A Cracking Send-off
By Frances Lynn
I have been in a foul mood this week. While even my closest friend would hardly describe me as either sweet or even-tempered, this week the red mist has never been far away. The reason didn't take too long to work out. Having lived abroad for twelve years prior to last June, I am really enjoying being home. However I am now faced with spending most of the next six weeks working in the US. The disruption that will mean to my life is highlighted in the fact that I will miss all but one of the games between now and mid-March. That realisation has made me utterly miserable. So this game was really important for me as it was going to have to keep me going for a month. It was also really important for the team, as we need to be beating the other promotion contenders to maintain our push. Norwich, after their slow start to the season, have been on a good run and promised to be formidable opponents.
The pre-match sight of Matt Smith walking around the perimeter of the pitch had my heart sinking, our featured games on 'The Championship' have not made pleasant viewing for Watford fans so far this season. I comforted myself, being in Delia's domain, by indulging in the matchday special pie, which was pork, mushroom and mustard. And very nice it was too. When the teams were announced, the possibly on his way, but apparently injured, Dean Ashton was missing from the Norwich line-up. For Watford, Carlisle did not regain his place in central defence following his suspension last week Demerit keeping him out, so we were unchanged from the team that battled to the win against Stoke.
When the players emerged from the tunnel and were introduced to the crowd, Malky got a tremendous reception from the Carrow Road faithful, which was very gratifying and obviously pleased him immensely.
The game started in the way that it was to go on. In the second minute, Eagles went on a good run but was brought down on the edge of the box. The free-kick came to nothing. We had started the better and the next move had King flicking the ball on to Macca who went on a run and beat a couple of players, but lost the ball before creating anything resembling a goal-scoring opportunity. A couple of minutes later, Norwich had a decent spell and got the ball in our box, it came out and Jarrett, who had been close to death on the turf seconds earlier, was suddenly on his feet to power in a shot that Foster did well to save. Then came Watford's first real chance, the ball came to Eagles about ten yards out, he got a decent shot in, but Green pushed the ball out for a corner.
The next good spell for Watford came on the quarter hour mark. Doyley took a long throw, Mackay put a strong flick on to the ball, but it was easily caught by Green. Then Macca got the ball in the middle of the park and the Norwich defence parted to let him through, but he shot over.
On 27 minutes, Watford hearts were in their mouths. Huckerby crossed the ball into our box and, from our vantage point on the touchline, Malky appeared to have handled, but Martin Atkinson gave nothing. Soon after came Norwich's best chance of the game so far, a free kick by Charlton found Etuhu, who was allowed to put in a good header with no defender anywhere near him. Luckily the header went wide.
On 39 minutes, Stewart went on a powerful forward run. His cross was cleared by Doherty, but only as far as Spring whose powerful shot came back off the post. A minute later Henderson shot from the right wing, but the ball went wide.
As we reached the last five minutes of the half, Stewart fed King, who was being held; he managed to turn and get a shot in, but it was weak and easily gathered by Green. Two minutes later the ball came to McVeigh just outside the Watford box, as he tried to turn into the box, Mackay took him down. Martin Atkinson pointed immediately to the spot. We could have no arguments with the penalty decision. McVeigh himself stepped up and powered it past Foster, who went the right way but never looked like stopping the shot. Just before half-time, not a good time to concede. But the Watford players were not fazed. From the restart, they powered down the other end, a cross from Eagles came in to Macca whose shot was cleared by Colin straight back to him, the follow-up shot was cleared off the line by Charlton.
We felt somewhat unlucky to go in behind at half time, it was hardly a fair reflection on the balance of chances, but there had been plenty in the Watford performance to have us eagerly looking forward to the second half.
Lucky half-time chocolate: None.
Reason: Having made good progress through the twelve-pack of mini-rolls that Don had brought along during the journey to Norwich, the chocolate stayed in the bag at half-time.
Verdict: After that second half, who the hell needs lucky chocolate!
