It was Miller's day
Report by Ian Grant
Do excuse me if this report is a tad chaotic but I've got a stinking cold and I'll be crawling off to bed when this is finished. See how I suffer to serve you, dear readers?
The pattern of recent Watford performances has been somewhat mediocre - I've struggled on occasions to pick out a star player from those in yellow shirts. Not so with this game. Although certain individuals (hi Gary!) were way below par, others - namely Miller, Foster, Millen and Moralee - were absolutely outstanding and earnt a point we arguably didn't deserve.
Jamie Moralee has been much, and unfairly, maligned since arriving from Millwall - he wasn't bought as a replacement for Furlong, just as a valuable addition to the squad. If the fans let him get on with that job, he'll do it and he'll do it well. If I'd had the chance to pick a player to open the scoring, it would have been Moralee and he obliged in the seventh minute. It was a majestic counter-attack - Ramage sweeping a gorgeous ball through to Bazeley on the right wing, the cross to Moralee and the long-range header into the top corner. Wonderful.
That goal had been completely against the run of play and it took Birmingham just four minutes to level the scores. A distinctly Ramage-esque dive on the edge of the box won the free kick - the chipped shot went in via a combination of the bar and Kevin Miller's back. At the time I commented that a man on the line would have cleared the ball - having seen it on TV, I'm not so sure.
From that point, it wasn't much of a half - Birmingham stormed forward but found Colin Foster in magnificent form, winning everything in the air and timing tackles to perfection. While City had the possession, we created the best chance of the half - Moralee crossing for Bazeley, who had a free header at the far post but made a horrible mess of it, nodding the ball back to the keeper.
If the first half was pretty poor, the second was an absolute humdinger. Birmingham threw everything at the desperate Watford defence, forcing Kevin Miller into breathtaking heroics to keep them out. The introduction of Ricky Otto spelt the end of Gerard Lavin's fun - he was given a rough time as Otto curled in tempting crosses for the City forwards. At times Foster saved us, at times Miller saved us, often Ken Charlery's woeful finishing saved us - Charlery didn't have a happy return to the Vic, booked for dissent and wasting some great chances.
Ultimately, though, it was Miller's day. The memory of that Bournemouth nightmare (the irony of that game was that he barely had a save to make) was erased as he pulled of some amazing stops - twice Birmingham forwards appeared to have rounded the keeper and be ready to slot the ball home, only to be foiled by an outstretched hand flicking the ball away. On this kind of form, Kev is quite simply the best shot-stopper in the division. Roeder's detractors would do well to remember how much we stole him away from Barry Fry for.
As with the first half, we could have stolen it at the end. Our attempts to penetrate the Birmingham defence had met with mixed results - lots of promise, no end result. David Connolly had replaced the luckless Beadle and so nearly opened his Watford account in the dying minutes. Again it was Moralee who conjured up the chance, chasing and winning a lost cause before poking the ball across goal - Connolly did all he could, hitting a shot hard and low, but the keeper saved. That was Moralee's final contribution as he went off hurt - hopefully his eager, mobile performance will have shut a few of the fools up for a while. We played the last few minutes of the game with Colin Foster in the centre forward position. Goodness gracious.
Definitely a point won. With injuries ruling out Gibbs, Hessenthaler, Payne, Pitcher and Phillips we were always going to struggle against this potent Birmingham side. This match was won and lost (well, it was drawn - you know what I mean) in the midfield - we desperately needed Hessy or Payne to disrupt things and get Watford moves started. Only Richard Johnson was left to stem the blue tide and that was never going to be enough.
I guess we should have lost. We didn't. Thank Kev, Fos and Milly for that. Gawd bless 'em.