• Championship Preview: Watford v Brighton and Hove Albion

    Whilst Albion weren’t able to pick up a win on Tuesday night against Cardiff, it certainly wasn’t for the want of trying thanks to the efforts of their ‘keeper David Marshall.

    His fine second half performance means that Sami Hyypia’s men have been held to a draw in their past three league games, and a point could be made that against the Bluebirds and Blackpool they probably deserved all three points.

    With the next international break almost upon us, The Seagulls will be hoping to go into that period with a first win in over a month under their belt as they travel to Vicarage Road to take on high-flying Watford.

    Just over a week ago this fixture had a lot of meaning to Brighton fans, as it was to be the first encounter with former head coach Oscar Garcia, who resigned from his role at the Amex at the end of last season.

    The Spaniard made a return to former club Macabi Tel-Aviv in the summer, however after the recent military crisis in Israel he chose to leave because of security concerns.

    He was appointed Watford Head Coach at the beginning of September after the departure of Beppe Sannino.

    However after taking charge of his first game against Charlton on September 13th, Garcia was taken into hospital the following evening with chest pains, and whilst he has now been discharged, those health issues led to him making the decision to step down from his position with the Hornets on Monday this week.

    CMS scored in Albion's last win at Vicarage Road, but won't feature today

    Former Fulham caretaker boss Billy McKinlay was installed as their new head coach, and oversaw their 2-1 win over Brentford on Tuesday night.

    Despite all the disruption and changes made at this early stage of the season, Watford have still managed to be amongst the pace setters in the division, sitting third in the Championship table, and are currently unbeaten at home in the league.

    Whilst Albion have won the majority of the games played between the two sides – their record being 43 wins, 34 defeats and 31 draws – since the turn of the new millennium they have only managed to pick up one win in the league at Vicarage Road in six matches.

    Including cup games they’ve picked up wins in Hertfordshire twice against The Hornets, with both coming during Gus Poyet’s reign in charge at the Amex, and by a solitary goal.

    In the FA Cup fourth round in January 2011 Albion picked up their second win in the competition over a higher placed side as Ashley Barnes’ 16th minute goal was enough for the League One leaders to pick up victory against a side including future Brighton winger Will Buckley.

    A year and a half later Buckley would be part of the Seagulls line-up that were victorious in the league against Watford, with Craig Mackail-Smith’s second half penalty separating the two sides at the final whistle. Both sides would go on to finish in the play-offs that season, with Gianfranco Zola’s side beaten in the final at Wembley by Crystal Palace.

    David Stockdale’s blunder for the Cardiff equaliser on Tuesday night was the only time that Albion faltered in defence, and looked solid at the back for most of the 90 minutes. Therefore any changes in goal and defence are unlikely, with Danny Holla’s place sitting in front of the back four almost assured too.

    With Jake Forster-Caskey becoming the first Albion player to receive five yellow cards and earn a suspension, the likelihood is that Andrew Crofts and Gary Gardner will play alongside Holla in the more reserved midfield roles, however Kemy Agustien could be in line to make his return from injury.

    The front three pairing of the two attacking midfielders and striker has been made more complex by a mini-injury crisis up front.

    O'Grady in line to lead the Seagulls attack at Watford today

    After being taken off with a hamstring injury midweek, Craig Mackail-Smith is ruled out of today’s game, whilst Sam Baldock is yet to fully recover from the calf injury that has kept him out of the last two games.

    If the latter isn’t risked, then Chris O’Grady could make his fourth appearance of the season, having come on for CMS against the Bluebirds on Tuesday. The alternative option could also see Adrian Colunga play further up the field leading the attack.

    In recent years a number of players have represented both sides with the likes of Tomasz Kuszczak, Will Buckley, Will Hoskins and Keith Andrews having turned out for Albion and Watford.

    Whilst he is rightly recognised for his contributions at international level for his country, one player who will be remembered by both sets of fans during the 1980’s is former Northern Ireland striker Gerry Armstrong.

    After five years at Spurs he dropped down to the old second division in 1980 to join Watford, where he spent three successful years. In his second season at the club he helped them gain promotion to the top division, and would go on to score their first top-flight goal before departing for RCD Mallorca in 1983.

    Having spent two years in Spain followed by unsuccessful spells at West Brom and Chesterfield, Armstrong arrived at the Goldstone Ground in 1986 with perhaps his best days behind him, leading to him also taking up a role in the coaching staff along with playing duties.

    However he left the club under a cloud, when during a Sussex Senior Cup tie in January 1988 he got involved in an altercation with a fan over apparent disparaging remarks, leading to his departure from the club. He would go on to have a similar role with Crawley, before success in non-league management at Worthing.

    It’s becoming a well-worn cliché, but once again Albion face a tough test to pick up the three points that have eluded them since the win over Bolton on August 23rd.

    In that time today’s opponents have seen two head coaches depart, however in the case of former Seagull’s boss Garcia it had nothing to do with on the pitch performances. Despite this disruption the players have seemed unflustered, and gone about business as usual.

    Albion went into the last international break on a wave of optimism, however they haven’t been able to recapture that spirit despite a number performances that have warranted a win.

    Whilst we would all settle for a draw today, a win would do the world of good for morale and there should be no doubts that this will be firmly in Sami and his squad’s sights this afternoon.
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