November 1988 and it was Second Division football for Manchester City. After a mixed 87/88 season, Mel Machin’s men became the joint pre-season favourites for promotion back to the top flight along with relegated Chelsea, but by the time Watford arrived at Maine Road, the blues were six points off the pace and the visitors sat proudly at the top of the table, three points clear of second placed West Brom.
Watford had been newly relegated and were looking to bounce back to the top flight at the first attempt, but they also had a revenge mission against the blues. Second Division City had humbled their First Division counterparts in the League Cup last season, when a Paul Lake inspired City beat Watford 3-1 at Maine Road.
The visitors weren’t in the mood for a repeat result and took the lead against City in the first half. Watford won a free kick outside the city penalty area, and the five man wall was ineffective as the free kick went flew beyond them and past the despairing dive from Andy Dibble. In truth, Watford had slightly shaded the first half and probably deserved their lead by half time.
But the second half was a different story and it seems Machin had given his young blues a half-time rocket. City won a free kick in an almost identical position to Watford’s, and Neil McNab tapped the ball to Andy Hinchcliffe, whose powerful left foot shot was deflected home by striker Paul Moulden for the City equaliser.
The blues looked more determined and a second goal seemed inevitable. David White, who scored two goals against Watford in that League Cup tie, turned architect for the goal which gave City the lead. His blistering pace down the right took him past the Watford defence, and his cross was met by the head of Wayne Biggins to put the blues 2-1 ahead. The defender seemed to give up chasing White, believing the ball would go out of play before White could cross, but his appeals were overruled and it cost Watford dear.
Soon after, the blues made the game safe and it was the same two combining. In an almost identical move, White again outpaced the defender and planted a superb cross which was glanced home again by the head of Biggins.
Results elsewhere meant City stayed in seventh place, but the blues were able to keep touch with the teams above them and were now just three points from the top of the table.
Final Score: Manchester City 3-1 Watford
Goals (City): Paul Moulden, Wayne Biggins (2)