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
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
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