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95/96: Reports:

Endsleigh League Division 1, 26/11/95
Watford 0(0)
Norwich City 2(1)
Team: Miller 3, Bazeley 3, Caskey 1, Millen 3, Holdsworth 3, Ramage 1, Hessenthaler 3, Palmer 4, *Mooney 4*, Moralee 2, Phillips 2
Subs: Page, Johnson, Porter
The skill but not the desire
Report by Ian Grant

Ten games without a win and things go from bad to worse. After getting out of jail against Luton, I'd hoped for something better from this game - all we got was more of the same, only this time our opponents were good enough to punish us.

We started brightly enough, forcing Norwich back in the opening exchanges. The sale of Lavin and Gibbs' continuing injury problems mean that we can expect Darren Bazeley to have an extended run in the right back position and his presence on the wing appeared to have a good effect. But we were restricted to long-range shots from the likes of Phillips and Mooney, none of which were on target - Palmer came closest with a fierce effort that was deflected into the keeper's hands, the only save Gunn had to make in the first half.

We had loads of possession but that counts for nothing. Right now, there's no penetration and we spend most of our time passing the ball across the pitch with the opposition defence unchallenged. Leo reminded me at half-time of Terry Westley's comment that Luton were happy to let us have the ball on Tuesday night because they knew we couldn't hurt them. When opposition managers say things like that you have to worry.

The major culprits remain Ramage and Caskey, two quality players who are wasting our time at the moment. Ramage had a dreadful game - entirely bypassed by the play, it was easy to forget that he was on the pitch. We have a right to expect far more from him. Caskey was more visible but no more effective, doing most of his work far from the opposition box and permanently running sideways rather than looking forward. With the forwards unsupported and forced to retrieve the ball from the wings, there was absolutely no threat in the area. Frankly, we'd be better off with Porter and/or Johnson instead - at least they'd do a bit of work to earn their wages.

It wasn't much of a surprise when Norwich scored after half an hour - Fleck heading back for Ward to finish from close in. Any confidence we had drained away, both in the stands and on the pitch, and the rest was awful beyond belief.

I'd barely returned to my seat for the second half when Norwich put the game out of reach as Scott scored at the far post from a long, looping cross. This was one of only a handful of attacks City had in the game - as I said before, it's not how much of the ball you have, it's what you do with it.

Of our non-defensive players, only Palmer and Mooney appeared to have the heart required to keep battling - Moralee and Phillips were isolated and outnumbered so I'll forgive them. Palmer had a fine game in the centre of midfield, fighting hard for everything, but he isn't the kind of player who can make an impact around the box, unfortunately.

Mooney, in his new left back role, was tremendous - surging forward at every opportunity and thundering through challenges all afternoon. As the only Watford player to show any real enterprise, he came closest to scoring with two half-volleyed attempts that skidded past the post. The moment that really demonstrated his value to the side was at the other end, however - Fleck was clean through, round Miller and was about to slide the ball into the empty net when Mooney appeared from nowhere to put in a clattering challenge and take the ball from off his toe. Tom got up, bellowed abuse at the ref for giving a corner, shouted at his teammates for not defending and continued yelling at anyone and everyone until the corner was taken. Marvellous.

I'm clutching at straws, obviously. But if we had more players with Mooney's ambition, we'd at least be able to say we gave it our best shot. The fact is that Mooney stood out for doing things we should expect all the players to do - making hard tackles, taking on defenders, having a bloody go - and that's a sad reflection on the rest of the side. Particularly Ramage and Caskey, who have the skill but not the desire, but I'm going round in circles now.

Defeat without honour, then. Norwich didn't look like a brilliant side but they beat us easily. We never looked like scoring and that's no reflection on the forwards, just a total damnation of certain players who have the intelligence and skill to get us out of this almighty mess but simply can't be arsed. With games against Millwall, Birmingham and Tranmere coming up, it's difficult to see how we're going to start winning before Christmas.