Preston Preview - Home, 23rd Feb
For Watford, games against Preston North End usually have some significance. Back in 2004, goals from Paul Devlin and Hameur Bouazza saw the Horns stave off relegation. In 2005, Ray Lewington saw his tenure as Watford gaffer end as Watford were brushed aside 2-0. And, the new gaffer, some fella called Aidy Boothroyd started the following campaign with a 2-1 defeat to the Lilywhites.
So, in the theme of all this, perhaps today is the day Watford deliver what they threaten and threaten the rest of the division by going all out to trounce someone. That will be no easy task though as Alan Irvine`s Lilywhites refuse to go down and are resurgent under the Scot.
Irvine was probably the club`s most critical January signing, arriving from Everton where he was David Moyes number two. And, on the past few seasons evidence, Irvine is well qualified to take the top spot if he has learnt anything from Moyes. This is of course David Moyes, former PNE gaffer.
North End have a proud tradition over the last few seasons, a proud tradition of being Play Off losers if we`re blunt. In 2005/2006 the Lilywhites took on Leeds United before the Elland Road club lost to us. The season before Billy Davies took them to the Final where they were beaten late on by West Ham. Perhaps this won`t be their season for promotion, but they certainly don`t want to exit via the trapdoor.
Preston will be confident having just narrowly lost out on an F.A Cup Quarter Final tie, losing 1-0 against Portsmouth last weekend, and that was an injury time own-goal. In the previous round, Irvine`s men went to Derby, thrashing them 4-1. The pivotal figure in the Pompey defeat was Darren Carter who notched the winning [own] goal, he will today be suspended.
Sean St. Ledger is also unavailable through injury and former Crewe man Billy Jones should deputise at right back. Jones is undoubtedly a talent and made his name at Gresty Road under the Dario Gradi production line. In his four years in Cheshire, Jones made 127 league starts, varying between midfield midfield and defence.
In midfield, Richard Chaplow is likely to be partnered by former Scummer, Kevin Nicholls. The former Luton captain started his career at Charlton Athletic before moving onto Wigan and Birghton before settling down at Kenilworth Road. A lethal penalty taker, Nicholls has captained Leeds, Luton and now PNE. His season has been stop-start and he`s only managed 17 league starts, but that will surely soon change as his experience tells in the relegation battle.
Richard Chaplow should start alongside fellow skin-head Nicholls; Chaplow signed in January for around half a million having endured a torrid time at West Brom where he played second-fiddle to a number of recognised internationals. However, in the more modest surroundings of Deepdale, Chaplow should thrive and get back to the football played at Burnley. At Turf Moor it was Chaplow was a pivotal figure making his name alongside Robbie Blake, the duo virtually keeping the Clarets up on their own.
Goals haven`t been easy to come by this season for Preston, but Karl Hawley looks to have hit some form at last after his Summer move from Carlisle having nabbed 3 in his last six. Hawley had an almost unrivalled record at Carlisle where he managed 47 league strikes in just over 100 starts for the Cumbrians. Preston`s survival could be down to the form of he and Chris Brown who moved from Norwich City in Janary to compensate for Patrick Aygemang`s departure. Ironically, Aygemang has been on fire since leaving Deepdale and joining Q.P.R
That though is football, as was our poor performance and last minute defeat at Deepdale a few weeks back. It`s up to us to change the record…
Lee (c); Mariappa, Bromby, Shittu, Sadler; Smith, Eustace, O`Toole, McAnuff; Ellington and Henderson.
Longeran; Jones, Mawene (c), Davidson, Hill; Whaley, Nicholls, Chaplow, Neal; Hawley and Brown.
Come on your 'Ornsss!