For the second half, Don and I were honoured with the presence of the lovely Grace Fincham, who had left her mum at home and was keeping an eye on her dad. Quite why she chose the spot next to Don for her second half nap is beyond me as he is not the quietest of souls, but she got plenty of rest nonetheless, unlike the rest of us.
The second half started at a similar pace to the first. Only a couple of minutes had passed when Mahon found King on the right wing, he powered a shot in from the angle which Green could only parry as far as Henderson, who put the ball back past the Norwich keeper and we were level. A superb start to the half. The traveling Horns, who had been fairly quiet up until this point, suddenly found our voices.
Five minutes later, Marlon got the ball and beat the last defender, but the flag was up before he shot past Green. It looked a marginal decision from where we were, almost in line, but the goal wasn't to count.
The next action of note was just after the hour. Huckerby got the better of Doyley and got a cross in for Thorne to score with a free header. Yet again, the Watford heads did not go down. We were straight down the other end and King was shooting straight at Green. Then a Norwich player handled just outside the box and we were given a free kick. Spring touched the ball to King, who turned and shot, Green parried the ball to Henderson who restored parity for the second time in the game.
Almost immediately, Ian Henderson replaced McVeigh for Norwich and Carlisle replaced Demerit. The contribution of the American was noticeable with the freedom that the Norwich forwards enjoyed from this point.
On 66 minutes, Etuhu was allowed a free run until Mahon came across and restricted the space so he could not get into a good shooting position. He crossed, but the shot went out for a goal kick. A minute later, Huckerby put in a good free kick that Foster just got a hand to and palmed over.
Five minutes later, Bangura replaced Eagles and Bouazza replaced McNamee. Bangura continues to impress, the Jan Lohman-like tackles are being eradicated from his game leaving just the burgeoning midfield general. Bouazza really has something to prove in these cameos and, to my mind, is doing well so far.
A minute later, we had the 'Ben Foster Blunder'. I have yet to be convinced by young Ben. He has certainly improved considerably in recent weeks, but you are still guaranteed at least one heart-stopping moment per game. Today, it was a woefully short kick that went straight to a Norwich player and induced panic in the defence, although fortunately the Norwich attack came to nothing. A couple of minutes later, Carlisle found himself on the wrong side of Huckerby and the forward was through, he passed to Henderson who put in a poor shot which went out for a goal kick.
The last ten minutes was frantic, starting with a good move in which King fed Spring, who put the ball back to him, but Marlon's cross was put out by the defender. A couple of minutes later, Henderson was bearing through the midfield, but lost the ball. Huckerby fed Etuhu, but the Watford defence was strong and cleared. Then a ball from King found Henderson who put his shot over the bar. Three minutes before the end, Mackay nearly put Foster in trouble with a short back pass, but the keeper managed to get to the ball just before Jarrett and wellied it out. A minute later, Henderson got the ball on the edge of the box, but his powerful shot was straight at Bouazza's head and bounced out. In the last minute of normal time, what looked like a good saving tackle by Mahon in the corner of our half was rewarded with the first yellow card of the game. There were only a couple of minutes of injury time and it looked as though we had won a well-deserved point. But then Marlon got the ball on the right wing, he held the defender off and managed to find some space, advanced a couple of steps and put the ball into the box where it found Spring who powered it past Green. Make that three well-deserved points and pandemonium among the traveling Watford contingent.
At the final whistle the Watford fans, who had not retaken their seats after the goal, went completely mental. The players were obviously as happy as we were as they came over to applaud us. Don and I were up against the perimeter wall applauding the players and I turned to see that the performance had merited a standing ovation from Don, the wheelchair just propping him up. The booing that came from the Norwich fans says more about their ignorance and unpleasantness than the performance of their team. We then made our way into the concourse on the way out of the ground only to find it jammed with Horns watching the highlights on a TV monitor there, and there was Springy scoring and the goal celebrations started again.
So I now find myself on a flight to Boston in a very good mood indeed. That'll do very nicely, lads, thank you so much. And I'll see you at the end of February.