Watford second in London Masters
Watford came second in their maiden Masters appearance after being narrowly edged out by Spurs in a seven-goal thriller finale.
The Golden Boys progressed to the final of the Wembley Arena event after being beaten by the eventual winners in their opening game but a draw against Arsenal and a defeat of Wimbledon saw the Yellow-shirted heroes of yesteryear reach the London Masters final at the first time of asking.
The Hornets were slow out of the blocks against Spurs in the tournament`s initial eight-minute-per-half game and found themselves a goal down inside the first minute when Clive Wilson hammered home for the North Londoners.
Former Luton man Mark Stimpson doubled the Lilywhites advantage in the last minute of normal time to send Watford into the interval with a huge task ahead of them. Neither side added to their tally in the second half with Tottenham happy to sit back and soak-up the Watford pressure.
Watford started slowly against Spurs, but they were tortoise-like coming out of the traps against their North London neighbours, Arsenal. John Jensen uncharacteristically found the back of the net to give the Gunners the advantage after 25 seconds.
Things went from bad to worse when - with only a minute on the clock - former Luton player Ian Allinson put the North Londoners two goals to the good.
However, Andy Hessenthaler - who played 70 minutes in a pre-season friendly against the Gunners for Barnet a day previously - scored the Hornets` first goal in Masters football on six minutes to half Arsenal`s advantage.
Steve Butler then equalised for the Hornets a minute after the re-start. The two sides were level for three minutes but Eddie McGoldrick failed to miss an opening goal. But it was the Butler who unleashed a left-footed curler past Arsenal 'keeper Vince Bartram to level the scores.
Butler - who had only managed nine goals in 62 appearances for Watford at first-team level - claimed his hat-trick when knocking in Gary Porter`s shot. Soon after, David Hillier claimed the eighth goal of the game to grab a point for the Gunners.
The Golden Boys went into the tie with Wimbledon knowing that anything less than a victory would see them knocked out at the group stage and see them make the short trip back to Watford.
Defender Alan Paris - only one of two Watford players with previous Masters experience - appeared to have put Watford in front after five minutes. But 'keeper Gary Phillips dragged the ball from two yards behind the line to safety. The referee amazingly adjudged that the ball never crossed the line.
A minute later, former Watford forward Dean Holdsworth gave The Crazy Gang the advantage. Watford soon responded as Gary Porter rolled back the years and fired the ball into the top left-hand corner.
Holdsworth restored the South Londoners advantage just before the interval to put Wimbledon 2-1 up. Justice was served on twelve minutes when Alan Paris got the goal he duly deserved when driving the ball home at the near-post to restore parity.
Paris then rattled the crossbar with a minute left on the clock.
The Hornets took the three points with only 30 seconds remaining when former Millwall man Jamie Moralee tapped the ball home following a neat interchange with Andy Hessenthaler.
The victory on its own was not enough to send the Hornets into the final - Watford had to rely on Spurs beating their deadly rivals, Arsenal in order to ensure Watford would finish second in the group and gain a final berth. Spurs obliged 2-1.
Watford again found themselves trailing from the start when Mark Wilson gave Spurs the lead early on. Steve Sedgley then guaranteed that Watford would again go into the break against Spurs two goals down.
Midway through the second period, forward Steve Butler was wrestled to the ground inside the box by defender Dean Austin. The former Maidstone United man stepped up to convert the spot-kick and put Watford back in the game.
41-year-old Andy Hessenthaler - arguably the fittest player on the pitch - hit an edge-of-the-area strike past 'keeper Kevin Dearden on 14 minutes to leave Watford with one hand on the cup. But Tottenham pushed forward in search of the equaliser which came when Paul Moran deflected Clive Wilson`s shot into the back of the net.
Defending champions Tottenham claimed the crown for the third successive year when Paul Moran headed home Dean Austin`s cross with 30 seconds remaining to dash Watford`s hopes of becoming London Masters in their inaugural appearance in the Sky-televised tournamant.
However, Golden Boy Steve Butler shared the Golden Boot with Paul Moran and Andy Hessenthaler scooped the Most Valuable Player award.
Whilst the Watford faithful - many of whom bare-chested and sporting a Steve Terry-style headband in tribute to the centre-half - generated noise that was unrivalled by fans of any other club in the competition.