Memory Lane – Watford
This season, I am taking a walk down memory lane back through my 24 years and over 600 games of watching Palace.
For each home game, I am reflecting on the highs and lows that I have seen against our opposition. Some clubs, I have a rich history of great Palace moments, and for others, there has been limited encounters but I will try to capture the emotion, context and excitement of the Palace life.
Where on earth to begin with Watford? I’ve seen no fewer than thirty-two clashes against the Golden Boys. You can’t help but laugh can you? Whenever it’s really mattered, we’ve usually got the better of our bitter Hertfordshire friends – and they hate us! But who can blame them? FA Cup Semi Final, Play Off Final, a Troy Deeney own goal, last minute wins, a couple of thrashings. Even Emmaunel Adebayor, Stern John and Jermaine Easter have scored against them for goodness sake!
It hasn’t always been like that though. We failed to beat them in the first three times I encountered them and I’m honest enough to admit that the only draw we got was thanks to a Sasa Curcic dive – a real one rather than their bizarre whinging about the clearest penalty ever given at Wembley. And of course, they humiliated us in the Play Offs in 2006, which I’ll come to later, and followed that up with letting us have just one win in six, including knocking us out of the FA Cup in consecutive years. Although, you could argue that our Victor Moses inspired 2-0 win in that run was the most important clash as it pushed us into the Play Offs ahead of them in 2008.
As we all know, Zaha has terrified, tormented and traumatised Watford so much over the years that they hate him enough to bring a fan fare every time he visits them. Unfortunately, twice referees have been conned into booking him after clear fouls. But he’s the cheat?
Before that, it was Andy Johnson who got the wrath of the tamest crowd in England. Current Watford keeper, Ben Foster, was even filmed punching the air in celebration towards his admiring crowd at Selhurst after injuring AJ in 2006.
Still, they may have a drumming hornet who despises us and earned legendary status for being about the only thing connected with Watford to get one over on Zaha.
Palace…3 (John, Scannell, Danns)
30th March 2010, Championship
I’m going to be a little bit controversial here. I’m not going to pick either of our two wins at Wembley. Or our beautiful 5-1 away win that kick-started our path to promotion under Iain Dowie in 2004. I won’t even pick the glorious 2-1 turn around last season when after being dominated all match, we scored two in the dying seconds to snatch a Zaha-inspired victory.
My personal highlight was back in 2010.
21 Watford 38 -9 43
22 Crystal Palace 39 -5 39
23 Plymouth 39 -17 37
24 Peterborough 40 -26 30
We were in administration. We’d lost our manager. Our squad was tired. Our players were overused after playing midweek in ten out of eleven weeks. We’d just come off the back of six games without a win. We knew we had to win. Nothing else would do.
The away crowd were unrelenting. It’s certainly the greatest Palace atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of. Watford hit the woodwork three times in a first half they dominated but we didn’t give up in the terraces – and the players didn’t on the pitch. Stern John gave us a first half lead with a looping header. Early in the second half, Sean Scannell and Neil Danns pulled the game away from Watford, who continued to batter us. The irony of the woodwork helping us out for one of our goals was lost on no-one.
Later on, Lee Hills was sent off and Watford pulled one back but that only served to pull us all together. The away crowd were vocal, passionate and desperate. I was shaking throughout. And then there was what in my eyes was THE greatest Palace moment in my lifetime.
A Watford played attacked down our right and charged into the penalty area. As he went to shoot, Matt Lawrence and Paddy McCarthy slid in – loyal, hard, determined, devoted, heart-felt – and together they made a crunching block, tackle or whatever was needed. The away crowd roared. Immediately, the pair of them jumped up from the muddy turf, embraced in a powerful, body slamming hug, and clenched their fist in commitment towards the away end. The cheer and pride from the pitch, from the dug out, from the crowd, could be felt back in South London.
