Blackburn Rovers Paper View (h)

Last updated : 24 January 2007 By Gary Holmes

Watford find victory the American way

Made in America, this victory for Watford was also unquestionably their finest and most satisfying moment of a torrid season.

Substitute Jay DeMerit, a centre-back from Wisconsin, dispatched the winning header and stirred some semblance of hope among Ady Boothroyd's beleaguered men. For Blackburn manager Mark Hughes, it all equated to an evening of misery that took a further turn for the worse with the news that captain Robbie Savage had suffered a broken leg.

As for the resurgent Watford, it was difficult to see where sudden inspiration sprang from. Was it from Boothroyd himself, with his boundless hope of avoiding relegation against mighty odds? Or was it from Rocky Balboa, the film of another unlikely sporting comeback that the manager made his players watch "because they needed to listen to someone else".

Either way, this imperilled team demonstrated an admirable sense of purpose.

DeMerit's intervention, certainly, was well merited. It came after Benni McCarthy had levelled for Blackburn in the final seconds of the first half, cancelling out an own-goal by Brett Emerton. It reflected, too, a determination borne of being left on the bench for two matches. "I don't have any sulkers here," Boothroyd said. "I'm thrilled at the fact that we got three points, because I'd forgotten what it was like. We had lost our way in recent weeks."

As well as commitment, DeMerit showed great presence of mind deep into the second half to offset the anxiety among Watford's players. Seizing on Hameur Bouazza's cross, the American rose impressively to bury a header beyond Friedel from close range. A passionate, if sparse, crowd of 13,760 were rapturous in their acclaim – and left with renewed hope of avoiding relegation. Daily Telegraph

DeMerit strike a boost on rocky road to survival

On the day when they became £9.65m better off through the transfer of the midfielder Ashley Young to Aston Villa, Watford also finished up three points better off as they secured their first League victory since 4 November and only their second of the season.

Rare riches indeed for the side holding up the rest of the Premiership - and the result left their indefatigable optimist of a manager, Aidy Boothroyd, maintaining that his team might yet remain in the top flight.

Boothroyd, characteristically, had cancelled pre-match training and sent his players to the cinema to watch Rocky Balboa, the story of an Everton fan's struggle to renew his boxing career against the odds.

The ploy appeared to have the desired effect as the men who have been sparring partners for the main part of the season transformed themselves into contenders through a concentrated effort of will. Their opening goal, in the 13th minute, was gifted to them as Brett Emerton, replacing the recently departed Lucas Neill at right-back, headed into his own net after a Tommy Smith cross from the right. Given it was only Watford's 13th League goal of the season, neither the players nor their supporters were fussing too much about the quality.

The lead was eradicated in the final seconds of the half when Benni McCarthy headed home David Bentley's right-wing cross, but the home players earned a merited victory through a Jay DeMerit header 20 minutes from time.

Boothroyd, who also saw his £1.2m signing from Rotherham, Will Hoskins, make a bright home debut up front, did not attempt to hide his glee. "I'm absolutely delighted to get three points," he said. "I'd forgotten what it was like. Now we have got to believe we can still get out of the mire. We've got 15 games left, eight of them at home, and we have to win a good percentage of them.

"I would rather we had kept Ashley, but now it's up to me to use that big chunk of money wisely. We need more players in." The Independent

DeMerit delights Watford but broken leg mars Savage season

The odds are that, in the greater scheme of things, this will make no difference, but you could hardly blame the supporters of Watford FC for living for the moment. Long and loud were the celebrations after their second league win of the season, and the most satisfying thing must have been how thoroughly deserved it was.

As Aidy Boothroyd acknowledged afterwards, his team outplayed and out-fought opponents who, unlikely as it may sound for a team managed by Mark Hughes, looked as though they lacked the stomach for this particular battle.

Watford's tackling was often robust, and the cries of outrage would have been heard at the FA had Robbie Savage been the perpetrator rather than the victim of the tackle with which Al Bangura broke the Blackburn man's leg. That said, Rovers, coming into the game having won five of their previous six games, were too easily knocked off their stride. "We have to have every player at 110% to compete in this division, and for this game we did," said Boothroyd. "We've lost our way in recent weeks, but the dressing room is a good place to be right now. With 15 games left, it's about building on this." The Guardian

Blackburn dealt Savage blow after lacklustre display

Watford's luck finally turned last night but the luckless Robbie Savage was not around to congratulate them. The Blackburn Rovers player was in hospital with a broken leg by the time they clinched only their second Barclays Premiership win of the season, sent there by a dreadful challenge from Alhassan Bangura that was not even punished by a free kick.

Watford finally won just as their fans had lost the faith. The smallest Premiership crowd anywhere this season — 13,766 — saw arguably its biggest surprise, with the in-form Blackburn beaten by a team who equalled their goals tally from their previous nine league matches.

Watford thus received a part payment of £8 million and three points in the space of a few hours, Ashley Young's transfer to Aston Villa having been completed earlier, and Boothroyd emphasised that the forward's departure was not a sign that they had thrown in the towel. “We're not a one-man team,” he said. “We have got to have 11 players playing at 110 per cent. We'd lost our way in recent weeks, but tonight we were back at it.”

“I'm absolutely thrilled to get three points because I'd forgotten what it was like,” he said. The Times