Watford 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0: Young's 'winner' denied as Watford await first victory

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The Independent Football

Some games are all about ifs and buts, and this was a good example. If the referee's assistant had not disallowed what looked on re-inspection like a fair goal from Ashley Young four minutes before half-time for offside, Watford might have gained the first win of their new Premiership life. Or indeed, if the excellent Tommy Smith had been able to nudge an incoming cross under rather than over the bar from six yards out when it came to him in the first minute.

Then again, if Aaron Lennon, playing on the left rather than his habitual right wing, had managed to take any of the four chances his new role encouraged him to create, Tottenham might have earned their first away win in the Premiership this season.

As it was, this fitfully entertaining match left both managers contemplating their work in progress with a measure of satisfaction.

Adrian Boothroyd, under whose guidance the home team rose from the Championship last season, has the indefatigability of a born optimist - to him a cup is not even half full, but halfway to brimming over.

That attitude is imbued in a team of eager workers whose fitness levels are critical to the success of their operation. Boothroyd's airy assertion that his team are among the top three in the Premiership in terms of endurance and physical power may not be based on solid evidence, but his estimation is certainly borne out by the relentless pace at which his men operate.

"Physical conditioning is very important for us," Boothroyd said. "Last year we focused 60 to 70 per cent on physical fitness. This season there has been a lot more coaching, but it is still a big part of our game. I'll be happy when we are consistently winning. But at the moment we are consistently difficult to beat."

That was something Tottenham's Martin Jol acknowledged, although he made no secret of the fact that he felt his 19-year-old winger ought to have done better with the opportunities his speed and trickery had earned. "He's only young, but I would like him to score one out of four [chances]," Jol said. "It is a natural thing. Jermain Defoe probably had it by the time he was 15. But we will talk to Aaron. He is so talented and he will improve his scoring with practice."

At least one of Lennon's failures was more down to the success of Watford's Ben Foster, who produced a performance that is likely to keep him his place in the England squad, even if he still lacks the experience to be challenging the man who stood at the other end to him on Saturday, Paul Robinson, for the No 1 position.

Robbie Keane, too, might have done the trick for Spurs on a couple of occasions - notably in the 53rd minute, when he cleverly drew and beat Foster, only to see Watford's centre-back Jay DeMerit backheel a clearance over his own bar.

Boothroyd revealed that the final team talks at Watford are taken not by him, but by other members of staff or one of the players. The man doing the talking just before the players went out on Saturday was Tottenham's former manager Keith Burkinshaw. At 71, he clearly still knows how to connect.

Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Doyley, Shittu, DeMerit, Stewart; Smith, Francis, Mahon, Bouazza; Young, Henderson. Substitutes not used: Lee (gk), Mackay, Priskin, Powell, Al Bangura.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Ghaly (Murphy, 67), Huddlestone, Jenas, Lennon; Keane (Defoe, 76), Berbatov. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Davids, Gardner.

Referee: U Rennie (South Yorkshire).

Booked: Watford Bouazza.

Man of the match: Lennon.

Attendance: 19,660.

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