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04/05: Review:
November 2004:
3, 2, 1 and DRAW!
By Mike Peter

Oh cummon.... This is getting ridiculous now.

Since September 28th we have drawn nine - that's nine of our eleven League games.

You can interpret this in different ways. The good way, in that until the defeat to West Ham on the 27th, we had not lost for two months. For a Watford side, this is rather incredible. Of course, you could see it in the bad way, in that we've only won once in the League since September 19th. And not at all this month.

Of course, finishing the month in twelfth is no bad thing, and beyond most of our expectations for the season as whole. However, as has been mentioned before, this is a very close division and there is no reason why, having proved ourselves in August and September, we can't be challenging for the play-offs. It may just be not wanting to let go of the high life that is the top of Division Two, but a long string of draws is rather monotonous and damaging to what is potentially a very successful league season. A win is desperately needed.

We haven't played badly; this is no bore draw series like that of 96/97. But victory, perhaps, could have been achieved in every single game.

With some, we can be pleased. Coming away from Bramall Lane and Elland Road with draws is no mean feat. Especially at Sheffield, where on-form Heidar was suspended - a shame seeing as he usually scores against them. Although I can't help but wonder if he had been available whether we may have won. In the same vein, if Leeds hadn't cancelled this fixture in August because two of their under-elevens had to attend a tea party (or something) we may have two more points in the bag.

We never get anything out of Gillingham, especially at the Priestfield, so there's no need to linger there. What is more worthy of note is our home record, where we haven't won in the League since late August. Thus home draws with Rotherham and Derby. We shouldn't underestimate the latter, however undeniably dull they are. They're even above us! (Shocking, isn't it?) Rotherham though can be considered a major disappointment. Yes, of course there's no such thing as an easy game but against a team that had yet to win this season (not anymore - good old Leeds!), we missed a vital opportunity to get out of a rut.

West Ham was, as Greene King put it, a refreshing change from the usual. No draw in this one, although going two goals up could have deluded us into thinking that we wouldn't slip to yet another East London defeat.

Of course, I have neglected a rather major part of November 2004. However much porridge there is, there'll always be some sugar (unless you're really dull and don't sweeten your porridge. In which case - what's wrong with you?). November's sugar was the League Cup. Back in August, I asked why Division Two teams don't take this competition more seriously. I have been answered in the most fantastic way possible.

Two very different victories. The first - a 5-2 mauling of Southampton - was simply incredible for the scoreline, the absolute domination we had over this "Premiership" (not a premier, not a ship) team. Portsmouth was different. Portsmouth were no Southampton, who were shocking from the outset. No, Portsmouth were pretty decent. Yet we completely played them off the park. 3-0. 3-0 for crying out loud. Two absolute classics in the space of a month. Who needs the FA Cup?

A month of eight games, and although I object to the idea that footballers can't play two games a week, four week-day games has inevitably taken its toll on our league position. However, if a (temporary?) slip down the League is what it takes to witness games such as those against our South Coast visitors, I, personally, am willing to accept it.

Player of the month for me has been Bruce Dyer. He stepped into the team following Danny Webber's shoulder injury at Gillingham - yet another long-term injury for Dan, and although this stops any transfer in January, his tendency to find himself on the sidelines is a worry, especially when he's injured a shoulder that he's previously had trouble with. A lack of goals has dogged Brucie's second spell at Watford so far, not any more with five goals this month - including both at Leeds. Bruce has the ability to hold the ball, run at people and has a large amount of physical strength. All you want from a striker. One can only hope this isn't a temporary blue streak and that previous problems have just been confidence issues.

Plugging wilfully alongside him has been Heidar, also contributing four goals. It seems rather ridiculous that we have two in-form strikers and haven't won a League game. Still, the Puffin Eater has been superb again - the cold obviously brings out the best in him. Fellow Icelander Boris, I have decided, is also a complete and utter loon. He's been injured for the latter part of the month but is still seemingly insistent on playing. He's also chipped in with three. Meanwhile, his partner in crime, Gavin Mahon, has signed a new two year contract, which is all good and dandy - especially when we lack central midfielders. Not that I would want to lose him even if we did....

Speaking of injuries, the loss of Hameur Bouazza is a blow, especially coupled with Webber's latest trip to the physio's room. This leaves us rather short on strikers, although Scott Fitzgerald has returned from a rather fruitless spell at Swansea. Marcus Gayle and Paul Devlin, two emergency options both returned at West Ham.

If the month could get any more bizarre, there was the club's cancellation of press preferences to the Watford Observer. Even for me, living in depths of Hampshire, the WO is one of my principal ports of call when searching for Watford news. Its excellent links with the club is one of the reasons I - and various members of my family on my behalf - go to such lengths to read it.

I don't want to analyse the details of the dispute too much, as I'm sure there must be a few things the fans are unaware of. On the Watford Observer's side, yes, the Elton John ticket process was a mess - my in-box was bombarded with e-mails from the Mailing list saying that credit cards had been charged 2,000. But, as the club argues, it was their first time running such a big ticket order. The club probably shouldn't have thrown such a big tizz about the WO's article and no doubt, now the issue is resolved, they will be wanting to sweep it under the carpet and forget about it. They're not the only ones.

So, no League Cup in December, and thus a month of anticipation is ahead of us before the ties with Liverpool in January. However, December is vitally important to the League campaign. This is a tight division and a couple of wins will have us challenging for the play-offs again, but in the same way, should this dry spell continue we could easily find ourselves down the bottom.

I know where I'd rather be.