Breaking with tradition
By David Gray
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, Mr. Boothroyd. Do you have any grasp of Watford tradition? Obviously not. It's even written in the Bible: 'And whenst the 'Orns of Watford play the Wolves of Wolverhampton; there shalt be no goals. And the 'Orns shalt play five men across the midfield in order to stifle the fearsome Wolves.' Okay, so perhaps I'm paraphrasing a bit there, but you get the picture. Watford and Wolves matches are always about as exciting as spending a weekend in Iain Duncan-Smith's country house. I don't know, maybe I've just picked my games badly, but whenever I see us play Wolves, it always ends up 0-0. And this was why I wasn't too enthralled at the prospect of going to see this Carling Cup second round match between Wolves' and Watford's reserve teams.
As it happens, Watford fielded a fairly experienced side, with some players' ages almost in double figures. The fact that the oldest outfield player was twenty-five year-old Clark Carlisle says a lot. It's actually a great testament to players like Blizzard and Young that, having previously being given their chance in these sort of matches, they are now being rested.
When I saw Francino Francis' name on the team sheet, my immediate reaction was that he'd jumped the queue a bit. (Actually that's not true; my immediate reaction was: 'Who the hell is this guy?') But then I realised that it wasn't exactly a mile-long queue. And he played quite well, despite looking remarkably like a rather lanky pigeon when running. Although his lanky factor significantly decreased when standing next to Diagu...Daigo...Diagoram...the tall one.
Anyhoo, somewhere in this incessant babbling, I'm going to realise that there was a football match played, and that this is supposedly a report of it.
To be honest, it wasn't exactly a promising start. You could see the goal coming, even if you couldn't predict that Mr. Mike Jones (the referee in question) would give a free kick against us because we had overdone watering the grass a little bit. 1-0. We're in for a long night, I thought. Actually, I thought, 'Shut up', mainly because the man on my right was a Wolves fan.
Sometimes goals spur the opposition on; sometimes they can boost the team that scored the goal; but in this instance, it just seemed to suck all the remaining life out of the game. The next thing I remember was looking up at the scoreboard to find that there were only ten minutes remaining in the first half. The game had just sort of passed everyone by, without doing anything particularly good but without displeasing anyone.
But at least it did spring in to life at the end. First, Francis missed a sitter from about five yards, but he was saved by the flag as he was given offside. Then we really did score. It's strange, I've been to so many games where we've had corner after corner after corner and not scored one of them. And then, in a game that we'd been pretty much out of for the first forty minutes, we score in our first corner of the night. We went into half-time much the happier side, but by the look on AB's face throughout the first half, the youngsters weren't exactly in for a bedtime reading session with Uncle Adrian.
The second half was very different from the first. You knew that someone was going to score at some point, and yet, when no one did, it wasn't really much of a surprise. Both teams had chances to go in front, but neither team had that bit extra, that ruthlessness in front of goal that might have finished the game off. It was clear that the youngsters usually confined to the reserves or the Academy were growing in confidence throughout, but still no one could find that killer touch.
It was actually the oldest player on the pitch who kept us in it at one point. Alec Chamberlain, looking for all the world like a sprightly forty year-old instead of an ageing forty-one year-old, leapt to the aid of our defence to tip a powerful shot over the bar. But the longer the match went on, the more you felt that we had a good chance of winning it. Seol, having originally looked quite dangerous, appeared to have lost interest in the game as we began to dominate. Wolves started to get frustrated at their inability to prise open the Watford defence, and when the goal came it was with the run of play.
Despite a couple of hairy moments towards the end, they were more moments that had forgotten to shave for the last couple of days than full-blown beard-and-moustache-type hairy moments. Wolves looked increasingly desperate as they searched for the equaliser, and Watford were looking increasingly confident.
In the end, it was a great win, considering we had a lot of first team players out and had rested several as well. However, the chants of 'We're all going on a European tour' were perhaps a little premature. But, you never know, only five more wins. Can't be that hard, can it?