Main Menu
What's New
97/98: Reports:

Nationwide League Division 2, 10/1/98
Burnley 2(2)
Scorers: Cooke (13, 34)
Watford 0(0)
Team: *Chamberlain 3*, Gibbs 2, Kennedy 2, Palmer 1, Millen 2, Mooney 3, Lowndes 3, Hyde 2, Lee 1, Johnson 3, Easton 2
Subs: Noel-Williams (for Easton) 3, Robinson (for Lowndes) 3, Ward
Thunderbirds are go!
Report by Simon Devon

People say you can cure a hangover by drinking a pint of water before you go to bed - I've never tried this but I've been told that it lessons the effects of the previous night's drinking. On the way home from this match we managed to come up with a way to cure any post-match blues, but more of that later.

Burnley were bottom of the league and without a goal since December 2nd and that was in a 3-1 loss to Bristol City. Although we were top we haven't been playing well recently and with Burnley desperate for points this was never going to be easy. In the first game of the season Chirs Waddle had not endeared himself to Watford fans by moaning and whinging his way through the game at Vicarage Road while Burnley were crap. Not much has changed, Waddle moaned, Burnley were crap but Watford had lost their form of earlier in the season and it showed.

There was only one change from the team that performed so well against Sheffield Wednesday in the cup - Steve Palmer in for the suspended Robert Page who had been at the top of his form. This also meant that Clint Easton and Nathan Lowndes kept their places. Expectations were high, but Watford received an early warning when the first of a few major errors by Palmer let a Burnley forward in for a free shot which he put over the bar. Watford didn't learn from this and with Waddle giving the defence the run around you could see that a goal was coming. On 13 minutes, Waddle slipped past Palmer and crossed low into the six yard box. After a major scramble Andy Cooke poked the ball over the line and set off delirous celebrations from the Burnley fans and players.

This seemed to rally Watford but most of our forward play consisted of playing aimless high balls up to Lee. I've kept faith with Lee up to now, but his performance was very poor. No effort and aimless flick-ons and passes and very few shots. As Lee is our only 'big man' he faces no competition for his place and it shows. It is also becoming apparent (as if we didn't know this already) how much we rely on the skills of Ronny Rosenthal. For all Hyde's and Johnson's industry in midfield we missed someone who could run at the Burnley defence, who looked shaky even when dealing with our ineffective attack. Lowndes tried very hard, and had a few good efforts, but the physical side of the game got the better of him.

Burnley continued to attack and Waddle again was instrumental in the second goal. He crossed low and hard across the six yard box but the ball was missed by both teams. It found a Burnley player on the opposite side who beat Kennedy and crossed back into the six yard box for Andy Cooke to nod in unchallenged on 35 minutes. I felt that we would be lucky to go in 1-0 down at half time and the team left the pitch to chants of "Taylor, sort it out!".

The second half began with the unlucky Clint Easton being subbed for Gifton. Lowndes moved out onto the wing and we played with 3 up front for the rest of the match. Burnley had the better chances and could have gone ahead even more with both Cooke and Barnes missing quite good chances whilst Chamberlain again pulled off some amazing saves. Lowndes had a few efforts cutting in from the left but Lee was again pedestrian and only managed a few lazy shots that didn't trouble Beresford. The last throw of the Watford dice occurred when Lowndes was swapped for Robinson with Mooney moving into his match-saving forward position. Although Gifton began to run at the defence, Mooney and Lee didn't seem to be able to read what he was doing.

The reason that details of the second half are so brief is because of Burnley's officious stewards who managed to get in the way for most of the second half. Apparently the 30 or so Watford fans standing and singing at the back weren't allowed to. They tried to stop them but by walking past me to get to them they kept making me stand up!

After the match we were all very dis-heartened by the Watford performance. Although we are no longer top of the league it is only on goal difference. Hopefully a performance like that will make a few of the players look at how they played and realise that there is a lot of room for improvement. Let's not dwell on this - it could be a turning point in our season, but did anyone think that we'd be in such a strong position now? It was only our third loss and to quote George Graham, " It's a marathon, not a sprint!"