Here are Paul Hart’s memories of the night from my book, The Palace Addiction:
“What a game! I remember before the game keeping things pretty low key. I didn’t want to heap any more pressure on them than there already was. But we were definitely up for it. Much like the fans who were simply unbelievable. The game itself was a little too much ‘end to end’ for my liking but we had great resolve that night and although they had a few chances, we took our chances and finished brilliantly. After the game, although delighted with the result, I reminded the players that we still had a lot of work to do.”
6th May 2006, Championship Play-Off Semi-Final Leg 1
The 2005/06 season was an odd one. We had some great players and for brief moments in some matches, we played some superb football. But on the whole, we were utterly rubbish. Yet we finished 5th and made the Play Offs against Watford. How the Selhurst Park crowd cheered when we realised who we were to play. But not me. I’d seen us play Watford a few weeks previously. We may have won 3-1 but it was only thanks to two ridiculous own goals and a soft penalty, which Freedman needed a rebound to convert.
On the day, my Dad evicted me from my usual season ticket seat to house his new girlfriend (and future wife). I sat in the back row of the upper tier and felt miles away from the action as I hopelessly watched on while we capitulated in the second half. Ironically, we’d probably put on our best performance of the season in the first.
After the game, things got worse. I was 15. I wanted to rant and rave. I wanted to scream about Iain Dowie – I wanted to go on the BBS but I couldn’t. Dad took us all out for a family meal and told me off for being overly miserable!
My Personal Record of Live Matches Against Watford
- Played 35
- Won 15
- Drawn 7
- Lost 10
- Scored 48
- Conceded 37
- Home 15
- Away 15
- Neutral 2
Palace…2 Watford…2 (Division 1, 1999) – Tuttle, Curcic
Palace…0 Watford…2 (Division 1, 2002)
Palace…0 Watford…1 (Division 1, 2003)
Palace…1 Watford…0 (Division 1, 2003) – Shipperley
Watford…1 Palace…5 (Division 1, 2004) – Johnson (2), Routledge, Gray, Freedman
Watford…1 Palace…2 (Championship, 2005) – Ward, Johnson
Palace…3 Watford…1 (Championship, 2006) – Freedman, Own Goal (2)
Palace…0 Watford…3 (Championship Play-Off Final Leg 1, 2006)
Watford…0 Palace…0 (Championship Play-Off Final Leg 2, 2006)
Palace…0 Watford…2 (Championship, 2007)
Watford…2 Palace…0 (FA Cup R3, 2008)
Watford…0 Palace…2 (Championship, 2008) – Moses, Ifill
Palace…0 Watford…0 (Championship, 2008)
Watford…4 Palace…3 (FA Cup R4, 2009) – Hill, Danns, Ifill
Watford…2 Palace…0 (Championship, 2009)
Palace…3 Watford…0 (Championship, 2009) – Moses, Lee, Ambrose
Watford…1 Palace…3 (Championship, 2010) – John, Scannell, Danns
Palace…3 Watford…2 (Championship, 2010) – Ambrose, Garvan (2)
Watford…1 Palace…1 (Championship, 2011) – Vaughan
Watford…0 Palace…2 (Championship, 2011) – Zaha, Easter
Palace…4 Watford…0 (Championship, 2012) – Zaha, Martin (2), Dikgacoi
Palace…2 Watford…3 (Championship, 2012) – Garvan (2)
Watford…2 Palace…2 (Championship, 2013) – Ramage, Phillips
Palace…1 Watford…0 (Championship Play Off Final, 2013) – Phillips
Watford…0 Palace…1 (Premier League, 2015) – Cabaye
Palace…1 Watford…2 (Premier League, 2016) – Adebayor
Palace…2 Watford…1 (FA Cup Semi Final, 2016) – Bolasie, Wickham
Watford…1 Palace…1 (Premier League, 2016) – Cabaye
Palace…1 Watford…0 (Premier League, 2017) – Own Goal (Deeney)
Palace…2 Watford…1 (Premier League, 2017) – Sako, McArthur
Watford…0 Palace…0 (Premier League, 2018)
Watford…2 Palace…1 (Premier League, 2018) – Zaha