|Watford 0 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Tuesday, 21st August 2012 Kick-off 19:45
Town Look to End Watford Hoodoo
Tuesday, 21st Aug 2012 12:08
Town visit bogey side Watford tonight looking to end their extraordinary run of 15 games without a victory over the Hornets (KO 7.45pm). Manager Paul Jewell and his assistant Chris Hutchings will be hoping their side carries on where it left off at the end of Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with Blackburn.
Hutchings took on the pre-match press duties on Monday and said he was pleased with the way the team played against Rovers, particularly having gone a goal behind: “I thought we showed great character and determination to come back and I thought we finished very, very strongly.
“[Blackburn have] come down from the Premier League and with the experience that they’ve got – Robinson, Givet, Dann, Etuhu, Murphy, Pedersen it goes on and on – and what we have in terms of certain positions, midfield, wide left, I thought we did very well.
“I thought we could have shifted the ball better and quicker into wider areas, especially in the first half, which we didn’t do. But in the second half I thought we switched the play and got at them a lot more.”
With games coming thick and fast in the early stages thoughts immediately turned to the trip to Vicarage Road: “At the beginning of the season it’s bloody hectic with the cup games as well,” Hutchings said. “We’re going to Watford, they’re coming off the back of a very good win at Crystal Palace [3-2] and we’re looking forward to it.
“I felt for [ex-Hornets boss] Sean Dyche when he got the sack, but new owners come in and unfortunately new managers come in and old ones go. That’s the way that football is.
“Sean had done a fantastic job there with the budget he had, getting the best out of his boys and finishing in the highest position Watford had for numerous years.
“Zola’s come in, there’s been an influx of loan players, his Italian boys have come in, and it’ll be interesting to see whether he can play the Italian way.
“You don’t know what to expect, to be honest. We’ve gone through the DVDs and had a little look to try and learn as much as we possibly can about them, but it’s about what we do. We’ve got to go about our game, get on the front foot and take it to them.
“We’re looking for three points, we’re not going there for a draw and we’re going there in a very positive frame of mind.”
The Blues’ most recent defeat to the Hornets came at Vicarage Road in March when they went a goal in front via Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and dominated a first half in which they had further chances to score.
Hutchings says they paid for not taking those opportunities with the Hornets coming back strongly after the break to win 2-1: “We had chances to win that game early on, so that was very disappointing. In any game, if you don’t take your chances, you don’t win games, it’s as simple as that.
“If you don’t defend set pieces properly, it can lose you games. You take good set pieces, it can win you games. Small details.
“On Saturday we were very disappointing in that respect, the lads knew that. The players knew who they were supposed to be picking up and to concede at a set piece was very frustrating.”
Hutchings said that as of yesterday everyone other than Elliot Hewitt, who will be back in September after undergoing hip operations prior to joining Town, was fine despite the extreme heat on Saturday, and it’s likely that the Blues will be unchanged for tonight’s game.
Keeper Scott Loach will be returning to his old club, while skipper Carlos Edwards and Aaron Cresswell will be the full-backs and Tommy Smith and Luke Chambers the centre-halves.
In midfield, Josh Carson and Emmanuel-Thomas will continue on the flanks with Massimo Luongo and Luke Hyam in the centre of the midfield behind Lee Martin with Michael Chopra the one out-and-out striker.
Watford midfielder Almen Abdi is expected to keep his place despite not being 100% fit, while defender Daniel Pudil and striker Steve Leo Beleck could be in contention after injuries. Frontman Alex Geijo, defender Fitz Hall and midfielder Stephen McGinn are all still sidelined.
Striker Matej Vydra, who scored in the victory over Palace, is now fit enough to start but may still be left on the bench.
Manager Gianfranco Zola says he hopes the Vicarage Road fans will get behind his players in their first home game of the season: “The home crowd is always important. The other day the supporters were fantastic at Crystal Palace and they are vital for us because they can make the difference.
"The players need to see their support - if they see the support is behind them then their performances will always be much better."
Town haven’t beaten Watford in 15 games home or away in all competitions since March 2004 when a Dean Bowditch hat-trick and a rarity from Jermaine Wright condemned the Hornets to a 4-1 defeat at Portman Road.
The Blues' last victory at Vicarage Road was in September 2003 when a debut goal from sub Shefki Kuqi and a superb chip by Jim Magilton saw Joe Royle's men to a 2-1 win, Scott Fitzgerald netting for the Hornets.
Historically, the clubs are evenly matched, the Blues winning 24 times (21 in the league), losing 24 (23) and drawing 16 (16). The Hornets have won the last five games between the sides.
The Blues’ league winless streak of 14 games against Watford (one of the overall 15 was in the FA Cup) is the second worst in the club’s history behind a 15-game streak against Everton between 1962 and 1974.
Town were last at Vicarage Road in March when the Hornets came from behind to beat the Blues 2-1.
Paul Jewell’s men should have been more than Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’s goal in front at half-time, Michael Chopra having missed a sitter, but were second best after the break with goals from Sean Murray and Troy Deeney – the latter after a Carlos Edwards error - seeing the home side to victory.
In December, Watford again came from behind to condemn Town to what was their seventh successive defeat as the Hornets left Portman Road with a 2-1 win.
Keith Andrews saw the Blues into a half-time lead but a penalty from Marvin Sordell and a second from Troy Deeney soon after sealed the victory for the visitors.
Michael Chopra scored five goals in five starts and one sub appearance during a month on loan at Vicarage Road in 2003, including four in a 7-4 away win at Burnley.
Fellow Blues striker Nathan Ellington was with the Hornets for four years up to last summer but made only 23 starts and 33 sub appearances while at Vicarage Road, also scoring five goals. Keeper Scott Loach joined the Blues from Watford for £150,000 during this close season.
Watford goalkeeper-coach Alec Chamberlain was, like Loach, a youth player with the Blues but never made a first team appearance, while Blues recently returning youth development coach Steve Foley spent time coaching at Vicarage Road earlier in his career.
Town supporters currently without tickets can gain entry on cash turnstiles at Vicarage Road this evening.
Tonight’s referee is Roger East from Wiltshire, who showed 124 yellow and six red cards in 45 games last season. East’s most recent Town match was the 2-2 draw at Hull in March in which he booked Damien Delaney and two Tigers players.
Probable squad: Loach, Lee-Barrett, Edwards, Cresswell, Ainsley, Whight, Smith, Chambers, Delaney, Luongo, Hyam, Drury, Emmanuel-Thomas, Carson, Martin, Stevenson, Chopra, Scotland, Murray.
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