report: how’s that for a bit of perspective. For all that watching our team in recent weeks has been a bit like building a house of cards on a draughty window sill, we’ve never looked as utterly lamentable as QPR did this afternoon.
This was an emotional day for those in Watford’s goal. Ben Foster played the final game of his two season loan spell from Manchester United. He was substituted in the 90th minute for Alec Chamberlain who came on for the last game in a career that spanned 25 years and 678 appearances, over 250 of them for Watford. The one minute cameo made Alec the second oldest Premier League player ever at 42 years 327 days only beaten by Manchester City’s John Rudge who was 43 when he played for them in 1995. Alec continued to work at Vicarage Road as a goalkeeper coach until 2017. Ben Foster, of course, would return to Watford in 2018.
For Watford the mixed double of reaching an FA Cup final while being relegated remains a possibility although on the evidence of this error-strewn fifth-round victory over Ipswich their chances of staying in the Cup are only marginally better than their prospects of remaining in the Premiership, and those are slim indeed.
Joe Mercer used to say, when captain of Arsenal, that any true professional should be at the point of exhaustion by the final whistle. No team I have recently seen more epitomised this maxim than Ipswich when undeservedly losing to Watford.
Just before the full-time whistle, it was announced that Aidy Boothroyd would like the fans to stay behind for a few minutes after the game for a special word… What actually transpired was a practice penalty shoot out: a team of yellow against a team of red. Aidy asked the crowd to boo and create a “hostile” atmosphere which was fun, to say the least. I won’t list all the takers but Marlon King scored (top right corner, unsaveable), Theo Robinson scored (just like Marlon, could be good that kid), Gavin Mahon missed (which could be a blessing), Matthew Spring scored (after being treated to a chorus of “scum, scum, scum” followed by his usual song), Alec Chamberlain missed (a very unpopular result) and some others scored, some missed. Yellow won.
In recent years, Reading have snatched the best of the points in these fixtures, but this season, under Adrian Boothroyd – not so long ago referred to as ‘who?’ – Watford have come up with a much better challenge.
After a successful start to the season against some mid-table teams, Reading were the first promotion-challenging side that Watford were to encounter, our toughest test so far, and a good sign of where the team would end up at the close of the season. It would also show that certain players, who had been questioned for their ability and right to a place in the starting line up, were more than able to play extremely well in this league, and prove their doubters wrong. This was an important match for everyone, it would tell us a lot about the new Watford FC.