NORWICH City's famous director Delia Smith was at Carrow Road hoping to see her beloved Canaries win their ninth successive home league game of the season. Watford's commis-chef Lee Cook had other plans for the menu and following the winger's late equaliser at Nottingham Forest last Saturday, it was Cook who delivered a perfect cross for Scott Fitzgerald to once again score from close range and put the Hornets ahead before half-time. A mere 250 Watford fans were able to watch this enthralling encounter due to the building of a new stand at Carrow Road.
Pre-match, Ray Lewington's men were given little chance and were missing Micah Hyde and Paul Devlin, both on international duty. To balance things out the home side were minus Peter Crouch and the influential Phil Mulryne in midfield.
Watford escaped an early scare when City's centre-back Fleming aimed a bullet-like header goalbound only to see Lenny Pidgley make another unbelievable save from close range with only three minutes on the clock.
Former Watford schemer Clint Eason dominated the midfield in the first 20 minutes until Hand, replacing Hyde, gained the upper. Jamie has shown potential but appeared to have levelled out somewhat this season and the youngster's return to form was vital against the highflying Canaries.
So the Hornets went into the break ahead, which away from home is something to be savoured and having survived two penalty appeals, the omens were looking good. City's striker Darren Huckerby was booked for a blatant dive for the first shout, but Watford skipper Neil Cox was extremely fortunate to avoid giving away a spot-kick when bundling over the dangerous Paul McVeigh yards from goal - just before the interval. A rare slice of luck for Watford on their travels and one which they were determined to build on in the second half.
The game was a credit to Division One and both teams attacked with aplomb throughout and early in the second half top goalscorer Scott Fitzgerald raced clean through only to shoot slightly too early and Green was able to save and at the other end, Pidgley made two excellent saves to deny City who would have topped the table with three points from this game.
With only a small squad to call from, Norwich's home form is remarkable; they had won all eight home games this term and 14 out of their last 15 fixtures on home soil. Visiting teams tend to defend but succumb to the inevitable. However, Watford were in no mood for just hanging on and counter-attacked with pace and direct passing. From one such move Fitzgerald again broke loose to take the ball around the City keeper Green, who tripped the striker and received only a baffling yellow card for the offence. Premiership ref Steve Bennett made a few strange decisions, but somehow, in a game packed with contentious situations, he managed to keep all 22 players on the pitch and must take some credit for the entertainment. Captain Cox slotted in the spot-kick to put Watford 2-0 up and silence the home fans.
City brought this minestrone of a game back to the boil with what proved to be a consolation goal and in what is now the Hornets' style towards the end of the game, Ray Lewington's men played out the final minutes with the ball in the corner flag area rubbing further salt into the Canaries' wounds.
When asked about his team's performance, manager Lewington said: "I am very proud of them all."
On to Saturday and West Ham are the visitors (kick off 3pm). The Hammers started the season in style but have not recorded a win in their last six league games. There may never be a better time to meet Alan Pardrews' team as the prolific Jermaine Defoe will be absent through suspension. The Hornets are running into a rich vein of form and the Hammers will provide a fair yardstick as to how far the team have come on from the early season setbacks.
20 years ago:
In the charts:
Uptown Girl, Billy Joel
UEFA Cup, Second Round, Second Leg:
Levski Spartak 1 Watford 3 (AET)
Sherwood, Palmer, Bolton, Sims, Franklin, Price, Callaghan, Jobson, Rostron, Barnes, Richardson. Scorers: Rostron, Richardson and Callaghan.
Reproduced courtesy of Gazette Newspapers