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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
04/05: Reports:

Football League Division Two, 30/10/04, 3.00pm
Nottingham Forest
versus
Watford
 
Maniac
By Pete Fincham

We all know that Heidar is a bit of a nutter. Affectionately dubbed in my part of the Rookery as the "puffin eater", our Icelandic warrior has never been scared to put his head where most people would not put their feet and on occasions defies all sorts of scientific logic with his ability to just keep charging around like a maniac for far longer than one thinks humanly possible.

I remember back to the night two days before his debut against Liverpool and, along with Andy Stocks, I took a call from the Hilton Hotel where Magnuus was sitting in the bar bursting with news. "I have someone you should talk to!" he told us and onto the phone came Heidar. We had never signed a player worth 1m before and, in these days of pre-suicidal board decisions where mediocre, no talent parasites were put on salaries of up to 1m a year, this was about as exciting a signing as Watford were ever going to make.

I think it was at this point that Heidar probably thought he might have made a mistake, as Andy and I proceeded to sing some sort of welcome song very loudly down the phone. I'm not sure whether he understood a word of it, or even if it made sense to anyone who spoke English, but when I next met him on the pre-season trip to Holland six months later, he remembered the occasion and, of all people, he called me a bit of a nutter!

But however much of a warrior he appears on the pitch, and however many goals have been scored as a result of impossible jumps or lunges (remember Wigan at home last season, and how he had absolutely no right to even go for the high ball into the box) until a couple of weeks ago, Heidar had never scored more than a goal in any game for Watford. This has always been a bit of an issue for some, stating that a striker needs to score goals and it is all well and good being a battler and maniac, but the team needs a striker to score goals. So when HH scored the first at Derby two weeks ago, it was not unfair to suggest that he was unlikely to find the net again that day. Of course he would continue to charge about, making defenders feel uneasy when on the ball and scaring the hell out of anyone he went near; but scoring a second was just not part of his game.

With only a sixth of the game gone, Heidar was on two goals from a sublime left foot shot and various hats were being eaten in the away end. In all honesty, he could and should have scored his first hat trick.

At the City Ground, Nottingham, H went a long way to suggesting that goal scoring is now very much on the list of things we are going to see from him as he repeated his Derby exploits with considerable interest.

The day did not start well. A defeat for WIFC in the morning against a team that had to borrow some of our players, failed to provide a ref, and then went and had the result announced shortly before kick off did not sit well in the palette. Then a cost of 25 had to be swallowed for a seat in the corner of a stand with limited legroom and poor visibility of half the pitch. I repeat again, 25 is a joke of a price to be paying for Division Two football, whatever the fixture. It is fine for the boards of the clubs to talk about average price across the division, but if each of the clubs decide to just inflate prices, then of course the average will go up. Where will the spiral end? There is little consolation when clubs throw in the odd 10 game to see the dreadful commercial prospect of a home match against Rotherham. But when Watford are in town, and clubs now replicate our pricing for away fans, it really begins to hit the pocket harder than a day out at a Division Two football match should.

With Demerit coming in for Cox and Gunnarsson returning to relegate Blizzard to the bench, the game started slowly. David Johnson had the first effort on goal as a result of a scuffed clearance from Demerit. The home fans thought that the effort had given Forest the lead but the former Bury striker's effort had gone wide.

On twenty minutes, Watford won a free kick on the right, as Chambers tangled with Rogers. The collision was little more than just that and despite no appeal from Chambers, referee Atkinson ensured that Chambers endured the wrath of the home crowd for the rest of the match. Not for the first time this season, Ardley's pinpoint delivery found Helguson's head, and he scored with the faintest of touches.

A moment later, Webber should have scored as Chambers beat Dawson for pace before rounding Gerrard in the Forest goal. But like all of his luck in the last six weeks, Webber stumbled at the crucial time allowing Morgan to block the effort and clear the danger. A Gunnarsson effort a few minutes later went narrowly wide, before Heidar made it 2-0 from another Ardley dead ball delivery. It was a perfectly executed goal at any level, with the delivery from Ardley quite special. Ardley has been involved in either the execution or supply of Watford's last seven goals! It is quite an incredible return from a player who was on the receiving end of the wrath of so many fans until recently. Another situation of Boo-Boy to Player of the Season?

Before the break, both Webber and Johnson had an opportunity to score, as Helguson continued to charge around the pitch like the demented fellow we know and love. With a couple of minutes to go before the break, he had nowhere to go only thirty yards out from goal but could have put the ball out for a Forest throw. Instead his full throttle wallop of the ball into the nearest Forest player ensured the ball went out for a Watford goal kick as the half-time whistle approached.

Just as at Derby though, the home side came back into the game just before the break and from a Dawson cross, Reid popped up on the back post to halve the deficit.

The second period was largely about Forest attacks and Watford defending. Andy Reid showed some of the class that has attracted considerable press interest - if not a realistic or firm offer from a Premiership club - but the real villain was Marlon King who failed on two occasions to level the scores with poor touches, before the real miss of the match from Perch who sidefooted wide from a couple of yards out with the goal wide open.

With Webber replaced by Dyer and Gunnarsson, literally sapped of all remaining energy, taken off for Blizzard, the reinvigorated Watford side - literally led at either end by Dyche and Helguson - had a couple of half chances, exploiting Forest on the break. Darlington and Chambers were the main tormentors down the flanks, but with the stubborn Forest defence sensing the anxiety off the field and raising their game accordingly, the game ended in several frantic battles in the Watford goalmouth. Ardley was forced to hook clear on a number of occasions, before from a late free kick, Lee appeared to make one of the most remarkable saves I have ever seen. I say appeared, as there were just so many players in the box at the far end of the pitch, it could have come back off the post. From the resulting corner, Morgan appeared to have equalised for Forest, but the referee had clearly blown for a foul as the ball sailed across from the Forest right to give the Hornets their first win in the league since Chambers signed and the first victory in the league this season in which Webber has not scored.

Back to Heidar; I have seen better strikers for Watford. I'd fancy either Furlong or Luther in a one-on-one with the keeper on any occasion. I'd bank on those two on every occasion, at the age Heidar is, to score more goals in a season than the Icelandic international. But in terms of sheer involvement in the game, ability to frighten people and raise the team the way we wish all players could, there is little doubt that HH is playing himself into the Watford Legends gallery. He scored his fiftieth goal for Watford at Forest and in recent times few players have managed that total for the club. Of course, this team is not just about one player. This was an exceptional team performance with the defence standing firm in the face of quite a considerable onslaught from Forest at times; while the midfield defended when they needed to, but always looked to turn possession into attack wherever possible.

The other thing is that this is a team that you can really relate to. Hard work seems to be the core value running through the side and the discipline that we hear Dyche asserts in the playing staff is evident. There are no passengers, and you can see from the players' reactions that they care. How many times did we scream out for the ten grand per week "stars" to show, just once, that they cared? To turn to the fans and let them see on their faces that they were not just paid by Watford, but they were part of Watford? However well the team goes on to do this season, this is a team of Watford players, as opposed to a group of players playing for Watford.