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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
04/05: Reports:

League Cup Fourth Round, 09/11/04, 7.45pm
Watford
versus
Southampton
 
Hindsight...
By Jon Preston

...is a wonderful thing. The Tuesday night steak and a pint is becoming a regular thing. 4.99 is not bad in my book, but the conversation that goes with it is priceless. Everything from work, the weather, to how long it took to get to Watford today. Inevitably the conversation focuses on tonight's match and our recent fortunes. "We're making lots of chances." "We're going to put five past somebody soon." Prophetic words indeed, but we didn't expect it against Southampton.

Clearly, this was a match that we could win. Obviously, they were lacking in confidence. But, crucially, the game still had to be won. Am I the only one slightly disappointed with the media focus on how bad Southampton were rather than our splendid display? Whilst they did disintegrated into a hapless rabble, it was only after they were beaten into submission by a Watford side on a mission.

The first goal is always important and had Southampton taken one of their early chances, it would have changed the pattern of the game. Having said that, we could have been ahead long before Dyer's headed opener. A word of praise for Bruce. He has his detractors, and four goals in eighteen months has done nothing to silence them. But it's a brave man who keeps on going and is prepared to miss. With Webber out, this was his big chance to cement a place in the team and he grasped the opportunity with both hands. One shot just wide, another whistled over the bar and close again with a header.

As is becoming the norm, it was Neal Ardley who was at the heart of it all. He really is having a banner season. Another pinpoint free kick for the first and an excellent near post corner for the second. What are the odds of him emulating the feats of Marcus Gayle and Gavin Mahon of going from villain to Player of the Season?

Just a goal up at halftime, when it could have been more, might have been awkward. Would Southampton come out all guns blazing? Just stay focused. And that is what they did. The dam finally broke and Saints disintegrated into an unorganised mess. It gave us twenty minutes of sheer ecstasy. James Chambers may have been distraught after his miss against Gillingham, but he made up for it here. A simple prod for his first and a rasping drive for the second. That after a powerful run from Dyer, who just refused to give up. His pull back found both Chambers and Gunnarsson lining up a shot, but fortunately Boris saw his colleague was in the better position.

Whether it was the right decision to appeal against H's booking at Gillingham so that he could play in this game, I'm still not convinced. We'll miss him on Saturday and I felt that there was a case of doing "a Beckham" and getting the suspension out of the way. However, scoring a quality goal is a good way to shut the likes of me up! The luxury of being three up gives a striker the freedom to try things he might not if it was still 0-0 and the result was as good a volley as you'd wish to see. And how we enjoyed it, he's now up with the Hornet greats and can no longer do anything wrong! Good pass from his Icelandic friend to set it up too.

4-0, ridiculous. I think it began to dawn on most of us as to the effect this would have on Southampton. Indeed the ramifications have been going on ever since and look set to continue until a new manager is found. Pity poor Steve Wigley, no qualifications and not much support from Chairman or players. His days are sadly numbered. From there the game descended into farce as Saints played in a manner that would have insulted my five year old son. None better than when the ball broke to two players just outside the area. With no yellow shirts near them, here was the chance for a clear shot on goal. It seemed like slow motion as they both left it for each other and then realising their mistake both went for it, the resulting collision leaving them both on the ground with the ball nowhere near. Had the resulting break-away led to a goal, we would have been seeing it on Question of Sport very soon. How Emlyn would have loved that one!

Still not content with making fools of themselves Van Damme contrived to miss from close range, coming closer to the corner flag than the goal. Even their consolation goal ended in farce as the resulting kick off found Bouazza clear to smash his shot into the net. We'll ignore the second goal, as 5-2 was a little flattering to say the least.

Nights like this don't come along that often, so we'll enjoy it for now. Let the press carry on about how bad Saints were. We know that we were good, very good. Whatever the rest of the season brings we will have this to bring a smile to our faces.