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96/97: Reports:

Nationwide League Division 2, 14/9/96
Bristol Rovers 0(0)
Watford 1(0)
Team: Miller 3, Gibbs 3, Ludden 3, Palmer 3, Millen 3, Page 3, Bazeley 2, Andrews 2, White 3, *Porter 4*, Mooney 1
Subs: Johnson 3, Ramage, Penrice 3
Scorers: White (17)
Winning ugly
Report by Kate Holmes

This match was all ticket, with Watford given about 769 tickets. We returned about 50 to Bristol, so using my mathematical abilities, we must have had about 700 fans there. I knew the ground was going to be a little sub-standard, even for this division, but I didn't expect it to be this bad. In comparison to this ground, Reading's is like Wembley, and that is no exaggeration. We were lucky as well that we were playing them at this time of year on a gloriously sunny day, as it could have been a lot lot worse.

The coaches rolled up at the ground about ten minutes before kick off - third Saturday away match running the official club transport has struggled to make kick off. We were taken all round the houses - literally - and the ground came in the middle of a rather nice looking residential area. As the coach turned into the car park we were awarded our first view of the ground. I don't think I have ever heard an entire coach load of Hornets laugh as loud. I don't think the Rovers fans were too impressed by our reaction. The really sad thing is they are proud of this little ground.

We went through what was labelled as a turnstile but was really a gate, and were straight onto the tiniest terraced area I have seen for many years. It made the little corner we get given at Sunderland look positively palatial. It was also full of Hornets. I was lucky enough to get to the front, and found someone I knew so at least I could see the goal in front of me.

I will do my best to describe this ground. Basically there are only two sides to it at the moment, one end behind the goal of terracing for home fans, and the side we were on. It had a little bit of a stand in the middle, with appallingly small terracing either side. We were to the left, down by the corner flag along the side of the pitch. It was great for giving abuse to the linesman, not that any of us did of course. Behind the goal to our left was just a hand rail, and beyond that a fence. Nothing more. Opposite us, there was a stand undergoing construction, so at least it will look a little better. I have been to many a non-league ground that is far better than this, notably Stevenage Borough, whose ground wasn't good enough (apparently) to get into the league. The really classy part of this set up was the location of the changing rooms. Having got there late, I didn't see where the players disappeared to. Opposite us, at the other corner flag was what could only be described as a double decker portacabin. Watford were given the top one, and had to make their way down a rather precarious looking staircase to get to the pitch. Most of us were too busy laughing to greet our players.

Taking a look at the state of the pitch, I was extremely grateful to be playing them at this time of year. On Sky the other night they had a scene taken from one of the rugby matches played there in January, and the pitch was a mud bath. The pitch was in a worse state than Chesham's (where our Reserves now play) and that is with grass on it. It made it difficult for players to run with the ball, as they kept losing their footing, or the ball would get stuck in a rut.

We kept to the same side that has done so well recently, with Page recovering from injury, and had Penrice, Rams and Johnno on the bench. Once again we started well, and Big Dev caused no end of problems against his old club. They seemed scared to go anywhere near him, and it was no surprise when we scored after 15 minutes. We won a corner, and Porter dinked it over. Big Dev was on the end of it, and ran through totally unchallenged to put the ball into the net beyond the keeper. After that it just seemed to be a case of how many we were going to get. Their keeper was definitely dodgy, and with our fans putting him off every time he kicked the ball, he started to take the ball further and further away from us.

Big Dev had other chances to score, and Wayne Andrews should have scored when he was put through one-on-one with the keeper. The keeper saved it, and Bazelely following up couldn't put the ball into the rather gaping net. I think this gave Rovers a bit of encouragement, as they started to attack a little more. They nearly grabbed an equaliser right on half time when Watford Reject Beadle hit the post. Kevin Miller did not have a save to make all half.

The half time entertainment was provided by our Junior Hornets beating their kids in a relay race round the edge of the pitch. Their fans were booing all of our kids, so Stuart Murdoch's son turned to the packed terrace behind the goal and signalled the score. Apparently they started to throw things at him after that.

The second half was very poor as far as action goes. Most of it seemed to be concentrated in our penalty area, without them creating a notable chance, or up by the right touchline where I couldn't see anything. Neither side looked like scoring again, although Watford decided to give us a 20 minute panic instead of the usual 10. We brought on Penrice to play against his former club, and he made a bit of a difference for a while.

The only other incidents revolved around Peter Beadle. In the first half he lashed out at Keith Millen who responded by flattening him off the ball. In the second half, Beadle collided with Robert Page, who kicked him, and then Gibbsy smashed into Beadle when winning a header. Lovely stuff. As you can probably tell, I'm now struggling to recall anything else that happened.

It was a relief to hear the final whistle, as it was extremely hot, very uncomfortable on the terrace, and the game was not of a very good standard. To quote a friend of mine - Winning Ugly. It doesn't matter how we do it just so long as we do. I am prepared for this sort of game all season, and as long as it is only one season, I think I can cope. I'm getting used to this winning lark, and that makes it more away wins than we managed all last season. A few more would go down rather nicely.