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05/06: Reports:

Football League Division Two, 27/08/05, 5.15pm
By Tim Walklate

I guess that introducing anything new and radical to a previously conservative and, on the whole satisfactory, environment will inevitably be questioned. It's human nature, to doubt a system completely different to what we're used to, so as to make sure we are completely comfortable within the new environment. It's an insurance policy, to guarantee that we are not lulled into a false sense of security and just allow a system which is untested and unreliable to become the norm.

The Liberal reforms at the beginning of the nineteenth century were constantly probed, and people wondered whether all those major changes to society would work. They did, we have the NHS today due to those reforms. People questioned Radiohead's fourth album: Kid A, revolutionary to their style of music, with a techno twist to it, was heavily criticised. However, many regard this album as their most brilliant and inventive, establishing themselves as one of Britain's best bands.

You meet it, you question its motives, and then you test it and give it a chance to experiment. And finally, you give your verdict: accept it, or refuse it. Adrian Boothroyd has been manager of Watford Football Club for a good five months now, he came in at a bad time, and has made some poor moves, he would predictably be criticised for his motives. But he's also done an incredible job with a lacklustre team, by turning them into a young, exciting and match winning group of players that have belief.

After a successful start to the season against some mid-table teams, Reading were the first promotion-challenging side that Watford were to encounter, our toughest test so far, and a good sign of where the team would end up at the close of the season. It would also show that certain players, who had been questioned for their ability and right to a place in the starting line up, were more than able to play extremely well in this league, and prove their doubters wrong. This was an important match for everyone, it would tell us a lot about the new Watford FC.

The game started vibrantly, and Watford dug into the Reading defence immediately, with McNamee controlling and dribbling well past several Reading defenders, and sending an intelligent through ball to Henderson, who stumbled over the Reading keeper Hahnemann, and chested the ball goal bound, only to be cleared away by Sonko. Just two minutes later, the American Convey took a shot from a free kick which went straight at Foster. Foster was again under pressure soon after, when tipping over a looping header by Sonko which was sure to be going into the net.

The first half hour was just full of fabulous football from Watford, with clinical, one touch passing stunning Reading. Great football played along both flanks, with the play revolving around Young and McNamee, two players that represent this young team so strongly. Macca, with his trickery, put in a superb cross at the edge of the box to King on the far post, only for him to head it over the bar.

Reading were panicky, their passing was not the best, and were poor on the attack. But their defending (and Watford's) was close, blocking shots and quashing attacks. James Chambers epitomised this, blocking a good shot from Little, who'd received a pass from Sidwell across the area.

Ashley Young's corners were sublime, practically reaching a Watford player's head every time. First, Mackay had a low header at the far post which had to be tipped away by Hahnemann, and then an out-swinging corner by Young headed to an unmarked Henderson, who hit a low, powerful drive which was cleared off the line by a Reading defender. Young is blossoming into an incredible player, and must be in contention for an England Under-21 cap sooner or later.

The standard of refereeing was much better than the atrocity of last week, although Mr. Beeby was not faultless. After another Young corner, Mackay leapt for the free ball and was clearly tripped by a defender. The ref said no, the Rookery was furious.

Leroy Lita was very average. A player tagged to do so well in this league did bugger all at Vicarage Road: he never troubled the defence, and had very few shots even though the supply from Little was excellent. A waste of money?

Little was the creator of most of Reading's chances, his trickery and crossing kept the 'Orns at bay for the last fifteen minutes of the first half. Foster had to parry away a good cross from him after a counter-attack on thirty-one minutes. Watford really sat back for a while before half-time: it was Lewington football, lazy balls, disappointing play, and no creativity.

Half-time came and went, and now Watford were attacking at the Vicarage Road end. Hopefully Betty had said a few words to encourage the team to play even more attacking football and break the tight Reading defence.

A player who had been restricted to playing many games previously for Watford was McNamee. Under Lewington, he was not allowed to play too many games due to his asthma and gradually faded into obscurity. However, now under Betty, he has a second chance, and my god has he taken it. After intelligent passing across the area, the ball was given to McNamee, whose shot went just over. Again just ten minutes later, he skipped past several defenders, and took a shot from twenty-five yards out which again went just over. He was an immense force, and can only get better after every game he plays.

Watford then had to cope with some pressure from Reading. Kitson (who'd played poorly all match) missed a complete sitter, by heading the ball way over. Reading were a strong physical presence, and should definitely be challenging for the title, having good build-up play in attack, and so strong in defence with Sonko.

After all the questions about why we were having three keepers, rumours of Richard Lee leaving to Blackburn and why he wasn't in the starting line up, Lee finally went on loan to Blackburn on Wednesday, giving Ben Foster a chance to shine in goal and prove that he is a good goalkeeper. It was an extremely important match for him, and he needed to keep a clean sheet and pull off some good saves. He made many, his best by far was an athletic dive to the top left hand corner keeping out a spectacular long range shot from Harper.

Bouazza then came on for Henderson and created some chances, including one on seventy-eight minutes that was stopped by Sonko's tackle, and a shot from eighteen yards was deflected for a corner. The last few minutes of the game were gripping: a colossal shot from Young, twenty yards out after dribbling from the halfway line, but the drive was just wide. And the last chance of the match was a Sonko header from a corner going a yard over.

It was an attention-grabbing match, and I believe showed how good Watford were as a team. They played creative football, with inch-perfect passing, making chances from the wings. But they did lose concentration, and Aidy must work on this. Carlisle and Mackay were a major physical presence in defence. Spring was good going forward, but the 'Orns missed Mahon. And King and Henderson seem to becoming a great partnership up front.

Boothroyd has made the football exciting: in my opinion, he's made some great signings, and created a young, vibrant team that could really be a force in this league in the not too distant future. I doubted him at first, especially after Gibbs, but I think I've accepted him now.