LIKE many other Watford fans I find myself scanning the league table and looking ahead to the remaining fixtures as the Hornets continue with their nervous fight to avoid the drop. Fifty points should reward Division One safety for next season, leaving Ray Lewingtonís men eight games to earn seven points from. It could be argued that the task is relatively easy but with nerves frayed and confidence low that task becomes so much harder.
Following the all important win against Derby the Hornets received another battering at Portman Road against Ipswich Town. The defensive mistakes made the headlines once again but the general team performance overall was one of the most disappointing so far this season. Having said that, the team were yet again honest in defeat and continued to give their all against a team more than capable of troubling the best in this division.
Travelling back from East Anglia, matters were made worse by Derby County hammering east Midlands neighbours Nottingham Forest to tighten things up even more at the bottom end of the table. Derbyís draw on Tuesday night against highflying Sheffield United turned the form book upside down, whilst Gillinghamís defeat at the Stadium of Light against Sunderland plunged Andy Hessenthalerís outfit back into the relegation dog fight.
New loan signing Chris Baird settled in fairly well at Portman Road on his debut for the Hornets. Chris is a good passer of the ball and able to make progress down the right flank to produce quality crosses. The 22 year old can also operate in midfield and with Paul Mayo continuing to impress on the left flank, it certainly bodes well for next season, and this was confirmed by club chairman Graham Simpson when he informed me after the defeat at Portman Road that he had every confidence in his manager, and that every step was being taken to ensure that First Division status is maintained - and if that meant more players in the short term then funds would be made available for loan players.
Something resembling the spirit of Wimbledon and Watford of yesteryear was resurrected by stand-in captain Neil Ardley, who gave a captainís team talk to his players prior to the Derby County game and the group huddle has been present for the last two games. It all helps and the home support the players received against the Rams was a great help to them. I myself featured for Wolves in three seasons where we fought against relegation and the supporters pulled the squad through in the end.
On to Saturday where play-off candidates Wigan are the visitors. Athletic have a wonderful purpose-built stadium and a wealthy chairman in David Whelan. Manager Paul Jewell has maintained a purposeful push for promotion and the Laticís have been up there for much of the season. Dangermen will be Nathan Ellington who tops the visitors goalscoring chart with 16 goals and former West Bromwich Albion striker Jason Roberts who moved to the JJB in a £2m transfer deal. Top six against bottom six it may be, but the Hornetsí sting may prevail.
20 years ago:
In the charts:
Hello, Lionel Ritchie
FA Cup Fourth Round:
Charlton Athletic 0 Watford 2
Sherwood, Bardsley, Franklin, Sims, Rostron, Callaghan, Taylor, Jackett, Barnes, Johnston, Reilly. Scorers: Reilly and Johnston.
Reproduced courtesy of the Hemel Hempstead Gazette