By Peter Conchie
Portsmouth 1 Watford 2
THE EDITOR of Portsmouth's club programme, Chimes, was indulging in some mischievous wish-fulfilment with the premature publication of the First Division table in his opening-day issue. In the absence of any points won or goals scored, Pompey appeared in 15th place while, by dint of name alone, Watford were in the relegation zone, above West Brom and Wolves.
Unintimidated by this alphabetical slight, Graham Taylor's team served notice that, come the end of the season, these positions are much more likely to be reversed.
The two clubs almost passed each other at the end of last season on opposite sides of the door marked relegation and promotion, with only a last-day win at Bradford preventing an inglorious exit for Alan Ball's side. In contrast, Watford's confidence is high; they were promoted as champions of the Second Division after only six defeats, and this residual self-belief will serve them well.
"I'm realistic enough to know that there are defeats facing us in this division," Taylor said. "This is the easiest division to get relegated from and the hardest to get promoted from."
If Watford continue to perform as they did at Fratton Park on Saturday, they should be safe on both fronts. On a glorious afternoon, on which the weather outshone the often poor quality of football, Watford pinched a win which, for most of the game, looked unlikely.
Portsmouth took the lead after 30 minutes. The Australian international, John Aloisi, last year's top scorer, jinked past his marker and placed a cool right-footed shot across Chamberlain from just inside the area.
With 10 minutes remaining, an extravagant own-goal by Andy Thomson brought Watford level. Then, with a little over five minutes left, Jason Lee nodded home after a deep cross from Bazeley, his gentle downward header beating Aaron Flahavan at the near post.
Both Ball and Taylor have spent thriftily over the summer. Portsmouth spent just pounds 200,000 to secure the Dane, Thomas Thogersen, from Brondby and the nippy Nikos Kyzeridis from the Greek side, Paniliakos. Watford, meanwhile, have the 31-year-old Democratic Republic of Congo international, Michel Ngonge, ready to step in for Lee should he be needed.
It probably will not be an easy - or particularly pretty - season for either of these teams or their high-profile managers, but Watford at least should survive. For Portsmouth, however, the proud chant of "Play up Pompey", which rang around the ground for almost the entire match, may have to be amended to a rather more sober "Stay up Pompey".
Goals: Aloisi (30) 1-0; Thomson og (80) 1-1; Lee (84) 1-2
Portsmouth (4-3-3): Flahavan; Vlachos, Simpson (Robinson, 81), Thogersen,Thomson; McLoughlin (Soley, 81), Hillier, Awford; Durnin, Kyzeridis (Pethick, 74), Aloisi.
Watford (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Kennedy, Hazan, Page, Mooney; Eaton, Hyde, Palmer (Millen, 79), Smart (Bazeley, 67); Rosenthal, Lee. Substitute not used: Noel-Williams.
Referee: F Stretton (Nottingham).
Man of the match: Simpson.
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