I suppose I should tell you about our post match blues cure. Our driver for the day, Rupe, had among his CDs an album called "100% Kids Party!". When the Thunderbirds theme came on, Pete Fincham decided that as we already had all the windows open we should open the sun-roof so he could stand on the seat and direct us back to Tracey Island. Today's Watford performance really was a job for International Rescue.

Report by Dan Exeter

There's no way of describing this performance other than truly, awfully, mind-numbingly abysmal. For most of the match it would have been hard for a neutral to believe that the array of individuals in the yellow were the team at the top of the league, and the claret and blue protaganists were fighting for their lives at the bottom of the league.

We were so comprehensively outplayed it simply wasn't real. Burnley were hungrier, more passionate, more committed, and (this is what hurts) on the day they seemed to care so much more. Despite having only the same number of men on the pitch as us they always outnumbered us, always had options, always had willing runners, always had someone covering. All credit to Burnley, Waddle and staff had clearly done his homework. They overpowered us in midfield, got the ball wide in the channels between our wing-backs and hammered the ball into the box. Twice in the first half crosses from our right (Waddle sent in the second, I don't recall who did the deed for the first) were headed in (eventually) by Andy Cooke at the far post.

I have deliberately given player ratings which may seem harsh. I believe they accurately represent the way the performances of those on the pitch, so a '1' does mean they really could not have been much worse. I'm not going to get into the dangerous ground of singling out players for discussion here and go into great depth about their weaknesses on each occasion, as I think it would obscure a more fundamental fact that the whole team played poorly. It's one thing for a couple of players to have a bit of a 'mare and the team to suffer directly as a result - it's quite another for the whole team to play badly and not create any decent efforts on target that can be said to have troubled the Burnley defence unduly. Yes, Marlon Beresford in the Burnley goal did spill one long range shot (from Johno I think), and Mooney had a great chance right at the death when he turned a defender in the area but sent the ball wide of the far post, however the majority of our attempts on target were either lamentably wide or lamentably lacking in power, and too often both.

It's too easy to say we missed Page and Ronny. We undoubtedly did - we needed Page's organisation at the back and we missed Ronny's surges from the midfield, however that cannot be allowed to disguise our one-dimensional play, namely hoof it long and hope Lowndes/Lee/GNW or whoever can get onto it. We never really got Kennedy into the game. Only with the introduction of Robbo could he really start getting forward, yet he saw little of the ball and failed to do an awful lot with it when he did have it.

That was the second tactical change of the match, the first being the replacement of Easton with Gifton, who had a great start in the second half, causing problems down the Burnley left with his pace, aggression and close control, but nothing resulted and once Burnley had re-exerted their grip on the midfield GNW was left, too, clutching at straws.

It's hard to know what this performance means. It's easy to read too much into it and to start worrying about relegation (well, you know what I mean). We ARE still a strong team that's tough to beat, and we do have a number of players to look forward to after injury/suspension, such as Page, Ronnie and Slates. We have Alon Hazan to look forward to, although as an unknown quality and a foreign player settling in a new culture I must emphasise we must not expect too much of him straight away. On the other hand, this is more than just a relegation-threatened side out-battling the league leaders in one of those freak results that occurs each season (remember Man Utd losing 6-3, 5-0 and 2-1? Didn't stop them winning the league...). A number of our performances have been below par recently, and it is the overrall quality of our play and the confidence the players have in themselves and their team mates that is the crucial factor here.

Oh, and one final thing. You remember from August when all Waddle did was moan and try and tell the ref his job? Well, he was exactly the same on Saturday - I can think of few things more undignified than an ex-England international having to demean himself in front of the officials of league match deep in the dredges of the football league, and I wish he had more self-respect (not to mention respect for the officials) and got on with playing rather than trading on his reputation.