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Michael Taylor 22nd Oct 2009 - 17:43

Owls not without a prayer at Vicarage Road

The Championship throws up a fair few surprises every week, but for the two sides meeting at Vicarage Road on Friday evening, Watford and Sheffield Wednesday, consistency just doesn't seem to exist.

Both the Hornets and the Owls have stayed well away from any accumulators I've had this season thanks to their mixed bag of results.

One week a glorious away win at a promotion contender, the next a disappointing home loss to another mid-table rival, but then that just about sums up the Championship for you.

In all fairness, before the season started, Watford fans may have settled for a quiet life in the league after having their star players sold and their manager poached from local rivals Reading.

There seemed to be so much talk of Malky Mackay being the cheap option (which he was) yet the former hard man centre back has shown there is still a bit of life in the old dog yet.

A 1-0 victory at the Riverside against Middlesbrough last week has been the highlight performance but the real highlight is the play of on-loan Man Utd youngster Tom Cleverley.

The 20-year-old midfield man has filled the massive void left by Tommy Smith's departure, finding himself on the scoresheet with frequency sure to make Sir Alex Ferguson sit up and take notice.

Cleverley is a great prospect at 7/1 to net the first of the game here, especially against a Wednesday defence that has often struggled because of a lack of bite in midfield.

If they afford Watford the time they gave to Preston, Derby and Middlesbrough over the past few weeks then they could find themselves in trouble.

However, they also have matches where they look like genuine play-off candidates - none more so than against Cardiff back in September.

That day, a 3-1 triumph against one of the Championship's better teams, saw the Owls pass the ball beautifully and, more importantly, defend at the level they need to be achieving week in and week out.

Darren Purse was brought in to give a experience to a young back line and it's this sort of evening that he needs to stand up and be counted, both in his performance and his leadership qualities.

The good thing about the experienced centre back is that while he may not be blessed with pace, he does offer a big threat at set pieces - as Coventry found to their peril when he headed home the opener last Saturday.

He's 20/1 to do the same here and 7/1 to score anytime, both of which look interesting, but I'm sure Wednesday fans would more than settle for him keeping Danny Graham quiet now and helping towards an away team clean (12/5).

In terms of how the teams match up there doesn't be a whole lot between them.

Graham has done excellently since his summer move from Carlisle while Marcus Tudgay for Wednesday should be high on the list of quite a few teams' transfer targets come January.

If anyone is to win the match then it should come down to who wins the midfield battle.

The Hornets like to play at a high tempo and work the channels while Wednesday prefer to get the ball out wide to their wingers, whether it is Jermaine Johnson or Etienne Esajas, and aim for Tudgay who will come deep often to try and make something happen.

It all seems to be pointing to a draw (11/5) with seemingly so little between the sides and I think I'd be looking towards 1-1 at 5/1 as the best value correct score bet.



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