Football League Division Two, 05/02/05, 3.00pm
By Martin Blanc
Once upon a time, there was a match that showed everything that was fabulous about Watford Football Club in 2005. The game flowed, the crowd roared, the result was a smile-inducing triumph and the entire squad and fanbase could hold their heads high with pride at what the team had achieved. The end.
This, however, was not that match. For much of the game, and in fact the entire opening quarter, this resembled a kickaround between the ugly sisters. "You go to the ball." "No, bitch, you go to the ball." Poor ball. After perhaps its thousandth hoof of the day, it came down from the skies with snow on it. We were bedded in for an afternoon of thud and blunder, when Danny Webber demonstrated what benefit some familiarity with a football could offer, and dazzled the Gills' defence into self-destructing to the tune of one goal.
It was brief respite, as our midfield, unable to outbattle their midfield, tried to confuse them instead, mainly by giving them an unfeasibly large amount of possession with eye-popping regularity: uncontrolled passing, wayward long balls, and quite the worst display Lloyd Doyley's given in recent memory. That Gillingham were hilariously unable to make the most of it was mostly down to our first candidate for Cinderella, whose story is a fairytale in the making: Jay Demerit, clearly born with a natural talent for what his confused compatriots doubtless referred to in his youth as girlieball, nonetheless persisted in his choice of sporting career. The boot fit, as it were, and he commanded the defence as if he, not Cox, were the ten-year veteran. He went forward with purpose, and nearly got our second goal midway through the second half. He made all the right moves, put himself about from start to finish, and deserves a happy ending. Cox, sadly, looked a bit of a shot fighter yesterday he knew all the moves, but a couple of seconds late. Of our fullbacks, least said soonest mended. Maybe.
So we fought the bad fight, rode the greatest trio of six-yard misses in our box, relied once on Jones and twice on the woodwork for additional protection…and were heading for a serviceable though in all other respects hideous 1-0 when the real deal, Cindereagles, decided that he had to go to the ball. And once there, he danced with it until nearly midnight, not scared that it might turn into a grenade like the rest of his teammates seemed to feel, judging by the speed they'd get rid of it, and he waltzed forward ceaselessly, fed by an admiring and rejuvenated Johnnie Jackson. Cinders gave Bruce Dyer a late chance, and how we wished it had been Bruce feeding Cinders and then, lo and behold, our fairy godmother answered our prayers, he moved left, he shimmied right, the Gills froze, and we had another goal. But we also had a new starlet, someone our benevolent stepmother Ray had told us in the programme not to rely on well, Ray, don't tell us, tell Lloyd and the rest of them. And then we won't wonder why Cinders was left sweeping up on the bench while the ugly sisters pranced about in their size twelves most of the afternoon. And then we might have a shot at living happily ever after.