We started smartly and very positively, no punting to the touchline this week, just some neat simple passes which reaped almost instant rewards – though not from Eagles’ first touch forty-five yards out, despite this being greeted with cries of “Shoot!” Our first attack won a corner and led to the Hammer’s best effort of the whole match, which whistled past the far post after less than a minute’s play. But almost for the next eighty-nine, it seemed, the ball avoided the muddy pitch as much as possible, and was thus at the wind’s mercy. Despite spending most of the first half in the Cardiff penalty area, it also avoided the net, despite us forcing corner after corner, and some great crosses coming in from Eagles on the right. Cardiff’s defending was frantic early on, the ball even winding up near my old seat in the Upper Rous, which is more than it ever managed when I sat there week after week a few years ago. Where Darius would normally be alongside Marlon, up stepped Malky Mackay, and his was the eleventh minute header that first looked like breaking the deadlock. It beat Cardiff keeper Alexander, unlike many later efforts, but rebounded off the bar and Demerit couldn’t get his own header past Alexander’s impressive reach.
Watford were hanging on for half-time against lowly Brighton when Eagles moved on to a header from the home goalkeeper and drove the ball straight back into the unguarded net from around 45 yards. “Chris didn’t have very far to run back to the halfway line, that’s for sure,” said the manager Adrian Boothroyd.
“We’ll never play you again!” chirped the chorus, briefly and tediously. There was a time when that was very nearly true. Not now, you suspect: you wouldn’t want to book your hotel for next season’s Brighton versus Watford fixture, but we’ll be back before too long, unless Adrian Boothroyd’s implausible journey becomes more extraordinary still. Perhaps the truth is that we’ll never play here again. Perhaps we’ll return to a club with its future certain and secure, at long last.
Watford are the form side in the Championship and they continued their good run with a victory romp inspired by Ashley Young. He opened the scoring and set up goals for Marlon King and Darius Henderson before Jay DeMerit wrapped up the points.
Eleven goals in three games, five wins in a row, third in the table and Sheffield United suddenly looking human and utterly catchable meant that the challenge provided by the arrival of Coventry City, on a good run themselves, was clear. Could Boothroyd keep his players’ feet on the ground, stave off complacency and follow up the excellent win at Bramall Lane with another three points? More questions being asked of this Watford team, and more answers being emphatically provided.
We were seated, for the first time in a number of seasons, in the lower tier behind the goal and whilst the view was still reasonable the lack of ceiling to trap and project the noise did little for the atmosphere in the away end. Nor did its sparse population, particularly out on the flanks where we were situated… the prospect of a longish midweek trip for a game on Sky in February had been enough to leave plenty of spaces in seats around us, giving the stand the air of our away ends during Kenny Jackett’s season in the Third Division nearly a decade ago. On the pitch, however, things have moved on quite a lot since then…
If the first half was a welcome surprise, the second half is nothing short of exceptional, perhaps the finest forty-five of the season. Within moments of the restart an excellent looping ball out of midfield gives Marlon something to chase and he charges past the hapless defender, brings the ball inside and crashes it into the net. 2-0! I am kneeling in front of the TV arms aloft, vaguely aware that Mate and Wife are probably making faces behind my back, but who cares. 2-0!
100 Greatest Watford Wins- No.66: The Blades were second in the table, ten points behind Reading but 11 ahead of Leeds. Watford were third, lurking but unfancied. Neil Warnock’s side were in for a hammering. Chris Eagles scored early on. After 25 minutes United had David Unsworth sent off for pushing Eagles in the face. Even against 10 men, Watford came under heavy pressure but they defended well and administered stinging blows on the counter attack.