Town in better shape to take on Watford than they would have been on Boxing Day

ONE thing is for certain as Ipswich Town go into tonight’s Championship match against Watford at Portman Road (kick-off 7.45pm).

They will have more chance of beating the Hornets than they would have done if the referee had not called off the game 90 minutes before it was originally meant to be played on Boxing Day.

A small frozen section of the pitch led to Grant Hegley, who is also referee tonight, making his controversial decision after the pitch had been covered and Town groundsman Alan Ferguson was adamant he could have got it in playing condition by 3pm.

Town are in much better shape now with the arrival of Paul Jewell as manager, Jimmy Bullard and Kieron Dyer as proven Premier League players and with much more spring in their step.

So it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise that Mr Hegley called a halt with Watford’s chances of gaining a double – and becoming the third consecutive club to beat Ipswich at Portman Road – now less than they would have been just after Christmas a few days before the departure of previous manager Roy Keane.

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Watford manager Malky Mackay has praised the younger members of his squad after Saturday’s 3-0 victory over nine-men Sheffield United.

This victory took the Hornets past their initial 52-point target for the season.

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“We’ve been very, very low on numbers and we’re low on numbers right now,” said Mackay.

“We’ve got to be so proud that the youngsters who came in last year have kept improving this year. And the ones that have come in this year have actually started off their career in the Championship, looking as if they can play at this level and handle this level. That’s what I’m really happy with.

“I would only blood them if I think they’ve got potential to do that.

“Along with my coaches Sean Dyche, Dave Kerslake, Alec Chamberlain and Joe McBride we see them day-in, day-out and believe in them and that’s why they’re bloodied, and we believe they have a chance.

“The way that we play is something that myself and my staff have tried to instil from day one of me taking over and they’ve embraced that.”

Lee Hodson has not broken his ankle after being carried off on a stretcher at the weekend following a late challenge from Darius Henderson that earned the former Hornets striker a second yellow card.

“His ankle is badly swollen and bruised and there’s a gash but thankfully it’s not broken,” added Mackay.

Danny Drinkwater (thigh) is still receiving treatment back at Manchester Unitedand Stephen McGinn is a long-term absentee with an injured knee.

Tonight’s likely squads

Ipswich Town: Fulop, Edwards, McAuley, Delaney, O’Dea, Kennedy, Smith, Martin, Leadbitter, Bullard, Dyer, Drury, Peters, Hyam, Wickham, Priskin, Scotland, Lee-Barrett, O’Connor, Civelli.

Watford: Loach, Doyley, Taylor, Mariappa, Thompson, Eustace, Cowie, Buckley, Jenkins, Graham, Sordell, Deeney, Weimann, Bennett, Whichelow, Gilmartin, Mingoia, Isaac.

Referee: Mr G Hegley (Hertfordshire)

Ipswich home league record against Watford

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