Tommy Smith, fully recovered from his car accident, led a triumphant Watford team into the F.A Cup semi-finals with a second half strike to defeat a resilient Burnley team. A full house at Vicarage Road urged the home side through the final stages and a delightful Stephen Glass free-kick sealed the tie ten minutes from time.
A classic football game was never on the cards with so much at stake and nerves restricted the teams in the first period. Burnley slightly edged it in terms of possession at the half way stage, but Watford came out with a more enterprising outlook in the second half. Heidar Helguson missed from close range following good work by Marcus Gayle and Tommy Smith almost latched onto a perfect cross from Gavin Mahon, before the young striker finally broke the deadlock. It was Helguson who forced the Burnley keeper into making a fine save. From Neal Ardley's corner, Tommy Smith turned neatly inside the six-yard area to prod the ball home after Gavin Mahon had bundled the ball through a crowd of players. It was tiring Tommy, who was replaced shortly after the goal to a well earned ovation from the home supporters.
The F.A Cup glory, not to mension the massive revenue it brings, has been the highlight of this season. A season in which the players took the lead, in agreeing to a wage cut to keep the club afloat. Their performances on the pitch have, in general, been a credit to the whole squad. Form at home has been convincing and the steady growth in attendances this season can be attributed to the positive attacking play from the players. Form away from Vicarage Road is another matter and one which is being worked at with a different approach.
Monday's semi-final draw was kind, in that Watford avoided Arsenal or Chelsea. The semi-final will be played at Villa Park on Sunday April 13th against Premiership Southampton. Anything, as we have seen already, can happen and The Hornets have a big chance of going through to the final in May.
Before the big day, Watford have six important league games to play, starting with an uninspiring trip to bottom of the table Grimsby Town. Certainly a potential banana skin here. Town in fact held high-flyers Nottingham Forest to a draw in mid-week and are fighting for their lives.
Looking further ahead, a home game against Gillingham on Tuesday 18th (K.OFF 7.45). Ray Lewington has not ruled out a play-off place and will continue to press for one until it is impossible to achieve. With games coming up against relegation contenders Stoke City and Sheffield Wednesday and a trip to Turf Moor to face Burnley once again, The Hornets face difficult fixtures prior to the semi-final. So, it's back to earth on Saturday, let us hope not with a bump.
20 YEARS AGO
In the charts:
Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler
Football League Division One
Swansea 1 Watford 3
Sherwood, Rice, Bolton, Sims, Rostron, Callaghan, Taylor, Jackett, Lohman, Blissett, Barnes.
Scorers: Luther Blissett (2) and John Barnes
Reproduced courtesy of Gazette Newspapers