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The Guardian datePublished Wednesday 23 August 2006 Simon Burnton at Vicarage Road
If a team can suffer from an excess of positivity, Watford must be in danger. The top flight's most recent arrivals and relegation favourites spent most of the summer talking up their chances of exceeding expectations, and most of this match relentlessly piling into opponents whose blossoming last season constitutes a blueprint for how a newly promoted side can succeed at this level. The only thing restraining their optimism is their continued search for a first Premiership win.
For a time, it seemed that their approach would bring them victory here. Not, however, for much time. A wonderful goal from last season's top scorer Marlon King gave them the lead with a little under 30 minutes to go. They held out for less than two of them, by which time Bobby Zamora had volleyed the visitors back to parity. For the remainder of the game it was West Ham who were holding on.
"If I was a neutral I'd have to say Watford deserved to win," said their manager Alan Pardew after the game. "Their endeavour and their organisation and the pressure they put you under - they made it very difficult for us. We really wanted to win but it was a tall order. I thought they deserved to win and that'll bode well for them."
His sentiments may be welcomed by Watford but what must frustrate them is that David Moyes said much the same on Saturday after his Everton side had beaten the Hornets 2-1. Their style ensures that opponents spend much of the match on the back foot, but they must learn to capitalise on that territorial advantage.
Their manager Aidy Boothroyd admits it will take some time to adapt. "It's not about us adapting to the Premiership," he said, "it's about the Premiership adapting to us. We're not going to try to play like Chelsea or Manchester United or Arsenal because that doesn't suit us. That's how we do it so get ready. We play the way that suits our players, but it might not suit the Premiership."
Initially it did not even suit them particularly well. The home side dominated the early exchanges but their passing tended to be too long, too high and insufficiently accurate, with the right-back Lloyd Doyley particularly culpable.
West Ham, with half an eye on this weekend's visit to Liverpool, started with Yossi Benayoun on the bench and with an unusual 5-3-2 formation. "I knew we needed another centre-half," said Pardew. "There were so many balls coming into the box."
The visitors were restricted to occasional breaks, though they should have taken the lead from one in the 17th minute. Watford, in their enthusiasm, had pushed eight outfield players forward and when West Ham cleared and Chris Powell slipped Marlon Harewood was free. A brief pause allowed Jay DeMerit to cover and the forward ignored an unmarked Zamora to run blindly into - and eventually out of - space.
It was a Watford break 10 minutes later that led to the best chance of the first half. Their captain Gavin Mahon was the only man to anticipate Zamora's dummy from John Paintsil's low cross, and he released Hameur Bouazza for a sprint down the length of Watford's left flank that ended with a fine centre that King headed onto the inside of the far post.
As if they were not already being positive enough, Watford started the second half with a modified, even more attacking formation with Bouazza becoming a third forward. The move brought mixed results: their attack was energised, their defence less protected.
The impressive Paul Konchesky headed straight at Ben Foster from eight yards and Lee Bowyer's left-foot shot from the edge of the area was poorly struck and easily stopped. At the other end, Darius Henderson missed two good chances in as many seconds.
The defences were creaking and, in the space of two minutes, they both cracked. First King, 30 yards from goal, swivelled and cracked a right-foot shot into the far corner of the net. From the kick-off Konchesky escaped down the left and crossed for Zamora to draw West Ham level at the near post.
The visitors immediately brought on Benayoun and Teddy Sheringham, but it was the home side that came closest to retaking the lead. Henderson and Danny Shittu headed over and Anton Ferdinand was lucky when he deflected King's cross into his goalkeeper rather than his goal.
It was enough to ensure that Watford's positivity lasts at least until the weekend, when Manchester United will presumably submit it to a sterner test.