Writer: Tom Bodell
Date:Friday March 23 2012
WATFORD ARE back at Vicarage Road once more this Saturday as they play host to an improving Ipswich Town side.
The Tractor Boys have had a rollercoaster ride of a season, plumbing the depths of the relegation zone after a good start before more recently putting together a really strong run of results. Wherever Paul Jewell`s side do finish this season, supporters will not have been bored.
A cheeky tip for promotion for many (myself included), the Suffolk side have put together a recent run which has seen just one defeat in 10 and a climb to 14th - one place and five goals about Sean Dyche`s side.
Ipswich are at the very least entertaining, and with a goal average of 1.6 per game (a mere 0.3 behind benchmark Southampton), it`s not goals that have been the problem for Town this term.
Leading-scorer and former 'Orn Michael Chopra has 14 despite some well-documented off-field issues whilst West Bromwich Albion midfield Keith Andrews bagged an impressive nine from the centre of the park during his five-month stint in East Anglia.
The problem lies with the defence, which has been by no means settled, shipping 40 goals away from home, the division`s worst, and 25 at home, amongst the worst.
There is a lack of experience in the Town backline with former Reading hero Ibrahima Sonko the only truly experienced member of the back four.
The former Brentford, Reading and Stoke centre-back moved on a free from the Britannia having spent the last two seasons on loan at Hull City and Portsmouth. The powerful defender has amassed just over 250 league starts in England, the bulk of which came with the Royals where the 31 year-old tasted promotion and the Premier League.
Alongside Sonko, the most senior member of Jewell`s defence is former Queens Park Ranger and Hull City man, Damien Delaney. The 30 year-old Irish international joined from the Hoops in July 2009 and has been a mainstay since, racking up 85 league starts for Ipswich.
Capable of playing at left-back or centre-half, Delaney started his career with Cork City in his native Ireland before moving to Leicester for £50k. Moves to Huddersfield, Stockport and Mansfield on loan followed before Hull shrewdly invested a further 50k in him for a return of 220 league starts. A frustrating time at Loftus Road followed before joining countryman Roy Keane at Portman Road.
Such is the weakness of Town`s defence, former Luton, Wrexham and Sunderland winger Carlos Edwards has been almost permanently deployed at right full-back for the past two seasons whilst on the opposite side, former Liverpool, Millwall, Wolves, Palace and Cardiff veteran Mark Kennedy has been converted into a left-back from left-midfield.
One man who has impressed at the back this season is former Tranmere Rovers left-back, Aaron Cresswell.
The 22 year-old joined for a tribunal set fee of 240k following the expiry of his contract on the Wirrall and has not looked back. A regular in his first season in Championship football, Cresswell should make his 100th league start on Saturday, assuming he is selected. Equipped with a good left foot and the energy to get up and down the left flank, he is certainly one of Jewell`s better signings.
Town do have the benefit of a fully-fit squad to choose from for their visit to WD18, however Grant Leadbitter is suspended.
Dyche will sweat on the fitness of Troy Deeney who picked up a knee injury in the Bristol Rovers victory as well as Aidy Mariappa and John Eustace.
Watford: Kuszczak; Doyley, Taylor, Nosworthy, Dickinson; Murray, Hogg, Buaben, Kacaniklic; Deeney & Iwelumo.
Ipswich Town: McCarthy; Edwards, Delaney, Smith, Cresswell; Martin, Bowyer, Drury, Emmanuel-Thomas; Murphy & Chopra.
Referee: Mr P Walton.
Date:Friday March 23 2012
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