Paul Jewell must have had mixed feelings as the rain pounded on to the Vicarage Road pitch. The frustration of a missed opportunity to put some distance back between his side and the relegation places offset somewhat by a performance that was short of guaranteeing Latics the points they desperately needed. In fact the weather provided a handy excuse for both teams, who, a few players apart, had hardly been inspiring before the skies really opened up and the referee put the fans out of their misery.
How do you handle a game being called off when you’re in a “every game is a must win” situation? Results elsewhere highlighted Latics plight and saw them slide further down the table. Not least of these came at Bramall Lane where Sheffield United managed what Latics couldn’t a few weeks back, making the most of a battling performance to take three points off Arsenal.
If there was good news from this unfinished game it came in the continued good form of Emile Heskey. Again he was Latics most dangerous player and would have chalked up another goal had the match gone the distance, his turn and shot from the edge of the box showing that when you’re midfield aren’t giving you the supply you need then you just need to do it yourself.
The bad news was a little more obvious. Firstly the squad was kept that little bit thinner as McCulloch’s ban would now only be served up by the Blackburn game. Secondly the lads were denied what was supposed to be a moral boosting game against the division’s bottom side.
Finally that moral boosting performance looked a long way off as the Latics’ defence struggled to cope with the efforts of Anthony McNamee, playing only his fourth Premier League game. It came as no surprise when McNamee was behind Watford’s equaliser. The Latics defence failing to deal with his left wing cross and allowing Tamas Priskin a free header for his first competitive Watford goal (yes, yet another player ends his goal ‘drought’ against Latics shocker).
At the end of the day (or in this case half an hour earlier) none of this mattered. Urban mythology may have it that games like this would have carried on in the past, but that’s not strictly true. Latics fans of a certain age will remember similar conditions in an abandoned game at Burden Park, then again the game against Manchester City as both sides chased promotion from the second division was played in a lake. As with most things, it is one of those things that depend on the situation on the day, and in this case the referee clearly made the right decision to take the players off the pitch and then call the game off.
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