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Nationwide League Division 2, 9/11/96
Rotherham United 0(0)
Watford 0(0)
Team: *Miller 5*, Gibbs 3, Johnson 1, Penrice 4, Millen 4, Page 5, Bazeley 2, Connolly 2, Noel-Williams 2, Palmer 2, Mooney 1
Subs: White (for Noel-Williams) 0, Robinson, Andrews
A neutral's point of view
Report by Jen Lee

Well, having been asked by Dan to write a neutral's view of Saturday's game, I thought I'd give it a go. I'm not intending to write an entire match report so these are just impressions. Please bear in mind that this is the first time I'd seen Watford (so names etc are as near as I can remember), I'm depressed (or rather pissed off) about my own team at the moment and I had a very bad head (due to far too much beer the night before)..........

On arriving at the ground (via a pub to watch England), the first thing that struck me was that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. As someone who hasn't stood at a match in years (apart from Bolton away last year - a worse ground than Rotherham) it was actually quite nice to have a choice. stlg5 to get in was another nice surprise....

The fact that David Connolly was playing went down well with all around me and, after listening to Dan raving about him for ages now, I was looking forward to seeing him. Unfortunately (along with the rest of the team) he only played in spurts but when he was playing well he was good - it seemed to me that on his day he could be brilliant - unfortunately Saturday wasn't his day.....

The first half was pretty quiet. The highlights were a couple of brilliant saves from Miller (your man of the match IMHO) - apart from the memorable (and I'm sure extremely painful) Millen moment. Rotherham seemed more interested and were definitely on top.

At half time we had rugby and gymnastics (get used to it - you're on Sky this week) for no apparent reason and a discussion of how things could be turned around. Various theories about substitutions were put forwards - unfortunately not favoured by the manager who simply swapped around Penrice and Palmer (thanks for the names Dan).

The second half was a great improvement on the first with Watford looking much better. There was a good spell where I thought that you'd score - and you should have done. Connolly and Penrice both had good chances which they failed to make the most of and Mooney tried to kill me with a shot which almost took my head off.

Devon White came on, much to the delight(?) of those around me who told me all about him. I thought they were exaggerating and then he missed the ball and nearly fell over......

Overall then, I was impressed by Connelly and Noel-Williams - I think that they'll both do very well for you (if you can keep them) - Miller had a brilliant game in goal and it's a shame about Dev.

I just want to disagree with Dan on one point here (sorry Dan) - he said that Connolly and Noel-Williams are 'too young to thrust onto the centre-stage and be expected to win games week in week out' and while this may have some truth in it if you rely on them too much, all they are lacking is experience and they won't get that if they don't play.

Not a good result but don't get too disheartened by it. These are points you should have won but at least you didn't get beat (yes, I know - what's Peter Schmeichel's phone number? 506321 - very funny). I just hope you don't lose too many points like that or you might regret it come May.....

It's grim up north!
Report by Jon Anning

After a good performance against Brentford the previous week, hope sprang eternal for a serious demolition job over Rotherham, one of the lower teams of the division.

Milmoor, like Rotherham itself, was an absolute dump, a fine example of a pre- war English stadium, with the very latest in enclosed space toilet facilities! It reminded me a bit of the Vic before the developments and at least the away end was covered, although it was absolutely freezing. There was a suprisingly good Watford turnout (in the region of 6-700) many wearing flat caps and shorts, although racing pigeons and whippets had to be left at the turnstiles.

The most notable inclusion in the squad was David Connolly replacing Wayne Andrews and Richard Johnson replacing Clint Easton in the midfield.

Onto the match itself and I'm sorry to say it was a complete off day. Rotherham piled on the pressure early on without the defence capable of clearing the ball effectively. The midfield looked weak, Richard Johnson in particular having an absolute nightmare of a game, very clumsy with his challenges which earned him a booking (it could have been much worse) pretty woeful passing (either underhit, or a hopeful hoof up front - losing possession far too often). Bazeley too had a pretty quiet match, it looked like he was playing in a wing back position, meaning when Penrice had the ball in right midfield he had to race past him on the wing, two players chasing the ball - most bizarre!!

First half chances were few and far between, Connolly looked sharp although denied decent service. Rotherham it must be said looked comfortable on the ball, and nearly scored, only to be denied by Miller covering ground at the far post.

In the second half Watford enjoyed far more possession, again without creating much in the way of clear-cut chances. Our best came when a cross field ball by Gifton found Mooney with acres of space, only for him to blast it at the Keeper, when he had the time to place the shot. The overall quality of shooting was poor (back to some serious barn door practice, I'm afraid lads!) most of the shots ending up in row X or out of the ground. Chance of the match came to Rotherham when they broke free with only Miller to beat, the shot expertly parried round the post, one of the best saves I think I have ever seen of late!

