Last Saturday's narrow away defeat at Selhurst Park had several positives for the travelling supporters but on reflection the 1-0 reverse also contained many of last season's unwanted traits. The opening exchanges were played at breathtaking pace and the Hornets were slightly ahead on points.
Danny Webber found space at the near post but failed to hit the target with his angled header and moments later Alec Chamberlain was retrieving the ball from the net after the wily Neil Shipperley stooped to head past the Watford keeper .The space allowed to the experienced Palace striker was alarming and post-match Ray Lewington voiced his displeasure - "I was annoyed about the goal because you just can't give players like Shipperley that sort of room in the six-yard box," he said.
Last season's player of the year Marcus Gayle allowed himself to be sucked in towards the ball giving Shipperley the easiest of debut goals for the home side. Moments later, and with the game tempo still high, a marvellous Watford attack saw Cox hit a trademark crossfield pass to Helguson who cushioned a perfect header into Robinson's path. The full-back was in full flight and clipped a tailor-made cross into the danger zone for Dyer. The former Barnsley striker mis-timed his effort and the ball trickled harmlessly wide of the post.
Although the Hornets competed for the remainder of the half, it seemed the confidence was ebbing away and following a tactical substitution at the break, Steve Kember's team bagged the points and deservedly so.
Carling Cup match winner Scott Fitzgerald was at it again, just 24 hours after sealing the extra-time win against Bournemouth, the promising youngster was sliding in at the far post to get Watford's second string off to a winning start in the Premiership reserve league. Nigel Gibbs was very pleased with the overall performance against Nottingham Forest and it was fitting revenge for the Hornets, who lost at Forest two games from the end of last season and feared they had thrown away their title chances.
Fitzgerald has made remarkable progress and his enthusiasm remains infectious. Should the new signings fail to deliver, the former Northwood striker is waiting in the wings.
A tough home game coming up with West Bromwich Albion the visitors this Saturday (3.OO P.M). Albion have strengthened their squad during the close season whilst managing to hold onto key players. A total of six new players have been added by Gary Megson and the general feeling is that the squad is stronger than the one which contested the Premiership campaign.
Lee Hughes, who played almost a full season without scoring, signalled his intentions with a brace in the 4-1 crushing of Burnley last weekend. Hughes came off the bench to finish off the Clarets but should start the game at Vicarage Road. Also in the line-up will be the highly rated Jason Koumas who Gary Megson recently described as "the best midfield player outside the Premiership". I find it difficult to argue with the Albion manager and the Hornets will need to be on song to topple The Baggies.
20 Years Ago
In the charts
"Give it up" by KC and the Sunshine Band
Football League Division One
Birmingham City 2 Watford 0
Sherwood. Rice, Franklin,Terry, Rostron. Callaghan, Patching,Jackett, Lohman. Reilly, Barnes
Reproduced courtesy of Gazette Newspapers
Photographs by Malcolm Armstrong