Tractor Boys Preview
The Watford bandwagon rolls into Ipswich this weekend, the traveling roadshow that has no home and departs with three points more often than not. Jim Magilton`s Town side will be a hard nut to crack however as they are unbeaten at Portman Road this season.
Fifteen played, 11 wins, four draws, nought defeats in East Anglia. Some record huh? Well, records are made to be broken - lets make sure it isn`t our that`s broken…
This season has by no means been a fluke, the Tractor Boys have a proud record of being one of the top sides in the Championship and although they`ve not been up since relegation in 2002, they`ve come close. Play-off defeats and last day defeats costing a play-off place have been heartbreaking, but maybe this year, the most cursed second-tier side are on the way up.
Magilton may not have a team of stars at his hands, but he has a star team overall. The addition of David Norris in the January Transfer Window epitomizes the sort of side the Ulsterman is trying to build. Young, exciting, positive, attacking, the sort that get you off your seats, and, for 1.8million, there is pressure on the shoulders of the former Bolton wideman. Norris knows where the net is at Vicarage Road having beaten the Golden Boys for Plymouth with a last gasp goal earlier in the season, lessons will have to be learnt.
On the opposite flank is another equally exciting young man, Danny Haynes. Blessed with extreme pace, the Town academy graduate is just another player of the Portman Road production line that has bought the world Owen Garvan, Darren Bent and Ian Westlake. Directness, speed of though and almost as much trickery as Cristiano Ronaldo means that Lloyd Doyley is in for a tough afternoon this Saturday.
The challenge for Haynes and Norris is to supply the chances for a goalscorer who has hit the wall. Alan Lee has scored goals at this level for years now, but of late the Irish cap has struggled for goals with just one in ten. However, these are the most dangerous forwards and backing the powerful frontman to net would be money well spent when you consider his 39 goals in 78 league starts for Town.
Jonathan Walters is another goalscorer and is probably enjoying the season of a lifetime. Having floated around in the lower leagues, Magilton picked up the winger-cum-forward from Chester last season having faced them in the F.A Cup. Magilton`s judging of the 25 year-olds ability was bang on and his reward has been a windfall of goals including a first pro` hattrick against Bristol in a 6-0 demolition.
Pablo Counago adds further firepower up front, as if it was needed with the two afore mentioned players, and in his second spell, the flambouyant Spaniard has been just as bigger hit. His first spell in the UK was marred slightly by disciplinary problems and attitude, but after a couple of years exile in Europe, Counago has returned with the desire to prove himself. A superb backheeled goal from distance at Charlton proved not only his arrogance but his sheer class also.
Ipswich`s other bit of January business saw goalkeeper Neil Alexander leave for 'boyhood heroes` Glasgow Rangers in a 'once-in-a-lifetime` opportunity - that six months after joining the Tractor Boys from Cardiff.
Shane Supple stands in the way of Stephen Bywater and Nick Colgan, deadline-day arrivals, in the form of competition for the number one jersey. Just 21, Supple has proven as flexible as his name suggest and the Eire youth cap has a huge future ahead of him.
A win at Ipswich would send out a message about the Golden Boys, a snarling, threatening message that we`re back for good, and we mean business…
Lee; Doyley, Shittu, Bromby, Sadler; Smith, Eustace, O`Toole, Stewart; Ellington and Kabba.
Bywater; Wright, Bruce, De Vos, Harding; Walters, Garvan, Norris, Haynes; Lee and Counago.
0708: Watford 2-0 Ipswich
0506: Watford 2-1 Ipswich
Ipswich 0-1 Watford
0405: Ipswich 1-2 Watford