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Watford defender Lee Hodson looking to rediscover last season's form
Lee Hodson admitted he has been suffering from a dip of form recently but is hoping the improved performance at Doncaster Rovers will help him return to the high standards he sets himself.
The defender described last season as a “dream come true” after making an impressive 34 appearances while still a second-year scholar.
But after losing his place to experienced Middlesbrough loanee Andrew Taylor, Hodson did not feature for more than three months between October and January.
The full-back has returned to the starting line-up for the last eight games but by his own admission, has struggled to regain the form which made him a trusted first-team regular during the 2009/10 season.
“In the first season, I set myself quite high standards,” Hodson said.
“I came out of the side for a bit [this season] and wasn’t playing as much and I haven’t started playing to my full potential again.
“It is hard to come out of the side for a few months and then start playing again but I have taken it as a big learning curve because I am still young.
“Obviously I was disappointed but I was watching experienced players playing in my position, so I can take a lot from them and hopefully try and bring that into my game.
“I don’t think there is a second-season syndrome or anything like that but every player has a dip in form and that is what I have been going through lately – a dip in form and consistency. Hopefully I can now bring it back up to the level I know I can play at.”
Hodson has had some disappointing displays in the past month but has also enjoyed a couple of very strong performances.
He impressed in the away games at Reading and Doncaster but when asked if he had been affected by any negativity from the fans at Vicarage Road, he said he “doesn’t really hear the crowd” during games and, “like most players, tries to block it out”.
Hodson believes he had a “much better game” against Doncaster and said: “The last few matches have not gone well for me but they are in the past now and I have to get on with it.
“I just thought to myself on Saturday, ‘I know I have had some bad games but go out there and play your best, no pressure, just believe in yourself and do what you did last season’.
“So I went out there and tried to do everything simple, so my first thought was to defend and I went from there. The more I got into the game, the more my confidence grew and I relaxed a bit more.
“Hopefully I can kick on from Saturday and get back to how I was playing last season.”
Hodson made his Watford debut as a first-year scholar in the final game of the 2008/09 season under former manager Brendan Rodgers.
The 19-year-old is a right-back but due to the return of Taylor and injuries to Lloyd Doyley, has been used on the left in recent weeks.
“It doesn’t matter where I play as long as I can do a job for the team and the gaffer, that is all that matters to me,” Hodson said.
“I am not used to playing left-back but playing there will make me a better player and hopefully I can gain valuable experience.”
He continued: “In the youth team and the Reserves I did play left-back a bit at Under-15s and Under-16s level, so it is not a completely foreign position to me but it is very different.
“I am a right-footed player and now I am having to use my left a bit more. Getting used to opening out with my left foot is the hardest part because normally, as a right-footed player, I would naturally cut inside.
“I need to have that confidence to start playing through balls and passing with it a bit more as the more I use it, the more natural it will become.”
It is easy to forget Hodson is technically still a first-year professional and in the same age group as the likes of Piero Mingoia, particularly considering the Northern Ireland international made his 50th appearance for Watford last month.
But the Academy graduate is adamant he will not rest on his laurels.
Hodson said: “Like I said to you last year, I didn’t expect to be brought into the side as quickly as I did last season. There were a few injuries and players left so I got given my chance.
“I knew it was a short-term thing but I wanted to prove myself and luckily I took my chances last season and played 34 games, which was like a dream come true for me because I never expected it to happen as quickly as it did.
“Making 50-odd appearances at 19 is way past my expectations because I would still be classed as a first-year pro now.
“I have done well to have played so many games but I want to kick-on further, play more games and keep improving.
“Hopefully this is just the start for me and I will keep working hard. There is a lot of hard work needed because this is the age, 19 or 20, when a lot of young players do fade out.”