Crystal Palace may not be in today's FA Cup fourth round draw, but their irrepressible manager Neil Warnock did not appear inconsolable after a game in which his team had succumbed to two towering headers either side of half-time by Watford's centre-half Dan Shittu.
While the Championship high-flyers celebrated their first home win since 20 October, Warnock whose post-match offerings more often resemble comedy riffs than press conferences produced yet another virtuoso performance in which he managed to offer Watford a classic back-handed compliment before claiming victory for himself. Not in the short term, you understand, but in the long term.
Warnock had indicated that he was not exactly up for the Cup by giving appearances to five teenagers and a reserve 'keeper, but he was quite rightly delighted with the way his youngsters acquitted themselves, notably his 15-year-old midfielder John Bostock and hyperactive 17-year-old winger Sean Scannell.
"I had a go at winning the Cup," Warnock said. "I went to the semi with Sheffield United and if I was in Watford's position I would have a go at it. I understand why they played a full team. I hope they win the Cup. But I felt there were more advantages for us to be blooding two or three lads at a difficult place. I think we did better out of it."
Before Shittu settled their nerves with his second goal, Aidy Boothroyd's team were twice outraged by penalty appeals that were turned down. But Warnock, with a gleam in his eye, had his own take. "I don't think any referee in the country could have a good game involving Watford," he said. "Because they haven't got time. They are too busy trying to keep up with where the ball is.
"The way Watford play is not outside the rules. I'm not saying its my cup of tea. I don't think they can change quite rightly, because it's a winning formula in the Championship, so why change? Aidy knows they will have to change slightly if they go up, though. West Bromwich and Watford are like chalk and cheese. If I had to pay to watch football I'd watch Arsenal. West Brom are the Arsenal of our League." And with that, our career diplomat was gone...
Goals: Shittu (28) 1-0; Shittu (65) 2-0.
Watford (4-4-2): Lee; Doyley, DeMerit, Shittu (Mariappa, 86), Stewart (Ellington 80); Smith, Francis, Williamson, McAnuff; King, Henderson (Priskin, 80). Substitutes not used: Poom (gk), O'Toole.
Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Flinders; Lawrence, Fonte (Hill, 80), Hudson, Hills; Morrison (Hall, 72), Fletcher, Watson, Bostock (Moses, 62), Scannell; Scowcroft. Substitutes not used: Martin, Freedman.
Referee: L Mason (Lancs).
Man of the match: McAnuff.
Call from Capello?
John Bostock (Crystal Palace)
With Palace's other teens, Sean Scannell, Lee Hills, Victor Moses and Ryan Hall, is one for after 2010 World Cup.Reuse content