Signs of Insanity

Herts Senior Cup, 1st Round
Hadley FC v Watford FC
Tuesday, 3rd December 2013, 7.45pm
Parkfield (Potters Bar Town FC)
Entrance £6, Programme £1
Distance 52 miles, Attendance 84
Whilst the oldest county cup is Cheshire’s – conceived five years after Watford Rovers FC and four after Hadley FC – the “Hertfordshire County Football Association Senior Challenge Cup” is the oldest running Association Football cup contested within our county. Taking only a six year break for The Great War, this great cup came back with a bang when Leavesden Asylum (insanely their third of four titles) beat Welwyn (well no wins actually).
More interestingly than the history of the cup, just prior to this momentous asylum victory, inmate Aron Modrke Kozminski passed away. Banged up for “solitary vices” Kozminski got a free-transfer from Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum to the mighty Leavesden where, it amuses me to think, he might have been pivotal in the earlier rounds; this though would’ve been far from his biggest claim to fame. Investigating the Whitechapel murders of “Jack the Ripper”, Chief Inspector Donald Swanson (any connection to Junior Hornets Ann I cannot verify) was not the only one to name Kozminski as one of the “strong suspects”.
Making an insane trip of my own – to satisfy my solitary groundhopping vice – as my wife came home, I sprinted for the car, pointed it towards the M25, during rush hour, with a reported accident clockwise causing serious congestion just before Potters Bar and – desperate to see the Academy boys play – for the first time in my life, put my trust in the loathsome satnav.
131203 HSC R1 Haldey v Watford (2)bTwo detours, 80 minutes and a couple of spins round the car park, later, I squeezed into a space and strolled through the turnstiles with a mere fifteen minutes to spare. Glancing about, there was no-one I recognised; there were surprisingly few people at all. What there was was a small clubhouse and changing rooms to my right, a pitch before me and, a youthful Hornets warming up in the ever-decreasing temperature and shiny red shorts.
131203 HSC R1 Haldey v Watford (11)bOn the nearside of the pitch stood a small stand, with dugouts and a covered area opposite. Behind the goal to the right a small covered terrace whilst at the other end sat just a hedge. By the time I’d located a team sheet, with the aid of some friendly locals, there was no time to circumnavigate the pitch before kick-off. So, once the sides reappeared, lined up and (to satisfy Platini) shook hands, I turned my attention west, along the perimeter fence. Out on the pitch before kicking off, the young Hornets huddled, touched hands and in true cheer-leader style yelled “GO HORNETS!”
It wouldn’t be the only similarity with the first team this evening but, I was suddenly distracted by commentary from the darkness behind the stand “…and Zola, on the ball…” In the gloom I could just make out an even younger boy re-enacting a few moves. The big little Hornet boys, emulating the gaffer, weren’t too bad either. Ok, it wasn’t as pretty as the first team but in defence, they were pleasingly more decisive.
In the fairly even, opening exchanges, Bobson Bawling’s interplay with Ollie Cox and Alex Jakubiak was a joy down the right; in the middle Luke O’Nien was determined and composed. Cox was first to get a shot in (wide) amid lots of encouragement from the bench. Hadley then swung a corner; clearing all the attackers it hit O’Nien’s foot and cleared the area. Next not to get on the end of a (low) cross was Jakubiak after some fine work by Bawling and Bernard Mensah.
Like the 1st team – set up 3-5-2 – the young ones were constantly encouraged to pass early. “Where’s the next one?” came the shout from the bench beside me, as if players were at the snooker table, thinking three or four pots ahead. The next pass, when it came, set Bawling free in the box but, his shot went wide of the right post, before Mensah, not for the last time, shot tamely to Hadley keeper Russell Garland.

