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Norwich City's Gary Hooper ruined my day, but I don't care

Mathew Nash talks of his dalliance with supporting Watford FC in the Carling Cup this season.

We’d been to the previous round as a goodbye occasion for my best friend Brad’s move to Manchester, so when Watford were drawn against Norwich City at home in the next round we knew we would return.

This time it was me, my friends Dan and Danny and Dan’s uncle Mark - for whom this was a pretty brilliant birthday gift. Two Reading fans, a Manchester United fan and an Everton fan on their way to watch the Glory Hornet Boys.

For tonight though we were golden, and backed Watford to win in the sweat producing Coral on Vicarage Road (I also backed Hamilton - a poor evenings gambling all round on my part).

It was a balmy evening and the denim jacket was already striking me as a mistake of attire - but it was all soon forgotten when we found our seats in The Rookery, right behind the goal with barely room to move in the packed in stadium.

The atmosphere was lively, but the first half was not.

But it all turned on a wonderful goal from Javi Acuna - in fact wonderful goal was the theme for the evening.

Davide Faoroni made it 2-0 with a thunderous strike past Mark Bunn and me and Danny did a two man Poznan.

It was an excellent evening, Norwich City were poor, Watford were slightly less poor and it looked as if our dream of following this randomly selected side to Wembley could really be alive.

But, as Danny said as we walked out the opened doors upon our late evening exit from the stadium - ‘football is a cruel mistress’.

One substitution’s ballsiness and the game turned. Joshua Murphy, who looked excellent when he came on for his debut, decided to throw his left boot at a ball that rocketed into the top corner of Jonathan Bond’s goalmouth - suddenly the atmosphere changed.

An eerie silence crept over Hertfordshire skies and suddenly we were tense, and it was making Gianfranco Zola’s boys even tenser.

But when, in the ridiculously overzealous FIFTH minute of added time, the ball went up to Troy Deeney we figured we were safe - hold the ball up and that’s it game over. Instead the referee gave a free-kick for six-of-one.

Norwich launched the ball up the pitch and 20 seconds later Gary Hooper flicked in a superb header.

Up until that point Hooper had been awful. He looked slow, his touch was awful and he could certainly shed a few pounds (couldn’t we all), but when it came to putting the ball in the back of the net Hooper did his job - and he did it again in extra-time.

There was still time for Marco Casetti to rattle the cross-bar with a header we all thought was in, but in the end that was it - 3-2 Norwich City after extra-time.

If Josh Murphy had not swung his left foot at that ball we would have won our bet, Watford would have been through and we would have partied back to the car singing the inventive chant ‘Watford FC’.

But that is football, and when the final scores from the other games were announced I heard this, ‘Fulham 2, Everton 1’.

Brilliant, just what I wanted to hear.

But while nothing went our way, by the end of the game it was still a fabulous evening. A little bit of me fell in love with Watford - from the humorously named Victoria’s Passage road en route, to the old boys still shouting ‘get it up the field’ to this team of cultured foreigners and the stand that the club seem to have started building, and stopped midway through.

It was a perfect evenings football - floodlights, clear skies and goals what more could I want.

Will Gary Hooper get in the England squad, I am not sure and I don’t particulary care because he essentially ruined my night - but Watford Football Club made up for it.

image: © bbmexplorer

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