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Watford Report

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 16/04/2001

A grey coldish day, with a wind billowing through the gap twixt Pontoon and Stones/Smiths/Findus stand. All 4 corners were bereft of people, but the rest of the ground was virtually full. The pre-match kickabout saw Jeffrey fail to score with every shot at Hyldegaard, so no change there then.

The tannoy welcomed Graham Taylor and he got a very warm ovation from the Town crowd, which was unusually magnanimous for the groaning thousands.

Grimsby Town 2 Watford 1

Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows :- Coyne, McDermott, Handyside, Groves, Gallimore, Donovan, Pouton, Coldicott, Campbell, Cornwall and Livingstone. The substitutes were Hyldgaard, Butterfield, Willems, Jeffrey and D Smith. Everyone played where you'd expect them to be, though Coyne was forced to wear a blue top, as Watford played in their normal first team kit.

Prior to the teams running out, the tannoy played "Jerusalem", so a prayer before the crying? And what is the Mighty Mariner on? Rolling and posing in the 6-yard box. Fame has gone to its foam airhead. Considering the battering the pitch has had this winter it looked in remarkably good shape. Green, smoothish, with only a sandy patch under the Stones/Smiths/Findus. Though judging by the splashes when players ran on it, it was more like a sand pit.

1st Half

Watford kicked off towards the Pontoon and it took them 3 seconds to whack it in the air. The first memorable action came from Town, with a neat passing movement down the right involving Cornwall, Livingstone and McDermott, who was set free inside the penalty area. From a narrow angle, about 12 yards wide of goal, McDermott knocked the ball low across the face of the goal, but the dribbled away for a goal kick. That attack was so quick even Livvo couldn't get into the area in time. But he did arrive in the area a few minutes later after Campbell and Cornwall broke down the centre left. Cornwall turned the ball inside from the bye line and Livvo tried to steer a first time shot into the far corner, but only steered it gently into the 'keeper's midriff.

Watford did have a dangerous attack in the first couple of minutes, but I can't remember what happened. Coyne didn't have to save it, the ball definitely didn't go over the bar. Perhaps it sliced away for a goal kick, most of their shots did.

Cornwall harried the Watford defence down the left and won a corner, which was tapped forward, stopped and hit low to the near post. Groves ran in a gentle arc and touched the ball on with the outside of his right boot. The ball looped across the face of the goal and was headed away from the line near the far post. 5 or so minutes later a free kick from the Town right, about 15 yards out, was swung low and hard to somewhere close to the penalty spot. Donovan and Groves raced in and Groves (I think) hook-volleyed the ball just wide of the 'keeper's left hand post

The game was essentially scrappy, shapeless and all midfield hustle and bustle. Ideal for Coldicott and Pouton. The occasional foray into football came from Town, of course, with the next excitement being provided by the rampaging Gallimore, swinging in a superb low cross to the unmarked Livingstone, near to the penalty spot. The ball went just behind Livvo, who headed very high and very wide. Watford threatened on the break, with Smith buzzing around like a more competent Clare and Noel-Williams just being big, like an immobile Kevin Francis.

Handyside wasn't very with it, man, his brain and feet didn't appear to be connected. He sliced and stumbled his way through the first 30 minutes. Groves had been solid, reliable and all the other usual words we use to describe him. Except when he slipped when chasing a ball knocked over the defence on the left. Obviously not solid and reliable then, though a couple of minutes later he produced a Poutonian sliding hook tackle to dispossess a Watford striker, emerging with the ball at his feet and the crowd on theirs.

Watford had a few long range efforts which sliced wide and high, and a couple of crosses, which fizzed, across the area (Mooney had a shot which deflected softly into Coyne's arms, Palmer cleared the Pontoon and Vernazza scuffed wide, all from 25 yards). I'm struggling to recall anything particularly interesting in the middle bit of the half. The were numerous stoppages, principally because Watford players left their boot in.

