Tuesday, November 9, 2004
Watford vs Southampton
League Cup - Tuesday November 9, 2004
Vicarage Road
Watford are through to the quarterfinals of the Carling Cup after a dominating display over Southampton, ending Southampton manager Steve Wigley's 4 game unbeaten run with a 5-2 victory.

Jay DeMerit began the match the bench due to the return from injury of Neil Cox, whom DeMerit had replaced in central defense over the last 4 games, but the American would see action in the second half.

Although the game ended with a lopsided scoreline there was really nothing much between the two sides at the beginning of the first half, as both made it clear that they intended to attack the goal early on.

The first real scoring opportunity was given to Watford's Brynjar Gunnarsson in the 6th minute, after receiving the ball at the top of the box and attempting a low, rolling shot that was unlucky to go just wide of the left post.

Although Southampton were staying competitive, it wasn't until the 20th minute until they had a chance of their own.

Sweden international Andreas Svensson sent a 35 yard free kick diagonally across the box, right on line to three unmarked Southampton attackers at the far post, inexplicably none of whom were able to even make contact with the ball.

That would prove to be Southampton's last real scoring opportunity for just under an hour.

But Watford quickly regained confidence in their attacking abilities, and two minutes after Southampton's wasted chance there were appeals for a penalty kick.

Bruce Dyer was taken down in the box by Claus Lunekvahm to prevent a one on one opportunity with Antii Niemi's stand-in, Alan Blayney. Though the penalty was not given, Watford used the momentum to their advantage and dominated the rest of the first half, throwing crosses and through balls at the Southampton defense, and peppering Blayney's goal with shots.

Finally, four minutes from half time, Watford broke the deadlock with a brilliantly orchestrated set piece.

After being awarded a 40 yard free kick slightly to the left of the goal, Watford's Neil Ardsley floated a perfect ball right to the head of an unmarked Dyer, who flicked the ball past Blayney and into the side netting of the far post.

Southampton, visibly shocked after going behind, tried to pull one back before half time, but all of their efforts came to nothing by the time the whistle blew.

Looking for an injection of new energy into his team, Wigley inserted Either Leander for the ineffective Mikael Nilsson at central midfield. Unfortunately for Wigley, Leander proved to be just as ineffective, and the second half was to be just as bad, if not worse, than the first.

Watford were on the board again in the 50th minute thanks to a good example of being in the right place at the right time.

A Watford corner kick, having drawn Blayney off his line, somehow managed to go though the mass of bodies in the center of the box and land right at James Chambers' feet at the far post. All he had to do was tap it in, and Watford was up 2-0.

Chambers would strike again in the 60th minute, this time as the benefactor of a determined Dyer who, upon receiving the ball right on the edge of the endline, dribbled vertically through 2 Southampton defenders, slipped and fell, got back up, and laid it off to not one, not two, but three Watford players, all of whom were completely unmarked in the center of the box.

Chambers was one of those three, and it was his shot that found the back of the net to give Watford a commanding 3-0 lead.

But they weren't finished.

Just 5 minutes later, the Southampton defense showed more of their organizational weakness, allowing a 50 yard ball by Gunnarsson find an unmarked Gunnar Helguson in the left corner of the penalty box. Helguson hit a spectacular side-footed volley into the top right corner of the goal, fooling Blayney, and delighting the Watford faithful with a 4-0 lead.

Southampton didn't show any signs of life in the second half until Brett Omerod latched onto a through ball in the box in the 76th minute. Richard Lee was up to the challenge, however, and did well to take the ball off of Omerod's feet before he had the chance to do anything with it.

From then on, Watford seemed content to stay back and defend, and Southampton took advantage by mounting what ended up being their only meaningful wave of attacks in the game.

These attacks climaxed in a Leander cross that found Dexter Blackstock on the other end to put away the consolation goal. However, that consolation quickly turned to another disappointment as Watford scored again less than a minute afterwards.

A bad giveaway in the center of defense allowed the substitute, Hameur Bouazza, to fire in his team's fifth goal of the game.

Jay DeMerit came on for Neil Cox after the goal, and was involved in the last Southampton attack, a goal-line scramble in the 89th minute that saw Omerod push the ball, as well as a few several players into the back of the net.

The last goal will be of little consolation to Steve Wigley though, who placed the blame for the defeat just as much on himself and the coaching staff as the players.

"It was a horrific performance and a horrific result," the gaffer said at the postgame press conference.

"We took this competition seriously, we fielded a strong side, and, we just didn't perform as a group: me, the players, and everybody. The fans are more than within their right to vent their anger tonight because of our performance."

Wigley, brushing aside claims that his job could be on the line, is now looking forward to next week's derby clash with Portsmouth "I've never been one to walk away from things in the past, and as for now, I'm getting the team ready for Sunday," He said.

Ray Lewington, Watford's manager, spoke about how he instructed his team to approach the second half.

"We wanted to go out there and get our intentions in first in the first 5 minutes. Close them down, and get a few tackles in to show them that we're not just going to sit back."

"We got a good chance with the second goal, and we took it. From there it was just the players' confidence."

Now, having used home field advantage to get them as far as the quarterfinals, Lewington can look forward to the draw for the next round in the competition, with only one request.

"We'd like it here."

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