Writer: Tom Bodell
Date:Sunday March 9 2014
WATFORD return to Championship action on Tuesday with a trip to south Yorkshire to face Doncaster Rovers after a weekend off-duty.
Beppe Sannino`s Hornets had a good weekend without playing, with play-off contenders Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town losing, Reading and Brighton playing out a 1-1 draw and Wigan Athletic in F.A Cup action.
Doncaster also enjoyed a good weekend, beating Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town 2-0 at the Keepmoat Stadium to put a four-point buffer between themselves and the bottom three as the season enters its final dramatic stage.
Nothing will ever quite live up to the drama that Rovers were involved in on the last day of last season, though, winning promotion back to the Championship at the first attempt in the dying seconds of the League One season after Brentford`s Marcello Trotta struck the bar with the penalty which would have sent the Bees up in their place.
Maintaining their Championship status was always going to be the club`s primary target after a swift return to the second-tier, and at the time of writing, Rovers have every chance of meeting that objective.
The loan return of former fans` favourite Billy Sharp should provide a huge shot in the arm, particularly after Manchester United loanee Kiko Macheda completed his loan spell at the Keepmoat before moving onto Birmingham City.
On loan from Southampton, Sharp scored 40 league goals in just 77 starts for Donny during his first spell with the club, initially signing on loan from Sheffield United before making the move permanent for the bargain fee of £1.1m.
Sharp, 28, joined the Saints in January 2012 as Nigel Adkins looked to bolster his forward options for the final promotion push. Southampton were promoted, but Sharp was on the periphery before finding himself packed off on loan to Nottingham Forest following promotion to the top-flight.
Ten goals in 30 starts for the Tricky Trees was a decent return for the Sheffield-born hitman, but a permanent move was not forthcoming and a loan reunion with Adkins at Reading was fixed up earlier this term.
Sharp has scored twice in his first five starts in his third stint with Rovers, earning a point against Blackpool and setting Doncaster on their way to all three against the Terriers on Saturday.
The January transfer window also saw boss Paul Dickov attempt to tighten up his backline, signing former West Brom pair Abdoulaye Meite and Gabriel Tamas on short-term contracts until the end of the season.
Both players arrive with plenty of top-flight experience, with Meite having previously turned out for Marseille and Bolton, whilst Tamas has played for Galatasaray, Spartak Moscow and Auxerre.
Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone also arrived on loan, with regular No.1 Ross Turnbull sidelined due to a calf injury.
Johnstone, 20, is taking in his fourth Football League loan stint, having previously spent time with Scunthorpe United, Walsall and
A member of England`s 2010 Under-17 European Championship-winning squad - picked ahead of Stoke`s Jack Butland - Johnstone has recently extended his loan deal with Donny after impressing in his six outings to date, a deal which Dickov described as "crucial".
'It was crucial to extend the loan because Ross isn`t quite ready yet," Dickov told BBC Radio Sheffield.
'Sam has been fantastic since he came in. We keep saying it, he is rated really highly and since he has been here, everyone can see why.'
Dickov will be without Turnbull, as well as Spurs loanee Bongani Khumalo, meaning Tamas and Meite should continue at centre-half.
Fellow centre-backs Jamie McCombe and Rob Jones are also unavailable, whilst former Hornet Harry Forrester is also sidelined.
Watford are without Joel Ekstrand (suspension), Fitz Hall (Achilles) and Almen Abdi (foot), whilst Park Ju-Young and Samba Diakite are both doubts.
Lewis McGugan and Fernando Forestieri returned to training during the week and could be in contention for places in the matchday squad.
Doncaster Rovers: Johnstone; Quinn, Tamas, Meite, Husband; Duffy, Keegan, Wellens, Cotterill; Brown & Sharp.
Watford: Almunia (c); Doyley, Cassetti, Angella; Anya, Murray, Tozser, Battocchio, Pudil; Deeney & Ranegie.
Referee: Mr C Sarginson
Commentary: BBC Three Counties & Hornets Player
Highlights: Hornets Player.
Date:Sunday March 9 2014
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Cathcart Stunner Puts Watford Top (Saturday April 18 2015)
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PREVIEW: Forest v Watford (Wednesday April 15 2015)
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