The Lower Stones/Smiths/Findus went bananas when Donovan hooked away a bouncing ball and his right foot smashed into the bottom of the Watford left back's boot. The referee didn't even give a free kick. Watford kicked the ball out and Donovan received a couple of minutes of treatment. Cornwall knocked the ball back to the Watford goalkeeper who fell over when he wellied the ball upfield. So he received a couple of minutes of treatment, couldn't continue and was carried off on the stretcher.

The game continued to be mostly awful, but with the occasional Town attack. Gallimore, despite cynics advising him to hit the ankles of the third player from the left on the wall, hit a free kick from a central position 25 yards straight at the 'keeper. A couple more terrible minutes followed, then Cornwall received a pass from McDermott, about 10 yards inside the Watford half with his back to goal, in a centre right position. He held the ball up and spun in a semi-circle, knocking the ball between a defender's legs, sprinted forward showing, dare I say this , pace, and hit a left footed shot which curled about a foot or so over the centre of the goal.

And then Watford had an attack. Head tennis inside the Town box after a break down the left and cross-resulted in the ball bouncing up, on the right corner of the 6 yard box. Mooney, unmarked, set himself to hook the ball in, but Coyne raced out and did a star jump at the bullet-headed scuffler (no, not pacy Stacy) and blocked with his chest, falling on the rebound. Danger over, Coyne on the case.

Pouton was having a storming game, popping up everywhere, sliding in, barging across, surging forward and generally being omnipresent. He was the beating heart of the Town midfield, which was dominant. But then again Watford don't really care about the midfield. They just played kick and flick football. Towards the end of the half Town exerted a period of concerted pressure, which culminated in Coldicott dispossessing a Watford player about 30 yards out on the Town left. He cut in and whacked in a shot, which looped oddly. It appeared to rebound off the goalkeeper's left hand post, though those nearer that goal would be able to confirm what actually happened. The ball was then crossed back to beyond the 'keeper's right hand post. Pouton raced in a headed a foot or so wide. And then it was half time, except for injury time - all 4 minutes.

Watford attacked down the Town left centre. When I say attack I really mean "kicked the ball towards the Town goal and ran after it". The defence rather, I can put it no other way, faffed around. Groves received the ball on the edge of the Town area and, with a Watford player advancing on him, knocked a short pass forward to Coldicott, who was standing right in the centre of the Town half. At this moment Coldicott decided he was Johan Cruyff re-incarnated in the body of a West Midland bulldozer. He allowed the ball to run between his legs and turned, trying an outrageous (some would say idiotic) dummy. The ball ran on to the Watford player, who was thus left alone on the centre of the pitch with 3 fellow luminous chums and a couple of Town defenders in front of him. A one-two in the centre was followed by a lay off behind the right back position. MOONEY ran in behind McDermott and, from about 8 yards wide of goal and 8 yards out, hit a low shot across Coyne into the left hand side of the goal. A faint southern cheer was detectable from the other end of the pitch. Silence in the Pontoon. The rest of the half was merely a space filler until half time. Watford knocked the ball down the channels into the corner flags and Town players looked sorry for themselves.

A very annoying conclusion. Town had much the better of a curiously dull half. There were many decent Town efforts on goal, and some interesting attacks, yet the game was largely a wrestling match in the middle of the pitch (Pouton and Coldicott , the gruesome twosome, were winning, by the way). Watford hardly had the ball and looked as though they thought they didn't have to try very hard. As they were leading at half time they no doubt felt justified in their smugness.

Apart from Handyside's interplanetary travel in the opening 30 minutes, and Campbell looking weary, everyone had played alright. Cornwall was unrecognisable from the disinterested stroller of Norwich. Fast, aggressive, sharp, above all bothered. He still runs strangely. It's like he has a spring coil in each heel. It seems to take him two seconds to start running, then his legs seem to move at double speed, like he can't control them. He likes to rampage down the flanks, though he doesn't look up too many times. Look to your right side, Luke. Livvo was Livvo. Need I say more?

Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk - "Well, I stood here last week and said we'd win 3-1, and I'll say it again". "He's got to take Coldicott off for that, he's been pants". "Why did we clap Taylor, he was rubbish for us as a player". "That's it we're down"

The report continues in the second half

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