Football: Taylor owes victory to Lee

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The Independent Online
Portsmouth 1

Aloisi 30

Watford 2

Thomson og 80, Lee 84

Attendance: 15,275

GRAHAM TAYLOR was back in the almost big time of the First Division yesterday and boy did the former England manager like that. Last season's Second Division champions have a long way to go before they can hope to rejoin the elite, but Taylor's latest Watford side showed enough spirit in turning around a losing situation to prove they will not fail at this level.

For a long time it appeared that Taylor would have to concede defeat to a former England captain and World Cup winner as Alan Ball's Portsmouth led through John Aloisi's first-half goal until 10 minutes from the end. Then a freak own-goal by Andy Thomson and a header by Jason Lee in the 84th minute gave Taylor's men the winning start they craved.

Taylor said: "We only lost six games last season so the players were not use to facing defeat and although I can only talk from our point of view, I though we shaded it. It would be folly to chase promotion to the Premiership via the cheque book and that is why I largely stayed out of the transfer market.

"If we continue to build properly then, just as before, we may be able to challenge realistically in three years' time."

Ball saved Portsmouth from relegation by winning their last game last season and shares Taylor's mid-table aspirations for this season. But his side missed an excellent chance to start with three points after Aloisi had given them a deserved lead in the 30th minute. The Australian skipped inside a defender on the edge of the penalty area and struck a rising shot into the top left-hand corner.

Watford refused to concede defeat in the sapping sun but needed a stroke of luck to change the course of the game. Micah Hyde drove powerfully from the halfway line and Thomson skimmed a header towards his own goal without realising that the goalkeeper, Aaron Flahavan, was standing behind him.

Flahavan still looked startled in the 84th minute when he hesitated over a Darren Bazeley cross and allowed Lee to head in the winner at the far post.

Ball said afterwards: "I can take comfort from a lot of things in that game and don't forget that the match changed through a freak, fluke goal. The second was very disappointing because we were unprofessional and I've said a few harsh words."

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