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Nationwide League Division 2, 10/9/96
Notts County 2(0)
Scorers: Martindale (83 pen), Robinson (86)
Watford 3(2)
Team: Miller 4, Gibbs 2, Ludden 4, Palmer 2, Millen 3, Page 3, Bazeley 4, Andrews 3, White 1, Porter 2, *Mooney 4*
Subs: R Johnson, Ramage, Lowndes
Scorers: Mooney (11, 17), Andrews (90)
Take a dive and get a penalty???
Report by Kate Holmes

Having picked up storming victories over Crewe, Walsall (cup) and Stockport, we went up to Notts County looking to maintain our 100 percent away league record. We kept an unchanged side, with Rams sitting on the bench.

Being of a lazier nature than Rams, I managed to park my car about thirty yards from the away turnstiles. With luck like that, a win has to be a probablility.

Chatting to a couple of stewards before the game, they reckoned on getting around 3,000 fans - they weren't far off, with Watford bringing about 600 fans. It is a pity to see this ground looking so empty, as it has been dramatically improved in the last four years.

We wore our home shirt with red shorts - far better than the white ones we wore at Walsall - but wore white socks, which looked a little strange.

We carried on our recent trend of starting the game well, although Watford reject Tony Agana (who is fatter than John Barnes now) gave us a few problems. We opened the scoring in the twelfth minute, with Tommy Mooney shooting through a crowded penalty area and into the net. I actually thought it was straight at the keeper but it is difficult to tell from down the other end.

Having got the goal, Tommy started to run them ragged, and scored an early contender for Goal of the Season a few minutes later. He got the ball on the half-way line and stormed up the left wing leaving Notts County players for dead. He got into the area, shimmied past a couple of defenders and calmly put the ball past the keeper.

The only way Notts County could stop our Tommy was to bring him down. Their number 2 blatantly elbowed Tom in the face - it must have been bad as he stayed down, very unlike him. The ref, who was up to our usual expectations - crap, decided he would have words with our Tom and let the guilty party off completely. About a minute later, another player launched himself at Tom's legs, with the sole intention of injuring him. He picked up a booking, but their tactics were obvious.

We were so much in control that we seemed to take our foot off the accelerator. County created a couple of chances, and Kev showed how good a keeper he is by pulling off a remarkable save from point blank range. It remained 2-0 at half-time, but I think we all felt that we would need a third goal to kill them off.

The second half was pretty much the same as the first except for Tommy vanishing - their tactics had obviously worked as he didn't cause them many problems in the half. Darren Bazeley began to worry them, just as he did against Stockport, but we wasted chance after chance. Baze was guilty of missing a couple of glaring opportunities and I think he really needs a goal. His confidence is returning, and he is looking more like the player he was four years ago.

The ref still continued with his obscure decisions. Keith Millen caught a player a little late, but as County had the advantage he played on. Their move broke down and Robert Page went on a rampaging run upfield, which ended with a very crude challenge on the edge of the area when Page had only the keeper to beat. The ref saw fit to book Milly for the earlier foul but didn't even have words with the player who took out Page. Still, when you are 2-0 up you don't really care so much.

Everything was fine until the 82nd minute when the ref gave County a penalty. I didn't think it was a foul but then again I never do. It is the sort of dodgy penalty we get when Rams is playing. Needless to say, they didn't miss it, and we began our usual end of game panic. Three minutes later it was all square.

Having been so much better than them, and totally in control, I could not believe we had thrown it away. County pressed forward for a winner and I had visions of a previous midweek visit when Furlong scored a late winner. Don't ask me why, but I thought we would still win, although I was calling those players every name under the sun.

We moved into injury time and someone played the ball to Wayne Andrews who was suddenly in the clear. He went beyond a couple of defenders, and my main thought was 'take a dive and get a penalty'. The keeper came out and, knowing what Wayne can be like, I still thought a dive was the best option. Instead he flicked the ball with his right foot and it rolled rather beautifully over the line and into the back of the net. Cue mental celebrations from fans and players alike. Wayne took his shirt off, as is the current trend in the Premier League, and then was buried in a mass of Watford players. Unfortunately, the ref decided that celebrating a Watford win was not within the laws of the game and booked Wayne. I personally cannot see anything wrong with celebrating a goal, especially an injury time winner, like that. Had he run to the Notts County fans (if he could find any) then fair enough, but this just smacked of a total party pooper.

Good result, but I would have preferred a comfortable 2-0 win. Having said that, at least it made us appreciate that third goal all the more. Third in the table and still not playing anything like near our potential! We'll go up as Champions...

Report by Andy Barnard

Notts County were one of the more fancied teams in the division, but hadn't won since the first day of the season. So with a 100 percent away record and the two home defeats well behind us we arrived full of hope. There were maybe 500 Wattie fans and, although the total crowd was less than 4000, the atmosphere was quite good with the home crowd trying to respond to a plea to get behind their team. Our formation was something like:

Ludden Page Millen Gibbs
Bazeley Porter Mooney
White Andrews

To avoid clashes of colours our strip was yellow shirts, red shorts (yes!!) and white socks. We began brightly, attacking the far end, and were well on top of the game. After ten minutes Devon White had a shot blocked and Tommy Mooney knocked the loose ball in. It was no more than we deserved and their crowd went a bit quiet.

We pressed forward again and four minutes later Tommy intercepted the ball on the left wing and trundled off towards goal. Thanks to good running off the ball by our forwards, he wasn't properly challenged and cut inside the box before knocking the ball into the net. As solo runs from the half-way line go, it was maybe a bit of an easy goal but being away and 2:0 up within 20 minutes, it felt like promotion season again.

That second goal had the home fans completely stunned, and for a time County looked rattled enough to give another one away. That really would have opened the floodgates but unfortunately we didn't manage to put enough pressure on and the game evened out and went off the boil a bit. Miller was forced into one or two good saves and both sides had good half-chances just before half-time.

After coming under a bit of pressure at the start of the second half, we settled into what seems to have become our normal pattern of play: winning plenty of balls before they could get into our area, and making good use of Tommy Mooney and Darren Bazeley down the wings. We had quite a few useful chances, the best being when a good diagonal cross out to the right found Bazeley in a great position just outside the box, but after knocking it on well he hesitated too long and allowed a defender to run across and block his shot.

With 15 minutes to go we still looked comfortable but the home crowd started to get behind their team, who began to sense that the danger had passed. Suddenly it seemed like a comeback might be on as they finally managed to break through and gained a penalty after Dom brought a player down. It was difficult to see what had gone wrong as it was at the far end, but their sub scored confidently and suddenly (again part of our normal pattern of play at the end of a game) it was panic stations as usual. Three minutes later the ball went loose in our area and they equalised.

Having spent the past hour anticipating an easy victory this had an unreal feeling - panic stations was one thing, but actually losing a two-goal lead like that is quite another. Both sets of fans got behind their teams, and in the last five minutes the game could have gone either way. The home crowd urged County on but our defence seemed to pulled itself together, and the team as a whole rallied well and had time to squander yet another corner (out 9th, to their 4). Finally when they were pressing forward we countered with a lob to Dev who flicked on to Wayne. He outpaced their two defenders on the left, their keeper hesitated before coming out and Wayne beat him at his near post. Everyone went potty, including Wayne who opted for the illicit shirt-whirling routine to the echo of "Wayne Andrews, Tra-la-la..." (repeat many times). Given the present stupid rules the ref had to book him for dissent - I don't think he cared though, and by the time he'd got his shirt back on and given his name the game was well into injury time. The defence played it cool and the final whistle went. Marvellous.