For a club just down the road, us and Watford were poles apart for ages. Now we're probably their main threat as 'The Pride of Hertfordshire'...
Photo: Watford FC

For a club just down the road, us and Watford were poles apart for so long. Now, however, we’re probably their main threat as ‘The Pride of Hertfordshire’. Let’s be honest – who else could it be? Barnet? Haha – that’s a good ‘un Rodney. But it’s been a big upward curve for us to get within touching distance of the Hornets. And there’s still some work we gotta do.

Who are Watford?

The Hornets’ story goes all the way back to 1881 – but we’re not gonna get into the detail. We just don’t have the time. In the late 19th century, the club joined the Southern League; going on to lift the title in 1914-5 – the last champions before World War One stopped the action. In the first campaign back after the conflict, a second title was only denied on goal average. And it’d be their last in the Southern League. The Football League came calling.

For much of the next 50 years, however, you’d catch the Hornets buzzing around towards the bottom of the ladder. It wasn’t ’til 1960 when they were promoted for the first time; that taking them up into the old Division Three. Nearly a decade later, they reached as high as the Second Division for the first time. And they reached the FA Cup semi-finals too. But then they suffered two relegations in three years to end up back in Division Four.

Good times weren’t long in returning to Vicarage Road. In 1978, the Division Four title put them back into Division Three. A year later, the Hornets finished runners-up and earned a second straight promotion. So, it was back to Division Two. There was also a League Cup semi-final too, but they lost to a strong Nottingham Forest side. Then, in 1982, a new high point for the Hornets as they reached the top flight for the first time.

Why do we know Watford?

Even then, the Hornets kept scaling new heights under boss Graham Taylor and chairman Elton John. They came second (albeit a distant second) to Liverpool in the 1982-3 season, before Everton ended their hopes of a first-ever FA Cup in 1984. The Hornets continued to mix it at the top table during the mid-80s; a time when Boro’ were only just getting familiar with the Isthmian League. There were about six divisions between ours and theirs.

We weren’t getting anywhere near the FA Cup First Round either. So, maybe it’s no shock to learn that Herts Senior Cup action would be the reason we’d first run into each other.

What is our record against Watford?

Back then, the Herts Senior Cup was a bone fide first team match to us. So, by extension, it was for our opponents too. We met the Hornets at the semi-final stage in April 1986 and it’s an understated occasion. Yeah, so their side might not have been the fullest strength it could’ve been. But our 2-0 win is perhaps the greatest Boro’ cupset you’ve never heard of – unless you were there. Some were, many weren’t.

Like us, we both had 1987-8 seasons to forget; both relegated and both to our respective Division Twos. The next season, we met again in the HSC; Round Two this time. And the Hornets got their ‘revenge’ in a slender 1-0 win at Broadhall Way.

But you can’t always rely on the HSC draw to stick us together. That’s why it was a good few years until we’d go up against each other again. At the start of the 1994-5 season, all roads led to Stalebuns for the delayed HSC final. And, despite giving a good account, Boro’ fell to a 3-1 defeat to scupper hopes of a first county title. Watford now appeared to have the measure of us – could we put it right the next season?

The 1995-6 Herts Senior Cup paired us together in Round Two. By now, however, even Boro’ were fielding a less-than-full strength side. After all, the gap between us and them was down to two divisions between us in the Conference and them in the second tier. Neither side could break the deadlock at Broadhall Way, which meant a replay. And that was the total opposite; two young sides trading goals; them winning 4-3 after extra time.

Watford: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 6 — W 1 — D 1 — L 4 — F 6 — A 9 — Pts 0 — WR 17%
Our last tango: Stevenage 0-1 Watford, 12 August 2014

What happened to Watford?

Amid a flurry of county cup games between the mid-80s and mid-90s, Boro’ continued to rise up the ladder. The Hornets, however, weren’t reaching the same heights as they had become used to. After dropping out of the top division in 1988, they stayed in the second tier for the best part of quarter of a century.

Of course, this ignores a couple of years spent in the third tier between 1996 and 1998 – and two seasons in the Premier League soon after (1999-00 and 2006-7).

But, things changed. We became a Football League club and closed the gap between us even further. And, eventually, it would lead to a first ‘competitive’ meeting – the first round of the 2014-5 League Cup. Us newly-relegated from League Two put in a decent shift but couldn’t get the better of the Hornets, who edged it 1-0 at the Lamex. They went onto win promotion to the Premier League that season. And that’s where you can still find ’em now.

• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Watford club profile

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Pete H is the head of the BoroGuide team; helping to keep the show on the road for the best part of two decades – all because of his love of Boro'. He was relatively late to the scene; first rocking up at Broadhall Way during the 1995-6 season. But that's mainly because he was too young to pledge allegiance before then. There have been more than enough highs (Easter Monday '96) and lows (Kettering '02) since then, however, to keep him occupied. Yes, and the 2010 title win...