WATFORD HEAD to the West Country this Tuesday to take on Derek McInnes Bristol City as they look to extend their unbeaten run to five games, having started a hectic March unbeaten.
The Robins have had no such luck of late and have recorded just one win in their last 10 league games, a run which has seen McInnes` side slip to within just three points of the relegation zone.
The Hornets appear to have eased any lingering relegation worries of their own, however Sean Dyche`s troops will be keen to continue building towards next season as well as, whisper it quietly, beating Malky Mackay`s debut finish with the club two seasons ago.
The Robins are yet another side who suffered the loss of their leading marksman in January with Nicky Maynard departing for West Ham United. The move had at least been expected with the former Crewe Alexandra forward transfer-listed after declaring his intention to not sign a new contract.
As a result, goals have proved difficult for City and an increased burden of expectation has been placed on the club`s deep striking resources.
In total, McInnes has five senior strikers available to him, but with just 10 league strikes between them, it`s clear they will have to step it up if the Bristol outfit are to avoid a return to League One.
Top-scorer Brett Pitman has six for the season, but 19 in his Robins league career from just 30 starts. Forty further substitute appearances suggest that the Jersey-born forward has been used sparingly during his time at Ashton Gate. Pitman, 24, proved that he was very much a natural goalscorer during his six-year association with first club, Bournemouth. The six foot forward rammed in 59 goals in just 103 league starts for the south coast outfit, a better than one-in-two record. Powerful, but by no means a slouch, the forward cost the West Country outfit a seven-figure fee when he signed from the Cherries last season.
McInnes has been quick to dip into the loan market since arriving at Ashton Gate, signing Sean Davis from Premier League Bolton Wanderers most recently. The former Portsmouth, Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur enforcer has been out of the first-team picture at the Reebok this season and has made three appearances since moving on-loan.
Tough in the tackle, Davis has been short of games since leaving Fulham in 2004. A move to the capital with Tottenham yielded just 11 league starts and although three years at Fratton Park saw him make close to 100 league starts, he has chalked up just three appearances for the Trotters in the Premier League. At 32, the Clapham-born midfielder will be looking to put himself back in the shop window ahead of the summer.
Between the sticks there`s a man with even greater experience in former Watford, Liverpool, Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City and Portsmouth custodian, David James. A product of the Hornet`s esteemed youth set up; James will enter his 42nd year this summer and as yet shows no signs of letting up. James made 89 league starts for the Goldenboys before a £1m move to Anfield in July 1992 and has since amassed a whopping 768 starts in English league football. With a further 53 England caps to show for a long and established career, James is by no means over the hill quite yet.
McInnes should be able to pick from a fully-fit group on Tuesday night assuming his charges came through a goalless draw at Portsmouth unscathed.
Dyche has similar fortunes with the ‘Orns, and looks likely to name the same XI that drew with Coventry City at the weekend. The only doubt is Britt Assombalonga who may well make way for Chris Iwelumo.
Bristol City: James; Foster, McManus, Carey, Fontaine, McAllister; Adomah, Cisse, Pearson; Stead & Pitman.
Watford: Kuszczak; Doyley, Mariappa, Nosworthy, Dickinson; Murray, Eustace (c), Hogg, Kacaniklic; Iwelumo & Deeney.
Referee: Mr O Langford.