Famous four give Hornets extra-time cup win over the Hatters
Even the Hatters manager, David Pleat, had to admit that although he didn’t like the outcome, he had enjoyed all 210 minutes of an enthralling and dramatic FA Cup tie.
Before the third round draw had been made, Graham Taylor suggested that Watford had a ‘better than one in eleven’ chance of reaching Wembley.
And then the balls came out of the velvet bag, sending Watford to the worst possible place. Kenilworth Road.
Twenty-six minutes into the tie, and Watford’s dreams of a cup run were hanging by a thread. They were 2-0 down to a pair of deflected goals. Watford needed to respond quickly, and they did. John Barnes got one back within a minute and Maurice Johnston equalised from the penalty spot. The second half was a real blood and thunder affair but there were no further goals, so it was back to Vicarage Road.
This time, it was Watford who led 2-0 inside half an hour. Nigel Callaghan gave them the lead and George Reilly doubled it. Luton scored at a crucial time when Mal Donaghy got one back just before half-time.
When John Barnes scored a superb individual goal five minutes into the second half, it looked as if Watford had done enough to shrug off their fierce rivals. Of course, they should have known better.
Two goals in five minutes from Paul Walsh got Luton back on terms. The pace of the game was frantic but the skill levels were high. The final 20 minutes were blistering. There were two teams intent on defeating each other. Credit must go to Luton for refusing to settle for a draw.
Taylor later said he knew his team would come out on top in extra time. ‘As long as we did nothing silly, we’d got them.’
Extra time was tense. Both teams continued to go for the throat and there were some heart-stopping moments at both ends. Three minutes into the second period, Johnston popped up to score the winner. It meant all of Watford’s forwards were on the scoresheet.
Taylor called it the match of the season and in terms of carefree attack play, it was. Watford and Luton shared a similar mentality but they played the game in very different ways.
Knocking that mob in white and orange out of the cup tasted almost as sweet as reaching the final itself.
Watford Sherwood, Bardsley, Rostron, Taylor, Sims, Franklin, Callaghan, Johnston, Reilly, Jackett, Barnes
Manager Graham Taylor
Scorers Callaghan 4, Reilly 28, Barnes 50, Johnston 108
Luton scorers Donaghy 44, Walsh 65, 69
Why was this match chosen? It was one of the most thrilling cup ties ever to grace Vicarage Road. Ahead 2-0 and 3-1, pegged back and taken to extra time before winning. It also kicked off the run that went all the way to Wembley. And it was the only time that the brilliant front four of Callaghan, Barnes, Johnston and Reilly all got on the scoresheet in the same match. Johnston and Reilly's partnership, in particular, did not have the longevity of Blissett and Jenkins, but for four months or so in late 1983 and 1984, the four-pronged Watford attack burned so brightly.
How do I feel about this game's inclusion now? A genuine cup classic that perhaps should have been included a bit higher up.