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Staying alive

Forget for a moment the fact that Watford didn’t manage to stay up. This was a day when everyone could be proud of their boys, even if they were wearing an unfamiliar, and some would say, ugly, burgundy and green kit.

Thousands of Watford fans made the trip to Norwich knowing that the afternoon could end in relegation and despair. Defeat would seal their fate. Victory might – just might – give them a chance to wriggle out of trouble.

They were out for the count at the beginning of April but now they at least had a chance.

And it felt like the impossible might be on the cards when David Connolly turned in the penalty area and was brought down by Rob Newman. There weren’t even two minutes on the clock when Watford were given a penalty. Connolly converted it and then they had to withstand a barrage of Norwich attacks to preserve their lead.

Kevin Miller was outstanding in the Watford goal. He pulled off a number of saves to keep the Canaries at bay. Ten minutes into the second half, Miller was finally beaten by a fine, curling free-kick from Ian Crook.

Suddenly, a Watford team that had been so bold then so brave under fire looked deflated. The travelling fans knew a draw would not be enough if Portsmouth drew against Ipswich. The revival, inspired by Taylor, Blissett and Jackett looked to have come just too late.

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When Taylor returned in February, he asked everyone in the squad to write down what they thought the team should be. ‘We were in a bad position when Graham, Luther and Kenny came in,’ says Gary Porter. ‘And it took a while for things to turn around. It wasn’t until quite late in the season when there was nothing else left but to go for it that we gave ourselves a chance.

‘When you know you have to win or you’re going down, you find strength and togetherness and we did that.’

In the 67th minute, Gary Porter got the ball outside the penalty area and hit a left-footed piledriver that deceived the Norwich goalkeeper, Bryan Gunn. It was a sensational goal and it kept Watford alive.

‘Graham said to me afterwards that he had hoped I wasn’t going to shoot from so far out,’ says Porter. ‘I said “That’s your fault for telling us that if you don’t shoot, you don’t score.”

‘We gave ourselves a chance but we were up against Martin O’Neill’s Leicester team on the last day and they needed to win to get in the play-offs.’

Leicester won 1-0 and Watford went down. ‘We gave it a good go,’ says Porter. ‘We turned it round but we left it perhaps a week or a fortnight too late.’

They didn’t stay up in the end but the win over Norwich gave the travelling Hornets so much pride and the right to hope for another week.

Watford Miller, Bazeley, Barnes (Ludden 45), Hessenthaler, Page, White, Porter, Palmer, Ramage, Mooney, Connolly
Manager Graham Taylor
Scorers Connolly pen 2, Porter 66
Norwich scorer Crook 55
Attendance 14,118

Why was this match chosen? This was do-or-die. Defeat would mean relegation. Victory might keep the slender hopes of beating the drop alive. And Gary Porter's goal was one of the best he ever scored.

How do I feel about this game's inclusion now? It was one of the best away days for years. An game of critical importance, no one gave the Hornets any chance and yet they got the result.