Where to start, really. This was an absolute horror, make no mistake. The repercussions could be catastrophic. That there are positives to be drawn from the performance, that we have played worse, significantly worse, this season perhaps makes it all the more horrific.
The Watford manager Ray Lewington wished Scarborough good luck in a tone of comic pity, yet his own side took credit for the vim shown despite the unavailability of their injured forward Heidar Helguson. The Icelander was rumbustious in the 2-2 draw at Vicarage Road that had slotted into a sequence of troubled games for Chelsea.
This should be no surprise. After all, it’s what everyone expected to happen, what was tacitly being written into the history books before the game kicked off. The surprise was the draw in the first game, a game we might even have won… and the enormity of that achievement was only underlined by the degree to which we were ultimately outclassed in this replay.
This was astonishing. I mean, it was many things, and you can find a convenient list under “magnificent” in your thesaurus. But it was astonishing, first and foremost. There will be some comments about how the performance throws the rest of our under-achieving season into sharp relief, but they’ll miss the point. The point being that we could not possibly have expected eleven players to over-achieve in such an extraordinary manner. Not to that extent. Not for that long. Way beyond “spirited”, this was a brief and tenuous, but very real, bridging of that impossible gulf. It happened. Even more remarkably, it happened for ninety minutes.