Evening games. The atmosphere is so much more intense under floodlights. It's said that sound carries further and colours are more vivid at night too. In the case of Layer Road on a match night I can add that both of these also apply to smells. I'm not sure if being in a stand above the toilets and one of the catering outlets has anything to do with it, but the heady aroma of these things was ever present during the match against table-toppers Watford.
One of the most eagerly awaited matches this. Watford were on a downward roll after we shocked them 2-2 at their place less than a month ago. Three consecutive defeats have followed that and we were fresh from an away victory at Sheffield Wednesday last Saturday. Sadly that was enough to relegate Teddy Sheringham to the bench until late in the game - we can't expect too much from the old boy can we?
We've had a thing about beating high flyers in recent times. Last season for instance we got the better of Derby in a 7 goal thriller, kept the ball rolling in early November by beating Cardiff (then top of the table) during 'Our Home Run', held Birmingham to an exciting 1-1 draw here and put an end to Sunderland's unbeaten run when they had just about clinched the Championship. Notice that three of those teams are now in the Premiership. That's right, we don't respect table position so tonight's game was there for the taking and inside half an hour we were two up.
Then a familiar thing happened. A crack, as big as the one in the Tate Modern, appeared in our defence and it stayed there for the rest of the game. Two goals for the Hornets just before half time and they came out buzzing in the second half. A third just after the hour and we were playing catch up for the rest of the game.
The half-time entertainment was a stream of people who just wanted to stand in front of the crowd. Not sure what was supposed to happen but we did applaud the efforts of the fundraisers from St Helena Hospice, and one or two others, but the announcements went on a bit too long at times and we just lost the will to clap. Especially after our hopes of a draw in the crossbar competition were resting on a young lady who was allowed to place the ball 10 feet closer than everyone else. Yes, she blasted the ball 10 feet over the bar!
We struggled to get back into the game and it was a disappointing end to what promised much more for us. It was our own fault - we didn't compete enough or play as a team at key moments. The game wasn't helped by the interference of a certain Mr Kettle, the match referee. He played his own game. He took his time over his own decisions yet penalised time-wasting, over-ruled his assistants, booked 7 players, and in the words of Mr Williams in his post-match interview the referee was 'a good advertisement for himself tonight'. Interestingly Mr Kettle and his assitsants were dressed in Watford's home colours! I did say something stinks tonight!