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03/04: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 04/10/03, 3.00pm
Crewe Alexandra
Mere extras
By Matt Rowson

So where's this win going to come from then? Not from a Carling Cup tie against limited, Second Division opposition apparently. Nor from a home game against a shambolic Ipswich side, not even after an increasingly forceful performance leading up to taking the lead. Nor from a penalty miss and an even bolshier display against Burnley.

Crewe, then? Well, maybe... and (and yes, that is the sound of a straw being clutched at) if there's a date in the calendar year that lends itself to momentous away wins in Watford's history, it's October 4th. It might be worth, dear reader, cheering yourself up in this time of want by taking a trip through the BSaD archives to hear tell of previous memorable October 4th encounters... try here and here, not to mention here. The exception that proves this irresistible rule came during a hapless tonking at the Hawthorns in the play-off season, which good taste prohibits hyperlinking. October 4th is a good day, and a day when we win games memorably.

So that's that sorted.

Crewe, therefore, are cast as mere extras in this submission to fate, but for completeness, I guess I'd better discuss the side.

It was particularly pleasing to see Alex return from Division Two at the first time of asking, and further to reaffirm The Way They Do Things by selling off a finished product from the end of the line (Rob Hulse this time) and fielding a young side full of home-grown players. Dario Gradi, the League's longest-serving manager, is taking a bit of time out following a heart-valve replacement operation so assistant Neil Baker and academy director Steve Holland are in charge of the team until mid-November.

Clayton Ince will be in goal for Alex... the enormous Trinidadian is reputedly formidable on crosses, which my brother would say is a euphemism for being a ropey shot-stopper. We shall see. Ademole Bankole is the cover.

David Wright should play at right-back having recovered from a recent shoulder injury. Another youngster Chris McCready is his deputy. The versatile Welsh international David Vaughan will probably play at left-back, although he's also filled in further forward on the left flank... Cornishman Anthony Tonkin, a summer signing from Stockport, has filled in at the back on such occasions.

In the centre of defence, Stephen Foster has been around for a while despite being only twenty-three, and was certainly highly rated before Crewe's relegation... he's also one of many players to have injured Stephen Hughes, probably by looking at him harshly or something. He's been partnered by another youngster Richard Walker, strong in the air but ropey in distribution, who is expected to step aside when the more experienced Adie Moses, a summer signing from Huddersfield, returns from a hamstring pull.

In midfield, the absence of midfield general and skipper Dave Brammer with a groin problem is expected to be keenly felt... water-carrier Neil Sorvel has been drafted in to replace him, although it has been commented that youngster Lee Bell might be a more natural replacement. Kenny Lunt, in the other central position, has taken on the captaincy... the twenty-three year old has already started over two hundred league games for Alex.

Ben Rix is back from a knee injury to provide creativity on the left whilst Justin Cochrane, another summer signing from Hayes, is proving a popular and competitive contributor on the right.

Up front, Dean Ashton's reputation precedes him... the big teenager has already scored thirty-eight first team goals and was recently called up by England's U21 side for the first time. He will probably be partnered by Northern Ireland international Steve Jones, who has recently shaken off a hamstring problem. Highly rated prospect Paul Edwards is likely to provide an option on the bench and another product, Luke Varney, has also been named as a sub in recent games but Allan Smart picked up an ankle injury in a reserve game, which presumably won't help his chances of extending his month-to-month contract to a permanent deal. Which is a shame, even if it means that he doesn't get the chance to score against us.

Saturday, then. October 4th. Crewe away. Not Manchester United, nor Luton, nor even Spurs, but every game is just as bloody important until we get that win. Bring it on.