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Watford Report: Ashes To Ashes
By: Tony Butcher
A GREY, cool Sunday afternoon, with around 150 Town supporters sprawled behind one of the goals (to the left as seen on TV). Atmosphere? None. All was quiet on the West Watford front.
Watford 2 Grimsby Town 0
10 Feb 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The ennui of the locals was matched by the silent resignation of the dwindling band of Mariners. The pitch looked poor, being a dull grey brown with divots all over. Fit for rugby only. Who could possibly think this was worth televising?
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Willems was, once again, the wide left player, with Boulding partnering Big Bob up front. There was no outrageous hair to be seen, no silly pre-match entertainment, all was dull, end-of-season dull. The players trouped out to be greeted by the least co-ordinated group of pom-pom girls seen south of Louth and the theme from Z Cars, of course.
I hope the television lied, as there was nothing within the ground, which filled either set of supporters with hope. A great air of disappointment hung over the ground, like a collective sigh at what might have been.
Watford kicked off towards the Town supporters and nothing happened for at least, ooh, two minutes. Watford were awarded a free kick somewhere on the Town right, about 25 yards out. It was taken quickly, being tapped towards the touch-line to the full back, who raced up the wing as the Town players ambled back into position. Robinson whipped in a low, curling cross deep in towards the 6 yard box.
Noel-Williams missed his attempted header and the ball zipped beyond Coyne. Groves kneed the ball back across goal and the now prostrate Noel-Williams got up on his knees and tried to head the ball in from just wide of the goal. The ball plopped nicely into Coyne's arms. Ah yes, we remember them well - Watford always whip in crosses from the wings. Let's hope they have forgotten our perennial weakness on the left.
A couple of minutes later Gallimore and Willems watched as Pennant received a pass out on the touch-line, they sidled backwards, marking each other tightly, then watched Pennant zip down the touch-line and hit a cross into the near post. Noel-Williams stooped and headed down towards Coyne's near post. Wales' official number 4 leant down to his right and scooped the ball away for a corner.
And from the corner, which was half cleared, the ball was eventually chipped back in, Taylor back headed at the far post straight to Brown, about 10 yards to the right of gaol and 13 or so yards out. Brown chested the ball down and hit a dipping volley comfortably over the bar and onto one of the flags draped over the bottom three rows of seats.
Not a particularly wonderful 15 minutes from Town, allowing Watford far too much space on the wings, with neither Willems or Campbell being notably present on planet earth. And going forward, ah, that's a misnomer. Long, high balls. Usual result - it just gave the ball back to the opposition.
But then, amazingly, Town dominated several consecutive seconds, stringing at least 3 passes together at one point. There as even a "shot", when Campbell tried his luck from about 30 yards which hit a Watford player on the backside and spun a couple of yards wide of Chamberlain's left hand post. A couple of minutes later he tried another long shot, this one swirling 5 yards high and 10 yards wide. Ooh, that was a close one.
And then Watford nearly scored. Their left winger, Cook, turned past Groves near the right hand touch-line, about 20 yards out. He hit a weak, low cross towards the near post. No defender reacted, Noel-Williams woke up and ran into the huge space between Coyne and the non-existent defenders.
From about a dozen yards out, a few yards to the right of goal, Noel-Williams stretched forward and scooped a first time shot, which the upright Coyne blocked with his chest. The ball spun out into the centre of the penalty area, was retrieved by a Watford player and played to Pennant, lurking on the left of the Town area. He made for the touch-line and Gallimore blocked superbly for another corner. Phew again, perhaps Town could steal something from this game?
Half way through the half Town exerted some pressure, applying a tourniquet, if you will. Town put Watford through hell, turning a corner into a throw-in, through the appliance of sheer skill. How could Watford cope?
And then a bit of a blow. Taylor, who hadn't done much, to be honest, was replaced by Jevons, whose first contribution was to fall over theatrically in the Watford area. As Jevons appealed for a non-existent foul, Boulding was scythed down by Robinson, about 3 or 4 yards outside the penalty area, right in the middle.
