Cat metaphor gets second airing
Report by Ian Lay
Leaving late to go to the game last night, Heidi (my girlfriend) was instructed by me (the pratt) to nip round the M25 (bad choice of words). I cannot understand why anyone would want to sit in traffic for hours on end, twice a day, five days a week. If there is anyone out there that does it; you're mad.
We got so fed up we left the M25 for the M40 east. And nipped up through Denham and Rickmansworth on the A412. It was dead quiet. Anyway we got to the ground just in time to meet our friend John Reynolds. A quick visit to the snack bar for a hot dog and a cup of tea and we were ready.
Being a Vicarage Road end junkie I rarely get the chance to sit in the Rous Stand. So as it was only 6 pounds, we had decided to treat ourselves to a superior view. There is no argument that the atmosphere in the Rous is not as good as Vic end, but you can see everything that is going on from the Rous. And you really see how bad the refs are!!
Both sides had near enough full strength sides out. We had Palmer playing in the back four and Robinson on the left side of midfield. This allowed Johnson to play his ball winning role in front of the back four which he prefers.
Bristol created the first chance from a corner. But the free header was sent miles over. They then had a better opportunity when Hewlett was put through. He held off Page, but Miller came out and did enough to put the no.6 off and he shot wide of the target. Easton and Scott then contrived to create out first chance. The former putting the latter free on the left. He held off his marker and attempted to lob the on coming keeper. Unfortunately the ball dropped a couple of yards wide of the post.
Our first clear cut chance fell to Andrews. A great flick by Scott was picked up by Andrews. He cut inside the defender into the box and just when he looked like he was going to shoot he slipped it passed another defender. Unfortunately Wayne lost his footing and the ball was cleared. He really should have shot the first time.
Bristol's goal came from a dodgy decision to give a free kick on the right flank. I couldn't see why it had been given. Anyway, the ball was whipped in low and Goater volleyed in from about 10 yards. It has to be said that it was a great strike.
Bazeley then had a couple of good runs and crosses which ended in two weak headers from Robinson which went safely wide. And was then involved again with the goal which came moments later.
Easton ,who had a great game, picked the ball up in the middle of the park. He played the ball out to Bazeley who cut inside and passed to Andrews on the edge of the box. Wayne played a one-two with Darren which resulted in the former being clean through. He slipped the ball under the keepers body. 1-1.
It was one of the best worked goals I've seen this season. And it was nice to see Andrews score again after a bit of a lean spell. He also had a good shout for a penalty when a great run into the box was ended by a blatant push in the back. But to be fair Bristol deserved to be level at half time. They didn't create as many chances as us. But they had the majority of the possession.
The second half was different. Apart from a long range effort and a deep cross which eluded Miller, Bristol didn't really do anything to worry us. The first chance came from Andrews. A brilliant chest down by Scott put Wayne free and he sent a 25 yard effort a couple of yards over the bar. Another flick by Scott again sent Wayne through, but he lost control of the ball a bit and sent his shot wide.
Bazeley was having a great game on the right wing. Taking people on and putting in some decent crosses. One of which Scott got on the end of and produced a smart save out of their keeper low down at his left hand post. Bristol's best chance of snatching a winner came with about 7 minutes to go. A great run by Junior Bent on the right took him past Ludden and his low cross was met by Goater at the near post, but he put it just wide.
But with time running out and the golden goal looming the Horns snatched the winner they deserved. A great run by Andrews after another flick from Scott, resulted in Wayne being brought down just inside the area. The ref this time had no hesitation at pointing to the spot and Bazeley stepped up to blast the ball past Naylor.
Kevin Phillips came on for Andrews with a minute to go. He only got one touch but it was cheered as loud as the goals. I can understand KJ not bringing him on earlier. If we had been level at 90 minutes he would have come on for the possible 30 minutes extra time. If he had brought him on with 20 minutes to go of normal time, Kevin could have ended up playing about 50 minutes of football. Which he may not have been up to.
The defence was sound as usual. Palmer particularly affective at centre back. Page did not have as excellent game as usual. He made a couple of small unforced errors. But most of the time recovered well. Miller did not have much to do, but he punched and caught the ball well and dominated his area.
In midfield Robinson, who is not used to playing here, gave a good account of himself and Johnson looked more comfortable just trying to win balls rather than be creative. Bazeley and Easton were excellent. the former getting in some good crosses and making lovely mazy runs. The latter controlling the centre of the park and playing some delightful passes. He also made some telling runs and could well provide that inspiration that we need.
Up front Scott had another good game. Even though sometimes his control lets him down, he does put in a lot of useful flicks off his head. He has a bit of pace and can hold players off when going forward. But most importantly he seems to know where people are around him and he uses his brain.
The man of the match was Andrews. He never stopped running. Scored one, had a hand in the winner and could have had another. This is the Wayne Andrews I like to see. He still doesn't look up enough, but he's getting there and his pace will always worry defences.
So roll on Peterborough. I know it's only a minor competition but the chance to see the Horns play at Wembley is a great incentive for people to go next week and cheer them on. I unfortunately will not be able to make it as I'm out of the country. So sing your hearts out for the lads on my behalf.
And one last thing..... It was great to see Super Kev back. Even if it was for only a minute or so. He must have really felt happy with the reception he got. It brought a lump to my throat I can tell you.
If I had a cat it would have been purring last night.
Extra time nightmare
Report by Ian Grant
It would be fair to say that my attitude to the Auto Windscreen Shield is 'any result, apart from a draw,
is fine'. It is, as we're ceaselessly reminded, a competition with a final at Wembley - well, pardon me for being
picky but the Second Division playoff final is also at Wembley and would be accompanied by a prize worth
winning. So I can't work up any enthusiasm for this - it's a pointless tournament and a distraction from
the more important business of gettting promotion.
