…festive cheer has been spread throughout Hertfordshire and beyond by a sequence of results on the 26th December that (excluding today, but you can do your own maths) has seen us score just once in response to ten goals against. Because football doesn’t work like that, there’s a solitary win over Bristol City in 1998 – Gifton Noel-Williams by the corner flag, and all that – to confuse matters, but anyone looking for further highlights would have to make do with a couple of postponements. Or three nil-nil draws, including that one against Notts County and one at Wycombe twelve months later that has apparently (until now) been expunged from history in order to spare anyone from having to recall it.
Perhaps the true measure of the strength of any club’s youth set-up is how many players progress to professional status, whether at their own club or elsewhere. Just as Ray Lewington’s fledglings have been getting attention for helping Watford reach the semi-finals of the Carling Cup, it was old boy Gifton Noel-Williams who undid them with the only goal of this game.
Given that we had to play a fixture on the Saturday after the cup heroics, I don’t know who I’d have rather we faced. A weak, but attacking side, short on confidence, short on aerial ability, yet suicidally adventurous when in the lead. There’s not many of them about. Those are not, er, typical characteristics of sides in this division; more to the point, they are completely the reverse of how Stoke play. And they have Gifton Noel-Williams, a former player and thus guaranteed to play well against us. So it was easy to be negative about this game, with the likelihood of a Lord Mayor’s After Party very slim, and the home support mainly concerned with singing about future trips to Anfield or even farther away. It’s rarely a chore, though, watching this Watford team, and it took a long time to rule out the possibility of another great result in this most gratifying of seasons to be supporting them.