GIANFRANCO ZOLA described the attitude of his players during the midweek reserve XI friendly against Brighton & Hove Albion as "very impressive" - a well-timed comment with injury and suspension providing opportunities for others to make their mark on the Watford first-team.
"It was a brilliant exercise," smiled the Hornets' Head Coach, talking to Hornets Player's Watford Weekend show at UCL London Colney this morning.
"I was impressed by the quality, not just the attitude. It was a very good game and important for me because it gives you an idea that everybody - even those not currently in the team - are working hard for their chance.
"That's the kind of atmosphere I feel we must maintain among the squad as the season goes along."
The Albion work-out takes on extra significance with the likes of Sean Murray and Cristian Battocchio getting good-tempo game time, since the Golden Boys will be without midfielders Jonathan Hogg (suspended), Almen Abdi (injured - shoulder) and still John Eustace (injured - back).
"I consider the midfield the most important part of the pitch in the way I play," explained the Italian.
"Abdi and Hogg are two very important players but I have good players who can come in and perform.
"Yeates has done very well and also Smith has come in before and performed well. There are other players like Murray and Battocchio who haven't played much recently, but they are ready for their chance.
"So I'm sure we can set up a good midfield tomorrow."
As the Head Coach states, though, it's about taking that chance when it comes.
"When the opportunity comes and you are not ready then you have a lost a big chance, so it's very important for the players to retain that intensity.
"That's why why I was so impressed on Tuesday. Also, players that have come into the side recently have done very well so no one is not performing and that is very good for us as a squad."
At the back, Lloyd Doyley misses out with a calf strain and the game comes too soon for Neuton (foot), who is back in light training. Nyron Nosworthy (hamstring) is further away from returning.
However there's a boost with the new that Fitz Hall looks to have shaken off a niggling injury in time for the Bloomfield Road test.
"Lloyd will be missed because he's been very solid for us," said Zola, clearly happy to be the latest in a long line of Watford supremos to see the long-serving defender's value to a starting XI.
"Fitz can guarantee us balance too - and I would never have expected so many defenders to be unavailable through injury.
"So I think I must keep in mind, and probably our supporters too, that having a bigger squad will be an advantage to us with so many games to come in the Championship season."
Although midweek games tend to thin out as the fixture list hurtles towards Christmas, it's a Saturday-Tuesday awayday equation over the next week for the Hornets - starting with Michael Appleton's Blackpool.
"Although they haven't got big results lately they've got big players so things can change quickly," said Zola of the ex-Premier Leaguers on the Fylde coast.
"We need to pay attention and show respect to how Blackpool will want to threaten us because they will be doing their homework on us, of this I'm certain.
"The way we've been able to play away from home gives me confidence wherever we go. We must work hard and earn what we get, which of course I hope is three points."
FOR those making the late decision of a weekend trip to the north-west, it's pay on the day at Bloomfield Road with prices remaining unchanged from those published on watfordfc.com's 'Tickets - Match by Match' page.
Blackpool FC advise that it's cash only sales, from the tickets portacabin next to the away entrances.