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Jewell Set to Start Dyer Against Watford
Tuesday, 15th Mar 2011 12:53
Boss Paul Jewell is expected to hand Kieron Dyer his first Portman Road start for Town in 12 years when Watford visit for this evening’s rearranged Boxing Day fixture (KO 7.45pm). Dyer was feeling a bit stiff after Saturday’s match at Leeds but looks set to be in Jewell’s starting XI against the Blues’ bogey side.
Jewell says Dyer will be all the better for Saturday’s game at Leeds, even if the atrocious pitch didn’t make for the type of passing game which suits the midfielder: “He played 70 minutes of a very physical encounter on Saturday.
“He came through it, he’s a little bit stiff, but we’ll see how he is and I ask people just to be a bit patient because he’s not going to 100% fit straight away.
“We’re delighted to have him and hopefully we can edge him back to fitness and he can do well for us.”
The Town boss is likely to err on the side of caution regarding the 32-year-old’s fitness while he's at Portman Road and expects him to be given a warm welcome home by the Blues support: “I’m sure he’ll get a terrific reception. I know there’s been a lot of excitement about him coming back and hopefully he’ll be able to put on a good performance and be part of a team that gets three points.
“We don’t want to break him down, that’s the key thing for Kieron, so we’ll see how he is [on Tuesday] and if he’s OK he will start.”
Town haven’t beaten Watford for seven years and 12 matches but Jewell says this hoodoo shouldn’t be a factor: “I wasn’t aware until our press man told me. I don’t think players think too much about that, but hopefully we can put that bogey to rest. Every game’s there to be won and history and records are there to be broken.
“Having said that, you look the teams you’re playing against and think ‘My striker’s scored against them a few times’. Normally strikers like to play against certain teams, it’s just that none of ours do! No, the bogey team thing will go out of the window.”
The Blues manager has been impressed with what he’s seen of Watford: “I saw them play QPR earlier on in the season and they murdered them. It was 3-1 but it could have been any score. They were really impressive.
“They’ve got young players, they’re a good counter-attacking team and they’ve got a terrific manager. This league is a real grind because there are no games where you can think we can be at half measures, every game has to be flat out.”
Jewell is determined to ensure that Town’s season doesn’t peter out with the Blues looking unlikely to either reach the play-offs or become embroiled in the relegation battle in the final weeks: “We’re aiming to try and finish the season on a high, which means taking the momentum of the end of this season into next season.
“I don’t want to end up struggling down the bottom of the league trying to stay up. When we came here that was the aim - make sure we’re safe and build for next season.
“It’s always easier to build for next season from a stronger base rather than fighting relegation. I’ve been told this is a long-term job, although I’m sure Aidy Boothroyd [who was sacked yesterday] was told that at Coventry as well.
“We want to finish the season well, give the supporters something to cheer about and look forward to renewed optimism next season without making any empty promises.
“Normally it’s 51 or 52 points to stay up and looking at that we probably need a couple more wins to be safe. But in this league you never know. Bottom can beat top and you’re never surprised.”
Jewell looks unlikely to make too many changes from the team which drew 0-0 at Leeds. Mark Kennedy is closing in on a return from his hamstring injury and could come in at left-back for Darren O’Dea if he is considered fit enough.
Márton Fülöp is set to continue in goal with Carlos Edwards at right-back and Gareth McAuley and Damien Delaney in the centre.
Kieron Dyer seems likely to keep his place in the centre of the midfield, playing in front of Jimmy Bullard and stand-in skipper Grant Leadbitter with regular captain David Norris serving the final game of a two-match ban. If Dyer isn’t considered up to a second start in four days, then Andy Drury is likely to return.
Connor Wickham and Lee Martin will continue in the wide roles with Tamás Priskin again probably getting the nod ahead of Jason Scotland up front.
Midfielder Colin Healy remains on the sidelines with his torn stomach muscle, while keeper Brian Murphy is around three weeks away from a return after his broken ankle. Alan Quinn is continuing his recovery from the groin injury which has destroyed his season.
