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98/99: Review:
By Ian Lay
What can I say about this month that would do it justice? I don't know. Put simply the month of April is thirty days that I don't think any Watford fan will forget. It will go down as one of the months in the history of Watford Football Club.

It all started at home to Tranmere. And to be honest it could have all finished there.

For much of the Tranmere game we lacked imagination and penetration, problems we'd be suffering for a few months. And I suppose it was no surprise when Tranmere took the lead. A misdirected header by Paul Robinson when not under pressure allowed Kelly to pounce and slide the ball past Chamberlain.

Most of us thought at that moment that that was our challenge for the season over. We couldn't have been more wrong.

Bonnot, Ngonge and Mooney came on for Hyde, Gudmundsson and Whittingham. And they changed the game. Fourteen minutes after Tranmere had gone ahead we were level.

"We scored, and it was a beautiful thing. Mooney did the work on the left wing, flinging in a cross to the far post. Kennedy was there, ten yards out and all alone, to send a sweetly struck half-volley skimming past Achterberg. Suffice to say that the celebrations were rather more delirious than you'd expect for an equaliser at home to Tranmere."

But things were to take a bizarre twist. Firstly Johnson was sent off for a second bookable offence for a foul in which he clearly got the ball. The referee had to consult his linesman before showing Johnson red.

Five minutes later and a corner resulted in a good Mooney header and a tip over from Achterberg. But for some reason the same linesman who caused Johno to be sent off was flagging.

A penalty was the result. Though no one is really sure what for.

Kennedy's penalty was poor and Achterberg saved, but it rebounded out and Ngonge was quickest to react and score. During the celebrations and whilst the referee's back was turned Smart and Kelly got into a bit of bust up which resulted in Smart being sent off.

We survived the final minutes with only nine men. And we weren't to know that this amazing turn around was to be the catalyst to a great end of season run.

Birmingham away was next and a draw here would have been a good result. Birmingham were going well and could even sneak the second automatic promotion place. But we took them apart. Daley in particular running rings around them.

He set up the first and scored the second before being substituted, and despite a late consolation goal from Holdsworth, this was always going to be our day.

The second goal was particularly good:

"It was all inspirational Tommy Mooney, picking up Kennedy's neat pass on the left wing, waiting for support to show itself, then beating an opponent to get to the by-line to fling in a brilliant cross. And Daley was there, rising above his marker to head decisively home. Mooney just stood there on the touchline, arms raised and triumphant, while his followers saluted him."

Bolton at home next and another team in with a good shout of going up. This was a similar game to Birmingham in that we controlled it from start to finish, scored two goals, but this time didn't concede any.

Mooney scored again, Hyde got his first for a while and everything seemed to be coming into place nicely.

Three wins out of three and there is a buzz again around Vicarage Road.

I missed Crewe away, I missed Tommy Mooney's third goal in three games. I missed Whittingham being ineffective again. Some things never change.

Crystal Palace at home and it's the old Hyde-Mooney 1-2 again, just like Bolton.

This could have been 6-1 or more if hadn't been for Kevin Miller's heroics in goal. Micah Hyde gave us the perfect start after only six minutes:

"The resulting corner was cleared to Kennedy, who returned it to Hyde. Turning down the first-time crossing opportunity, the midfielder made one of his darting runs down the left side of the penalty area before cutting a low ball through the six yard box. And, whether by goalkeeping error or defensive deflection, it went all the way through and into the bottom corner. It was the start that we needed - the key, of course, being that we'd gone out and earned it."

Possession was even in the first half but all the chances were going our way and we could have added to that first goal. Mooney, Hyde and Bazeley all having chances to add to the lead. In the end it took until the 53rd minute before we scored our second:

"Kennedy's right wing free kick found Ngonge unmarked as Palace made a mess of their offside trap. He should've scored but managed to mis-time his header so badly that it was going embarrassingly wide. Fortunately, Mooney happened to be standing in the way - his face was a picture, surprise followed by delight as the ball hit him on the forehead and beat Miller"

We could have added more, but we didn't. And although Palace got a late goal to set up the usual nail biting, we never looked like conceding two....

Final game of the month was away to a Port Vale side desperate for point in their bit to stave off relegation. This was always going to be tough and it would have been tougher if the referee had decided to bring his red card with him. We could easily have had two players sent off in the first half. Robinson was particularly lucky to get away with an awful challenge. But we rode our luck, and even took the lead:

"So the goal was marginally against the run of play. Still beautifully conceived and executed, though. Robert Page's free kick from deep found Robinson on a foray forward again. His chest trap took him past a defender, allowing enough time to pick out Mooney with a square ball - the comfortable, shuffled finish was that of a striker in peak form."

But it didn't last. Palmer almost immediately gave away a penalty and was probably lucky to only get a yellow card, as Robinson was later.

The penalty was converted and it was all square.

We held on until half time, certainly not looking as assured as we had been in recent weeks. And emerged after the break somewhat more resolute:

"Fifteen minutes in...Tommy Mooney added another chapter to Watford folklore. Chamberlain's clearance was flicked on by Ngonge, towering by now, and the rest was pure Mooney determination. His first attempt was obscured from view but it brought a fine save from Musselwhite. As the ball ran away, Mooney would not be denied - a human cannonball, no stopping him, reaching it before it crossed the by-line and ramming it home. A solo effort as thumpingly heroic as any mazy dribble or long-range screamer, a Hornet legend."

We held on and had completed a brilliant month in the same way we had started it. With guts, with determination, and no shortage of skill when needed.

No summary can do this month justice so I recommend anyone to read each report in full. This was the month that changed Watford's destiny. Tranmere was the game that started the transformation.

The best way to finish this is with the final lines from Ig's Port Vale report. Sums things up nicely I thing:

"You know what this means. It doesn't need words. It's in the chants that are still ringing in my ears, it's in the adrenaline rush that's still making my blood shiver through my veins. It's all around, it'll be distracting me from everything I try and do until Saturday. Rupe calls it "magic". He's got a point."

Best moments: So many to choose from, but Birmingham and Port Vale away are my favourites. At the last twenty minutes at home to Tranmere will forever live in the memory.

Worst moments: Tranmere at home until we scored.

Funniest moments: Smart giving Kelly a piece of his mind (And a piece of his fist - Ed) at home to Tranmere