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96/97: Reports:

Nationwide League Division 2, 28/9/96
Shrewsbury Town 1(0)
Scorers: Evans (78)
Watford 0(0)
Team: Miller 3, Gibbs 4, Ludden 4, *Millen 5*, Palmer 3, Bazeley 4, Mooney 2, Penrice 3, Johnson 4, Noel-Williams 3, White 3
Subs: Talboys (for White) 3, Ward, Connolly (for Noel-Williams) 3
Loads of old iron...and a new striker
Report by Mike Scofield

A fabulous old town, but the world's worst ground...more corrugated iron than I've seen in a long time. About 8/900 Watford fans, turned up, but were pretty subdued as there was just not much to get excited about.

Gifton Noel-Williams up front with Big Dev - presumably Andrews (sensibly ) being rested after an injury. Gifton is a bit gangly and awkward, not dissimilar in looks to Dev, but has pace and good control. He did struggle to understand what the other players expected him to do when he got into space. Mooney (who spent the whole game slagging off his team mates when he made mistakes) had a real go because he did not run into space ready for Mooney's long pass towards the far corner. Gifton had a couple of decent runs, but couldn't get enough space to finish anything off.

After Watford pressure for the first 10 mins, Shrewsbury started to get back into it. They forced a succession of corners, and our defenders could not fathom out what they were going to do, despite the fact that they only have one move from a corner......wave both arms in the air to signal the long far post corner, then play it short to the striker who darts away from the near post towards the kicker...he then plays it back to the full back who whips it in hard at head height. This happened about five times before Mooney and Gibbs finally gave chase.

Johnson won lots in midfield and Bazeley continued to look good, skipping past the full back and crossing. Millen was almost unbeatable, and only once got caught out by a long ball over the top, which Palmer just about got back to stop. They nearly scored from close in, but the striker seemed to hit it with his knee and Miller got down well to get it away for a corner...guess what they did from the corner...yawn.

We finished the half reasonably well, White missed header from the penalty spot, when they thought he was offside, and it looped onto the top of the net. He should have done better...after all he's only in the team for his aerial ability.

The Watford kids won the half time shoot out - even after Shrewsbury put two 16 year olds in their team - very evenly matched against our 6-12 year olds...not.

Connolly came on for the second half, made a few dangerous runs, hit the angle of bar and post, when he had the goal at his mercy. When he gets his endurance back, he may be the one to give us an edge, but oh how we need a creative midfielder.

Shrewsbury were reasonable, well drilled and quick up front, but they were actually as unlikely to score as we were - until the bolt from the blue. Their midget midfielder gets the ball about 40 yards out - really ! - and his shot swerved accross Miller at crossbar height, only for it to dip, hit the underside of the bar, and bounce back up into the net...SHIT. You can't really blame anyone for that. To confirm that it was a complete fluke...the same guy had another long range shot 2 minutes later, that didn't quite hit the corner flag!

We put on some pressure in the last 10 minutes, White again missed a header that should have gone in....Johnson, Connolly and Talboys (on for White) had strong shots but all were blocked by frantic defending. Several of our corners were complete crap, straight at the keeper - just like Gary Porter - and the game fizzled out. We were never going to score.

We desperately need a creative midfielder now that Ramage is injured (mind you he couldn't really be bothered before that anyway), Penrice battles hard, but that makes 4 battling midfielders...where is the guile, the skill of a playmaker. What about young Johnson, maybe he might be able to provide the missing ingredient. I won't blame anyone for not trying, although Mooney didn't exactly kill himself to get back and help after yet another pointless run upfield, without delivering the kind of great shots he had at Crewe & Notts. Bring back Dennis Bond....that's what I say.

Shrewsbury were quite quick, fit, and probably one of the better teams, but hopefully, when the going gets tough in February they won't have the strength of squad to get in front of us. This is the type of team we get to play against every week, and maybe we should not fall into the Lennie Lawrence trap of automatically saying of any team that beats us, ...'They were strong and direct' which really means... 'We looked pretty, but were actually crap'


We did, and just lost out to a fluke goal - If we could get just a spark of midfield class, we would all be saying...brilliant.

Full marks to the Shrewsbury catering team....Chips with the Pies at half time...Salad with the burgers.