IT would take a brave man to argue with Watford’s coaching staff.
But Malky Mackay and Sean Dyche possess brains as well as brawn. Indeed, when the manager and his assistant patrol the technical area against Sheffield United tomorrow, they will be armed with a dossier of information which has been lovingly prepared by tactical boffins working behind the scenes at Vicarage Road.
Speaking after Tuesday’s draw with Swansea City, Mackay revealed their analysis had enabled his team to deliver arguably its most mature display since December’s 3-1 demolition of QPR.
“Drawing with Swansea was a great reward for our staff because after (beating Millwall on) Saturday, they immediately turned to how to play against a team who are slightly unorthodox,” he said. “I know Swansea well and I know (manager) Brendan (Rodgers) well but our staff put in an awful lot of work in with regards to tactics. The same with the people who do our opposition analysis.
“Then, you’ve got to try and get the players to absorb all of that information quickly in a two-day spell. So, that’s why I was delighted that tactically, the players did absorb that and we were able to come away with the result we did.”
Watford enter this match unbeaten in three having emerged as one of the surprise packages of the season so far. Danny Graham’s late but deserved equaliser at the Liberty Stadium left them 11th in the Championship table following previous results against Doncaster Rovers and Kenny Jackett’s side.
With a potential takeover also being discussed – details were lodged with the Stock Exchange yesterday morning - the Hertfordshire club could soon find themselves on a firmer financial footing. Nevertheless, the fact that Swansea dominated the opening 45 minutes in midweek will not have been lost on United’s own strategists.
Had Alan Tate not spurned a glorious opportunity soon after Stephen Dobbie’s 26th-minute strike then the final outcome could have been very different indeed.
“I asked the lads just to show a little bit more belief at half-time,” Mackay admitted. “To step on it a bit more - and, to their credit, they did that.
“I thought we were worthy of a point against a very good team.”
Mackay’s ability to fashion an exciting young squad on a minimal budget saw him rewarded with a new three-and-a-half-year contract earlier this month.
Chairman Graham Taylor, who once rejected an opportunity to become United’s director of football, said: “Supporters have seen a manager at work who genuinely cares for our well-being.”
WATFORD (possible): Loach, Hodson, Taylor, Mariappa, Bennett, Eustace, Cowie, Sordell, Jenkins, Deeney, Graham (4-4-2).
UNITED (possible): Simonsen, Nosworthy, Collins, Lowry, Lowton, Doyle, Montgomery, Quinn, Williamson, Bogdanovic, Cresswell (4-4-2).
Dean Whitestone: From Northamptonshire, Whitestone is one of the youngest referees on the National List. Last took charge of Sheffield United when Gary Speed’s brief reign at the helm began with a 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough. This will be his first appointment at Bramall Lane since October 2008 when Paddy Kenny, Brian Howard and Kyle Naughton were cautioned during a narrow win over Preston North End.
Tale of the Tape
United travel to Hertfordshire looking to avoid a hat-trick of defeats at the hands of their opponents, having been beaten 1-0 at Bramall Lane earlier this term and 3-0 at Vicarage Road just over a year ago. Before that, however, they had been unbeaten in four against their Championship rivals. Marvin Sordell netted the only goal of the game when these two sides last met.