Watford have faced their sort-of-near-neighbours Tottenham Hotspur four times in the FA Cup. And lost every single tie. The teams first met in 1922, Spurs winning 1-0. In 1939, Watford were spanked 7-1. And in the most recent FA Cup meeting between the teams, in 1999, Spurs won 5-2. Historical precedence isn't Watford's friend tonight, then, although all those games were played at White Hart Lane, so there is some hope.
You'll notice I've missed out one game. And that, of course, is the one everyone remembers: the 1987 semi-final at Villa Park. The Gary Plumley match. Plumley was a wine-bar owner and sometime Newport County keeper, whose dad was on the Watford board, and stepped up to the plate when Watford lost their first-choice keeper Tony Coton the reserve Steve Sherwood ahead of the big game. Plumley failed to deal with a Clive Allen shot, allowing Steve Hodge to open the scoring on 11 minutes, and 60 seconds later he'd been bamboozled by another Allen effort, this one deflected past him. He was later beaten at his near post, as Watford lost 4-1. "If a full-time professional had let in one or two of those, you'd have had to keep him away from a rope for a week or two," said Ray Clemence, looking sadly on from the other end of the pitch.
But that match was at neutral Villa Park, and this is on Watford's patch at Vicarage Road. So there is hope.
But not necessarily lots of hope. That running total after four games: Tottenham 17-4 Watford.
Kick off: 7.45pm.
Watford: Loach, Hodson, Mariappa, Nosworthy, Doyley, Eustace, Deeney, Buaben, Murray, Sordell, Garner.
Subs: Bond, Dickinson, Yeates, Iwelumo, Forsyth, Jenkins, Whichelow.
Tottenham Hotspur: Cudicini, Walker, Kaboul, Dawson, Rose, Parker, Van der Vaart, Modric, Livermore, Adebayor, Defoe.
Subs: Friedel, Lennon, Pavlyuchenko, Bassong, Kranjcar, Assou-Ekotto, Pienaar.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
The teams are out! Watford, in their yellow shirts and red shorts, and Tottenham Hotspur sporting their white tops with dark-blue breeks, take the pitch to the theme tune from Z Cars. This is what's done at Watford, though hasn't Harry Redknapp suffered enough this week?
And we're off! Both teams get in their huddles, then Watford set the ball rolling. It's passed back to Mariappa, and the defender's clearance is charged down by a lively Defoe. Nothing comes of the incident, to the home side's relief.
3 min: Watford have started with a confidence, pinging the ball around nicely, albeit to no great effect so far. A nice fast pace to the game. "I believe that's Wilf Rostron and John MacClelland in that photo," writes Simon Frank. "Wilf Rostron!" Ah, the gait of the condemned. It was MacClelland who deflected the ball past Po' Plumley for the second goal. We should probably stop riffing on their pain.
5 min: Now it's Tottenham's turn to stroke it around. Van der Vaart, on the edge of the D with his back to goal, tries to work a pass around the corner for Adebayor, but it's blocked at source. "Stand up if you pay your tax," trill the home crowd. Wasn't Z Cars enough? Is someone going to leap from the crowd and start prodding him again and again on his lapel?
6 min: Some twisting and turning by Sordell down the right. Kaboul sells himself, allowing the Watford man to breeze into the area, but no matter, as the resulting effort on goal, aimed for the bottom-right corner, is weak.
8 min: This is good stuff by Watford. Murray cuts inside from the right and has a proper dig. Cudicini can't keep hold of the low shot, and for a second it looks like the lively Sordell will slide in and poke home, but the keeper recovers well to smother it away. The home crowd are currently experiencing the sensation of enjoyment, if the noise they're making is anything to go by.
9 min: Hoick! Eustace has an excitable whack from 30 yards. The result goes 30 yards in the air, as well as 30 yards right of goal, which is at least neat and tidy.
