA Cup Third Round
Watford 2 Plymouth Argyle 0
17,630 Sherwood, Rice, Bolton, Sims, Rostron, Callaghan, Taylor, Jackett, Barnes, Blissett, Gillighan.
Scorers: Rostron and Blissett.

Reproduced courtesy of Gazette Newspapers
Photographs by Malcolm Armstrong