Preview: Barnsley (H) - March 15
WATFORD will look to build on a run of five straight wins and clean sheets at the Vic' as they host struggling Barnsley on Saturday.
Consecutive victories over Bristol City (F.A Cup), Brighton & Hove Albion, Birmingham City, Middlesbrough and Blackpool at Vicarage Road have propelled Beppe Sannino's men into the top half of the Championship table as they look to build a solid platform from which to begin next term.
For Danny Wilson and Barnsley, the reality is altogether different; two points from safety and only a point ahead of bottom-of-the-league Charlton Athletic, who have three games in hand on the Tykes.
A poor start to the season after last season's heroics under David Flitcroft cost the likeable now-Bury boss his job, with former Barnsley, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday manager Wilson returning to Oakwell in mid-December to take up the reins.
Marooned in the bottom three since the end of August, it will take a run of form not dissimilar to last season, where they lost just four of their final 22 in the Championship to avoid the drop after 'Flicker' took over from mentor Keith Hill.
Just three wins from 14 Championship fixtures have followed Wilson's re-appointment, but those victories do account for 50 per cent of the wins the Tykes have managed in the league this season.
Owners of the worst away record in the division, with just seven points procured on their travels, the Yorkshire outfit are the second-lowest scorers on the road, hitting the back of the net just 11 times in 16 outings.
Having arrived prior to the January transfer window, Wilson was at least able to put his own stamp on his beleaguered squad, bringing in no fewer than eight fresh faces to assist in the battle against relegation.
Striker Nick Proschwitz, 27, signed on loan from Premier League new-boys Hull City has hit the ground running, scoring three times in his first seven starts for the club.
The 6ft3 & 1/2in managed just three goals for the Tigers in his first season at the KC Stadium following a £2.5m move from SC Paderborn, though that did include a vital penalty in the 2-2 draw with Hull City on the final day of the season.
With starts hard to come by last season in the Championship and even harder this - playing just 23 minutes in the Premier League - the former Hoffenheim II, Hamburg II, Wolfsburg II and Hannover II forward jumped at the opportunity to drop down a level in search of games.
A goal on his debut to help earn a point against Blackburn Rovers was the ideal start, whilst a brace in the 2-2 draw at Yorkshire rivals Doncaster Rovers confirmed the German's importance to the Tykes, as well as their over-reliance on 11-goal top-scorer Chris O'Grady.
Another man with experience of playing in Germany is former Tranmere Rovers and Bayern Munich attacker Dale Jennings, who returned to form recently with a superb strike in the 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest at Oakwell.
Signed from Bayern for just £250,000 to much acclaim during the summer, the 20 year-old was sent off five minutes into his debut for a ludicrous over-the-top challenge and has since been sent out on loan to MK Dons.
Brought back into the side in January under Wilson, the winger's goal against Forest was his first in English football since leaving Tranmere in the summer of 2011.
Two seasons with Bayern's second team brought 36 appearances and two goals - a figure hampered by a serious knee injury suffered just a handful of months into his first season with the Bavarian giants.
Sannino will welcome Joel Ekstrand back from a two-game ban, though Lloyd Doyley could continue in his place. Fellow Swede Mathias Ranegie begins a three-game ban after lashing out at the Keepmoat.
Fernando Forestieri would have replaced Ranegie after making his return from injury in midweek, but suffered a toe injury in the 2-1 loss & later tweeted a picture of him on crutches with his foot and ankle bandaged up.
With Park Ju-Young (thigh) missing the defeat at Doncaster through injury once more, Sannino could be forced to tweak the system - potentially to a 3-4-2-1 - or play someone out of position in order to partner Troy Deeney up front.
Manuel Almunia also missed the Doncaster trip through illness, along with Sean Murray, who had a groin problem. If neither are available, Jonathan Bond and Alexander Merkel should retain their places.
Almen Abdi (foot) remains sidelined along with Fitz Hall (Achilles).
Barnsley have issues at the back, with defenders Martin Cranie and Peter Ramage both limping off during the 3-0 defeat by Leicester City in midweek. Winger Jim O'Brien is out also.
Watford: Bond; Doyley, Cassetti, Angella; Faraoni, Battocchio, Tozser, Pudil; Anya, Merkel; Deeney.
Barnsley: Steele; Hunt, Mvote, Nyatanga, Kennedy; Woods, Frimpong; Jennings, Mellis, McCourt; O'Grady.
Referee: Mr G Salisbury
Commentary: BBC Three Counties & Hornets Player
Highlights: BBC 1 @ 00.05 & Hornets Player.
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