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97/98: Friendlies:

Post-season friendly, 12/5/98
Petah Tiqva 1(0)
Scorers: Badir (60)
Watford 0(0)
Team: Chamberlain 3, Gudmundsson 3, Robinson 3, Easton 2, Millen 2, Mooney 3, Bazeley 2, Noel-Williams 2, Slater 2, Hyde 2, Hazan 2
Subs: *Day (for Chamberlain) 5*, Johnson (for Hazan) 1, Gibbs (for Easton) 1
A good PR exercise
Report by David Weitzmann

Having been subjected to watching Israeli League football since November when I moved here, I have come to the conclusion that even Doncaster Rovers would have a chance of winning the league. The International team is performing very well but most of the Israeli players play overseas. To be frank, the standard is pretty poor. Naturally, therefore, I would have bet my flat in Bushey on Watford thrashing the small team from the little known town of Petah Tiqva.

The fact is however that the Hornet's trip to Israel was quite rightly being treated as a reward for achieving promotion. For me personnally the thought of watching the Hornets was very exciting as it's been very frustrating having to support the team from such a distance after being a supporter for 22 years , 15 of those as a season ticket holder.

Three days before the game I realised that a substantial victory for the Hornets would be very unlikely. Walking along the Tel Aviv beach I spotted many of the lads indulging in some serious drinking. I won't name names but one player in particular was so pissed that he couldn't stand up, let alone "shoooot!" straight! The lads were clearly having a great time and fully deserving their break in the sun.

The match itself was a bit of a non event. The line up was a bit of a make shift team as Palmer, Rosenthal, Lee, Page and Kennedy were all out injured and Alon Hazan was carrying an injury as well although he played for the 1st half, and Johnson (hangover?) and Gibbsy on the subs bench. The ground, which has a capacity of 6,000, was almost full with 5,450 Petah Tiqva fans, about 45 kids from London who made complete prats of themselves , supporting Watford on the one hand but mimiking GT ( re England)and Ronnie ( re Spurs)on the other, and 5 Hornets.

The Petah Tiqva team was a mixture of 3 teams who play in that city. They played surprisingly well and were obviously up for it. The 1st half was very uninspiring with Watford passing the ball quite nicely but making very few chances. The Icelandic signing Gudmundsson looks quite skilfull and looked good going forward. Robinson got forward quite a bit as well . The Petah Tiqva forwards were very quick and caused Keith and Tommy many problems. Anyway the best chances fell to Petah Tiqva and Alec pulled off a few good saves. Stuart Slater played up front with Gifton and had 2 chances in the first period, both good efforts. Half time 0-0.

The second half saw Chris Day take over in goal and also Johnson replaced the injured Hazan in midfield. Day made some breathtaking saves as time and again their forwards burst from deep and overran a tired midfield and defence. However Watford had the first real clear cut chance of the half when a cross from the right was flicked on by Gifton to Robinson who, with the goal at his mercy, headed over from 3 yards. The goal came on the hour when Silvas floated over a corner and Badir rose to head home. It was no more than the home team deserved and they continued to create chances. Keith Millen had a header saved on the line by the keeper but apart from that we created very few chances and Petah Tiqva deservedly won the match.

There's not much more to say on the game. The lads actually played okay in patches. Having had a drink with them I can tell you that all of them are really proud at getting promotion and are really positive about the club's future, and they are a great bunch of lads! Petah Tiqva played really well and deserved their victory. The Hornets were professional and it was a good exercise in PR.

I hope no-one paid
Report by Adrian Pearl

It's amazing that wherever you go in the world, you always seem to find a Watford fan, or two. Entering the municipal stadium of Petach Tikva I was pleasantly suprised to find a handful of supporters gathering behind the Union Jack. While most were followers of other Premiership teams they were here to cheer on an English league side, and besides, most hailed from the Northeast side of London. For such a small crowd, they made quite a racket, which unfortunately died as quickly as the game. But they sung the songs of old, and reminded me of happier times following Watford in the top flight of the English League.

Hapoel Petach Tikva (who provided the bulk of the players) have had a fairly good season, finishing sixth in the Israeli first division, and on Saturday's performance looked easy taking for a team used to running down the wings and whacking balls in at a suspect keeper. Maccabi Petach Tikva were mid-table. Having only seen Watford once in four years (my term of exile here in Israel) and that in November 97 against Oldham, I didn't have much of a yardstick to measure current team performance by, and instead fell back on the old glory days pre Bassett and Co. where those donning the yellow and black (or red) played with passion for the honour of the team.

Alas Watford seemed to have forgotten this basic tenant of GT's philosophy and seemed more interested in knocking the ball about the middle of the pitch as if they were playing a Sunday morning match after too many beers the night before. It didn't help that Watford opted for a light-weight line-up from the kick-off; Gibbs, Lee & Palmer were all sitting on the bench; Kennedy was nowhere to be seen. The presence of Blissett and Jackett brought hopes that maybe a bit of class might be introduced at some stage - this was after all just a friendly.

It took a whole 90 seconds for the weakness at the back to be exposed. The ball was carelessly lost by Hazan in the middle of the park, and there was no right-back there to cover the two central defenders who were marking the same three feet of pitch. The ball was played out to Hasan to cross in for Kuzshvili to have a strike at goal which Chamberlain parried to his right. Three minutes later Hasan once again made use of space allowed him by the absence of defence on the right side to take a shot at goal.

Watford's first real attempt at goal came in the thirteenth minute. Some good work found Mooney switch the ball from left wing to right wing where Gudmundsson crossed it back into the centre towards GNW. Somehow the ball was played back to Hyde who thoughtfully passed it on to Slater. Alas Slater with only the keeper to beat hit a rising ball, which though all seemed convinced the keeper pushed up, was given as a goal-kick.

For most of the first half, the match was played in and around the middle, with neither side creating much, but both continuing to expose the weaknesses of the other on their (respective) right flanks. In essence twenty men running around aimlessly like headless chickens in the sweltering heat of a Humsin (heat wave).

It wasn't until 39 minutes that another serious shot on target (Bazeley) occurred, and that went directly to the keeper. All in all, half-time couldn't come soon enough for me, in the hope that GT would finally show the watching Israeli public a bit more of the team that took Watford to the division title.

The second half began with Chris Day in goal for Alec Chamberlain, and Richard Johnson on for Alon Hazan. Apart from that, it was more of the same aimless play, without direction or thought. A period of sustained Israeli pressure led to the only goal of the game in the 59th minute. A corner from Silvas found Badir unmarked and with a free header which flew just above Day's hands and into the net.

Gibbs replaced Easton in the 72nd minute, and assuming his playing days are nearly over, it was a pleasure to watch him one last time, as he attempted to add a bit of bite into the defence. It was easy to tell the seasoned professionals, as they tried to retrieve something from a lost cause. Mooney allowed temperament to get the better of him in one incident, and Slater saved a ball that lesser mortals had left to run out. In the 83rd minute Mooney had a run at goal which faded out and then the whistle blew. It was six minutes early, not including injury time (a few minutes at least). Maybe they saw Watford were warmed up and ready to score.

While I was thrilled to see the team here in Israel, I was sorely disappointed by their performance. It was like whenever TV covered Watford - they never seem to play well in front of live camera coverage. The game was played as it was; a kick-about between two sides who've just finished their seasons' fixtures, and found themselves with a free evening to go kick a ball around. Had there been a charge to enter the stadium many would have felt short-changed. I just hope no-one paid.