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Nationwide League Division 1, 17/10/98
Tranmere Rovers 3(2)
Scorers: Irons (5, 37), Mahon (73)
Watford 2(1)
Team: Chamberlain 3, Gibbs 3, Kennedy 2, Page 3, Millen 2, Mooney 2, Smart 3, Hyde 3, Noel-Williams 2, Johnson 3, Robinson 3
Subs: Palmer, Wright, *Bazeley (for Mooney) 4*
Scorers: Smart (15), Noel-Williams (80)
Why I LURVE away games
Report by John Southern

I keep meaning to do a piece for BSaD entitled "Why I LURVE away games". As I am (a) Bone idle and (b) Nervous, I never seem to get round to finishing it. Yesterday was a perfect illustration of why I do love away games. Yes, we lost but to be frank (or anyone else), I don't care. Yes, that's right members of the Watford For Premiership Society, I don't care. That's not to say I didn't WANT them to win, that would be a bit silly, but the day was important, not the result.

I met up with a group of beaming Hornets in the Rock Station pub. A seedy dive and no mistake but it did have that certain special "je ne sais...". Know what I mean, big telly with sport on it, lots of "blokes" displaying hooge guts and the piece de resistance, an absolutely cracking slutty barmaid! Whoo ha!!

I just expected to meet Pete Goddard and Ian Poole, so imagine my surprise when I encountered about twenty fellow Hornets. Hi to everyone and apologies to those who I didn't get around to meeting. I did meet Sarah for the first time, and yes, her Everton supporting husband does have two heads! The only thing Rupert said to me was "Hello Mr Pooh" as he disappeared into the ladies for a dump. Thank you to Pete Fincham for giving me the best laugh of the day. Describing how the erstwhile Cameron was experiencing difficulties of a (cough) self gratification nature whilst under lock and key for his Swedish antics. Take one small cell, a drug dealing Scottish cell mate, an infra red camera and no Viagra! Top story!

The trudge to Prenton Park, whilst not as bad as Wycombe, is hardly inspiring. The new Kop End is. Stopping briefly to say hello to Don Fraser I nearly got a nosebleed taking my seat! The view is magnificent but distance from action is directly proportional to atmosphere. Also being so high up means you enter a different climatic zone. Something about jet streams and the like. The wind was fierce even in the stand, more about that later.

Paul Robinson in the line up made my heart leap, being part of a back five made it crash back down to earth. The back five is an unmitigated disaster. From my lofty viewpoint in the Kop, you could see the confusion between Page, Millen and Mooney only too well. Throw into the pot a midfield that is working in 'deep away game mode' and the result is a scrum of players falling over each other. To further illustrate this point, after the substitution of Mooney and a return to a more traditional shape, both Millen and especially Page worked better. That is apart from a five minute spat midway through the second half where the pair of 'em were arguing like man and wife for a good five minutes. A great number of less than complimentary hand signals were also exchanged during this period. Not the best of foundations for a back four partnership.

The midfield were not at their best. I will not comment on Kennedy, I get too wound up. The front pair lacked any real support, Smart and Gifton were given a lot of stick from the Woodentops. Gifton was well below the standard he set at Birmingham but Smart worked his butt off. The crowd called for Nick Wright and for once I was with them. Who would I drop? ANY OF 'EM! He has shown the best form of any of our midfielders and I am at a total loss to explain why he is not a regular in the line up. If he is injured or is carrying a knock then please let me know so I can stop baying for him to be brought on. Johnson, Kennedy and Hyde are all playing below the level exhibited by Wright on every occasion I have seen him play this season.

Once again we managed to sit behind the "Gibbs you're s**t! Page you're s**t! Millen you're s**t!" commentary team. Alec Chamberlain was the only player to escape this Kenneth Tynan like critique from the rear. Still they stumped up their fourteen quid so they have a right to say what they damned well like.

A novel feature of the game were the long throws from Dave Challinor. They are MONSTER. The ball boys have special towels which they hand to the gangly freak at every throw in. He then gives the ball a quick (or slow if they are 1-0 up) wipe, retires a few feet and WALLOP! The ball comes across with distance and pace, real pace. They are as handy as corners.

As for the goals, the first came from a casual giving away of the ball from my flavour of the month Irish midfielder, inside their half. Irons said thank you (nicely) and ran half the length of the pitch watching Watford players back off him (like Les from Vic Reeves when confronted by chives, or is it the spirit level?). He then let loose a fierce long distance drive (with a little wind assistance) that left AC with no chance.

Our reply came from a defensive error that the Smart pounced on, rounded the stranded keeper and slotted it away.

The second Tranmere goal saw Robbo and PK on the left being bamboozled by some neat interplay. A cross from McGreal, straight from the F.A. coaching manual (putting AC into two minds whether to come or not) found the unmarked Irons who once again thanked the defence for leaving him alone. 2-1 to Tranmere.

The third Tranmere goal owed a lot to the wind, which was very strong and swirling. Let me stress that not all of our poor play was down just to the players. The wind played a big part in the game. However I thought that it would aid us second half. Instead it cost us a goal. Mahon had a strong run from midfield and once again was given space and time, not being closed down. He let fly with a strong shot which Alec, diving to his left, covered. The angle of our view enabled us to see the ball get caught in the wind and swerve viciously. Alec tried to compensate but was in mid air and as subject to the laws of physics as the rest of us. He was unlucky.

Along with Nick Wright, Darren Bazeley has shown what an impact he can have on the game if allowed to. His appearance saw the Tranmere defence put under some pressure from the right. He and Gibbo work well together and as a result of one of his crosses from the right, Gifton put his body in the way of the ball (there is no other way to describe it) to bring us back into the game.

We could have won this one, Tranmere are very nervous indeed. On the day perhaps they deserved the win, weeeell a draw would have been fairer. If not for the excellent save from Achterberg following a close range Johnson effort, it could have been 3-3. I would have liked to see an opening line up that showed a bit more ambition.

After the game we went back to the Rock Station for a couple of jars but just when things were settling down two of the local inbreds decided to engage us in conversation. An opening gambit of "Are youse sayin' I've not gorra job!?", "No..." I reply, the glassy eyes look puzzled, he cocks his head to one side just like our dog. Something's not right, he can tell. "Hey...whir youse from den!?", "Wigan" says I, which always gets a laugh and these two morons were no exception. I took the opportunity of beating a hasty retreat between guffaws.

All in all I really did enjoy the day, even if we did lose! Thank you to all concerned.

See also: Whites Online