Robinson was booked, and the Town fans were starting to mutter about how fair the referee had been so far. Gallimore curled the free kick nicely into the arms of Chamberlain, just to the right of centre.
After another 5 or so minutes of boring football, which comprised throw ins and offsides, Town had another free kick, out on the right, levellish with the 18 yard box, after Boulding was bundled over. Pouton chipped the ball right into the middle of the 6 yard box, where Chamberlain managed to punch the ball off Raven's head. The ball was cleared down the pitch, with Watford retaining possession on the Town left.
They hoisted a rather hopeful pass down the touch-line, with the ball bouncing near Groves. Gayle pushed Groves aside, then held him off with his right arm as he turned. By this time Gayle was inside the penalty area, about 14 or 15 yards out, to the left of goal, with just Coyne to beat. Gayle tried to place the ball to Coyne's right, but out came Coyne's right boot and off went the ball for a corner. Danny saves the world again eh?
The corner, from the Watford left, was curled out towards the penalty spot. The ball went over a great throng of players at the near post, over Gallimore and towards Robinson and their Galli. The ball hit Galli on the right arm, bounced down about 6 yards out, right into the path of ROBINSON, who wellied the ball into the top right corner. Ah, that sinking feeling again, at least it only took 35 minutes to arrive today, the pain of false hope was not too long.
From the restart Willems was cracked on the foot as he hooked the ball up the left touch-line, no foul. Ten seconds later Willems tapped Pennant's ankles and was booked. Perhaps the referee wasn't as good as we thought. There was another 5 or 6 minutes of dreadful "foot"ball, during which there were fouls, throw ins, offsides, and nothing of any interest whatsoever.
Then Watford remembered that Town had no defence on the left, for we were hanging our washing on the Willems Line. Pennant, again, tricked and spun his way down the left touch-line, crossed to the near post and Noel-Williams stooped and scooped high and wide. And what had Town to show for all that huffing and puffing in the first half? Nothing, one measly free kick and a couple of long range slices.
Ah-ha, it isn't over yet, as deep into added time McDermott, about 35 yards out, took a throw in on the Town right. Jevons controlled the ball and laid off a short pass to Campbell, near the corner of the penalty area, who tipped the ball between the defender legs and skipped around him, leaving no-one between him and the goal. Campbell headed for the bye-line, looked up and saw three Town players inside the 6 yard box, with no-one near them. He crossed low, but Chamberlain managed to parry the ball away between all three Town players.
Half time: Watford 1 Grimsby Town 0
And that was all the news that's fit to print as far as the first half is concerned, and probably more. It was generally poor, with Watford less poor than Town. That doesn't say much in the great scheme of things, does it? No praise is lower. Town were lucky not to be further behind, but at the same time a little unfortunate in the goal they had conceded, as there had, arguably, been a foul on Groves leading up to the shot that produced the corner from which they scored; and the ball had hit Galli on the arm. Very small arguments, but if your luck is in, the referee awards free kicks.
And that is what Town are reduced to - hoping for luck. With Taylor on the pitch Town played long ball, hit and hope football. It was rotten. The moment he walked off the ball came down and some semblance of football was attempted, with Coyne less eager to drop kick the ball. It looked better, but produced not much more. Town had looked reasonably solid through the middle of the pitch, with Raven and Groves coping well with very, very awkward opponents. Pouton and Burnett were not over-run, though they were not comfortable together.
Mr Willems' days must surely be numbered, as he was completely invisible until Watford scored, and it was his invisibility that was causing most of the problems. He was forever creeping into the middle, never looking behind him at the full back, or towards Pennant. Thus Gallimore was exposed time and time again to two opponents running towards him (and past him) at pace. Campbell produced one attacking moment and nothing else - his movement was very laboured and he was as ephemeral as Willems. Still, it was only 1-0. Anything could happen on the second half. Couldn't it?
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"I thought the ref was ok, mostly"
The report continues in the second half.
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