12 min: Watford's wee burst of energy has subsided. Spurs are beginning to assert themselves. Rose drops a shoulder and waltzes down the left, zipping a troublesome low ball into the box. It's hacked clear in a most steady manner by Mariappa. Loach in the Watford goal has had nothing whatsoever to do yet. "For reasons that aren't interesting, I'm an American Watford fan," begins Chicago resident Bobby Otter. "Prior to 2006, I figured quite safely that I was the only American who rooted for Watford. Then Jay DeMerit and a season in the Premier League happened and now I'm sure I'm one of 29 American Watford fans. You'd figure with Elton John involved, Watford might even be one of the top ten supported clubs in the USA, but then again only interesting thing about Watford, from an American perspective, is Elton John."
15 min: Deeney trundles down the right. He shovels a cross towards the near post, where the increasingly troublesome Sordell nearly nips in to get a shot away. He's bundled out of it by a Tottenham defensive delegation, but not with any particular conviction.
16 min: Buaben romps down the centre of the pitch and unleashes a superlative swerving shot towards the top-right corner. Sadly for the home side, there's a wee bit too much swerve on the ball, and possibly a tad too much rise as well, and it sails into the night sky to the right. Still, a very decent effort. Spurs are living very dangerously here.
18 min: The Guardian has no wish to prejudice Redknapp's trial, but it's only fair to report that, with reference to the Watford choir's song on the five-minute mark, the defendant is standing up.
22 min: Watford are stroking it around hither and yon. Eventually Deeney is slipped free down the right, and he sends a decent curling cross towards the far stick, but there's nobody there in yellow to win a header, and Walker saunters off with the ball. "Even by the standards of the time, Watford's shorts are a bit stomach-churning," boaks Gary Naylor. "There's more than a hint of Lady Gagaesque PVC about them and they wouldn't look good on her, never mind Wilf."
25 min: After some neat passing by the home team, Deeney sends another curler into the Spurs area from the right. It's a really decent low ball, finding Garner eight yards out at the near post, but although the striker connects, he gets next to nothing on the ball, effectively cushioning it dead, allowing Dawson to clear.
28 min: A free kick just inside the Spurs half is sent into their area by Murray, but it's not worth describing. Tottenham go down the other end. Van der Vaart and Defoe exchange passes just outside the Watford area, the latter belabouring the ball into the ground, sending it spinning back up and forward, and into the arms of Loach, who had previously been getting very bored indeed.
31 min: Nosworthy needlessly bundles Rose to the floor, just to the left of the Watford area. Van der Vaart whips the free kick to the far post, in the general direction of Kaboul, but Nosworthy tidies up the mess he's made with a strong clearing header. Spurs are struggling to worry Watford so far.
34 min: Sordell has time and options on the edge of the Spurs box, but dillies, then dallies, and finally hoofs the ball straight at Kaboul. His team-mates take the opportunity to give him a short, sharp, barked burst of beneficial advice. "Here in the U.S. we've got the Everton-Fulham match," writes our friend from Illinois, JR. "I suppose there would be more Americans interested in this match due to Dempsey, Donovan, and Howard, though I don't particularly care. I was hoping to see Spurs and a lower division club we hardly ever get to see over here. Also I was curious as to how Chris Foy would be able to hand the game to Watford."
37 min: Spurs are beginning to see more of the ball, and the majority of it within Watford territory to boot. But they're not finding it easy to manufacture anything near the area. Down the other end, Doyley pesters Livermore and nearly wins a corner. Watford look the more likely at the moment, even if that's not saying much. "Isn't chanting 'Stand up if you've paid your tax' in an all-seater (but three-sided) stadium against everything you were told at school about two wrongs not making a right?" wonders Jonathan Denness.
40 min: Tottenham again with a lot of passes 30-40 yards from goal. The minute they try to shuttle it further forward, it all breaks down. Modric, of all people, wings a hapless long pass out for a goal kick, yards from the nearest white shirt. "I was at the 1987 game," reports Paul Kerrigan. "I remember Plumley taking the field like a conquering hero, pumping his fist to the massed ranks of Watford fans at the Holte End. That was about 15 minutes before the picture at the top of the page was taken."
