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Hornets gatecrash the Palace and spoil the party

This was supposed to be Crystal Palace’s day. The Eagles had already won the title and were on their way to the Premier League. The Palace players were presented with the trophy and medals before the kick-off. It was also the last time the old Holmesdale Road terrace would look out on a Palace match before it was replaced by a new stand, so there was a carnival atmosphere in this often surly part of south London.

Their fans sang ‘We’ll never play you again,’ although that, sadly for us, didn’t turn out to be the case.

Tommy Mooney, who had already won a place in Watford’s hearts with his commitment and determination since joining on loan, was hoping he’d done enough to secure a permanent move in the summer.

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It was no longer just a case of wanting to leave Southend, he was now desperate to join Watford. He wanted one more memorable performance to convince Glenn Roeder to sign him.

‘I was playing up front with Paul Furlong and I was really up for the game,’ he says. ‘It’s a horrible ground. I hated going there, apart from on that day.’

As far as Palace were concerned, Watford were not the ideal party guests. They did the equivalent of guzzling all the champagne before knocking over a tray of vol-au-vents. The match was live on television and the hosts were being shown up.

Andy Hessenthaler scored the first and Mooney bundled in the second near the end. ‘A few days after the match Glenn took us to Jack Petchey’s place in Albufeira as a bit of a well done for how we’d done at the end of the season,’ says Mooney. ‘I couldn’t really relax because I was on the phone to Peter Taylor, my manager at Southend, telling him I wanted this move to happen.

‘I had two years to run on my contract, which I wanted paying up, or at least partly paying up. But Southend knew what I was going to get at Watford and they were refusing to pay. The Watford fans think it was just a case of Glenn signing me, it wasn’t. That was a very stressful summer and it wasn’t sorted out until two days before pre-season. I had to walk away and forfeit every penny of my contract [at Southend] so I could join Watford. That’s not something many footballers would do.’

Watford Digweed, Lavin, Drysdale, Dublin, Millen, Foster, Hessenthaler, Johnson (Ramage 45), Furlong, Porter, Mooney
Manager Glenn Roeder
Scorers Hessenthaler 59, Mooney 87
Attendance 28,749

Why was this match chosen? Any win at Selhurst Park is to be savoured but to spoil their title-winning party was particularly sweet. This marked the end of Glenn Roeder's at-times-difficult first season, when safety was assured late in the campaign.

How do I feel about this game's inclusion now? At the time it was a great afternoon, although in hindsight this game was perhaps ranked too highly simply and should possibly not make the cut if matches from the Pozzo era were added to the list.