The game seemed destined for the draw and for comedy value, Jackett brought on Big Dev (taking off Gifton) for the last 15 minutes, he actually won a header (so he's improving) but little else.

Rotherham, it must be said, hardly looked a team that was struggling at the foot of the table and the draw was a fair result.

No class
Report by Ian Grant

Thrilling, as only watching your team battle out a dreadful goalless draw at the other end of the country on a bitterly cold winter's day after getting up at six o'clock in the morning can be...

This was bloody dismal. There's no other way to describe it - you can't polish a turd. Any hopes the travelling fans had that, after grinding out a result against the then leaders last week, we might impose a bit of quality against one of the division's struggling sides and run out comfortable winners evaporated in the first few minutes. We showed no class, no composure, no clues to suggest that we're only on loan to the Second Division. Much has been made of the fact that you have to battle for everything in this division, that it's a matter of doing what's necessary to get results and sod the aesthetics. Well, sorry, but there are limits. There does come a time when "fighting for points" becomes indistinguishable from "descending to everyone else's level".

With a few hundred travelling 'Orns in good voice, we started relatively brightly. The opening exchanges saw Tommy Mooney fire a free kick into the wall then slash the rebound wide of the target and David Connolly waste a good position by shooting weakly at the keeper. Little did we know that Connolly's effort was to be our only on-target attempt in the first hour of play...

Rotherham were working hard - they were denying us space and forcing our midfielders into making mistakes. And it wasn't long before they started to get a grip of the game. The first danger signs appeared when a striker failed to test Kevin Miller with a near-post header - he should probably have done better. Shortly after that, though, Miller was at full stretch to keep Rotherham out - I was convinced that a bobbling effort was going to end up in the net until Miller, scrambling back across his line, somehow managed to get enough contact on the ball to push it wide.

That was pretty much the last notable action in the first half - the period before the interval consisted largely of midfield squabbling and over-optimistic passing. There was a short spell of Gary Penrice-inspired pressure towards the end but, although we did manage to look like a decent side for the first and only time in the match, it didn't come to anything.

The second half was little better. We should have gone behind in the first couple of minutes - sleepy defending allowed a Rotherham striker a clear run on goal but his finish was deflected narrowly wide by another magnificent Miller save. After that, we started to enjoy a bit more possession but we still failed to use it to any great effect - too often the ball was punted long, leaving sixteen year-old Gifton Noel-Williams with the impossible task of competing in the air with experienced central defenders (he tried his heart out but was always fighting a losing battle); too often the crosses were hopeful rather than deliberate, again giving the strikers no chance; too often the set-pieces were badly thought-out (Mooney was particularly guilty of wasting corners). Only one player appeared likely to offer the creativity necessary to open up the Rotherham defence - that player was Gary Penrice and I take back most of the things I've said about him in the past (I say 'most' because I stand by any comments I've made about that moustache, obviously).

We still had one chance to win the game, though. Not surprisingly, it came from one of the few occasions when we played the ball into Noel-Williams' feet - he turned his defender, looked up and supplied an excellent cross for David Connolly. Connolly completely missed the ball and it ran through to Mooney - he had time and space to measure a shot but, in typical style, he still blasted it at the centre of the goal and it was blocked by a combination of goalkeeper and defender.

The game fizzled out with neither side looking like doing anything special enough to win it. Tommy Mooney sliced a far-post shot into the away terrace, otherwise it was excruciatingly dull. Miller had to hold on to a few shots; their goalkeeper (who, disappointingly, wasn't Steve Cherry) had to field a few wayward crosses and watch a few long-range efforts fly harmlessly past. Neither side deserved the points.

If you want words of encouragement, then I'll do my best. Kevin Miller is still one of the best shot-stoppers outside of the Premiership and the downturn in his form a few games ago appears to have been temporary. Robert Page, ably assisted by Keith Millen, is now reminding us why we weren't unduly worried about the departure of David Holdsworth - absolute class again. And Nigel Gibbs, even at (hhhnnnngggghhhh) left back, knows too much for wingers at this level.

So that's the defence, then. The rest is not good. Steve Palmer and Richard Johnson, two virtually identical players who seemed unsure of their roles, spent much of the game treading on each other's toes until Palmer moved out to the right and got in Darren Bazeley's way instead. Up front, we have a choice between a sixteen year old (there's a thin line between giving youth a deserved chance and exploiting a kid on 41 quid a week) and a chronically out-of-form Devon White. And David Connolly is not fit enough for first team football. The word 'threadbare' springs to mind, for some reason...

Some blame must be attached to the players, of course - Tommy Mooney, for instance, had a right old stinker. Rotherham did close us down and attempt to prevent us from playing football but, Penrice apart, there were no Watford players noticeably looking for space or playing probing passes into danger areas. On the rare occasions when we did play quality balls into the strikers, we looked so much more dangerous - we have to help ourselves a bit more.

