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02/03: Review:
By Martin Patching
First published in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette, 27/02/03

The disappointing defeat at Walsall on Saturday was followed up with a gritty draw at Molinuex on Tuesday evening. The enforced changes at the Bescot Stadium certainly didn't help and The Hornets looked somewhat disjointed. Youngster Jason Norville gave a good account in his full debut. Jason deputised for Tommy Smith and it is hoped that Tommy will have recovered from his car accident in time to play in the F.A. Cup Quarter-Final tie.

Watford's manager Ray Lewington shouldered some of the blame for the defeat at Walsall, in that he changed the formation. However, on paper his team should have been more than capable of coming away with at least a point. At Wolves, a more familiar line up took the field with Neil Cox returning after suspension. Cox, alongside Marcus Gayle, was outstanding in defence.

This was very much a point earned through work-rate and although the home side had their fair share of chances in the first-half, The Hornets stood firm and created a few of their own towards the latter stages of the game. Goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain made three wonderful saves to thwart highflying Wolves and was man of the match for me. It is difficult to imagine The Hornets without Alec in goal and he will surely be re-signed in the near future.

Striker Heidar Helguson put pen to paper last week and committed his future to Watford and it is hoped Captain Neil Cox will follow suit, as Ray Lewington enters negoiations with the numerous out of contract players at Vicarage Road. With the financial problems still prevalent a reduction in players' wages is likely, also the length of contract offer. The nucleus of the Watford team have earned new contracts, but some on the fringe may be released.

Two home games to look forward to at Vicarage Road. Nottingham Forest are the visitors this Saturday ( K.OFF 3.PM). Forest are presently in 4th place and signalled their determination to make the play-offs with the loan signing of Darren Huckerby last week. Following last Saturday's emphatic 6-0 win against Stoke City, Darren may have to start on the bench.

Manager Paul Hart has seen a host of talent leave the City ground to balance the books, but Paul has a rich seam of talent emerging from one of the best academys in the country. Plenty of firepower on show here, Forest have a rejuvenated David Johnson, presently leading the Division's goalscorers. David's strike partner Marlon Harewood hit four against Stoke, Hornet defenders be warned! [Editor's note: since this article was written, Johnson has been ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury.]

Onto the next home game (Tues 4th) where mid-table Preston are the visitors. North End have certainly missed the expertise of former manager David Moyes and this looks like being a season of consolidation for the Lancashire outfit.

If The Hornets pick up at least four points from these two games, they are back on track with all to play for once again.


In the charts:
Billie Jean by Michael Jackson

F.A. Cup 4th Round
Watford 1 Fulham 1
Sherwood, Rice, Bolton, Sims, Rostron, Callaghan, Taylor, Jackett, Barnes, Blissett, Gillighan.
sub, Lohman.
scorer; Lohman.

Reproduced courtesy of Gazette Newspapers