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95/96: Juniors:

FA Youth Cup 4th Round Replay, 29/2/96
Watford 4(1)
Tranmere Rovers 1(1)

Good news for the future
Report by Kate Holmes

For those of you who are interested in the fortunes of our youth team, I will give a brief run-down on the latest events. We have what must be the best you team since 1989 when we last won the FA Youth Cup. We are in the quarter finals of this competition, the QF of the Southern Junior Floodlit Cup, and about fourth in the league with several games in hand.

I believe we have the best forward line in the country at this level. Some of you may be familiar with Wayne Andrews - he made the sub's bench for the first team. He reminds me a lot of Paul Furlong, but he is a lot faster. He is strong, has a lot of skill and has the ability to tear defences apart. His one downfall in the past has been his temper, but he is learning to control his aggression under the most difficult circumstances.

Alongside Wayne we have Gifton Noel-Williams, who is still a schoolboy. He is about as tall as Devon White, but he is one of the best players I have seen in a yellow shirt for years. Like Wayne, he has plenty of skill, deceptive pace and has the strength to run at defences. Together Wayne and Gifton are dynamite when they are both on song.

At the back, we have two very good centre halves, Colin Pluck and Darren Ward, both are first-year apprentices but they play more like 30 year-olds than 17. We have twins in midfield - Chris and Andy Johnson, both are very good with set-pieces and Andy actually scores penalties.

We have a very well-balanced team, and if we can keep hold of the majority of them, it can only be good for our future.

I thought I would give a short report on the Juniors 4th Round FA Youth Cup tie against Tranmere, as it will go down as one of the worst displays I have ever witnessed from any team.

Watford got a 1-1 draw at Tranmere, a very good result considering the battering the players received. Back at Vicarage Road, we seemed to approach the game too confidently, and conceded a goal fairly early on. From the kick off, one of Tranmere's players kicked the ball away while we were standing there waiting to restart. This signalled the start of Tranmere's downfall. We equalised soon after, with Gifton demolishing their defence.

There is one big problem with having two brilliant forwards - opponents often look to take them out - by fair means or foul. In Tranmere's case, it was by foul. Gifton and Wayne received the usual amount of abuse, but the most annoying thing was the ref not stamping it out, or clamping down on the amount of dissent shown by Tranmere.

The second half saw Tranmere step up the nasty tactics. Our lads concentrated on the football, and took the lead. Once ahead, there was only going to be one result, but Tranmere decided to go down fighting. Literally. One of their players hit out in an off-the-ball incident, witnessed by the linesman. The ref saw fit to dismiss the Tranmere player, but only after being bullied by a crowd of white shirts trying to intimidate him. We increased the lead further with a cracking free kick by Clint Easton.

The thug tackles continued, with one of our players being kneed in the nether regions when he was about to take a throw-in. Another incident saw Wayne kicked in the head whilst he was down on the ground. Both of these were unpunished.

We managed to keep our cool and Gifton again created havoc in their defence. He round the keeper and was about to slot the ball into an empty net when the keeper brought him down. The ref gave the penalty, and one of the Tranmere players was so incensed he ran about fifty yards to have a go at the ref. Not surprisingly he was dismissed, but the keeper wasn't. We scored the penalty to make it 4-1, but it wasn't the end of the nastiness.

Wayne ran clear of the Tranmere defence and was running towards goal. I could see Tranmere's number 11 steaming up behind Wayne, and it was obvious what his intent was. He launched into a two-footed assault on Wayne's leg. Unfortunately he connected. This led to a third Tranmere dismissall, and Wayne being carried off and taken straight to hospital. As yet we don't know how badly hurt he is.

We ended the game as 4-1 winners, but I just cannot believe that a team of 16, 17, 18 year-olds can play like Tranmere did. I've heard of bad losers, but this was ridiculous. I would love to know what Tranmere's coach would say in defence of that display. Seeing three dismissals is fairly rare, but in truth Tranmere should never have been allowed to finish the game, as there should have been at least two more sent off. All I can say is that our lads should be congratulated for not reacting or retaliating. With a performance like that, we deserve to win something this season.