Ipswich Town arrive at Vicarage Road on Saturday very much in the hunt for a play-off berth just 18 months after Mick McCarthy replaced Paul Jewell.
The appointment of the former Wolverhampton Wanderers boss has proven shrewd, first comfortably sustaining the club’s Championship status before guiding the Suffolk outfit within touching distance of the top six.
With four fixtures left to play, Town are eighth in the Championship standings, only outside of the play-off places thanks to an inferior goal difference.
The Tractor Boys have taken 13 points from the last possible 18, despite the absence of 14-goal top-scorer David McGoldrick due to a knee injury.
Irish forward Daryl Murphy has taken on the goalscoring duties in McGoldrick’s absence and only trails the former Southampton and Nottingham Forest hitman by one league goal.
Town boss McCarthy has spent time on the training ground organising his side, who continue to be a threat from set pieces. Centre-backs Tommy Smith and Christophe Berra have each weighed in with five goals apiece this season.
Ipswich have conceded five goals in their last six games, scoring seven in the process. They haven’t won by more than a two-goal margin since Boxing Day and although they are currently unbeaten in two, they haven’t put together three consecutive wins since the beginning of December.
Ipswich could be missing highly rated defender Aaron Cresswell who sat out the win over Doncaster with a groin injury. Cresswell has contributed 13 assists from left-back this season and his influence on Ipswich and their set-plays is huge.
Factor McGoldrick’s injury into the equation and Town look considerably weaker. Crystal Palace loanee Johnny Williams has become the chief playmaker in the centre of midfield and is increasingly influential. The pacey Paul Anderson is a dangerous outlet out wide given Watford’s narrow back-line.
How They Play
Town usually set-up in a 4-5-1 formation as they look to outwork and overcrowd the midfield area.
Typical of McCarthy teams of years gone by, the core of the team has battling qualities and plenty of industry - something embodied by the likes of Cole Skuse and Luke Hyam in the middle of the park.
A number of the Tractor Boys' goals come from crossing situations, whether it be set-pieces or open play - demonstrated by Cresswell’s volume of assists.
Centre-half and captain Luke Chambers likes to get involved too and often clips balls in behind for the ever-busy and willing Murphy.
McCarthy also likes to utilise players such as Frank Nouble and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake from the bench, who are traditionally more explosive and direct than perhaps his less adventurous starters.
Nouble and Ebanks-Blake have amassed 24 substitute appearances between them this term, even though former Wolves man Ebanks-Blake only arrived in December.