Football: Watford draw blank at the neighbours

Luton Town 0 Watford 0

The M1 derby - as some choose to characterise this meeting of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire - produced predictably heavy traffic last night before ending in equally predictable gridlock.

Watford, after all, are the draw specialists of the Second Division and their 14th in 26 League games leaves them on the fringes of the play-off zone. Luton, drained by recent exertions, remain second.

Watford arrived unbeaten in their past 20 games, while Luton had lost only three in their last 26. This, however, was Luton's fourth game in nine days - as a result of their enforced three-week lay-off - and they had had only two days to recover from a physically and mentally sapping 6-2 defeat in their FA Cup replay at Bolton.

For all the enthusiastic exhortations of the crowd, neither side was able to to attain any coherence. In the circumstances, the hundred or so red and yellow balloons released by the visiting fans formed something of a conversation piece as they turned Watford's left flank into an effective exclusion zone.

On the occasions when Luton's wide midfielder Des Linton managed to negotiate the bobbling hazards and cross the ball, Luton's left-back Mitchell Thomas proved dangerously capable of outjumping Watford's defence.

By and large, however, Watford's defenders performed capably, with 18- year-old Darren Ward composed and positive on his debut. At the other end, there were flickers of hope for Watford as Devon White twice broke clear of the home side's offside trap, but the Luton keeper Ian Feuer was alert to the danger.

Watford's forward prospects were diminished after 35 minutes, however, when their Republic of Ireland player David Connolly had to be replaced by Wayne Andrews.

It was not until the 56th minute that the first clear chance of the match occurred, as Graham Alexander's lay-back offered his captain, Steve Davis, a sight of goal but the defender skewed his shot wide.

Luton, nevertheless, appeared encouraged. After 62 minutes, Paul Showler's cross- cum-shot from the left troubled Miller in the Watford goal. The keeper had to react again two minutes later when Tony Thorpe, for once shrugging off Ward's attention, produced a shot on the turn which Miller did well to turn away.

Ward soon made up for that blemish, however. After the Luton substitute David Oldfield had burst past two players to set up Linton, Watford's young defender somehow managed to deflect a power drive over the bar.

Luton Town (4-4-2): Feuer; James, Davis, M Johnson, Thomas; Linton, Alexander, Hughes, Showler; Marshall (Oldfield, 61), Thorpe. Substitutes not used: Grant, Patterson.

Watford (4-4-2): Miller; Bazeley, Ward, Page, Gibbs; Slater, Palmer, R Johnson, Armstrong; White, Connolly (Andrews, 35). Substitutes not used: Easton, Noel-Williams.

Referee: M Pierce (Portsmouth).