Academy second-year scholar Josh Carson, a Northern Ireland U21 international midfielder, is an outsider for a place on the bench having travelled with the squad to Leeds on Saturday. Carson was on the bench at Exeter early in the season.
Like his Ipswich counterpart, Hornets boss Malky Mackay is taking no notice of his side’s recent dominance over the Blues: “Past history is nothing. You go on how form goes in the last few weeks really, so we’ll be taking Ipswich incredibly seriously.
“It’s a tough game any time. I’ve obviously been going to that part of the world for a fair amount of years, I lived not far away in Norfolk, so I know a lot about the club and a lot about the people there and I know that for every team that’s gone there it’s been a tough experience.”
Ex-Canary Mackay is wary of the recent additions Jewell has made to his squad: “He’s an experienced man, an experienced manager and a club always gets a lift when a new manager comes in as well, and he’s also then brought in a couple of players - very, very experienced players.
“You’re talking about Jimmy Bullard and Kieron Dyer, they’re another two guys that are Premiership players who are going to add to the group.
“You look at a lot of clubs that are up there, they’re adding Premiership players and Premiership quality. With that comes the financial aspect as well but you’re adding quality to this division and I think that’s what Paul’s done.”
Midfielder Stephen McGinn is a long-term absentee having undergone knee surgery, while right-back Lee Hodson is also out having been stretchered off at the weekend with bad bruising to his leg. Loanee midfielder Danny Drinkwater is back at parent club Manchester United being treated for a thigh injury.
Tonight’s game was originally set to take place on Boxing Day but was controversially called off an hour and 45 minutes prior to kick-off.
Referee Grant Hegley decided a section of pitch in front of the Cobbold Stand was unplayable, despite Town groundsman Alan Ferguson being confident that the situation could be rectified if he was given additional time, something the official was unwilling to allow, despite fans already being at the ground.
Town haven’t beaten Watford, who are currently 11th in the Championship, seven points and five places above the Blues, in 12 games home and away 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.
Despite this recent poor record, Town have still had the better of Watford historically, winning 24 times (21 in the league), losing 21 (20) and drawing 16 (16).
At Vicarage Road in October, David Norris’s second half goal wasn’t enough to prevent the Blues from falling to a 2-1 defeat. Town had been the better side up to a two-goal Hornets salvo just before the break from Stephen McGinn and Marvin Sordell.
The Blues got back on top in the closing stages after Norris’s goal, but were unable to grab the equaliser, Ronan Murray finding the net but with a linesman’s flag already raised.
At Portman Road last season, Watford sub Nathan Ellington netted a late equaliser to stretch the Blues’ winless run to 13 games. Town had gone ahead through Gareth McAuley early on and should have been well in front before again conceding a last-gasp goal.
Tamás Priskin joined the Blues from Watford for £1.7 million in the summer of 2009 and is the only ex-Watford player in Town’s ranks, although reserves boss Chris Kiwomya is a former academy coach at Vicarage Road.
Hornets keeper Scott Loach was an academy schoolboy at Playford Road and Watford goalkeeper-coach Alec Chamberlain was also a youth player with the Blues but never made a first team appearance, unlike Hornets first team coach David Kerslake, who made three starts and six sub appearances for George Burley’s side in the 1997/98 season.
Tonight’s referee Grant Hegley is from Hertfordshire, who has shown a rather conservative 30 yellow and two red cards in 25 games so far this season. Hegley’s most recent Town match – at least the last one which actually went ahead - was the 1-1 draw with Burnley in August in which he red-carded Clarets defender David Edgar.
Squad from: Fülöp, Lee-Barrett, Edwards, Kennedy, O’Dea, McAuley, Delaney, Smith, Leadbitter, Bullard, Dyer, Drury, Peters, Hyam, Carson, Martin, Wickham, Civelli, Priskin, Scotland.
Photo: Action Images
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