Their Finest Hour
7:30 pm, Tuesday April 15th 1969
by Paul Levene
It's almost 26 years ago to the day that Watford gained promotion to the old Second Division for the first time in their history. Elevation followed a 1-0 victory against Plymouth Argyle at Vicarage Road with 22,725 spectators flocking to the stadium that night, hoping for the win that would guarantee an uplift in status.
Watford included striker Roy Sinclair in the starting line-up for only the third time since signing him from Tranmere Rovers for stlg 11,000 in March 1969. The 24 year old Liverpudlian was destined to write his name in the club history books as he scored the only goal of the game against the Devon club.
Sinclair's first goal for the Hornets had come a week earlier in a 2-1 away win at Plymouth, and by the time referee Mr Markham from Woking blew the final whistle at 9:10 that night at Vicarage Road, the Pilgrims must have been sick of the sight of the player.
Although the Hornets largely dominated proceedings from kick-off, the goal that was enough to decide the outcome of the match and Watford's ultimate destiny was the subject of furious debate amongst visiting players, officials and spectators. The moment of controversy came at 8:43 pm that April night back in 1969, when Sinclair shot from the edge of the area after receiving the ball from Terry Garbett, who headed on Duncan Welbourne's cross. Sinclair's shot beat Pat Dunne in the Argyle goal and bounced down from the crossbar, appearing not to have entered the net. Afterwards Watford's new striker admitted that he didn't think the effort should stand, but the match officials were thankfully of a different opinion and referee Markham ran back to the centre circle after signalling a goal.
While Plymouth had genuine grounds for complaint over the nature of their defeat, overall the Watford side, under manager Ken Furphy's guidance, had more than proved their merit in taking the points on the night. Indeed, had it not been for the expertise of Dunne in the Pilgrims' goal the outcome of the match may well have been settled far earlier. Dunne's opposite number, Mike Walker, had very little to do on the night and the rest of the Watford defence coped admirably with any danger posed by the visitors.
At the other end, the Hornets created chance after chance with both Stewart Scullion and Terry Garbett unfortunate not to be on the score-sheet before half-time. After the break Barry Endean had one shot saved by Dunne and Garbett and Scullion both came close again before the celebrating could begin when the final whistle blew. Thousands of supporters joined in the promotion jamboree on the pitch and the team eventually returned to salute the fans from the directors' box, together with the obligatory bubbly. After 49 years as members of the Football League, Watford had at last achieved that elusive prize - promotion to the Second Division!
Watford: Walker, Welbourne, Williams, Eddy, Lees, Walley, Garbett, Hale, Sinclair, Endean, Scullion Sub: Green
- taken from Watford v Millwall programme (14/4/95)