Taylor trips on yellow brick home

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: England's former manager suffers familiar fate but Anfield old boy shows promise
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The Independent Online
Watford 2 Ipswich Town 3

"Where do you want me, back against the wall?" This was not, as you might expect, Graham Taylor talking, but Luther Blissett, suddenly elevated from Watford's commercial department to the position of joint-coach, as part of the former England manager's return to the club where he made his name.

Taylor, perhaps sensing the inevitability of a media ambush, had let it be known before the game that he would not be giving a post-match conference, so it was Blissett who walked into the white room after seeing Watford surrender a two-goal half-time lead to a storming second-half fightback by Ipswich.

Taylor had held hands, Brazilian-style with Blissett and his fellow coach, Kenny Jackett, on the pitch before hand, and is plainly preparing his exit from the front-line trench warfare of football. He vowed in his programme notes that: "whatever happens, come the end of the season, I am taking my track suit off."

The message to the Watford fans, who gave him the sort of adoring ovation he must have long forgotten, seems clear - that Taylor, in his role as general manager, will have himself cast neither as Messiah nor martyr. Taken together with life president Elton John's veiled warning that he would not be putting his hands into his pockets like last time, it seems that Watford, seven points adrift at the bottom of the First Division, will try to survive by making the best of what they've got.

"New players may not be the answer," Blissett cautioned, dampening whatever expectations had been left after this morale-crushing defeat.

In many ways, the game was a microcosm of Graham Taylor's career - an ebullient first-half performance, based on determination and effort, followed by a catastrophic collapse of confidence and organisation, in which a Dutch player was a prime tormentor.

Gus Uhlenbeek, the Ipswich right-back, was involved in all three of their goals, scoring the first with a low drive. He later produced a 50-yard run and a precise cross for Alex Mathie to head home, and then provided the pass which Mathie struck home for their late winner. "They could have had five," Elton John, who was attending his first home game in five years, conceded afterwards, "they hammered us."

Watford had two goals disallowed as well as the two they scored. First, Devon White slithering in to get the last touch on Kevin Phillips' low cross, and then Steve Palmer pouncing in the goal mouth after Ipswich goalkeeper, Richard Wright, had spilled Tommy Mooney's free kick.

Goals: White (21) 1-0; Palmer (44) 2-0; Uhlenbeek (48) 1-2; Mathie (66) 2-2; Mathie (82) 3-2.

Watford (4-4-2): Miller; Gibbs, Holdsworth, Millen, Barnes; Penrice (Bazeley, 62), Hessenthaler, Palmer, Mooney (Ramage, 71), White, Phillips. Substitute not used: Foster.

Ipswich Town (4-3-1-2): Wright; Uhlenbeek, Thomsen, Vaughan, Taricco; Stockwell (Scowcroft, 82), Mason, Sedgley; Milton; Mathie (Gregory, 89), Marshall. Substitute not used: Wark.

Referee: P Richard (Preston).

Booking: Ipswich: Taricco.

Man of the match: Mathie. Attendance: 11,872.