Here we go, here we go…!
Saturday 12th August.
Played 1 lost 1. Maybe my closed season pessimism is justified
as we slipped to a 2-1 defeat against Graham Taylor's Watford. Admittedly
they were a Premiership side last season but they finished bottom
of the pile and it is almost 12 months since they last enjoyed success
on their travels. All three goals were scored by Watford as they
gifted us an own goal to put us into a deserved 16th minute lead.
Kevin Gallen was given his full debut for Town playing up front
alongside Clyde Wijnhard with Martin Smith given a role wide on
the left but apart from this the side was very much the same as
the one that finished so miserably last season. After a few minutes
settling down, Town looked very bright in the early stages launching
a number of excellent attacks that caused the visitors defence a
number of problems. Jamie Vincent's well-placed free kick was punched
clear by Baardsen in the 4th minute as Gallen and Smith lurked to
capitalise on any mistake and Dean Gorré flashed a volley just over
the bar on the quarter hour mark.
Town took a worthy lead on 16 minutes when Watford's Steve Palmer
who appeared to be under little real pressure from Clyde Wijnhard
at the far post nodded in a Martin Smith cross from the left. It
seemed as though it would only be a matter of time before Town added
to their lead with a goal scored by someone in a blue and white
shirt, and Kevin Gallen looked pretty sharp and held the ball up
quite intelligently at times.
Unfortunately, Clyde Wijnhard had one of those games where his
shooting efforts were more threatening to the fans behind the goal
than the back of the net, although he did have a good scoring opportunity
blocked by the legs of Baardsen shortly after the goal. Town should
have doubled the lead shortly before the half hour mark when Kevin
Gallen was unlucky to hit the post and not the back of the Watford
net, and some of Town's play at this stage of the game was a bright
as the August sunshine bathing the McAlpine.
As the first half developed there was the inevitable feeling that
our 1-0 lead was not going to be enough, and sure enough Watford
equalised just before half time. Having had their first worthwhile
attack only a few minutes earlier, a Neil Cox shot from left side
of the penalty area seemed to deceive the diving Nico Vaesen and
appeared to bounce of his chest into the back of the net. With the
end of the half imminent, it was a shame they couldn't hold on long
enough to allow them to regroup during the interval.
The second half started with Watford on top as Town still looked
shell shocked following the injury time equaliser and the Hornets
scored a second within a couple of minutes of the restart. Michel
Ngonge who had a loan spell with Town at the back end of last season
(mainly in the treatment room) came on as a second half substitute
and had an almost immediate impact, threading the ball through to
the advancing Tommy Smith who slid the ball under Nico Vaesen to
finally wake up their 2˝ thousand or so supporters. Once again Town's
defensive frailties looked as though they might cost them dear as
the hangover from last season looked to be continuing into this
Once again Wijnhard had an opportunity to punish the visitors
but his 53rd minute shot was wayward (once again) and then Smith
failed with his attempted lob over Espen Baardsen. Town gradually
came back into the game but Bruce seemed reluctant to change things
around until he finally brought on Chris Hay in the 70th minute
for the luckless Clyde Wijnhard. Hay took up a position wide left
where he remained largely anonymous leaving Martin Smith to ply
his trade in his more traditional central attacking role, but for
all they huffed and puffed they couldn't find an equaliser. As Town
sought to restore parity, Simon Baldry was brought on to replace
the ineffective Kenny Irons in the 83rd minute followed 2 minutes
later by Ben Thornley for the tiring Kevin Gallen.
There were two late chances to salvage a point from the game,
but Jamie Vincent hoisted his effort high over the bar and then
Chris Hay had a fierce shot deflected over when it seemed to be
goal bound. I would be hard pressed to find a man of the match,
but Chris Holland definitely wouldn't be my choice as it took me
until about 10-15 minutes had passed to notice that he was playing.
I think my choice would have to be Kevin Gallen who got through
a lot of hard work up front without troubling the visitors keeper
too much, although for nowt we shouldn't expect Alan Shearer.
Despite the bright start, it became evident that the longer the
game went on we were desperately short of attacking ideas and I
still feel that Delroy Facey should get a game as he has an ability
to troubling defences with his aggressive running. A target man
must be a priority on the signings front, but with the money situation
being as it is purported to be there seems little chance of this
happening. We will have to be more effective next week against another
relegated Premiership side, Sheffield Wednesday or we will be in
danger of trailing the leaders by six points.
TOWN 1 (Palmer 16 o.g)
Watford 2 (Cox 44; Smith 47)
Position in table - 18th
Town - Vaesen; Jenkins; Vincent; Armstrong;
Lucketti; Holland; Gorré; Irons (Baldry 83); Smith; Wijnhard
(Hay 70); Gallen (Thornley 85). Subs not used - Margetson;
Watford - Baardsen; Cox; Robinson; Page;
Palmer; Mooney; Wooter; Smith (Gibbs 87); Ward; Perpetuini
(Ngonge 46); Nielsen; Subs not used -Chamberlain; Easton;
Referee - P Richards. Attendance 13,018