Hughes: Watford game 'is biggest of season'

PUBLISHED: 12:32 16 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:08 14 September 2010

Skipper Andy Hughes today talked up Saturday's clash with promotion hopefuls Watford as being the Canaries' biggest game of the season so far.

Skipper Andy Hughes today talked up Saturday's clash with promotion hopefuls Watford as being the Canaries' biggest game of the season so far.

Wearing a protective Phantom of the Opera-style face mask to protect the cheekbone he broke during the victory over Southampton just before Christmas, Hughes returned to action ahead of schedule at Plymouth on Saturday afternoon.

He came on for the injured Jason Jarrett 10 minutes into the second half and did a solid job for the Canaries on the right-hand side of midfield to help them come away from Home Park with a well-earned point.

“I enjoyed it,” he said. “It's been quite a frustrating time for me lately, sitting out the games. We're a bit light on the ground at the moment so I wanted to get back as quickly as I could just to bolster the squad.

“It's a point in the right direction,” he added. “Ideally, we would have liked three but Plymouth are fighting for their lives at the minute.

“Saturday is a massive, massive game for us. Watford beat us at their place in the first half and we battered them in the second half and we definitely owe them one.

“We want to be where they are or above them and we have now got to prepare right for what will be one of the biggest games of the season. It's a real six-pointer in terms of the play-offs.”

Fourth-placed Watford are currently six places ahead of Norwich on 49 points and picked up another three points with a win against Stoke at the weekend. City would give themselves a huge leg-up with a victory at the weekend and, with two weeks off to gather themselves for the clash with runaway leaders Reading, followed by attractive fixtures against struggling Ipswich, Hull City, Brighton and Derby County to come, there's no reason why the Canaries shouldn't be capable of building up a bit of play-off momentum.

Having been forced to sit out City's previous five fixtures because of his injury, Hughes now needs more competitive action to prepare him for a full return - and he will get it in this evening's Premiership Reserve League encounter with Tottenham at Carrow Road (7.30pm).

The former Reading star is likely to be given between 45 and 60 minutes on the pitch, and if he comes through with no ill effects he will be in contention for a start in Saturday's game against Watford - having done himself no harm whatsoever against the Pilgrims.

Tonight's game also sees the return of Jason Shackell, who be making his first appearance since damaging ankle ligaments during the reserve clash against Watford on October 3. The big defender, an unused substitute in the first team games against West Ham and Plymouth, will also be eased back into action and is unlikely to play the full 90 minutes.

Peter Thorne and Jim Brennan will also be action tonight but Keith Webb's side will include a fair smattering of youngsters, with Rossi Jarvis and Michael Spillane, who both featured in the FA Cup defeat against the Hammers, getting another chance to impress.

City Reserves (from) - Lewis, Rossi Jarvis, Brennan, Spillane, Shackell, Gusterson, Eagle, Fisk, Howlett, Hughes, Thorne, Martin, Smart, Muddel, Arnold.

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