42 min: BUT CLASS WILL TELL! Watford 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur. Walker breaks upfield down the right. He slides the ball inside to Van der Vaart, just outside the centre circle. The Dutchman advances towards the area, drifting left, then from 30-plus yards hits a slow, low bouncer towards the bottom right.
Plumley Loach should meet it, but instead lets the ball skip over his hands and into the net. A decent, if not spectacular effort, but what poor keeping. This is hard on Watford, who have been the better side.
45 min: Spurs ping it around. Watford look not so much shellshocked as kind of sad and unhappy. Probably just as well the break is a minute of added time away.
HALF TIME: Watford 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur. The teams walk off, the home crowd having had the wind taken from their sails.
HALF-TIME ADVERTISMENT BREAK FROM 1987, TO CONTINUE THE PLUMLEY VIBE:
Featuring, at 1min 50sec, some folk from the world of football laundering things.
And we're off again! Tottenham get the ball moving for the second half. And they've made a change: Modric, who was strangely below par in that first period, has been replaced by a very cheery looking Aaron Lennon.
46 min: Watford start the second half much as they did the first, stringing a few passes together in Tottenham territory. Buaben eventually takes a potshot, the ball flying miles from the target, but at what speed. "I suppose your photo proves that since the dark days of the 80s, it's not just chairmen and managers who have thought it better to conceal their assets," quips Justin Kavanagh.
49 min: A corner for Watford from the right. It's hit deep to Eustace, who dinks the ball to the left to skip past Walker, but balloons the effort wide left.
50 min: Dawson rolls a lazy ball out of defence, and it's snapped up by Sordell, who slips Murray free down the inside-left channel and into the area. The 18-year-old curls a delicious effort towards the top-right corner, but Cudicini fingertips it onto the post. The ball rebounds out for Deeney, who should slot into the unguarded goal, but finds the side netting instead. Some wonder football from both Murray and Cudicini, bookended by two massive piles of rubbish from Dawson and Deeney.
53 min: Spurs are beginning to turn up the heat at last. A free kick just to the right of the area. Just as Van der Vaart goes to belt the ball, it moves, Gary McAllister style, and he hoicks it wide right. A few seconds later, Rose drops a shoulder down the right, and sends a cross into the centre. From six yards, Walker heads straight at Loach, who tips over. The corner's cleared.
55 min: Watford are struggling to get hold of the ball now. Walker crosses from the right. The ball ends up at the feet of Rose on the other side of the pitch. Rose has a skelp, the ball fizzing through the six-yard box and out on the other side. "In response to Bobby Otter (12 mins), I also used to think I was the only (pre-Jay DeMerit) American Watford fan," writes Alex Moffett. "I lived near Watford when I was growing up in the mid 80s, and I had no way of knowing that their Barnes-Blissett-era majesty was just an aberration in a hundred-year history of solid mediocrity. Now when I wear my shirt, I have to face uncomfortable questions like 'Do they play in the Champions League?' and 'Why are their colours so ugly?'"
58 min: A bit of time and space for Sordell, just outside the Spurs box. He shapes to curl it towards the top-right corner, Murray style, but faffs around, allowing Parker to come back and snap the ball off his toe. A question posed by the home crowd as to whether Parker cleaned his man out from behind, in which case that should have been a free kick just outside the D and a booking, but he looked like he got the ball coming in from the right-hand side - just.
62 min: The first half had a rare old cup-tie atmosphere about it, with Watford on the front foot. Strange to say, given they've hit the woodwork during this half, but they haven't looked half as dangerous since the restart. Spurs are looking every inch a league above their opponents now. "I was nearly at the 1987 semi-final," writes Russell Hope. "I had a ticket but was at college in Bangor at the time so I had to catch a train at around 10am. Went out 'just for a couple' the night before and, well, you can guess the rest. Still, I consoled myself with the thought that I would get a ticket for the final and, er, well, I'll get my coat."
