GRAHAM TAYLOR'S first thought, when he heard that Watford had to go to White Hart Lane in the FA Cup, was that it would be a good measure of the First Division club's progress since he returned. He was unaware that George Graham had much the same idea. Graham had been stung by suggestions that Spurs had an easy ride against a weakened Manchester United in the Worthington Cup and badly wanted a positive reply in the more searching competition. Sure enough, it was a match in search of weaknesses, and frenetic, with Watford scoring after 53 seconds to test Tottenham's resolution virtually from the kick-off. And at the end it was Taylor who answered for both managers. "I always knew we had some way to go," he said. "We're not a bad team, but Spurs are not far off being exceptional. You only have to look at the back line to see George's influence; and Ginola... we knew we couldn't sit back and watch him play, but I could do that all day."
Ginola was decorative and destructive, stretching and diverting a none too well orientated Watford defence, but the key to Tottenham's recovery was Darren Anderton, whose reliability in his passes and centres turned the game.
Curiously, while Watford could be forgiven for not having the guile to counter Anderton and Ginola's skills, Les Ferdinand's power, and the overview of Allan Nielsen, their eventual downfall was an inability to counter something far more predictable: set-piece situations. Yet, for being caught out the most spectacularly, Spurs took the trophy.
That goal within the first minute was a relapse into the worst of the carelessness that a year ago was almost a disease. Ben Iroha brushed past a slowly retreating midfield and defence before hitting the bar. Richard Johnson, who as a 16-year-old was turned down by Spurs, completed the tap in with revengeful delight.
Graham stormed to the touchline long before the hailstones and lightning gave an already dramatic match a theatrical backdrop. Spurs snapped to attention. Practice-ground routines came to their rescue, allowing Ginola to perform his dazzling improvisation. After 10 minutes fending off Watford's burst of ambitious energy, Anderton played a short corner to Ruel Fox, who crossed for Steffen Iversen to head in.
Giving away a penalty when Steve Palmer handled from Anderton's free- kick was another example of Watford's susceptibility to dead-ball challenges, and once Anderton had put that away he relished another chance to place a corner into the Watford gap, this time for Iversen to score from Ferdinand's knock-down. Taylor confessed that, at 3-1, he could see Spurs strolling away. However, it was Peter Kennedy who strolled upfield to head in from Darren Bazeley. By then, though, Tottenham had confidence but they were grateful for a slovenly clearance by Micah Hyde, which offered Nielsen a successful 20-yard shot.
All of that in the first half. So, predictably, the second was comparatively tranquil. Ginola did everything but talk the ball in, and offered the centre that led to Fox scoring Spurs' fifth.
Goals: Johnson (1) 0-1; Iversen (11) 1-1; Anderton (14, pen) 2-1; Iversen (20) 3-1; Kennedy (34) 3-2; Nielsen (43) 4-2; Fox (87) 5-2.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Campbell, Young, Sinton (Edinburgh, 86); Fox, Nielsen, Anderton (Clemence, 66), Ginola; Iversen, Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: Calderwood, Allen, Baardsen (gk).
Watford (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Iroha, Palmer, Page, Robinson; Bazeley, Hyde (Rosenthal, 46), Johnson, Kennedy; Noel-Williams, Smart (Wright, 65). Substitutes not used: Day (gk), Hazon, Gibbs. Referee: P Jones (Leicester).
Bookings: Tottenham: Carr. Watford: Iroha.
Man of the match: Ginola.