All of which makes the possibility of extra time and penalties too hideous to contemplate. I mean, what am I
supposed to do? Leave the game regardless, something I've never done even when we've been 12-0
down with nine players sent off and two minutes to go, and get back to Brighton at a reasonable hour? Set a time limit in the hope
that someone will score the 'Golden Goal' and then go in the middle of extra time if necessary? Stay for
the whole caboodle and risk spending the night at Gatwick?
I've got a very sore throat this morning. As the second half progressed with the scores level, my support
for the team became disproportionate to the significance of the game. By the end, deep down inside,
I wouldn't have cared much if Bristol City had scored the last-ditch winner - as long as somebody did. As it was,
my celebration of Darren Bazeley's penalty was probably rather over the top but I didn't care - it had saved me
from the extra time nightmare.
Not much of a game, this. Hardly surprising, bearing in mind the prize at stake and, on our side at least,
the number of first team players missing. We couldn't field anything vaguely approaching an ideal
formation and so, in the end, this was a victory built from persistence more than anything else - workmanlike but determined.
That determination is illustrated by the fact that, for the first time since Port Vale at home on New Year's Eve 1994, we won a match
after going behind.
The first half, before extra time became a serious threat, was spent attempting to stifle yawns and retain interest. It wasn't that
the game was particularly dull...well, yes it was, actually. Neither side appeared willing to stretch themselves, with
the result that things rapidly became disorganised and scrappy. It wasn't pretty to watch - the early stages were typified by a chance
that fell to Keith Scott, an inelegant long ball that eluded everyone and ended with a race against the keeper and an off-target lob.
It wasn't too much of a surprise when City opened the scoring after twenty minutes. While never creating anything that
could be described as a clear-cut chance, they'd dragged our defence out of shape on several occasions. The goal came from a
free kick awarded, a little harshly, against Paul Robinson for handball. In contrast to our over-complicated set-piece routines, City
delivered a pacy cross into the middle of the area and it was volleyed into the roof of the net - Kevin Miller had no chance.
The game didn't change after the goal - it was still largely patternless, neither side finding the necessary control
to take a grip. We had chances, most notably two free headers in the box from Darren Bazeley crosses, one for Richard Johnson and another for Clint Easton, but
neither ended up on-target. The equalising goal, however, was beautifully worked. A long clearance from
Miller found its way out to Bazeley on the right, he ran at the City defence, putting them on the back foot before slipping a pass into
Wayne Andrews. The cool finish, low past the advancing keeper, was a fitting conclusion to a classy bit of play from the winger who
appears to have finally regained confidence - he's having his best spell since That Dixon Incident.
The first half ended with stalemate. A great deal of industry, particularly from Easton in midfield, but few signs of players producing intelligent
runs or defence-splitting passes. It was a very ordinary game and, without players like Stuart Slater or
Gary Penrice to add a bit of flair to our attack, it was difficult to see that changing in the second half.
And so it proved. The second half appeared marginally more interesting from where I was sitting but that might have just
been my extra time anxiety. There were certainly more chances, enough to have ensured a decisive result for either side had the
finishing not been so indifferent.
For us, Wayne Andrews was involved in virtually everything. For that, he gets the 'Man of the match' award, despite
wasting some of the chances he'd helped to create - that's forgivable, simply because he was making things happen and, apart
from Bazeley when we remembered to give him the ball, he was the only one to do so. The fans were more than a bit
unfair to Wayne, constantly chanting for Super Kev to be brought on, especially when Andrews picked up a knock (which he
ran off after a spell of feeling a bit sorry for himself) and berating Kenny Jackett for not making a change.
But the decision to leave Andrews on was entirely right. Apart from a Keith Scott header that was comfortably saved
by the keeper and another Scott effort into the side netting, I can't recall a Watford move of any significance that didn't involve Wayne. He wasted a couple of chances with
shots that missed the target - on one of those occasions he was on his own but on the other he should've looked up and
crossed to Bazeley who was unmarked. He also had a header from a corner that bounced dangerously across the six yard box before
being cleared - it says a lot about our attack that no-one was backing up to stick the ball in the net.
Apparently, Keith Scott had a good game for us at Brentford on Saturday. To be honest, I felt that he
was poor last night - as a centre forward, you'd expect him to be attacking balls into the box a little more and showing
a bit of strength in tussles with defenders. I still think there's a place for Devon White in this Watford side, you know.
There were scares at the other end as well - it certainly wasn't one-way traffic. In fact, Bristol City
probably played the better football - it was just that it didn't really get them anywhere. A couple of far
post headers were wasted, strikers just finding themselves unable to get sufficient purchase on the ball to
guide it on target. Miller did have to make one outstanding save, though, to divert a deflected shot from the corner
of the area past the post.
As time ticked away, I became resigned to extra time. Thankfully, Wayne Andrews saved the day. As so often, he
put the City defence in trouble, running between two defenders, beating them for pace and being brought down
just inside the box. Darren Bazeley claimed the penalty-taking responsibility and I offered up a quiet prayer. The offer to have Darren's
babies probably made the crucial difference as Baze hit the kick with a lot of power to the keeper's right
and, although the keeper got a hand to it, he couldn't prevent it hitting the back of the net.
We held on until the end as City applied a bit of pressure, including one rather nerve-wracking scramble
inside the area. But extra time was successfully avoided and, as far as I'm concerned, that's all that matters.
Not a great performance by any means - we struggled to win this game - but Bristol City aren't proving to be an
easy side to beat this season. With our restricted selection, particularly the absence of a left winger which meant huge
gaps on one side of the pitch on occasions, we adapted reasonably well. If I sound underwhelmed then
that's probably about right - it's an underwhelming kind of competition...