Endsleigh League Division 1, 14/8/93
Luton Town 2(0)
Team: Sheppard, Lavin, Drysdale, Johnson, Holdsworth, Ashby, Bazeley, Charlery, Furlong, Porter, Soloman
Subs: Nogan (for Bazeley), Dublin (for Johnson)
Out and out war
Report by Ian Grant
The first game of the 93/94 season brought a trip to Kenilworth Road. Glenn Roeder's first game in charge too, and another chance to beat Luton. It was a run of failure against our local rivals that was to last a decade, finally ended in 1997. The previous season had seen a pathetic surrender in a televised derby on a pitch prepared, it seemed, with the aid of a plough - we knew that we had to do better.
Short of digging trenches across the halfway line, this was out and out war. The questionable commitment of Perryman's team gave way to extraordinary passion in one of the great derby performances. We lost, of course, but this series is all about defeat with honour.
Our chances evaporated in the first half. By the interval, we'd lost two players through injury and had one sent off, yet somehow we were still level. Richard Johnson was forced to leave the field early on but the one that really angered Horns fans was the injury to Darren Bazeley. Flying down the wing, he was unceremoniously hacked by Kerry Dixon and spent much of the season sidelined - the foul didn't even get a yellow card which, bearing in mind the other dismissals, was utterly disgraceful.
Barry Ashby was the first to receive a red card, for a clattering, erm, tackle on David Preece which prompted a mass brawl - bizarrely, photos later revealed that Ashby was one of the few players on the pitch that didn't get involved in the punch up. There was little time for football in the midst of all this but the new Watford attempted to get their passing game going. More than anything, they showed a real determination to do the travelling fans proud - it was great to see Gary Porter urging the fans on before the game. If anything, there was too much commitment - nobody shirked their responsibility, incurring the wrath of a diabolical referee in the process.
The second half was as dramatic as the first. Jason Drysdale was dismissed by a referee who couldn't tell the difference between a shoulder and an elbow. We were down to nine men and Luton took full advantage, scoring twice - a close range finish and a spectacular effort by Dixon who, had the referee shown some consistency, shouldn't have been on the pitch.
Short of an earthquake, it was difficult to see what else could go wrong. Incredibly, we didn't give up. Pressure on the Luton goal finally resulted in Furlong poking the ball home to give us some hope. Luton used their two man advantage to play keep-ball for a while but, by the end, they were hanging on.
We've witnessed some awful performances against Them From Up The Road recently - this was something else, a heroic effort against all the odds. The standing ovation for the nine remaining 'Orns at the end said it all.
The season was to be dominated by red cards - just a week later, Dyer was sent off for winning the ball, a decision even more insane than the ones in this game. Furlong was cheated in that infamous incident at Birmingham and went again at Millwall; Holdsworth got his marching orders for a non-existent punch; Hessenthaler joined them for another hard tackle. We appealed, without success. The season ended in a desperate relegation struggle, and we avoided the drop with a game to spare. But that's another story.