Main Menu
What's New
97/98: Reports:

Nationwide League Division 2, 2/9/97
Plymouth Argyle 0(0)
Watford 1(0)
Team: Chamberlain 3, Melvang 3, Palmer 4, Page 4, Mooney 3, Kennedy 3, Johnson 4, Hyde 3, *Rosenthal 5*, Lee 3, Noel-Williams 4
Subs: Easton, Talboys, Slater
Scorers: Noel-Williams (71)
(Not a lot of) singing in the rain
Report by Mike Scofield

Standing around at the players entrance, it is easy to make comments like, "Look at that sad pratt, 40 years old, and still collecting autographs from 2nd Division footballers".

Then, it has to be said, that in terms of Sadness, travelling several hundred miles to stand on an open terrace in the pouring rain for two hours plus, is right up there in the Top 10 Reasons Why I Am A Sad Bastard.

The new directors came out to wave to and shake hands of the fans during the warm-up, after arriving in what looked like a hearse ! Well done guys.

Jason Lee back at No 9, Stuart Slater left out on the bench, with Rocket Ronny taking over the 'free' midfield role and Steve Palmer continuing for Keith Millen. Lars Melvang was back for Gibbs, who was not even on the bench.

It was clear from the start that the plan was definitely not the big 'hoof' up to Lee, but instead quick passing & running from midfield, with the final ball either wide to Ronny or Lars Melvang, who were always available.

The rain had started before the game, so the pitch was very greasy, and this made it difficult to play midfield passes over the top of the defence for the forwards to run on to, but that was Plymouth's tactic. Not surprising since they played two small quick strikers, supported by two small quick midfield runners.

Early on Watford attacked promisingly. Ronny had a shot from the edge of the area that John (Fisherman's Friend) Sheffield saved well. After this, for all of Watford's good running and passing, they could not get the final ball to anyone in space, and all crosses (particularly from the excellent Melvang) were easily fielded. Then Plymouth began to get to grips with their 'ball over the top' tactic, and started to run at our defence from deep. It was a bit worrying to watch, but in fact, they had only two shots in a sustained fifteen minute bout of pressure, neither of which bothered Chamberlain at all. There was a little confusion in the six yard box between Palmer and Chamberlain, who both waited for each other to claim a bouncing ball, but Steve eventually hammered it away for a corner.

Watford got it together with about ten minutes of the half remaining. Three corners in quick succession, followed by Gifton and Ronny combining for Rocket to find his way through wide of the goal, but the ball was cleared off the line. Jason Lee belted the ball over the top on the turn and Gifton was using his body intelligently to shield the ball as he battered his way through the defenders.

Ronny got booed as he left the field talking to the ref, I guess about why he did not get a penalty, but it looked to me like a dive.

My view at half time was that Plymouth were not very dangerous, and that the good passing and hard work from Johnno and Hyde would ultimately pay off.

That is how it was. One way traffic for most of the second half, as we forced corner after corner, with Ronny always in space, Jason Lee or Gifton winning balls at the near post, but we never had anyone following up in the six yard box. Mooney did get onto one of the near post headers to head a foot over the bar and it was pretty good to watch. Even Lennie Lawrence would have agreed that this was pass and run at its best.

At the back Palmer was having a great game, and Johnno was everywhere cleaning up loose balls and sliding in to crunching tackles. Unfortunately, he did it one time too many and the (excellent) referee, booked him. No complaints from me or anyone else. He escaped a possible sending off as he obstructed a Plymouth forward, but the ref being pretty sensible (wow) just awarded a free kick, as it was not dangerous play.

The goal came from another cross to the near post, a scuffed shot from Ronny (I think) which the keeper pushed out straight to Gifton near the penalty spot and he side-footed it cleanly into the roof of the net. Much celebration and fence climbing followed, and at last Pete Fincham was relieved from the solo singing duties that he had manfully undertaken, as the rest of the travelling 350 finally joined in.