131203 HSC R1 Haldey v Watford (26)b

Up the other end, Watford were fortunate not to go behind. Jordan Watson broke free, crossed and Sean Ridgway fumbled allowing the defence to salvage the situation. This was followed by two even better defensive moves. First Charlie Smith intercepted a through ball to Mensah then, Josh Doherty cut out a pass that would otherwise have split our rear line. Worried that I might miss something, I was relieved to find a Hitchin Town (seven cup wins) fan nearby filming the lot. Though I cannot for the life of me remember his name, he has a youtube account, which should shortly feature a great opening strike by O’Nien, who curled the ball round Garland’s left hand and into the bottom corner. Without thinking of parking the bus straight away, Chris Dillon’s corner was cleared at the near post soon after the restart and, the speedy Mahlondo Martin’s shot was deflected into the keeper’s path.
As the half finished Hadley were strongly pushing for an equaliser. A few corners on the bounce saw every Watford player back to defend, and Smith firing a shot high over the bar. Though our bench still seemed calm and encouraging, there was a clear need to calm down on the pitch too.
Against run of play the first half finished with Mensah unable to reach a through ball before the out-rushing Garland and then, Garland commandingly punching a corner clear. Watford may have been ahead but, Hadley weren’t out of the game yet. As we all dashed for the warmth of the clubhouse, it was a surprise to find players and supporters using the same toilets and, even more of a shock to find Bovril wasn’t on the menu.
131203 HSC R1 Haldey v Watford (29)Relieved to find the good stuff was kept under the counter, my hot drink and I had made it to the near corner in time to see Hadley kick-off the second period. Their first opportunity saw Watson tee-up Ridgway, whose shot was so far wide it almost hit me as I photographed a disused turnstile. Still Hadley pushed for an equaliser and, whilst Mensah miss hit his shot at the far end, Arie Ammann proved a fantastic shot stopper at this. He followed this up with the first part of a fortunate double goal line clearance and, then proceeded to command his area in a very pleasing manner.
Though we may have been behind without him, the three man back line also performed well; the sight of one – Alfie Young – being injured, treated and then soon substituted seemed worrying at first. Fortunately his replacement Harry Kyprianou was just as confident in his play.
By this time – with Watford in need of a second goal to halt the Hadley tide – Jakubiak had been replaced by Dennon Lewis. Mensah crossed went out for a goal kick, Lewis’ was deflected for a corner which Garland claimed comfortably and, anther two corners were delivered without success. They were trying but, so were Hadley and with twenty minutes left the game still didn’t look safe.
131203 HSC R1 Haldey v Watford (20)bWatson headed wide when unmarked, Shane Bambridge wasted a chance on the break and, Colin Metivier shot over. Even with all this, our defence looked to be just edging the battles; I was concerned with the ease with which Garland was dealing with our attacks, as Mensah again bobbled a shot into his arms. The bench were evidently seeing things differently as they encouraged Ammann to be clearer with his instructions “Arie, are we giving him information to deal with?” As Matthew Hall fed Kyprianou, under cries of offside, another shot found Garland’s grasp. The Hadley bench was not so measured in their appeals, directing ire at the lino “F**king ‘ell, we ain’t awe struck, like him”.
Soon the Hadley were throwing on subs to “get us buzzing again”. Amused at the time thinking one was called Tony (Hadley – sorry), I now find he’s Tobi. Anyway, Mensah soon hit the target – a clean header from a fine Lewis cross – O’Nien sent a free kick just over and, Ammann saved the day; stopping everything thrown at him.
131203 HSC R1 Haldey v Watford (32)bIt was a tidy win all in all. Not as pretty as the first team can be but, clearly they’re being coached to play the same. The score line may have been a little unfair on Hadley however, Watford had edge the game throughout. They’d kept a clean sheet, scored to good goals and been fairly decisive at the back and Ammann – who reminds me somewhat of Schmeichel Junior – performed faultlessly in goal. Safely past Hadley (no Herts Senior Cup wins to date), Watford (18) now face last season’s runners up, Potters Bar Town, back here at Parkfield.
Annoyingly shouting down his phone, as I wandered out, one chap – clearly distracted by the red of the shorts – described the young Hornets, “it’s like an Arsenal side…” I couldn’t be bothered to put him right however, its probably time now for others stopped making such comparisons. Of course I’d happily see things a little more Charles Reep at times but, this patient build up thing is clearly the new Watford way. Whilst it can be frustrating at times, under the Pozzos, its probably best we get used to it.
A three hour round trip, to stand in the cold, watching a youth team play in a minor cup competition, at a ground which mayor may not have piping hot Bovril, can seem a little odd but, having enjoyed a rather stress free evening supporting the Hornets, driving away, I mused over the lack of support afforded our fine Academy boys. Given only 274 (braver than me, souls) went to Burnley, what were the thousands of others were doing tonight…? Like booing you own side because the don’t win every game, or staying in when your team is playing cup football nearby, or even not turning out to see our fantastic stars of the future… that, really is a sign of insanity.

131203 HSC R1 Haldey v Watford (5)b

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