Watford stumble but maintain belief

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The Independent Online

Leicester City 1 Watford 0

Funny how labels stick. More than a decade has passed since unsophisticated Watford made their meteoric rise from Fourth to First Division and yet, at the mention of their name, it is still the long-ball method that took them there that comes to mind.

They finished second, only Liverpool between them and the 1983 Championship. Heady days, proud days. Or so one might have thought. Maybe not. Today, even with no money and the bottom of the new, inferior First Division looming dangerously close, it seems their mission to apologise for the past.

"Whatever happens, there will be no route-one for us," Glenn Roeder said. The Watford manager, like his Leicester counterpart, is committed to the passing style and has no thoughts of wavering. "We don't have the players for it and we don't need to. If we play as we did today we'll get out of trouble."

It was the theme for the day. "People look upon us as a team that like to play football, whatever the results," David Holdsworth the defender had said beforehand. "The days of Watford being known for their long-ball game have gone."

Which, last season, when they only just missed the play-offs, was all very well. This year, with three wins in 16 games, the outlook is less rosy. Amid talk of another fragmentation of the old Football League, now is not the time to be in the lower reaches of the First Division.

Watford and Leicester did not look, in Roeder's view, like two teams 16 points apart. But, ultimately, even a Leicester team weary from its third match in seven days were not broken down. The closest Watford came to a goal was at the death, when Kevin Poole pulled off a brilliant save to deny Kevin Phillips.

That moment made Leicester's afternoon, preserving a lead gained through Iwan Roberts's 15th-minute tap-in and maintaining second place in the section. By then holding on had become a desperate business.

It made the day especially for Poole, recalled in place of the pounds 750,000 Australian international goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac, who was dropped after a disastrous performance against Bolton in the Coca-Cola Cup. Poole, 31, has signed an extended contract in spite of being told that Kalac was hired to replace him. "I was disappointed but I just vowed I would get back in the team," he said. "The chance has come sooner than I expected."

Goal: Roberts (15) 1-0.

Leicester City (5-3-2): Poole; Grayson (Joachim, 74), Carey, Rolling, Whitlow, Blake (Philpott, 88); Taylor, Parker, Lowe; Roberts, Robins. Substitute not used: Gee.

Watford (5-3-2): Miller; Lavin, Millen, Palmer, Holdsworth, Mooney; Hessenthaler, Ramage (Johnson, 75), Caskey; Moralee, Phillips. Substitutes not used: Bazeley, Cherry (gk).

Referee: E Lomas (Salford).