Woking v Watford | Sunday 6th January 2019, 14:00 | BT Sport
If there is one positive Woking could take out of last season’s season, which saw them relegated from the National League, it was their performance in the FA Cup.
Then led by Anthony Limbrick, they avoided defeat against League One opposition three times.
Sandwiched between 1-1 home draws with Bury and Peterborough was an emphatic 3-0 replay win against the former, followed by a 5-2 defeat to the latter.
Now led by Alan Dowson, they are back to make more memories in this competition but face Premier League opposition in Watford, who have a great opportunity to relish cup glory themselves.
Promotion push on the Cards?
A run of four straight wins has elevated Woking to status as Torquay United’s primary challengers in the National League South.
The key to this has been a strong defence, which has conceded just one goal in their last four games.
Goalkeeper Craig Ross, who has played at League Two level with Barnet, has been a coup for the club while captain Josh Casey is one of the most tenacious left-backs in the division.
Going forward, they possess another ex-Barnet player in Jake Hyde, who averages a goal every 141 league minutes.
Greg Luer, who scored a hat-trick when Hyde was rested for the 3-0 win at Hampton & Richmond, could provide extra height from the bench.
Great opportunity for the ‘Orns
Javi Gracia has endeared himself to Watford fans.
Quique Sanchez Flores and Walter Mazzarri kept them up but fell out of favour due to a combination of uninspiring football and poor post-Christmas form.
Marco Silva, meanwhile, was unable to sustain his initial impact last season and his handling of a potential move to Everton did not win him too many friends.
The signs are thus far positive though for Gracia, who has built a vibrant, dynamic and skilful side, odds-on for a top half finish in the Premier League.
Realistically, they are unlikely to bridge the nine-point gap to the top six or fail to collect the remaining 11 points that will be required to secure survival.
Having executed the EFL Cup in September, there is nothing to lose from going all out for FA Cup glory – which would see Gracia truly establish himself alongside Graham Taylor in Watford folklore.
The Tactics Board
Watford have set up with a 4-2-2-2 formation in almost every game in the Premier League this season, so while the personnel may change at Kingfield, the approach is unlikely to.
Andre Gray, if fit, could start up top next to Isaac Success and both forwards will relish any space between the lines.
The challenge for Woking’s double-pivot of Jack Taylor and Christian Jolley, in a 4-2-3-1 system, will therefore be to protect centre-backs Jack Cook and Ben Gerring.
Former Wycombe technician Max Kretzschmar could start on the left if fit, but the team’s main counter-attacking outlet will be Jamar Loza, on the right flank.
The 24-year-old, rested along with Jake Hyde for the 3-0 win at Hampton & Richmond last time out, has played Premier League football for Norwich and could relish taking on left-back Adam Masina, who has struggled for match-sharpness with 78 minutes of football since November.
Loza has the potential to be Woking’s stand-out player going forward, but Watford will exert control, especially with the powerful Domingos Quina likely to thrive in central midfield.
The Betting Angle
This is a massive occasion for Woking, who are likely to produce a very committed first half display that might see them go in at the break even.
Watford though should have the likes of Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulefeu in the match-day squad, if not in the first eleven, and for that reason we can expect them to take control in the second half.
Half-time/Full-time – Draw/Watford (69/20 Marathon Bet)