Newcastle 1 Watford 2 Saturday 19 September 3pm
Newcastle: Janmaat 62 Watford: Ighalo 10, 28
Summer made a welcome late appearance on a glorious day on Tyneside for this game, but blue skies gave way to clouds of gloom over St James by 5pm.
The kind of memorably horrible result we’ve become all too familiar with in recent years, saw early season optimism completely extinguished and the McClaren honeymoon period crash to an emphatic end.
I said on national radio pre-match that the inclusion of two defensive midfielders was strangling our creativity, and the manager must replace one of these with an attacking option. He duly obliged, with Perez coming in for Anita in a more likely formation to get at a newly promoted opponent.
It took all of half an hour for any optimism to be completely extinguished. At this point I feel I have to say something: Watford played very well and deserved their win. They were organised, committed and made the most of their chances, all qualities that seem absent in the United ranks.
Orion Ighalo was the man who did the damage, turning half chances into excellent finishes.
The first, after ten minutes, was a result of Haidara attempted a ridiculous nutmeg which the Watford player easily read, stealing the ball and ultimately finding Ighalo completely clear of the attentions of our chaotic defence.
The second saw the impressive Deeney slide a terrific through ball for Ighalo to apply the finish of a striker in form.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the field we saw a polar opposite.
Papiss Cisse was utterly dreadful, only catching the attention when straying pointlessly offside and on the one occasion he found himself in on goal, slicing wide of the target from unforgivably close in.
Perez was industrious on the left, but often found himself crowded out. Thauvin, by contrast, was regularly in space on the right, but contrived to continuously lose the ball, fail to beat the first man, or tamely pop a cross in for a training ground catch for Gomes.
The whole thing was a sorry mess and an incredulous crowd made their feelings known at half time.
Watford had by now set up to protect their imminent win, with a packed defence seemingly unnecessary against an uninspired United attack, and the visitors counter looking more ominous for the next goal.
With the anonymous Cisse withdrawn for De Jong, it has to be said the second half brought a slight improvement. We actually enjoyed a period of pressure, although the lack of ideas in the final third is truly shocking.
It probably speaks volumes that our right-back represented our best attacking threat, with Janmaat for me the only one who can really hold his head up after this showing.
The (once again) underperforming Sissoko shook from his slumber to link up well with the Dutch right back as he covered huge distances down the right hand side, with that pairing combining nicely for Janmaat to half the arrears on 62 minutes.
This added a bit of impetus and moments later Janmaat tried his luck again with a vicious shot from distance that Gomes did well to deflect out for a (wasted) corner.
It seems wor Daryl may have given up on those in front of him, with another alarming statistic that he is now our top scorer outright this season, having notched in similar fashion against Northampton in the cup.
With Newcastle still exerting pressure, a promising attack was cleared to Haidara 30 yards or so out. I can only assume that the collection of thickies, dumbnuts and porridge heids that regularly yelled ‘shoot’ to prompt Cheick Tiote to launch a scud missile appallingly wide of the target, were responsible for the same shout here.
Young Massadio was naive enough to acquiesce to this request, and wasted an opportunity to play in one of his better placed and more likely colleagues, pretty much all of whom were in front of him.
This dreadful waste seemed to end our mini spell of impetus, and the remainder of the game petered out as Watford employed stifling tactics, including well spaced substitutions and horrific time-wasting by Gomes at goal kicks.
The match ended to a chorus of mass disapproval. This raises many questions about how exactly things can be put right, as new management and new blood has not eradicated the same old problems of the past two seasons.
The fact that Chelsea and Manchester City are up next suggests that immediate recovery is not on the cards and the noises coming out of McLaren, would indicate he isn’t even sure what the hell he can do with this situation.
The fact that Janmaat’s strike proved enough to lift us off the bottom due to the mackems being even worse at Bournemouth, is laughable to pitch as a consolation. The analogy of the Tyne-Wear rivalry resembling two bald men fighting over a comb never rang so true.
Having said that, it seems highly possible that we will once again be reliant on the incompetence of others to retain our Premier League status, as the question of whether we can reach the lofty heights of fourth worst has replaced any pondering a of European contention or cup likelihood.
If anything, the upcoming game with Sheffield Wednesday is starting to resemble the needless distraction the board has previously spun it as, not the glorious opportunity for belated redemption it has recently been pitched as.
With this must-win game miserably lost, there is a hell of a job on.
The majority of lingering optimism died today and the road ahead looks worryingly familiar.
These are the key stats as provided by BBC Sport;
Possession was 58% Newcastle and 42% Watford
Total shots was 15 for Newcastle and Watford 13
Shots on target was Newcastle 5 and Watford 4
While corners was Newcastle 5 and Watford 5
Player ratings totals below from fans so far, add yours and then press submit, click HERE to see fan ratings so far.
Team: Krul, Janmaat, Coloccini, Mbemba, Haidara (Aarons 80), Anita, Colback, Sissoko, Wijnaldum, Thauvin (Obertan 88), Perez, Cisse (46 Perez)
Unused Subs: Elliot, Lascelles, Williamson, Lascelles
Ref: Roger East