Plymouth did put us under pressure from then on, and indeed looked certain to score, but the ball seemed to hit the bar (or was it a Watford body) and we breathed again. Chamberlain saved well from a close range header, Melvang made a good run and hit a powerful shot quite close to Sheffield but he made a meal of it and pushed it away for a corner. They made two substitutions and we put everyone behind the ball for the last five minutes, and hung-on by being first to every ball.

The players were clearly delighted to put the memory of Preston firmly behind them and celebrated in front of us. It could be a hard season for Plymouth who were lightweight up front, but we looked good and Rocket was the star of the show with his skill, experience and pace. No-one in the Watford side played badly, although Melvang got caught upfield a few times in the second half - not surprising since we played attacking football. I for one am enjoying this and I don't see it as a false dawn.

Definite improvement
Report by Chris Lawton

For some strange reason I have wanted to go to Home Park for many years and last night I finally made it. About ten minutes before kick off a light drizzle started to fall which persisted for the rest of the evening. The atmosphere in the ground seemed subdued until the pre-match minute silence, impeccably observed by all supporters, had taken place.

Watford started brightly moving the ball around well and making good use of the space in the middle of the pitch. The passing was excellent with a sensible combination of width and height used in this opening period. Plymouth, however, always looked dangerous on the counter attack with the pace of Littlejohn the biggest concern. Watford's first real chance came after about ten minutes when a swift counter attack sent Lars Melvang away on the right flank. Unfortunately the opportunity was squandered as his cross was too close to the keeper.

This seemed to wake Plymouth up and they gradually worked their way into the game. Midway through the half Plymouth had a penalty appeal turned down. Palmer, who played solidly all night, slipped and allowed his man to get away - he recovered well and chased back. As the forward moved into the box Palmer carried on running in a straight line causing the players to barge each other. On the now-greasy surface the Plymouth player all too easily went down but the referee waved play on.

The game was now flowing from end to end and in their next attack Plymouth should have made better use of space their pace was creating. A deep cross looked like it was going to cause Page some problems as Littlejohn surged in as well. Page, however, showed his class by letting the ball drop and forcing the early volley high and wide. A few minutes later, in arguably their best spell of the match, Plymouth broke again. This time Palmer stood his ground, forced the player wide and caused him to shoot off target.

Watford then revived and had a short spell of concerted pressure before the interval. This shift in power was largely due to a series of clean, but hard tackles, won by Page and Palmer at the back releasing Hyde or Ronny to set up the attacks. Watford forced a number of corners and as a result of one of these Jason Lee hit a sharp volley on the turn only to see it clear the crossbar. Right on half time Ronny had a penalty appeal turned down. From the other end of the ground it looked debatable as to whether he was pushed off the ball or if it was similar to the Plymouth appeal. The referee was well placed and so probably made the correct judgment.

The second half continued in much the same manner except Watford were dominating in midfield and limiting Plymouth to counter attacks. A worrying trend was occurring though in that Watford players seemed to be pulled up for fouls as the players ran through. From one of the resulting free kicks a shot (or header ?) crashed against Chamberlain's crossbar before being scrambled away.

At the other end the Horns were beginning to look dangerous. Noel-Williams had a fine header tipped over the bar and Ronny had a shot smothered away for a corner. Ronny played exceptionally well in the second half. His ball control was of a different quality to anyone else on the pitch and was able to hold the ball up, always creating several options. Something had to give and with 20 minutes to go Watford won a free kick about 30 yards out. Having eventually got the wall in place everyone expected a Johnson thunderbolt. It never came, Kennedy sent a dipping curling free kick towards the bottom left hand corner only to see the keeper make a save. Ronny was quickest to react and he turned the loose ball back into the middle as Plymouth waited for it to roll out for a corner. As the ball rolled across the six yard box Gifton pounced to smash the ball home.

The last twenty minutes saw Watford come under increasing pressure as they repeatedly failed to clear the ball. From one attack Chamberlain, who had a quiet evening, produced a fine save tipping over a header as the ball went back across him. The wind went out of Plymouth a bit after that and despite several goal mouth scrambles the Watford goal was never troubled again. In fact in the last minute Watford might have added a second when the keeper blocked with his legs a low swerving shot.

