After this tough draw against Preston North End, the Watford manager, Adrian Boothroyd, took his players off for a four-day trip to the sunshine of Dubai to prepare themselves for the remaining games of the season.
It was a frustrating afternoon for both teams concerned and neither did enough to warrant victory. Darius Henderson should have put the hosts ahead early in the game. He was played in by the winger Jobi McAnuff but, after rounding the Preston goalkeeper Andy Lonergan, he lashed his shot into the side netting.
On 14 minutes, the Preston captain Paul McKenna hit a fine 30-yard shot goalwards. It flew past Richard Lee in the Watford goal but struck the angle of crossbar and post. It was the best effort from a Preston side who seemed content to frustrate their hosts in a first half played with much spirit but little else.
The second half was little different. Leigh Bromby's long throw-ins remained a tactic employed by Watford in order to trouble Preston's back line but the defenders, and in particular the impressive Frenchman Youl Mawene, stood firm, although the Nigeria defender Danny Shittu hit the post with a header on 61 minutes.
Watford did have the ball in the Preston goal on 89 minutes but Henderson's effort was ruled out for offside in the build-up. It would have been rough justice on a Preston side who now face the Championship leaders Stoke tomorrow.
Mawene said: "We will have to get our heads right. It's all in your head sometimes. We are up against another very powerful opponent, so we will have to be on our game. It will be another battle."
The Watford midfielder John Eustace reflected on the fact that without Michael Owen's knee surgeon, Dr Richard Steadman, he probably wouldn't have been playing against Preston. "I went to the States to get my knee sorted," said Eustace, who joined from Watford's promotion rivals Stoke City last month. "I was out for 10 months – it was the cartilage. I was going nowhere and I was really struggling. I was looking maybe to retire.
"I thought I would give it one last go, so I paid for all my treatment and spent about £40,000 of my own money and went to Colorado with Dr Steadman. Fortunately for me, he got me back and I owe him a lot."
Watford (4-4-2): Lee; Mariappa (DeMerit, 81 min), Bromby, Shittu, Sadler; Smith (Ainsworth, 85), Eustace, O'Toole, McAnuff; Henderson, Ellington. Substitutes not used: Stewart, Williamson, Kabba.
Preston North End (4-4-2): Lonergan; Jones, Chilvers, Mawene, Davidson; Sedgwick, Chaplow (Hill, 89), McKenna, Whaley (St. Ledger, 84), Hawley (Mellor, 72), Brown. Substitutes not used: Chris Neal, Nicholls.
Referee: T Bates (Staffordshire).
Booked: Preston Davidson, Mellor.
Man of the match: Mawene.
Attendance: 16,798.Reuse content