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McNamee lands the blow as Hornets do an Upton park double

Over the years, there have been a number of fine young players who have not quite fulfilled their early potential. It is a myth that a promising young player must mature into a John Barnes or an Ashley Young.

For every Barnes and Young there have been a handful of players such as Rod Thomas or Anthony McNamee, who failed to deliver on that early promise.

Having seen off Stockport County in the FA Cup third round, Watford had to travel to Upton Park to face fellow Premiership strugglers West Ham.

Bobby Zamora hit the bar in the first minute for West Ham and the hosts had another couple of great chances before Watford got the only goal of the game.

Roy Carroll came off his line to deal with a long ball but mistimed his jump and the ball fell near McNamee.

The diminutive winger threw himself in the air to pull off a great bicycle kick. Moments of brilliance like this that made McNamee a favourite with the fans, despite his inconsistency.

McNamee had asthma, which meant his endurance was compromised. However, in short bursts he promised so much. He could run at defenders, turning them inside and then out. But he could also contort himself so much that he’d run into a cul-de-sac and find he had nowhere left to turn.

In that respect he was more like Rod Thomas, the prodigious winger who emerged in the late Eighties but had faded by the early Nineties, than John Barnes.

McNamee’s goal – one of only two he scored for Watford – set up a tense second half.

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West Ham dominated and put the Hornets’ defence under immense pressure. The Hammers created chance after chance but a combination of good luck and heroic defending somehow kept Zamora, Luis Boa Morte and Carlton Cole at bay. Ben Foster made a number of great saves too.

It kept the cup run going, which diverted attention away from the slog of trying to preserve their Premiership status. In the fifth round, Watford beat Ipswich Town to set up a quarter-final clash with Plymouth.

A fortnight later, Watford were back at Upton Park for a league match. Guess what? They did it again. A goal from Darius Henderson and another brilliant performance from Foster and Malky Mackay gave Watford a 1-0 win. As Foster, the former chef said: ‘It beats stirring duck soup at Café Rouge.’

Watford Foster, Mariappa, Mackay, DeMerit, Stewart, McNamee (Powell 72), Bangura, Francis, Bouazza, Smith, Henderson
Manager Aidy Boothroyd
Scorer McNamee 42
Attendance 31,168

Why was this match chosen? The cup run in 2007 was a wonderful diversion away from the struggle in the league and this victory at Upton Park was one to savour. The fact they repeated the result in the league a fortnight later made it all the sweeter.

How do I feel about this game's inclusion now? Knocking out West Ham on their own pitch was probably the highlight of that FA Cup run. The wins over lower division opposition Ipswich and Plymouth were similarly narrow and nervy. It was a shame the semi-final draw pitted Watford against Manchester United. If they had faced Blackburn Rovers, you never know what might have happened.