By Tim Walklate
Last Saturday, I decided to go to St. Albans versus Dorchester Town at Clarence Park as I had nothing else to do, apart from researching how many times Edmund lies in King Lear Act 1 Scene 2, and the former looked more appealing. How wrong I was. I arrived forty-two minutes late and paid £2 to get into the ground, and was soaked through due to torrential rain which left me cold in more ways than one. The atmosphere was non-existent, barely a hundred people were there, my seats were awful, even though they were regarded as the best in the house, and the football was atrocious: it was so bad, one player missed an open goal from five yards.
Compare this to twenty-four hours later, when I was at Millwall. A warm sunny day, great atmosphere and fantastic banter between the two sets of fans (although there were some extremely hostile home fans throwing insults everywhere). The attendance at the Den must've filled Clarence Park one hundred times over. And the football...the football was cultured, totally the opposite of the Conference South football I saw the previous day.
But this isn't a criticism of St. Albans FC, I'm sure there are other sites to do that. There was something I admired so much about the people at St. Albans: they all had belief, they have to, otherwise there's no point in supporting a Division Six team. They have to dream that one day they will be in the Conference, or Division Four, or even the Premiership in ten years time! This was one aspect that, until recently, I thought Watford lacked. Sunday thankfully changed that idea....
The mood on Sunday afternoon was excitable, and everyone seemed to be up for the match, especially the Hornets, as a mixture of both fans got off the train at South Bermondsey, and the Watford fans were directed down a fenced-off path which led to a heavily barricaded North Upper Stand at the New Den.
Watford sustained excellent pressure for the first twenty minutes, especially when Brynjar Gunnarsson's header hit the underside of the crossbar and was alleged to have crossed the line. The latter half of the first forty-five saw Millwall dominate the possession, but made little of it. At half-time, it was fairly evenly matched, however poor refereeing and sleazy fouls had slightly stunted the excitement, and left a bitter feeling between the fans.
The second half had arrived, and Dennis Wise came on, and I can honestly say that if you believe he is an idiot that starts on every single player for the opposition if they put a foot wrong, then you're not far off. You could've mistaken him for a fan that had come onto the pitch acting thuggishly. He was booked a minute after kick off, that's how bad he was, and decided to pursue a personal vendetta against poor Gunnarsson for the rest of the match.
But all anger was set aside as Watford went 1-0 up when a Helguson header was parried by Graham Stack, the Millwall goalkeeper, and Danny Webber sneaked in at the far post, urging the ball into the goal with his persuasive left foot, slotting in his ninth goal in eight games, clearly adding thousands onto his growing price tag. However, is there a possibility we may be able to hang on to Danny? Watford are still lurking around the playoffs and maybe we should keep him until June to see whether he can help us reach the playoffs?
From then onwards, Watford completely dominated. Danielle Dichio lashed out at Paul Mayo, bringing him down, and was sent off after receiving his second yellow card. A distraught Millwall were down and out. At seventy-five minutes, Heidar found himself on the break against two defenders, ran from the halfway line to the eighteen yard box and hit a left foot shot under the keeper and into the net. Watford were home and dry, and back in sixth place.
The Millwall fans were flooding out as we sang "You wear fake burberry" in good voice, whilst the players ran out the last fifteen minutes. Gunnarsson was electric, Mahon was immense, the defence were solid, Lee was alert and the strikers latched on to anything and everything.
We left the ground and the mood outside was enthusiastic, a strong contrast to the dank and depressing barbed wired surroundings of the away fans' compound at the New Den. We were starting to believe, like the St. Albans fans, but our dreams could well become reality, if our team keeps up its good form. Could we be the team we were five years ago? After years of sweat and toil, the golden boys are back in form and this was marked by a superb victory against a strong side at the New Den, which many regard as a fortress in this division.
Start believing, start hoping, start dreaming (again)!