Grimsby Town 0 Watford 0
Watford 3 Stoke City 0 (Mooney, Ramage 2)
Watford 0 Crystal Palace 0
Ipswich Town 4 Watford 2 (Phillips, Pitcher)
Watford 1 AFC Bournemouth 1 (Johnson)
Watford 1 Birmingham City 1 (Moralee)
Tranmere Rovers 2 Watford 3 (Foster, Moralee, Mooney)
Craig Ramage was recalled for the trip to Grimsby and the slide was halted with a goalless draw - hardly a magnificent achievement but, after Charlton, anything was an improvement. If anyone's interested, that Grimsby gate of 3,993 was the lowest of the season in the division.
The wierd thing about this season is that we went for weeks without winning, then occasionally gave a half-decent team a bloody good thumping. We won just ten games all season, yet four of them were by three goal margins. And so it was against Stoke - with the help of Mooney's spectacular strike, we got our noses in front. For some reason, Stoke's resolve completely crumbled in the second half and, with Ramage turning on the style, we destroyed them - the only disappointment was that we should have scored more. At the end of the season, one of these teams was relegated, the other finished in a playoff spot. Hmmm.
If Stoke were a shambles, Palace were an altogether sterner test. As I commented at the time, the goalless draw was neither dull enough to allow relaxation, nor exciting enough to prevent yawning. Brucie Dyer's return to the Vic was entertaining, little else was. And the trains were "rescheduled" so I didn't get home till 1:00 am.
There were differing views of the Ipswich game. Personally, I felt Ipswich were sharper than us - their finishing was undeniable, they outpaced and outclassed our defence every time they went forward. Others thought we were good enough to deserve the points, having created more scoring opportunities ourselves. The truth was probably somewhere between the two - certainly, Ipswich (the dourest team in the Premiership a year previously, the highest scorers in the top four divisions this season) took their chances when they arrived, but we caused them problems and only looked out of contention when the fourth went in right at the end. It was a cracking game.
Bournemouth in the Coca-Cola Cup was not, however, a cracking game. In the end, despite wasting innumerable opportunities to score, we were quite grateful to get out of the game with a draw after Kevin Miller's appalling error let Bournemouth take the lead. Johnno smashed in his usual piledriver to level, but Kevin Phillips went off injured to add to our worries. Confidence was low, the fans were getting tetchy, we weren't performing to anything like the previous season's standards.
Miller made up for his Bournemouth error against Birmingham, with an utterly heroic display that gained us a point we didn't deserve (indeed, Connolly might have snatched all three right at the death). Ken Charlery contributed to Miller's day by missing a hatful but the keeper's second half performance totally stole the show against his old club.
At this stage, the season was still hanging in the balance - a brilliant win at Tranmere lifted us up towards mid-table and gave our spirits a much-needed boost. New signing Steve Palmer slotted into midfield and, in the absence of Super Kev, Jamie Moralee continued his scoring run - as so often this campaign, he returned to the side full of life and promise, yet faded away or got injured. I still haven't written him off, y'know, I just wish he'd bloody well get on with it. For once, the scousers didn't get a dodgy last-minute penalty, although our team coach was broken into (probably by Glenn Roeder, eager to find a way of motivating the players).