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Nationwide League Division 1, 31/10/98
Bury 1(1)
Scorers: Ellis (7)
Watford 3(2)
Team: Chamberlain 4, Bazeley 3, Kennedy 3, Page 3, Palmer 3, Mooney 3, *Smart 4*, Hyde 3, Ngonge 3, Johnson 3, Wright 3
Subs: Gudmundsson (for Ngonge) 3, Hazan (for Smart) 0, Robinson
Scorers: Bazeley (26), Ngonge (42), Smart (84)
An interesting pastime
Report by Ian Lay

Watching Watford at the moment is an interesting pastime. Not only do you not know how they are going to play from game to game, you don't know how they are going to play from minute to minute. Games which seem comfortably in the bag can turn into disappointments and others that look hopelessly lost turn into joyous celebrations.

Bury away was an example of the latter and was yet another very enjoyable away day, even though as I write this I can't fully explain how we won the game. Apart from the fact that we scored more goals than them.

The day was always going to be a great laugh, whatever the result. Pete, Rupe, Dr. Dave, Andy Woodard, myself and others took advantage of a great deal from Bury. For 31 pounds we were treated to a bucks fizz reception followed by a four course meal, free programme, ticket for the game and access to the bar before and after the game. As well as coffee in the bar at half time. Bargain or what?!

So by the time we got to our seats, we were full of food, alcohol and high spirits. That lasted approximately seven minutes. Actually to be fair, it was less than that because we were taken apart from the word go. As Andy Woodard said to me, "It's not often after seven minutes of play that you can say that it was only a matter of time before they scored". And he was right. We could have been 3-0 down in the opening ten minutes and 5-0 down inside the first twenty. But all Bury had to show for their early superiority was a solitary goal from Tony Ellis.

GT changed tactics almost immediately. Out went the 3-5-2 system we'd started with and in came a more conventional 4-4-2. Which seem to work much better.

And on twenty-six minutes the game changed. It was our first attack of any note and, looking back now, I wonder if we would have got anything out of this game if it were not for one of the best goals you will see anywhere this season.

Bazeley, just outside our area, picked the ball up went on a surging run down the right flank. As he crossed the half way line he cut inside and played a neat one-two with Allan Smart. This left him on the edge of the Bury penalty area. He cut inside again, held off the defender and sent a low curling shot past the despairing Kiely. If it doesn't win goal of the season, then I'm a funny shaped banana.

From then on, we started to believe that we could get something out of the game. And even though Bury were creating more chances than us, you felt (like many times this season) that we could sneak something on the break. But to be honest I didn't really think it would come before half time.

Ironically just before Bazeley went on his run, Rupe had said that he was (with the rest of the team) playing "fanny" football. Then he scored. Next up to make a bizarre statement was Dr. Dave:

"Ngonge has done f**k all so far"

And then he scored.

A ball over the top and Ngonge got between two defenders and managed to lob the ball over Kiely. How the hell were we winning 2-1???

The second half saw us being a little more composed but it didn't stop Bury having chances. Chamberlain had to pull off a couple of smart saves, one of which he guided on to the cross bar, but luckily the ball didn't drop to a Bury player and we managed to clear.

Gudmundsson replaced the injured Ngonge and almost immediately set up Smart with a chance to finish the game. He found some space through the centre, jinked to his left to the edge of the box and sent a well placed pass into the path of Smart. However, Smartie sent his shot just inches wide as Kiely came out to narrow the angle.

Earlier in the half, Keily and Smart had been involved in a silly incident. Smartie, chasing a lost cause, nudged Kiely in the back as he was letting the ball run out for a goal kick. Kiely had to leap over the advertising boards to stop himself colliding with them. He picked himself up and ran over to Smart, who he pushed to the ground. Yes, it was a bit of handbags, but Kiely retaliated and raised his arms, and I'm afraid however you look at it that was a sending off offence. And several Bury fans agreed with us after the game. Whether Smartie would have had to go as well, I don't know. I think he should have been booked because the original nudge was not malicious.

Anyway Allan got the last laugh as, on eight-four minutes, he was put clean through and he took the ball around the advancing Kiely and headed it home. 3-1, and please don't ask me how we did it. We just did.

To be fair, Bury did not deserve to lose. But having scored three goals, nor did we. So a draw would have been fair. But the harsh reality is that when you get chances you have to take them. At the game I couldn't understand why Bury have conceded so few goals this season. At times we took them apart. But I can understand why they haven't scored many goals either. They must have had at least seven clear cut chances during the game and only took one. That lack of finishing can cost you dearly, as it did on Saturday.

Everyone played reasonably well after the first twenty-five minutes. And despite the superior aerial ability of the Bury players (they were big buggers), Palmer, Page and Mooney did fairly well after that initial onslaught. Bazeley did a pretty good job filling in for Gibbs and scored that wonder goal, and Kennedy got some good crosses in and certainly looked happier once we'd changed formation to a 4-4-2.

Hyde and Johno had fair games, but nothing special. Ngonge did little else but score, but that is what he's in the side for. And Wright continues to show that he has good skill and vision and should do well for us. Gudmundsson did a few nice things when he came on and set up Smartie with that good chance but two people did stand out for us in this most bizarre game.

Alec Chamberlain was excellent in between the sticks. He pulled off some excellent saves and his positioning was excellent, particularly in narrowing the angle on a couple of chances the Bury players had.

But the man of the match for me was Allan Smart. He never gave up. He held the ball up superbly and he was involved in the first goal and scored the third. And I was privileged to shake his hand after the game (as did the others) as he went up to do an interview for Three Counties Radio.

By the way, he doesn't have a strong Scottish accent. In fact you could easily think that he wasn't Scottish at all. Hhhmmm, I've probably insulted him by saying that.

Away games. Bloody hell, they are fun at the moment!

See also: Bury unofficial