Avon Insurance Combination, 2/9/98
Brighton Res 0(0)
Watford Res 6(1)
Team: Day, Gibbs, Perpetuini, Grieves, Pluck, Panayi, Daley, Smith, Noel-Williams, Wright, Mooney
Subs: Andrews, Boyce (for Perpetuini), Cornock (for Panayi)
Scorers: Smith 2 (1 pen), Wright, Pluck, Noel-Williams 2
Report by Ian Grant
Watford's strong reserve line-up proved to be too much for Brighton at rainy Worthing
last night. Even with the recent clear-out of forward players, it's clear that the second
eleven is likely to contain some household names and familiar faces this season -
in the end, that extra quality and strength turned a competitive game into a rout.
The first key moment of the match came after thirty minutes. Up to that point, the Hornets had been
dominating without looking particularly threatening, although Tommy Mooney had gone close. Then
Tommy Smith wriggled his way past defenders to work an opportunity inside the area, only
to see his certain goal stopped by the hand of Peter Smith on the line. The Albion defender
was sent off, the Watford youngster scored from the spot.
That was all that divided the teams at half-time. The better side was ahead, no question -
but the better side might've made more of several promising openings. They went on to
do just that after the break.
The second key moment was ten minutes after the re-start. A header from a Brighton corner was
successfully and brilliantly blocked on the goalline by Nigel Gibbs, despite claims from home supporters that
the ball had crossed the line. Having survived that scare, Watford went on the offensive -
almost immediately, Nick Wright scored the goal of the game, cutting inside from the right
wing and whipping a shot into the top corner. Within a couple of minutes, it was three as
Colin Pluck stabbed a corner in from close range.
After a fifteen minute respite, during which the Albion produced some fairly concerted
pressure, Watford finished the game with a flurry of goals. Gifton Noel-Williams, lively and strong
throughout, scored with a header from a corner and then cheekily back-heeled the fifth
into an empty net after Tommy Mooney's shot had been saved. Late in the game, Tommy Smith
grabbed his second of the night with a mazy run through the disheartened Brighton defence.
Ultimately, such a stress-free victory tells us little about the players currently competing
for first team places. We'd expect nothing
less than calm professionalism from Nigel Gibbs, regardless of the opposition, so it's hardly
headline news that he was calmly professional last night. Similarly, that the likes of
Nick Wright, Gifton Noel-Williams and Tommy Smith shone brightly is unlikely to make much difference to their
However, two players' performances did make for extremely interesting viewing. Tommy Mooney,
despite enjoying more chances than any other Watford player and occasionally lurching into life, seems extremely subdued. That's
frustrating, since recent efforts by Peter Kennedy have suggested that a bit of competition for the
left midfield position might not go amiss.
Tony Daley, meanwhile, seems to be slipping out of the first team frame altogether. Touches
of absolute class remain but his insistence on cutting inside at every opportunity means
that he usually faces the task of dribbling past the entire opposition defence. If that
doesn't work against Brighton reserves, it sure as hell ain't going to work against the
likes of Sunderland. On the one occasion when he did choose to go outside, he beat his
opponent comfortably and whipped in a dangerous cross from the bye-line. Until he does
that more regularly, his talent is completely wasted.