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FA Carling Premiership, 31/9/99
Coventry City
Better than this
By Asher Peters

The sun was shining through the open side of the stand. It was lovely and enough to make you forget it was another stupid Sunday match; the wind had died down, the ground slowly filled. But Coventry had those weird floodlights along the top of the opposite stand and turned them on, far too early if you ask me. The sun gave up the struggle and went behind a cloud. 'Eye Of The Tiger' came on and I was once again thankful we got 'Z Cars' reinstated at Watford, not letting the Soft-Rock Suits entirely loose on our tannoy, although to be fair it was not the all-important soundtrack to the teams running out.

All bets were off in the sweepstake about who would be in our defence; against all the odds we stuck with 5-3-2 and started with a right back, a utility man and debutant James Panayi in the middle. Early on it did not seem to matter, the inventive running and incisive passing given a tentative try in the Boro game was back. In and around the first goal, we made them head against their own bar, spurned a one-on-one and were denied a penalty from a fairly blatant-looking handball. But Robbie Keane is what you pay 6m for, at least at today's prices. Despite the quaint stand-supporting post in my way, it was a quality goal from the moment he struck it. Less a gust of wind to the house of cards of our resistance, and more, er, a radiator next to our defensive tub of ice-cream. It took time for the capitulation to occur but it was easily traceable to that moment, as City were, though very much in the game, not looking like scoring.

Before halftime there was just time for a collective Gerard Lavin impersonation (remember him? and Roeder apologised for selling him...) as the defence urged a reluctant Coventry forward, standing off Froggatt until he had to score. As I went to try and get a pie, unsuccessfully, I was thinking frustratedly that we were losing to a barely superior side, the key moments had gone against us and we might just get back in it. Optimistic as ever, but the first second half goal could still decide the match.

Panayi was perhaps unlucky to be substituted, the replacement Ward suggesting this was a centre half experiment. We went 4-4-2, the still-unfit Miller replaced by the awkward Ngonge. The third goal was easily the most depressing moment, the ball in our box for seemingly an age, and the chance getting harder and harder until it was finally finished off. The away crowd busied themselves with about as comprehensive an out-singing as will be heard from a group so outnumbered. We still created chances, but it was way too reliant on longball, the Coventry defence dominant in the air, and the game had gone. Irony was on our minds when they were awarded a penalty for handball, and irony was what we resorted to when we had recovered from them scoring. 'Wednesday, you're next!', we sang. 'We want one!'. 'We're going to win 5-4!'. Coventry were barely audible, though when they joined in with 'We love you Watford', it was an unhappy reminder of what was going on on the pitch. This Watford side needs a turning point, and we were giving ourselves sore throats trying to provide it. In the four or five rows at the back, we stood up for all the last fifteen minutes, brought out the old favourites repeatedly, but we were to be denied even a consolation goal.

We've now beaten Chelsea, who drew with Milan, and been hammered by Coventry, in turn hammered by Tranmere. So how good are we? Better then this. Better than this.