Watford - Crystal Palace Preview (H) - February 8
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Crystal Palace Preview (H) - February 8

WATFORD are back in action at the Vic` once more this Friday as they play host to fifth-placed Crystal Palace live on Sky Sports.

With Ian Holloway`s side just a point and a place behind Gianfranco Zola`s men, the game is of huge significance for all involved, with both looking to improve their positions - indeed Watford could go second if they win.

Having won just two of their last 10 npower Championship games, the South Londoner`s form is sketchy at best, and, with Watford enjoying a run which has seen them win six of their last 10, it`s clear to see which side the right momentum lies with.

One thing surely to Palace`s advantage is that the circus surrounding Wilfried Zaha is finally over. The 20 year-old winger had been the subject of much fevered speculation throughout the January Transfer Window and leading up to it.

With Manchester United completing the 15m capture of the Abidjan-born winger-cum-forward and immediately loaning him back to the Selhurst Park outfit, Holloway has one less thing to worry about.

The former Bristol Rovers, QPR, Plymouth Argyle, Leicester City and Blackpool boss has been particularly fraught in recent weeks with the speculation surrounding his prize asset taking its toll on the 49 year-old.

Holloway did however use the January Transfer Window to add further firepower to his existing five-man cavalry.

Former Blackpool and Watford hitman Kevin Phillips signed on-loan for the rest of the season, whilst Stephen Dobbie joined on-loan from rivals Brighton & Hove Albion. Manchester City prospect Alex Nimely also joined on-loan from the Etihad outfit.

The signing of a 39 year-old Phillips in particular could prove a masterstroke. Palace become the ninth club of his long career and should Palace go up this season, it will be the fifth promotion of a career which has seen Phillips promoted to the top-flight with Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City (twice).

Having started his career at right-back with Southampton, Phillips was released before joining Hertfordshire side Baldock Town and converting to a striking role.

Success with Baldock earned Phillips a 10,000 move to the Vic`, ramming in 24 league goals in 54 starts for the Hornets before a 325,000 move to Sunderland where he would form a formidable partnership with Niall Quinn.

Further goal-laden stints at Aston Villa, West Brom, Birmingham and Blackpool leave Phillips with an overall career record of 242 league strikes in 453 games.

Another loan addition was Norwich City`s Jacob Butterfield. The 22 year-old playmaker only joined the Canaries in the summer on a free transfer from Barnsley but has been used sparingly by Chris Hughton.

A loan move to Championship rivals Bolton Wanderers brought Butterfield four starts and as many substitute appearances before joining Palace during the January Transfer Window.

In five years at Oakwell, the homegrown midfielder made 53 starts, captaining the club during his final season in Yorkshire. Saturday`s 2-1 victory over Charlton brought the 5`11 Butterfield his 100th league appearance, though 40 of those have come from the bench.

Butterfield has a solitary England U21 cap, won in 2011.

Watford are without defender Neuton who is continuing his rehab following injury. Winger Ikechi Anya is back in training following a back injury.

Adam Thompson has returned to training after dislocating his should whilst on loan at Barnet, whilst Tommie Hoban featured for Ireland's U19s and should be in contention therefore.

Connor Smith pulled out of Ireland's U21 squad to focus on his fitness at the Hornet's London Colney training ground, whilst Joel Ekstrand appears to be fit enough to be involved on Friday.

Palace are without Mile Jedinak who underwent facial surgery after taking a severe blow to the face against Huddersfield Town.

Defender Paddy McCarthy and striker Nimely are both out whilst Owen Garvan is doubtful.

Predicted line-ups:

Almunia; Doyley, Hall, Nosworthy; Cassetti, Abdi, Chalobah, Battocchio, Pudil; Vydra & Deeney.

Crystal Palace: Speroni; Richards, Ramage, Delaney, Moxey; O`Keefe, Marrow, Butterfield; Zaha, Murray & Bolasie.

Referee: Mr M Naylor.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tom Bodell Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday February 7 2013

Time: 8:59AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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With Lloyd Doyley coming ever so close to his 350th 1st team appearance for Watford how better to mark the occasion with a win. With doubts on whether Ekstrand or Nosworthy it looks like Hoban may have to fill in at the back. Palace's form has not been good at recent with only 1 win in 6 in all competition they will definitely look to get a win on their belt so we can expect them to put up a good fight. It wont be a walk in the park that's for sure but the bookies have put us at 1/1 so it seems that we are the favorites. With second place within our sight I hope that will be enough to spur us on to get a solid win. The first goal i think will be the decider in this game, if we score first Palace will have to look to play more attacking football and then we can look to beat them on the counter as we have done so well this season, however if palace go ahead i can only see them gaining confidence and maybe grabbing a second. I will most definitely be cheering the Hornets from my sofa, whilst stuffing my face with popcorn. Finally having read the Peter Beagrie article on Watford's promotion chances, I would say that this game could be a pivotal moment in our automatic promotion campaign. Vydra deserves the credit that was given to him and he is a major contender of Player of season if his form continues. Marshall's prediction: Watford 2 Palace 0
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