Football: Mooney shines through again

Watford 1 Bradford City 0 Mooney 71 Half-time: 0- 0 Attendance: 15,564: FA Premiership: Unity and an underrated striker help Watford to second successive victory
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The Independent Online
THE OVER ACHIEVERS of Watford continue to perform above their station. For the second successive Saturday, a combination of resolve, collective determination and their underrated striker Tommy Mooney enabled them to overcome opponents of greater means but weaker spirit by simply playing as a team.

Bradford, promoted alongside Graham Taylor's Watford last season, will have to do better than this if their season is to be anything but miserable. But Taylor, who is not a man to lose his sense of perspective after only four games, said: "We've started with six points out of 12, so we're 50 per cent unsuccessful. Every win is very important for us. The three points we got at Liverpool was a tremendous result - it's there in the history books - but the three points here against Bradford are just as important."

The first half began in a fashion as disorganised as Watford's opening game against Wimbledon a fortnight ago with the ball rattling around midfield. Michel Ngonge, the 32-year-old Democratic Republic of Congo international, chased the ball with enthusiasm but in the opening quarter of an hour rarely looked like catching it up. But Ngonge was too swift for his colleagues, on one occasion finding himself on the opposition by-line with no Watford player as near as the 18-yard line in support. Another run two minutes later saw Mooney's volleyed attempt at the far post skew high and wide.

Bradford, for their part, were attempting to construct tidy triangles between Peter Beagrie, Wayne Jacobs and Lee Mills on the left but their pretty shapes were spoilt by robust and attentive Watford defending. Micah Hyde motored around the home midfield to good effect, proving himself an able temporary replacement for Richard Johnson, who is out for a month with a knee injury following a heavyweight challenge at Anfield.

One delightful skip left a gaggle of disorientated defenders sunning themselves in a prone position on the Vicarage Road turf, but his attempted chip from outside the area drifted wide.

Despite finishing above Watford when both teams were promoted last season, Bradford, displaying more First Division habits than their hosts, lacked cohesion, direction and ambition. The confidence of Chris Day in the Watford goal dipped after mistakes against both Wimbledon and Sunderland in their opening two games. But last week's fine display at Liverpool has helped to restore his self-esteem and yesterday he was especially assertive when dealing with Bradford's occasionally threatening crosses from the left. He also made an important save when Beagrie cut inside his marker just before half-time.

The second half opened with a sporadic period of Bradford pressure but Watford soon picked up where they had left off at the interval. A lovely cross-field ball from Robert Page found Des Lyttle, who jinked between two defenders before his shot was blocked by goalkeeper Gary Walsh for a corner.

As the second half progressed, the Bradford forwards, Dean Windass and Lee Mills, saw more of the ball. Dean Saunders came on as a substitute after an hour and soon afterwards John Dreyer's header was cleared off the line by Mark Williams.

Watford, though, regrouped and from a Peter Kennedy cross Mooney, seemingly dormant for the first 25 minutes of the second half, headed emphatically past Walsh. The excellent Kennedy then attempted to finish the contest off in style with a powerful left-footed drive from 25 yards before the Bradford substitute Gareth Grant was sent clean through, to the horror of 15,000 residents of Watford.

Even though he pushed the ball past Day - who in his only mistake of the afternoon had rushed rashly from his goal - Page effectively sealed Watford's three points with a heroic tackle.

Paul Jewell, the Bradford manager, said: "They deserved it more than us. We were off the pace and didn't function all the way through." Neither will Jewell be cheered by the prospect of his side's next fixture - a trip to Highbury on Wednesday.

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