There was so much to like about this performance. The passing was crisp but purposeful. The goals were well-taken. There was a sense that everything was going to turn out okay with Gianluca Vialli in charge.
With the score 1-1, Paul Robinson looked to have given Watford victory on the hour, when he finished off a brilliant passing move with a fine finish.
Tommy Smith wasted a chance to put the tie beyond doubt when his weak penalty was saved by Dean Kiely ten minutes from time.
And then Charlton equalised in the last minute. John Robinson ghosted in unmarked to head home Claus Jensen’s cross. But Watford refused to be cowed. In extra time Heidar Helguson scored the winner when he hurled himself at the ball and the far post after Kiely had parried Smith’s shot.
The manner of the victory made Vialli’s next move all the more peculiar. In the last eight, Watford were drawn to face the only other team from outside the Premiership, Sheffield Wednesday.
Faced with a one-off tie that had to be settled on the night, Vialli decided to pack the midfield and play one striker. Despite a bright start at Hillsborough, Watford lost 4-0.
If Vialli had produced a few more displays like the one against Charlton, Watford would have been promoted. But the problem was that over the course of the season they showed a rare understanding of how to beat teams with pace.
Watford Chamberlain, Robinson, Cox, Issa, Vega, Doyley, Hyde, Vernazza, Gayle (Fisken 45), Noel-Williams (Helguson 90), Smith
Manager Gianluca Vialli
Scorers Vernazza 17, Robinson 60, Helguson 99
Charlton Athletic scorers Brown 43, Robinson 90
Why was this match chosen? A swashbuckling victory over Premier League oppostion to reach the quarter-finals of the League Cup. If Vialli's side could have reproduced this sort of performance more often they'd have been in the mix for promotion.
How do I feel about this game's inclusion now? It was a great Vicarage Road night but one that cannot be enjoyed in isolation because the next round showed Vialli and Wilkins at their most infuriating – meddling with the team line-up when Sheffield Wednesday were there for the taking.