All in all, a hard earned win. Some people may say we were lucky but I would disagree. The team played well as a unit and although the defence was hesitant at times Plymouth were reduced to only two clear chances. Going forward we seemed a little too slow at times, unable to find that quick killer pass. A draw was probably the right result but we took the chance that came our way. As my mate, a Plymouth fan, said, we wanted it more at the end of the day.

Having not seen the team since Boxing Day they have definitely improved. The players look bigger, fitter and more confident than they did a year ago and in Page and Ronny we have two of the best players in the division. These two get my man of the match award.

Life's not fair
Report by Pete Fincham

Travelling down to Plymouth with Rupert and Mark Veysey in the old beast of a Sierra that I currently drive, it struck me that I really was very tired of driving by the time we had got to Bristol. Mark wanted to look at Ashton Gate (he is a member there as well as a WFC season ticket holder and an 'every gamer' like myself and Rupe) so we took a diversion off the M5 to go there. But on we peddled and ended up diverting again, ending up in Sidmouth for a beer by the sea, a glass of orange with my Grandparents (!) and by 4ish, we had met up with Mike Scofield in the big car park, thinking what to do.

Answer: Find a nice pub and keep warm!
Reality: Yeah right, in Plymouth!

After a beer in a pub that I recommend to no-one (the Penny Come Quickly - does she?!), we hung around the players entrance for a bit like the sad Plymouth fans we were taking the piss out of (!) and eventually, having met up with a few of the directors who arrived in a hearse in the true morbid style currently in vogue, we found ourselves standing on the traditional open and cold terrace that Plymouth give that away fans as a form of punishment. There was literally about thirty people there, until from 7.30 the numbers were swelled by Dave Edwards' car which had got delayed in Taunton! In the end I guess around 350 loyal Hornets made up the numbers, which was pretty good after Saturday, and the distance concerned; but as we stood in silence for the respect owed to Diana, Princess of Wales, I hoped that the night would get louder and marginally more interesting than the atmosphere suggested.

Sadly, this did not materialise until half time, when Ronny (a-Ronny, Ronny) had an altercation with some inbred playing for Plymouth as he suggested that a penalty was due to him. It wasn't and Ronny was a bit miffed! As the altercation continued down the tunnel the home fans woke up, and we started to get wet; very wet. My ingenious invention of turning my big flag into a tent worked until that too got soaked!

The first real action was a great save by Sheffield (remember the Fisherman stories) from GNW, which really was worth the 600 mile round trip (honest!).

Then, having earned a free kick five yards outside the penalty area, I decided to intervene as best I could, and as Argyle built what they thought was a strong defensive wall I banged on the railings for all my life was worth! Sheffield could not be heard through the rain and my 'bangs!' and despite making a super stop from Peter Kennedy's dipping drive, it fell into the path of Super Ron who crossed delicately to Giiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiifton who struck home from only six yards out.

Argyle, who have problems of their own with the chairman has vowing never to set foot in the ground at a match again, battled on, but were unable to beat the perfection of Alec Chamberlain between the posts.

In the 79th minute Chamberlain pulled off the save of the match to deny Patrick Wilson and his far post header from yet another left-wing cross by Littlejohn who impressed but not as much as Watford did!

A draw would have been a fair result, but life is not fair and neither is giving us Plymouth away on a Tuesday night! I hate Plymouth as well as Exeter because I like Torquay! I got wet, cold and have a sore throat today. I got four hours sleep, and am sick to death of driving.

BUT, WE ARE TOP OF THE LEAGUE, LUTON LOST, and the extra passenger Eddie Brimson said on the way home, "That's what it's all about!"

(Oh yeah! If you think Watford policing is bad, check out Plymouth's. You walk out, onto an unlit pathway where all the Plymouth boys are going the other way; no police, no light and no separation. No wonder someone is nursing a few bruises today. Not me thank god!)