Valletta make Watford sweat Published on: 24-05-2012

There seemed to be no end to the 1968-69 football season.

Apart from the usual domestic competitions, a record number of foreign clubs also visited the islands. Besides the European competitions, in which Sliema Wanderers, Hibernians and Floriana represented the country, there was also the visit of AC Milan and the tourneys of Arsenal, Watford and Progressul, of Romania.

The Milan and Arsenal visits were a great success and drew huge crowds to the Empire Stadium.

The Progressul tourney was also well-attended but, as if that was not enough, late in May 1969 Valletta FC organised a short tour for English Third Division champions Watford.

The Hornets played two matches here. On May 31, they beat Sliema 3-0 and the next day defeated Valletta 2-1.

Although they could not be described as a great team, Watford more than made up for their lack of finesse by their all-round strength.

Watford found very little resistance from the Wanderers. This was surely not one of the best games the Blues played against foreign opposition. Watford controlled the game from end to finish to cruise to a 3-0 victory.

Watford’s goals were scored by Walley, Sinclair and Endean.

The Hornets’ game against Valletta was more balanced.

Valletta, showing determination in their play that was so sadly lacking from the Wanderers, came out of the game with their heads held high.

One had to admit, however, that Watford were streets ahead of their opponents both technically and tactically. They were faster on the ball and combined much better than Valletta. However, what the Citizens lacked in technique, they compen-sated for with their commitment.

Fighting for every ball, they prevented their opponents turning their attacks into goals.

As was to be expected, play was confined mainly in Valletta’s half. The Citizens, however, defended their fort superbly.

Watford buzzed around the Whites’ penalty area incessantly but were rarely given a clear sight of goal. The whole City defence pulled its weight but Lewis Pace, at centre-half, stood head and shoulders over his colleagues.

Pace’s timely interventions time and again saved his side from awkward situations.

Watford’s best player was wing-half Walley who dominated the midfield and started many promising moves.

The visitors’ first goal came after 10 minutes. Goalkeeper Muscat, who was substituting the injured ÄŠensu Borg Bonaci, misjudged an Owens’ corner and pushed the ball into his own net.

Valletta had their rare moments but they were snuffed out before getting to within striking distance by the razor-sharp tackling of the Watford defenders.

Midway through the second half, Valletta seemed to be tiring out and Watford went 2-0 in front with a clever Lees’ flick.

Watford continued to press forward but then, when least expected, Valletta reduced the arrears.

Giglio crossed perfectly for Falzon to head home with Slater caught out of position.

This goal gave Valletta a new lease of life. They started to share the exchanges with their opponents but there was not enough time left for the hosts to level matters.

The Watford tour came too late in the season to create much interest but it served, at least, to end the season on a bright note.

Carmel Baldacchino - Times of Malta