4th December 2004- Championship, Watford 0 Stoke City 1

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.

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