Taylor gets back to losing ways

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The Independent Online
Watford 2

White 2, Palmer 44

Ipswich 3

Uhlenbeek 48, Mathie 66, 82

Attendance: 11,872

Graham Taylor is not exactly a stranger to the ups and downs of football. His ascent to the England managership, after highly successful spells at Watford and Aston Villa, ended in dismay and ridicule. His short tenancy in charge of Wolves did not hing to arrest the descent, and yesterday his homecoming to First Division Watford ended in a profound anti-climax as he watched his bottom of the table team toss away a two-goal half-time lead to lose to Ipswich. Taylor, who had sounded a reluctant returnee in his press conference on Thursday, was emphatically reminded of the job facing him, although his role as general manager will eventually remove from him the burden of coaching. That will fall to Luther Blissett and Kenny Jackett, a point highlighted yesterday by Ta ylor's refusal to attend a post-match press conference - although in fairness he had announced this before the game. Instead, Blissett was sent in to face an element that Taylor persists in seeing as his tormentor, and a key factor in his fall from grace. The vegetable caricatures were certainly over the top, but Taylor's own fatal attraction to publicity, notablyin t he Channel 4 documentary, seemed to confirm a level of insecurity which his England teams began to reflect. Nothing could really be judged from Watford's performance yesterday, with only two wins in their last 22 games expectations must have been low, despite the affectionate welcome which Taylor received before the match as he linked hands with Blissett and J ackett to present the new management to the fans. Understandably, Taylor had had little time to familiarise himself with the present Watford squad, but several positional changes were instituted from the printed programme. However, for those with memories of the Ross Jenkins era, when the beanpole striker looked for the crosses of John Barnes and Nigel Callaghan, there must have been a sense of deja vu surfacing as the wardrobe-sized Devon White, once of Queen's Park Range rs, was flanked in a front line by the wide players Kevin Phillips and Gary Penrice. With a solid looking four-man midfield, in which Tommy Mooney caught the eye, Watford always sought to exploit White's aerial strength by directing as many crosses to him as possible. The pitch certainly gave no encouragement to the passing game, althoug h Blissett promised some restorative gardening in the near future. Fuelled by the crowd, Watford powered forward and although an early White tap-in was disallowed, the giant striker got the final touch to Phillips's cross after Ipswich failed to clear a corner. It was White again who headed down to set up an easy chance for Phillips, but the top scorer powered his shot against the bar from close range. Nevertheless, Watford claimed a second goal just before half-time, as Steve Palmer pounced on Richard Wright's fumbling of Mooney's free-kick. Memories of San Marino came back, however, as Ipswich began their fightback with a goal early in the second half. Not for the first time in Taylor's life, it was a Dutchman doing the damage as Gus Uhlenbeek advanced to skim home a low drive. The same pla yer's breakout and precise cross allowed Alex Mathie to head the equaliser, and with eight minutes remaining, Mathie ruined the party by slotting the winner inside the near post. Blissett expressed his satisfaction with the team's first-half performance, but like the club's life president, Elton John, emphasised that "new players may not be the answer". The new general manager may not be, either. Long road home, page 23

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