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97/98: Reports:

FA Cup 2nd Round, 6/12/97
Torquay United 1(1)
Scorers: Gurney (37)
Watford 1(1)
Team: Chamberlain 4, *Gibbs 4*, Kennedy 2, Page 2, Millen 3, Mooney 4, Noel-Williams 4, Hyde 2, Thomas 1, Johnson 2, Rosenthal 2
Subs: Palmer (for Thomas) 2, Lowndes (for Noel-Williams) 3, Easton, Day, Robinson
Scorers: Noel-Williams (20)
Report by Dave Perahia

When faced with another example of seemingly irrational behaviour (such as buying yet another Watford home shirt when I already have seven perfectly serviceable older versions, flicking 'V's at any sign on the M1 motorway containing the word "Luton", or cancelling holidays if they clash with Hornet home fixtures), my non-football following friends frequently ask the inevitable question : Why ? Why am I so obsessed with football and the Hornets ? In part, I guess the question is quite easy to answer - the thrill of a last minute equaliser, the camaraderie with your fellow fans, an excuse to scream obscenities in a public place - the list goes on and on. But apart from these concrete and easily defined excuses, there's a mystery ingredient. Something that can't be easily defined or described. Something that I'm sure that those empty and unfortunate souls who don't love football could never understand. Factor 'X'.

Here's the scenario. I've got the 'flu and feel like shite. I've had a hard week at work. On Thursday and Friday nights I was out on the piss, returning home in the early hours and sleeping for about 4 hours before having to drag myself out of bed. On Sunday, I have to go to the hospital where I work at 9am and stay there for 32 hours on-call, finishing my shift on Monday at 5pm. I may not manage to get any sleep at all during that time. So what do I do Saturday ? Stay in bed, watch T.V., gargle with Lemsip every 4 hours ? Catch up on lost sleep and hopefully get well for my mammoth shift on Sunday ? Er, no. 'Fraid not. The answer is, in fact, as follows. Up at 7am . Drive to Watford. Meet up with Pete F. and Mark V.. Proceed to Milton Keynes. Meet Mike S.. Proceed to Torquay. Watch the Horns draw 1-1 with a bunch of 3rd Division cloggers on an open terrace in the cold. Return to the car. Drive to Milton Keynes. Change cars. Return to Watford. Change cars. Drive back to Finsbury Park. Arrive 10.30pm. Feel like crap. Go to bed. This, my friends, is the sort of behaviour I can't explain. This is Factor 'X'. This is madness.

But you already know that, so on to the game. We arrived at Plainmoor, Torquay at about 1pm and were welcomed into Torquay's spectacular Supporters Club. A huge room with a big bar, a massive screen showing footy on SKY and ample tables to sit, eat pasties and sup a pint or two. Their ground may be sad (very sad, in fact) once you're on the terrace, but this is considerably easier to bear with such a great Supporters Club to visit. We wandered onto the open terrace behind the goal at about 2.30pm to lap up the electric atmosphere generated by about 4000 excited fans (approx. 900 of these from Watford). Actually, that's a lie. There was precious little atmosphere. I think most of us (Pete F. excepted) had left our voices at home. At least I had the excuse of feeling like death warmed up.

Watford lined up without Lee again, the oft-criticised GNW alongside Taffy Thomas. The game began at a predictably frenetic pace, Torquay making up for an obvious skill deficiency by working their butts off, closing Watford players down rapidly and getting well and truly stuck in to challenges. Predominantly Route One, Torquay also exhibited a disturbing tendency to un-nerve our defence via the pace and trickery of the highly rated Rodney Jack, who managed to put Pagey on his arse on more than one occasion. To their credit, Watford did try and slow things down a little, but were too often caught in possession, Johnno being the main culprit.

After 20 minutes of sparring, Watford took the lead. A peach of a pass from Micah Hyde on the left found Gifton, who deftly controlled the ball before stroking it confidently to the keeper's right and into the net. A fine finish. Torquay redoubled their efforts after the goal and got their reward on 37 minutes. The ball was swung in from our right to the edge of the Watford box. Johnno attempted to hoof the ball away at waist height but only succeeded in slicing it into the path of Torquay's Gurney who flicked the ball cooly over Alec and into the net. This seemed to wake the Horns up a bit, and we could have moved in front again before half-time. Ronny had a shot well saved and Micah was unfortunate to see his excellent lob clawed away by Veysey in the Torquay goal. We finished the half well on top.

The second half began with Watford appearing somewhat lethargic, but we slowly regained the initiative and created a number of chances. Gibbsy fired narrowly over and Tommy Mooney had a fierce shot well tipped over by the Torquay keeper. An interesting substitution followed, with Dai and Gifton being replaced by Steve Palmer and........Nathan Lowdnes ! The much maligned ginger slotted into Dai's forward position, with Super Tom moving up alongside him and Steve Palmer playing back in defence. The substitutions seemed to galvanise the Golden Boys. Nathan Lowdnes really surprised me, often showing good positional sense, flicking on high balls considerably more effectively than Dai had been and generally putting himself about more than I thought he could. He had a useful shot saved as the chances continued to flow. The best opportunity fell to Tommy, who ran onto a superb Ronny flick but blasted his shot against the keeper's legs when clean through.

We had the inevitable nervous few minutes as the ninety approached including one magnificent full length save from Alec, but defeat would have been a travesty on balance of play and chances created. Our inability to hit the target continues to frustrate - on this occasion it resulted in an unneccessary replay.

Nigel Gibbs gets my 'man of the match' for his wholehearted and effective performance. He appears to be relishing his more forward role at present. Honourable mentions for GNW, Super Tom and Alec. If I'm being honest, however, the real man of the match was Ken Veysey in the Torquay goal. Cheers, Ken. Thanks for nothing.

Anyway, see you at Fulham in the Autoglass on Tuesday. What d'ya mean "Meaningless fixture" ? Haven't you heard of Factor 'X' ?!