In the end, it's a point that does us little good. We might be unbeaten in nine games but we're treading water. On this evidence, we won't be out-classing Northampton next week...

And, finally, many thanks to Paul Lee for the lift!

Bloody awful result
Report by Dan Exeter

Thanks to my sprained ankle sustained all the way in September, this was my first Watford game since Peterborough at home (and what a game that had been. Honest.) Having had to sit out games such as York and Blackpool, which are both (relatively) near by, and games at the Vic like Scum and Brentford, I'd been looking forward to this all week, jumping up and down (on one foot mind) like a little kid and excitedly putting my hat on. I'd even dragged a Man Utd supporting friend, Jen (who is from Manchester and has had a season ticket for the last 5 years), and I was sure that the golden boys would impress her with our slick passing, off-the-ball running and all round passion and commitment. (Like I said, I hadn't been to a game for 2 months).

Anyway, the day got off to an inauspicous start - I missed the rest of the Sheffield Hornets at the train station. Only by about 5 minutes, but I missed them all the same. Entirely my own fault really, as I hadn't come home until 2 the previous night and so hadn't gotten up until gone 10 (we had been due to meet at 1115). Once Jen and I finally made it into Rotherham, and my it was good to see a respectably large Hornet contingent on the train, we then had the minor detail of finding the pub that Chris Stride had selected to watch the England game in. I had, inevitably, left the emailed instructions, which I'd gone to great pain to print out, behind. Eventually we gave up and I asked for directions from a friendly looking butcher (if there is such a thing).

Finally arrived in the pub, met the rest of the Sheffield lot, and Sheringham scored for England, which, with the pint I soon had, helped things seem a lot less stressful. Ferdinand's goal and another pint helped enormously here too, and by the time we finally got to the ground (via Macdonalds - I'm sorry I just wasn't going to risk the pies) and especially when the steward let us in for the concessionary price of a fiver instead of seven fifty (useful things these student cards) I was actually feeling quite happy.

The team showed two changes from the previous week; DC returned for Wayne Andrews, who was on the bench, and Johno came into midfield for Clint Easton. Gibbs remained at left-back (thus resolving the raging mailing list discussion on whether he'd been put there last against Brentford as a tactical switch to look after Nicky Forster or whether he was there because we didn't have anyone else), with Bazeley at right-back, Penrice on the wing and Gifton and DC up front.

Considering the dump Rotherham is and how poor the team is generally I was optimistic of a good performance. Instead, we were pretty shite. Rotherham certainly seemed up for it more than us - I remember an astounding fingertip save from Miller from a header, a save from a free kick which somehow seemed to squeeze through the wall and a shot which bounced just wide of the goal and I was convinced was going in. In reply, DC had a turn and shot which was well saved, and that's it really. It was clear that Rotherham were poor, they looked good only because our midfield went to pot. Johno and Palmer are too similar, they both do the defensive job, so when they tried to go forward they weren't so sure of what to do, positioned badly and left the defence exposed. Speaking of being exposed, Millen took a particularly hard ball right in the knackers, which amused us although I doubt Keithy himself was very amused.

Come half time, we trotted off probably a bit lucky to be level, but in dire need of some creativity. Perhaps bring Johnson off, put Robinson at left-back, Gibbsy at right-back and Bazeley on the wing to allow Penrice in the centre? We mulled this over while Rugby, Cricket and Gymanstics took centre stage at Millmoor.

When the lads finally emerged, KJ clearly agreed with us (well, Kate - it was her idea first) about putting Penrice in the centre, but rather than faff about with subs merely got Palmer and Penrice to swap. Notwithstanding a bloody amazing save from Miller within the first couple of minutes, when someone was through on goal with only Kev to beat, we had the best spell of the game. I think Penrice is an amazing player, and he had two good shots at goal, although only one needed a save. We couldn't turn this dominance into goals though, and I suspect from a neutral's point of view it might have been quite exciting (what do you reckon Jen?) as it was (almost) end to end stuff. One break from Gifton saw Connolly swing but miss at a glorious cross, which Mooney, despite having the whole goal to aim at, blasted at the keeper and defender in a heap in the middle of the goal (I even shouted for handball, such was my desperation), while a bit later on Mooney had another chance from the left which curled well wide and nearly decapitated half our supporters behind the goal. Me for a start. Johno had a tame 25 yarder competently collected by the keeper (no Steve Cherry unfortunately).

KJ replaced GNW with DW, and Big Dev did his usual, so no goals there again. GNW and DC are both clearly very good players and destined for bigger and better things, however they're too young to thrust onto the centre-stage and be expected to win games week in week out. It's a pity in those circumstances that some people actually booed Dev off (it seemed to me anyway).

Well 0-0 it was, a bloody awful result at a bloody awful team. These are games we should be winning, comfortably, and we're not and we're now in 7th. I'm really hoping we don't regret these dropped points later.