When the final whistle went, a couple of the Watford players dropped to the ground as did a number of the Bolton players. They all looked dead on their feet and certainly those of us in the stands were completely drained. What a terrific game of football. There were ecstatic grins in the away end and hugs between friends and, most likely, complete strangers. The players came over and were greeted as the heroes that they were. Ighalo, Layun, Forestieri and Deeney thanked us by nipping over the advertising hoardings to give their shirts to the crowd.
Home ties with Leicester are becoming unmissable (remember this one? Or this one?), and this stood comparison with any of them. Indeed, if the quality of the football wasn’t always the highest, the level of excitement and drama was unparalleled. It was Prison Break as a football match, rejecting credibility in favour of a script that rolled ludicrously from one side to the other affording any number of dramatic cameos and contributions and leaving all those in attendance, surely, buzzing on adrenaline and reliving the highlights in their heads long after the match had finished. This, as I wrote after the corresponding fixture last year, was what you bloody go to football for.
Chelsea were given a huge fright in their first match since the departure of Luiz Felipe Scolari but a Nicolas Anelka hat-trick helped them bounce back to beat Watford 3-1 and advance to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
A tremendous effort all round. Losing to Chelsea is no disgrace for a side at the bottom of the second division, and if we rode our luck more than once we also came close to levelling the game at 2-1 down. Lots of good individual performances… the wonderful Jenkins, rejuvenated Demerit, unrecognisable Priskin, bullish (!) McAnuff. But the team worked, for the most part.
So, Preston then. And as I struggle to remember the game’s various events and talking points, one thing is clear above all. This was a good thing. Not just the performance (although it was surely one of the best of the season, if not the best) but for the number of factors that gave the more optimistic supporter something to smile about.
Taken from programme on 6th August 2005- Championship, Watford 1 Preston North End 2