Javi Gracia finally saw his team crawl to mathematical safety in the Premier League.
With no wins for nine weeks, Watford looked to be trying to find a route to the Championship, despite having reached 36 points after only 27 games.
Back in November it was Marco Silva who came to Newcastle and watched his Watford side take Newcastle apart, on Saturday it appeared that Rafa’s players were intent on making that day at St James Park look like an almost decent performance.
It was a 3-0 home defeat back in November and if Troy Deeney had scored the penalty on 39 minutes, they would almost certainly have bettered that three goal margin.
However, probably exposing the home side’s recent lack of confidence with only two points from their last 21, Watford’s players retreated towards their own goal after the break, a two goal lead can quickly look fragile if the opposition get one back.
Perez did that on 55 minutes but with still around 40 minutes left including added time, Newcastle went close a few times but couldn’t get another effort on target. Although Perez did hit the outside of a post and Gayle had a decent looking shout for a penalty turned down.
Javi Gracia was feeling lucky after the game, admitting Newcastle had improved during the match and had chances to get a draw. The Watford boss comparing it to recent matches where he feels they haven’t carried the luck and not got what they deserved.
Gracia was pleased with the ‘attitude, character and desire’ from his players, something that the sunshine seemingly sapped from a shocking NUFC side in the first half.
There was much talk before the game about the two managers and whether they will still be in their jobs come August.
Javi Gracia clearly doesn’t know for sure and with Watford having had four different managers during Rafa’s two years at Newcastle, that is little surprise.
As for Rafa Benitez, he can only do so much with this group of players and yesterday showed there is little, if any, strength in depth.
“We played better in the first half.
“We could have killed the game but missed the penalty.
“After that, Newcastle played better and created chances to draw the game, but today we were a bit more lucky than in the last games, where we didn’t have it.
“I’m very pleased to achieve the objective today and proud of my players.
“Many times we have lost points [late in games] and today was an important game.
“We needed the points and the players showed a good attitude, character and desire, and for that I’m very happy.
“In the second half Newcastle played better, created more chances, scored one goal.
“In the first half we showed more quality and in the second half we showed more character, desire and ambition. We suffered a lot and we got the three points.
“We’ll see after the last game if the club respects my contract, or will speak with me, but I’m proud to be with this club and I’m happy here.”
Stats from BBC Sport:
Watford 2 Newcastle 1
Watford: Pereyra 2, Gray 28
Newcastle: Perez 55
Possession was Watford 39% Newcastle 61%
Total shots were Watford 11 Newcastle 9
Shots on target were Watford 8 Newcastle 1
Corners were Watford 2 Newcastle 5
Referee: Roger East
Dubravka, Manquillo (Yedlin 67), Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett, Murphy (Ritchie 53), Shelvey, Diame (Merino 84), Kenedy, Perez, Gayle
Darlow, Hayden, Joselu, Haidara
Crowd; 20,375 (2,000 Newcastle)
(At least Rafa’s half-time ‘chat’ woke NUFC up at Watford – Read HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Watford 2 Newcastle 1 – Read HERE)
(Match ratings and comments on all NUFC players at Watford – Read HERE)
(Rafa Benitez still believes his team can beat anyone if they have this – Read HERE)