Writer: Tom Bodell
Date:Saturday December 24 2011
OUR REGULAR Boxing Day opponents roll into town 24 hours after the main event as Watford play host the Malky Mackay's Cardiff City.
The former Hornet's boss has enjoyed an excellent start to life at the Cardiff City Stadium and his side start the festive period in fifth place, a Play-Off place their's by five points.
Following the disappointment of the previous two campaigns under Dave Jones, the Scot appears to have got the Bluebirds firing on all cylinders once more.
Mackay's first task on arrival in South Wales to was to re-build a squad decimated following Jones' departure. With a heavy reliance on the loan system last season, Mackay moved quickly to bolster a paper-thin group.
Eight players arrived at the club on a permanent basis with just one loan arrival in Slovakian midfielder, Filip Kiss.
Among those who joined the Mackay revolution were former Watford duo, Don Cowie and Andrew Taylor.
Having failed to agree a new deal at Vicarage Road, Cowie joined the Bluebirds on a free transfer. In two and a half seasons in Hertfordshire, Cowie became an integral part of the side, making the right-wing position his own. Arriving from Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Cowie made 87 league starts for the club, scoring nine goals in the process. Far from your 'tyical' down the line, chalk on his boots style of winger, Cowie was effective nonetheless. Hard-working and useful on the ball, Cowie has quickly settled into life at Cardiff scoring six goals in his first 26 league and cup starts.
Taylor on the other hand was only briefly a Hornet, spending six months on loan from Middlesbrough last season. A classy left-back with a beautiful left peg, the 'Boro trainee was sorely missed when he left Vicarage Road to return to the North East. Taylor grabbed his first career goal whilst with the Goldenboys, a superb volley against Portsmouth on New Years Day. Having rejected a new deal on lower wages at The Riverside stadium, Taylor returned south to link up once more with Mackay.
Combative central midfielder Aaron Gunarsson was another free transfer, arriving from the financially-stricken Coventry City. The Icelandic international spent three years at the Ricoh Arena, making over 100 league starts for the Sky Blues. Formerly of AZ Alkmaar, the 22 year-old is well on his way to beating his goal talley for the Midlanders, with four strikes in his first 17 league games in Wales.
Mackay looks set to have two midfielders back in Cowie and youngster Joe Ralls whilst the experienced Stephen McPhail is a long-term absentee due to a knee injury.
Watford boss Sean Dyche could be without ill pair, Chris Iwelumo and Carl Dickinson once more meaning Troy Deeney and Lloyd Doyley would deputize. John Eustace will compete with Prince Buaben for a starting berth again.
Watford: Loach; Hodson, Nosworthy, Mariappa (c), Dickinson; Yeates, Hogg, Buaben, Kightly; Deeney & Sordell.
Cardiff City: Marshall; McNaughton, Hudson, Turner, Taylor; Cowie, Gunnarsson, Ralls, Whittingham, Conway; Miller.
Match Officials: (R) Mr P Miller; (AR's) Mr A Laver & Mr G Margetts; (4th) Mr J Scott.
Date:Saturday December 24 2011
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