The “lap of honour” at the end of the game was peculiar in the extreme. The stands were… not empty, but not thronging with acclaim as they surely would have been given any kind of performance on the day. It’s been a disappointing season, given the expectations we went in with… but it’s not been that bad for the most part. There have been good wins, good performances, and everyone wants to leave happy. As it was, those that remained were surely largely there for one man only.
Watford goalkeeper Scott Loach had earlier had an inspired 45 minutes to frustrate a dominant Birmingham in the first half. But Brendan Rodgers’ side were much improved after the break and could have gone ahead themselves before Jerome made the breakthrough.
A patchy performance saw Watford give as good as they got in the second half and left the manager grateful to his reserve goalkeeper, Colin Doyle, starting a league game for the first time this season. He turned a goal-bound Grzegorz Rasiak header past a post just after the hour.
A touching send-off for Mike Keen before kickoff, with the Birmingham fans adding their applause to that of everyone connected with the club he once managed. I wasn’t around in any meaningful sense back then, I’m afraid, but Simon Marchant was and you can read his tribute here.
In Lionel Birnie’s book ‘The 100 Greatest Watford wins’ he wrote about the decision to remove Ray.
This was the final game in Ray Lewington’s reign as Watford Manager.
Football is a game with ever-altering ambitions, where the only goals that never change are those at each end of the pitch. When the season started these sides will have shared the same aim but by the time this match ended their immediate desires will have been entirely opposite. One side are dreaming that their form will carry them out of this division while for the other precisely the same possibility forms a nightmare.
There’s a point, at about quarter to five on an otherwise sunny and bright and cheerful Saturday afternoon, when this becomes almost physically unbearable. While the rest of the country celebrates the arrival of spring, the effort required to maintain the connection between backside and plastic is virtually impossible, and the commitment to doing so utterly inexplicable. Only sheer paralysis causes eyes to remain focused on the pitch, rather than returning to concrete and feet, or being closed in torment or buried behind palms of hands.
An important home match in front of a sell-out crowd before two tricky, long distance away games, Watford had to win this. It was made even more vital by stupidly throwing away a two-nil lead against Leicester on Tuesday night. However, the ninety minutes which we witnessed were very bleak, and gave us little confidence in the now forthcoming relegation fight. A team lacking our star performer of recent weeks in Jay Demerit saw an unconvincing defence line up of Smith, Cox, Doyley and Chambers. Lewington played an unadventurous midfield line-up of Ardley, Mahon, Gunnarsson and Jackson. Webber partnered Helguson up front.
Ray Lewington shuffled his depleted deck of cards, still missing its ace of spades as far as the current situation goes in Sean Dyche, and also without the suspended Bryjar Gunnarsson, and came up with a 4-4-2 formation with four changes in personnel from the QPR game. Jack Smith came in for the hapless Jermaine Darlington. Lloyd Doyley returned to the fray, along with Danny Webber and Neal Ardley and we settled down to see what Watford were made of.
The physical presence of Forest’s defence made life difficult for Watford, though, and the closest Ray Lewington’s team came to hitting the target was when Johnnie Jackson steered his header wide from an awkward angle.