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03/04: Review:
"Results go for the Hornets"
By Martin Patching
First published in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette, 08/04/04

RESULTS in Division One last Saturday and in midweek worked out in Watford’s favour as was hoped. Burnley took the lead three times against top of the table Norwich but the Clarets notoriously leaky defence let in five goals and the Canaries went home with the three points. In the Midlands, Derby were seeking a win to climb out of the bottom three but Walsall - who themselves may have been dragged back into the dog fight had they lost - took a valuable away win and spurred on by the return of Paul Merson, the Saddlers look almost safe for another season.

Cardiff City did the Hornets another favour by beating Gillingham on their own patch by two goals to one with the home side missing a late penalty. The Gills suffered a further setback this week when losing at home to Wigan. Bradford are all but relegated after Preston North End sent the Bantams back over the Pennines pointless, but Milton Keynes based Wimbledon delayed their inevitable relegation by three days with a spirited 1-0 away win at Wigan Athletic. The drop finally came against Sunderland on Tuesday evening.

Mid-table Midland rivals Stoke City and Coventry City fought out a close game, with Stoke taking the honours. I had the pleasure of working at the Reading v West Ham United fixture at the Madejski Stadium where the Royals’ fans gave visiting manager Alan Pardrew a very hostile welcome. Steve Coppell’s men tore into the Hammers and having taken the lead ran out comfortable winners to dent West Ham’s play-off chances. Post match the Hammers’ boss pointed out that most of his squad have big reputations and are struggling to deliver the goods in Division One.

The biggest shock of the day - Wimbledon excepted - came at Bramall Lane where Nottingham Forest, themselves relegation candidates, beat Sheffield United 2-1. Former Luton manager Joe Kinnear has lifted Forest into mid-table safety and will be looking to build on that form next season.

Watford’s visitors this coming Saturday, Crewe Alexandra, fought out a dour 0-0 affair against Rotherham United, who the Hornets face at Millmoor the following Saturday (April 17), and maybe this result and display given by both teams is a stark reminder that when the situation is as tight as the bottom of Division One is at present, a point is a point. The magical 50 point target is closer for some clubs and further away for others but all in all, without setting foot on the field of play it was a good weekend’s work for the Hornets.

Back to Crewe who are an excellent footballing side with two fairly prolific strikers in Steve Jones and Dean Ashton. Manager Dario Gradi has always maintained a healthy connection with Manchester United and at the moment United’s third choice keeper Ben Williams is making a big impression between the posts. Crewe have a tendency to overplay in midfield and with the Vicarage Road surface lending its way to a more direct style, a welcome three points looks on the cards.

Looking ahead to Bank Holiday Monday and the long trip to Turf Moor, home of Burnley, and one could again expect a goal-fest as was the case last season. The Clarets have the second worst goals against tally in Division One so it just may be a Happy Easter.

20 years ago:

In the charts:
Hello, Lionel Ritchie

FA Cup Fourth Round:
Watford 3 West Bromwich Albion 1
Sherwood, Bardsley, Franklin, Sims, Rostron, Callaghan, Jobson, Jackett, Barnes, Johnston, Gilligan. Scorers: Gilligan (2) and Johnston.
Attendance: 14,133

Reproduced courtesy of the Hemel Hempstead Gazette