Johnson returns as Vialli era is forgotten
Watford 2 Grimsby Town 0
Sunday 13 October 2002
Watford fans could be excused for rubbing their eyes in disbelief this morning when they see that their team has risen to a lofty fourth place in Division One. But, yes, blink and look again, and the Hornets are still there.
Ray Lewington's side was helped by playing – and winning – when all of the six teams who started the day above them were excused duty due to the international fixtures. Nevertheless, Watford supporters might just start to believe that a return to the Premiership is not just something that belongs to their wildest dreams, even if this was as unconvincing a victory as it is possible to imagine, given the limitations of opponents Grimsby.
For the vast majority of the match Dominic Foley's goal proved to be the difference between the two teams. Tommy Smith's late, injury-time strike, after coming on as a substitute, gave an over-generous gloss to the scoreline.
But Lewington was taking nothing away from his players afterwards. He said: "It was a great result and we showed great attitude. We've had players out of position, and shown character and commitment to win the game. The players have been unbelievable." As if taking perverse heart from their financial problems, which have led to Watford's staff and players taking a euphemistically termed "wage deferral" in the past fortnight, the Hertfordshire club's fortunes have been on the up.
They extended their unbeaten run to seven games and a symbol of their regeneration, under the keen eye of the former reserve team manager Lewington, was the return of midfielder Richard Johnson. The Australian's last start at Vicarage Road was when Watford were last in the Premiership, back in April 2000 against Derby County. He picked up a knee ligament injury that was not properly diagnosed and did not play at all last season, but two operations later he has finally been able to resume his place in the first team.
The fairytale would have had Johnson playing a part in Watford's opening goal that came after 14 minutes, but instead it owed more to bad Grimsby defending and the alertness of Foley.
Danny Webber, the striker who is on-loan from Manchester United, forced a good save from Danny Coyne, leading to a corner. From the ensuing set-piece, the division's second-bottom side failed to clear the danger and Foley was there to complete the formalities from five yards.
That roused Grimsby and Stephen Kabba went close with a run and shot. The forward then chested down a cross into Stacey Coldicott's path, but the midfielder dragged his shot wide.
After Webber missed a glorious opportunity to double Watford's lead just three minutes after the re-start, Grimsby dominated without creating any clear-cut opportunities. Victory was sealed when the Mariners were caught pushing up and Smith ran clear of Iain Ward to steer his shot into the corner.
Watford 2 Grimsby Town 0
Foley 13, Smith 90
Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 13,821
Latest in Sport
Robin van Persie to Lekhwiya: Manchester United striker linked with switch to join Michael Laudrup in Qatar
Sam Allardyce sacked -Newcastle survive - Hull relegated - LIVE: Premier League reaction to Walcott hat-trick, Liverpool defeat, Steven Gerrard goal
Jules Bianchi update: Ex-Marussia driver in a 'stagnant' condition as he continues to fight for his life after F1 crash
Premier League 2015/16 kits: Confirmed and rumoured strips from Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and others
Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal turns to Valencia defender Nicolas Otamendi after Mats Hummels delay
- 1 Games of Thrones actor Lena Headey makes emotional promise to her unborn daughter
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland