BOTH Queens Park Rangers and Watford were under-performing as they clashed at Vicarage Road on a sunny March afternoon.
Both Queens Park Rangers and Watford were under-performing as they clashed at Vicarage Road on a sunny March afternoon.
Teams: Watford v Queens Park Rangers
Date: Saturday March 27, 1971
Competition: Football League Second Division
Venue: Vicarage Road, Watford
Upheaval and changes were occurring at Loftus Road as the triumphant League Cup side continued to break up as the managers came and went.
In a short space of time Alec Stock was replaced by Tommy Docherty, before his brief tenure came to its conclusion after 28 days. Les Allen lasted just over a year with Gordon Jago taking over after a spell in America.
The former Charlton man had a brief tenure in charge of the United States national side before taking the helm at Loftus Road midway through the 1970-71 season.
Rangers got off to a poor start to the season winning only one of their opening six games under Allen, but three wins on the spin in October helped revive their now slim promotion hopes.
However a nine game winless run saw Allen leave the club in January 1971 and head for Swindon. Jago had an immediate impact on his R’s side as the defence started to stabilise.
Prior to the fixture with Watford, Rangers were on a run of three defeats in four, against Portsmouth (0-2), Sunderland (0-1) and Norwich City (0-1).
Watford’s results had picked up in the build up to the clash at Vicarage Road after a disappointing start to the campaign. Ken Furphy’s men sat in the bottom half of the Second Division but victories against Middlesbrough (1-0) and Charlton Athletic (2-1) helped ease their relegation worries.
Rangers made four changes from the side that were defeated at home by Norwich City with Mike Ferguson, Ian Morgan, Frank Sibley and Terry Venables not featuring.
In their stead came Ian Gillard, Mick McGovern, Barry Salvage and Frank Saul as Rangers were forced to reshape their line-up in light of some important absences.
18-year-old Billy Jennings led the line for Watford alongside Roy Sinclair, a signing from Tranmere Rovers the previous season.
Rangers came racing out of the blocks with Rodney Marsh striking an early blow for the away side. Transfer-listed Frank Saul shook off the cobwebs to fire a cleverly-taken free-kick into the path of the unmarked Marsh.
The R’s striker did the rest to power past Mike Walker from close range. Just when it seemed Rangers had turned a corner however, the hosts struck back with a clever set-piece of their own.
Tom Walley’s free-kick was swung into the area and flicked on by Ron Wigg. Full-back Duncan Welbourne missed his attempted over-head kick before John Farley struck a post with his effort.
It was the summer signing Wigg that eventually nodded home the equaliser for the Hornets after this frantic exchange of play from the hosts.
R’s talisman Rodney Marsh was in fine form and oozed class with his every touch, making a fool of his marker, Walley on several occasions.
His breathtaking skill was capped off with the winning goal shortly before half time. Barry Salvage’s corner evaded the defence and Marsh ghosted into the six-yard box to glance home his 15th of the season.
Rangers claimed victory on a sunny day in Hertfordshire and it was the result that spurred them on to a positive finish to the Second Division campaign.
Only one defeat in the remaining nine games, six of those victories, saw Rangers to an 11th placed finish, something that no-one could foresee given their form in the early stages.
The nucleus of a good team was being built by Jago whose QPR side reaped their rewards in the latter half of the season. They took their momentum into the following campaigns finishing fourth, then second as they climbed back to the top flight.
Watford meanwhile finished 18th, after only two wins in their remaining nine games – it would be fair to say this set them in their downward trend as they finished rock-bottom the following season under George Kirby before former R Mike Keen took charge for four years in 1973.
Final Score: Watford 1-2 QPR
Watford: Walker, Butler, Williams, Garbet, Lees, Walley, Welbourne, Wigg, Jennings, Sinclair, Farley.
Queens Park Rangers: Parkes, Clement, Gillard, McGovern, Hunt, Hazell, Saul, Francis, Leach (Morgan 75), Marsh, Salvage
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