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95/96: Reports:

Endsleigh League Division 1, 8/4/96
Southend United 1(0)
Watford 1(1)
Team: Miller 4, Bazeley 1, Barnes 3, Hessenthaler 2, Page 3, Millen 3, Porter 2, *Palmer 4*, Ramage 3, Mooney 3, Dixon 3
Subs: D White, Connolly, Simpson
Scorers: Ramage
The final insult
Report by Kate Holmes

It is games like this that really make you wonder why. This game last year saw Darren Bazeley's finest 22 minutes - a first-half hat-trick in a 4-0 win. How times have changed. Like most Hornets, I went down to Southend early so I could go to the seaside. It was a lovely day and everywhere you looked a yellow or burgundy shirt was lurking. Armed with an inflatable hammer (I still have the bruises - Ed) and a cuddly sheep for Rams, I trundled off to the delights of Roots Hall.

Even though the ground is awful, I have usually enjoyed my visits here. You are very close to the pitch, although it is very difficult to peer through the fence. We had one change to our side - David Barnes reappeared from nowhere to replace Dominic Ludden. Southend had a forward line of Roger Willis and Keith Dublin. Seriously.

The game was what you would expect in these circumstances, and they probably had more chances in the first twenty minutes. Kev pulled off a brilliant save to tip a swerving shot over the bar, but thankfully Willis was his usual effective self.

We took the lead about five minutes before half-time. Hessy played a good ball through the defence to Rams. For once the lino's flag did not go up, and Rams raced clear, rounded the keeper and put the ball into the net. We created a couple more chances after this, and it felt so good to be able to take the lead for a change.

The second half began with the music still blaring over the tannoy. Our attempts to drown it out failed dismally. Thankfully, they did stop the racket but it must have taken five minutes. We lasted our dreaded ten minute spell, but Southend were getting closer. Kev was called upon several times as we started to lose out in midfield. Baze had an absolute nightmare at right back, Porter was nowhere to be seen and Hessy vanished without a trace. Rams was kicked several times, so he decided he didn't want to get involved, but our real problems began with an injury to Keith Millen. After a clash of heads (or elbow to head - not quite sure), Milly ended up with a major bandage round his head - probably to keep his brains in. Surprisingly, he wasn't substituted as he appeared to be suffering from double vision. Every now and then he would take a swipe at a ball that wasn't there.

As usually happens in a situation like this, the ball seemed to be attracted to Milly's head. He bravely soldiered on, but we pulled Barnes in to help at central defence and Mooney back to left back. We struggled to clear the ball and give our over-worked defence a break, although Kerry Dixon came close. This led to a very strange incident. A certain section of Watford fans still will not accept Dixon as a Hornet - it was difficult for all of us but as soon as he pulled on that yellow shirt he became one of us. This particular group started calling him "scum" and loads of us told them where to go. One Hornet was attacked by this group, and ended up being taken to hospital with a suspected dislocated shoulder. I don't think the Southend stewards could believe that our fans were fighting amongst themselves. Neither could most of us. Having had quite a good atmosphere, we now had silence.

As the game drew to a close, we seemed to have done the hard work. Tommy Mooney came closest to scoring, with their annoyingly good goalkeeper saving. From a corner, Milly came steaming in and just headed over the bar. It was a pity, as if he had aimed for the other ball he might have scored.

As we moved into injury time, we started to believe that we were actually going to win a game. AFter Saturday's game where the ref hardly added on any time for their cheating tactics, this one seemed to want to make up for it. We must have been into the fifth minute of time added when they scored. It all stemmed from Baze losing the ball in a decent position, not getting back quickly enough and no midfield cover. As soon as we kicked off again, the ref blew for time.

All this season I have felt this conspiracy - everyone has been ganging up to send us down, and this was the final insult. Too many players have given up, or can't be bothered. I feel extremely sorry for those who do care, but for the most part these players will not be with us next season. Knowing our luck, Porter will be. Still, worse things happen at sea. Apparently.

A lot of work to do
Report by Ian Grant

What a waste of a bank holiday. I might have known that this wasn't going to be our day - as soon as I put my sunglasses on, the sun disappeared for the rest of the afternoon. This was another dreadful game. The most frustrating thing is that, on recent evidence, we're not that much worse than the rest of the division - Southend have been flirting with the playoffs and they look very, very ordinary.

As on Saturday, the first half was poor but promising. We did little that was brilliant, yet created some decent chances early on. Tommy Mooney had a couple of headers, both easier than the one he scored against Sunderland, and failed to test the keeper - such is the nature of Mooney's game, unfortunately. The best opportunity fell to Kerry Dixon, who found himself with just the keeper to beat and forced a fine save from Royce.

Southend, with Keith Dublin and Harry Willis up front (neither player has been forgotten by Watford fans - for entirely different reasons), only threatened Miller's goal once - a well-struck drive that Kev tipped over without too much difficulty. Otherwise Willis reminded us of his silky skills by thumping a few shots into the scoreboard for old time's sake.

When we took the lead, it wasn't entirely undeserved but it was a bad goal from a Southend point of view. Hessy won the ball in defence and went forward for once in his life, then played Ramage in (the Southend defenders were presumably thinking about their summer holidays or something) - he rounded the keeper and found the net. Almost a month has passed since I last saw us take the lead - 'nuff said.

It said a lot about the game that the PA was still playing music a couple of minutes after the second half had kicked off. I can recall only one on-target effort by a Watford player after the break - Mooney barged his way down the wing and hit a shot when he should have crossed for Dixon. To be penned back by a good attacking side is understandable, to be penned back by Dublin and Willis is laughable. There's no excuse.

Only Palmer (a few times) and Dixon (once, with the best pass of the game - a huge cross-field ball from touchline to touchline to find Ramage) showed any kind of vision. The rest struggled to keep possession at all. Bazeley was the worst offender - dreadful hopeful lobs up the wing all afternoon, most of them ending up out of play. What I wouldn't give to see Nigel Gibbs back.

Amazingly, it took Southend until injury time to equalise. That was mainly due to poor play on their part, but also to Miller's composure in claiming the ball and Millen, Page and Barnes who are solid, unspectacular defenders. The goal came due to bad marking - substitute Roget pratted about for a bit then forced the ball past Miller's body. That was a shattering blow, even if the results are already irrelevant to this season - there was still time for Millen to head over from our free kick, but our hopes had gone.

This has been a nightmare season and I can't wait for it to end. We haven't been losing as ofter lately but the football's been wretched - now even the spirit seems to have gone. Despite my usual optimism, I'm wary of expecting too much from next season - on this evidence, we've got a lot of work to do if we're to come straight back up. Remembering how to pass properly would be a good start.

After various incidents of breathtaking stupidity on Saturday, we had one to top the lot during this game. Watford fans fighting with each other is quite unbelievable. The subject of, ahem, discussion appeared to be Kerry Dixon, who'd received a decent ovation while another player was getting treatment - he responded with a thumbs-up and an expression that indicated appreciation of the fans' efforts. Clearly, some (and they appear to be in the minority) are not prepared to give him the time of day and it led to trouble. One fan was taken away having hurt his arm. So incredibly senseless.

For what it's worth, the reason why I'm prepared to give Dixon the benefit of the doubt is that he's trying. If it was anyone else wearing that shirt, playing as he has, we'd be applauding them and rightly so - he's been one of our better players in virtually every game he's appeared in. Given a choice between him and Devon White, I know which I'd rather have.