Writer: Tom Bodell
Date:Friday December 9 2011
HAVING BEATEN one of the league's most out-of-form sides last weekend in Ipswich, Watford host one of the most in-form as Simon Grayson's Leeds visit the Vic'.
The Whites have been wildly inconsistent this season but appear to have hit a purple patch of form, currently positioned in fifth place in the Championship.
A 5-0 defeat at home to Blackpool a few weeks ago proved something of a watershed moment for the Elland Road outfit and Grayson rung the changes.
Disaster 'keeper Paul Rachubka, who was at fault for three of the goals on the day, has been shipped out on loan to League One Tranmere. Alex Bruce has also been moved on, joining Huddersfield on loan - a deal which will be made permanent in January.
Grayson also swooped for two new goalkeepers with establish No.1 Andy Lonergan sidelined for the forseeable future.
Reading's bright young goalkeeping prospect Alex McCarthy arrived on loan from the Berkshire club and has claimed the No.1 jersey in the mean time. McCarthy, who has taken in loan spells with Aldershot, Brentford, Cambridge United and Yeovil, only made his Royals bow last season as he made 12 starts and a substitute appearnace in Adam Federici's absence.
The other signing was former Birmingham City and Southampton custodian, Maik Taylor. Now 40, the Northern Irish international has 88 caps for his country and recently signed on a free for United following his release from St Andrews. Born in Germany, Taylor will provide senior backup to McCarthy until form er PNE stopper Lonergan is back.
As well as utilizing the free agency market effectively, Grayson has seen two signings from last season finally stake their claim for first-team berths on a regular basis.
Former Manchester City youngster Adam Clayton and ex-Cardiff forward Ross McCormack both had little impact in Yorkshire last season but have proven themselves pivotal figures this season.
McCormack was top-scorer in South Wales during his first season south of the border having moved from Motherwell in 2008. Last season brought the Scottish hitman just four goals from 26 appearances. This season though, as the main forward at the club he has hit 11 from just 22 appearances. McCormack was believed to be a Watford target whilst in the SPL.
Twenty-two year-old central midfielder Clayton arrived on-loan at Elland Road last season before quickly making the deal permanent. However, much like McCormack he was not a regular during his first campaign with the Whites and made just four appearances before spending the rest of the season on-loan at Peterborough and MK Dons.
Leeds will be without influential skipper Johnny Howson on Saturday as he undergoes a scan to determine the extent of a knee problem. Michael Brown also misses out with a thigh complaint.
Watford look likely to leave Lloyd Doyley and John Eustace on the bench once more and stick with the XI that won at Portman Road a week ago. The winning-goalscorer, Troy Deeney, is however pushing hard for a start and Chris Iwelumo looks the most likely to give way for the big Brummie.
Watford: Loach; Hodson, Nosworthy, Mariappa (c), Dickinson; Yeates, Hogg, Buaben, Kightly; Sordell & Iwelumo.
Leeds United: McCarthy; Connolly, Kisnorbo, Lees, White; Sam, Nunez, Clayton, Pugh, Snodgrass; Becchio.
Match Officials: (R) Mr E Ilderton; (AR's) Mr G Jerden & Mr G Russell; (4th) Mr M George.
Date:Friday December 9 2011
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