Bond set to return for Watford

Jonathan Bond was stretchered off against Leeds at the weekend. Photo: PA

Jonathan Bond could return to boost Watford's promotion bid just five days after suffering a horror injury.

The 19-year-old goalkeeper was carried off on a stretcher in a neck brace and oxygen mask and taken to hospital following a sickening collision with team-mate Ikechi Anya against Leeds on Saturday.

Fortunately Bond escaped with just a broken nose and has since been to Italy to have a protective mask fitted.

And with doubts remaining over the fitness of regular number one Manuel Almunia, who has a hamstring problem, Bond could be back in goal at Leicester for tomorrow night's npower Championship play-off semi-final first leg.

"He looks very nice in it," revealed manager Gianfranco Zola, who will test both goalkeepers' fitness in the morning. "He will not be the first one to wear one so as long as he feels comfortable it will not be a problem."

The lengthy treatment Bond received meant Watford's game with Leeds went on 10 minutes after Hull had finished playing Cardiff and the Hornets needed just one goal to go up automatically.

But as they piled forward Leeds broke at the other end in the closing stages to secure a 2-1 win and condemn the third-placed Hornets to the play-offs.

Yet despite the agony of coming so close, Zola insists spirits remain high in the squad.

"The last couple of days have been very good," he added. "Obviously the day after the match we all felt it, we knew we had lost a big opportunity but that is part of football.

"We had a wonderful evening on Sunday when we had the end-of-season dinner with the supporters and it was great. After that everyone felt a lot better and it's been getting better and better since then.

"The disappointment of Saturday is over and we are ready to compete again. There is a determination to compete against a good team and to achieve something we think we deserve."

Watford ran out narrow 2-1 winners in both their meetings with Leicester this season and Zola expects two more tight matches, with the second leg at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

"I believe it will be even closer but we are in a good moment, we know we have a good team and we have been playing well recently," he said.

"When we started the season we did not expect to be third, we wanted to build for next year so we are happy to be third and there is not any pressure."