64 min: And suddenly Watford step it up a gear themselves! Sordell has a snapshot from the edge of the area, though it's deflected well wide right. The chance came from pressing the Spurs back line, forcing Kaboul into a sloppy backpass and Walker into a minor panic.
65 min: Van der Vaart, positioned to the left of goal near the edge of the Watford area, slap-bass twangs the crossbar with as powerful a rising shot as you'll see. The ball's eventually snaffled by Loach, but only after Defoe tries to nip it inside the right-hand post. What an effort by the Dutch international.
68 min: More faffing around by Spurs at the back, gifting Watford a corner. Before it's taken, Murray is replaced by Yeates. The corner comes to nothing, though the ball's soon coming back at Spurs, and Deeney looks for the right-hand corner from distance. The ball goes out for a goal kick, but only just. Watford have suddenly woken up, and Spurs don't look happy about it at all.
70 min: Deeney sends what is effectively a Garryowen into the area from the right. Cudicini is forced to tip it over his crossbar. From the corner on the left, Eustace sends a header wide right, the ball brushing the outside of the post. That's 2-1 to the home side in terms of wood-bothering.
72 min: Dawson sends a long diagonal right-to-left pass to Lennon on the touchline. Lennon's first-time pass sets Rose overlapping down the left. It's a gorgeous move, and a dangerous one too, but Lennon was an inch or so offside, and the play's dragged back. Tottenham are not creating much at present.
74 min: Bauben has a pop from the edge of the area, but it's weak and poor. The home crowd are up for this, though. Their team are giving this their best shot.
76 min: Sheer brilliance from Sordell, who is in a tight spot by the right-hand corner. He drags the ball back and spins round - it's not quite a Cruyff turn - and leaves Kaboul for dead. Sweet skill, but skill that leads to nothing: he does force a corner, but the set play is easily cleared by Tottenham.
78 min: Kaboul clatters into Sordell in the style of a big galoot. You would almost think it was payback for making him look so daft a couple of minutes ago, were it not so gormlessly clumsy. The free kick, out on the right, is sent into the box. There's a scramble. Nosworthy tries to sidefoot the loose ball into the bottom left corner from six yards; had he smashed it, it was surely a goal. But it's blocked. Sordell gets a second bite, and he does hammer the casing off the ball, but it's a tighter angle just to the right of goal and easily charged down. Watford should be level.
80 min: A change for each side: Pienaar on for Defoe, Whichelow replacing Garner.
82 min: Deeney slips Sordell free down the right, towards the byline. Sordell clips the ball back into the middle of the box, where Yeates meets it, sending it towards the top right. But Dawson, unaware of his position, wanders in front of Yeates, the ball smacking him in the face. Spurs escape again. They're living very dangerously here.
85 min: Spurs are sitting back, and asking for trouble. Sordell and Whichelow nearly combine, the former inches from sending the latter free into the area down the inside-right channel. But a telescopic Spurs leg pokes the ball away from danger.
87 min: Finally something from Spurs up front. Parker bustles in from the left, exchanges passes with Lennon, and fires a low (but slowly rising) shot goalwards. Loach is behind this one, and parries clear.
89 min: Hodson is booked, ridiculously, for clipping Lennon's heel as he scampers down the left. It's a foul, a free kick without question, but this game has been played in a superb spirit, without a caution so far. So really, what's the point?
90 min: There will be three added minutes.
90 min +1: Watford can't get the ball. Spurs knock it around the middle awhile.
90 min +2: Adebayor, who I totally forgot was on the pitch, is replaced by Pavyluchenko. After that non-performance, he has the brass neck to storm straight down the tunnel.
90 min +3: One last chance for Watford? A free kick, 35 yards from goal, a nudge or two to the right of centre. Yeates steps up, sends it goalwards, towards the top right, and ...
FULL TIME: Watford 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur. ... Cudicini claims easily. And that's it. Watford played really well, giving Spurs a thorough probing, but Premier League class told. Tottenham were far from their best, but it was enough. They're the first team in the hat for the fifth round. And Harry's still standing up, so make of that what you will.