Watford 0 Tottenham 0: Smith's howler lets lacklustre Spurs off the hook

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The Independent Football

The good folk of Vicarage Road are still at that exciting stage of their new life in the top division where they cheer the winning of corners, or even throws. Just as well, since the winning of matches continues to elude them, though they are rapidly establishing themselves as the Premiership's draw champions, six of them now in 10 games.

However, they could and should have done better against a lacklustre Tottenham so devoid of urgency, commitment and, it appeared at times, interest that their manager, Martin Jol, admitted the only positive achievement of his team had been to keep a clean sheet. "We could have nicked it, but I can't say we deserved to win," he said.

Jol was spot on there. Heaven knows what Keith Burkinshaw made of it. The best Tottenham manager since Bill Nicholson, the 71-year-old is now assistant at Watford, and he was on the side of the better, if not better quality, club yesterday.

For the ever-ebullient Adrian Boothroyd it was "a solid performance." He went on, "We are becoming a difficult team to beat, and that's the prerequisite of being a good side. It is another point, another claw up the table."

What Watford, and those fans, really, really want is the double boost of goals and victory. While he insists that it will happen, Boothroyd conceded, "We are starting to wake up and realise this is real life." They would have had a goal but for an offside flag, though replays indicated that Ashley Young was onside just before half-time when he latched on to Jordan Stewart's through ball to send it past Paul Robinson. "I am hoping these things even themselves out over the course of a season," said Boothroyd.

Boothroyd's further contention that "we are in the top three in the League fitness-wise" was borne out by the way Watford hurled themselves into action and never flagged until the dying minutes. What was surprising was that Spurs should be startled by this, as if the video machine at their training ground had broken down last week.

Indeed, they could have been a goal behind in the first 10 seconds as from the kick-off, Tommy Smith jetted down the right for a cross which Michael Dawson's head reached just ahead of that of Darius Henderson, again deputising for the injured Marlon King. Smith spoiled his bright start by shamefully scooping over from point-blank range when Lloyd Doyley's athletic reach of the ball at the far post dropped it in front of him.

Still Spurs did not react, their midfield strolling around as if it was practice time, and it was left to Robbie Keane to stroke a fine through ball for Aaron Lennon, operating on the left, to chase. The alert and excellent Watford goalkeeper, Ben Foster, narrowly beat him to it.

Robinson did well to repel a fierce Damien Francis effort from 20 yards just before Young's disallowed strike, but in the second half, for all Watford's chasing and eager harrying, the best chances fell to Tottenham.

Keane's heel flick carried him past Foster and his curling shot from the sharpest of angles looked on the way in until Jay DeMerit somehow got back to nudge it over. Lennon's switch to the right gave Spurs better balance and he should have claimed the winner when he charged down a Stewart clearance, found himself in the clear and shot hard and true.

Foster's save knocked the ball downwards with such force that it bounced over the bar. So luck has not entirely deserted Watford this season.