My last two trips to Watford would probably go down in the top 10 worst performances I have seen from a Newcastle side. Not to be outdone though, this current crop gave it a right good go to make it into my top 10, especially on their first half performance.
Ayoze Perez described the performance as embarrassing, and he would be spot on. For those of you that didn’t go to the game, or read the Chronicle; Chris Waugh wrote “Newcastle United conjured up an excellent second half display.”
It should have read “Newcastle United were absolutely rubbish in the first half, but a bit better and showed a bit more urgency in the second half.”
I’m by no means a journalist in any shape or form but c’mon, anyone who thought that second half display was excellent (which included only 1 shot on target) should probably get to a few more games!
Having spent most of my time in London over the past 4 years, I have learnt to appreciate trips like Watford, which isn’t quite London, a lot more than the likes of Stoke! I don’t have any personal feelings towards Stoke one way or another, but from an away fan perspective, I am glad they went down yesterday as it is a right farce to get to… unlike Watford.
A sunny 3pm kick off, meant you can drink in London before getting the short train ride to Watford, or likewise there are plenty of pubs in the area. On a similar note… I hope Fulham come up instead of Cardiff, for the exact same reason.
Rafa made a few changes to the starting line up with Manquillo and Murphy coming in. Bringing Murphy in was a positive change for me, although Ritchie has been brilliant, when you pay £12 million for a young lad, then you have to give him a chance. I know it looked like he had been hung out to dry, but for his confidence, it would be nice to see him get another chance on Wednesday at Wembley.
As for Manquillo, I’m not sure why Yedlin didn’t start if he was fit enough to be on the bench and play 20 minutes. Maybe he needed a rest? But with only 3 games left to play, and no World Cup for him this summer, then I’m not sure that was the case.
Newcastle were 1-0 down after only 2 minutes. Some terrible defending from Lascelles as he let Gray turn and run at him, followed by a mix-up between Paul Dummett’s brain and his legs, meant that Doucoure had the chance to set up Pereyra, who to his credit finished well.
I haven’t seen a lot of Watford this year but Doucoure in the middle of the pitch was an absolute powerhouse. From the away end he really doesn’t look like a footballer at all, lanky, with his legs as skinny and as long as the entirety of Dwight Gayle, he manages to deceive the eye. Unlikely, but I wouldn’t mind having a look at him this summer!
We then should have been 2-0 down as Newcastle were broken down again with Gray getting behind Dummett and forcing a good save from Dubravka. I wrote in my ratings that Dummett was “the least worst defender” on the day, but as I write this I am realising that was probably a load of rubbish. Dubravka would also make a double save to stop us being 3-0 down after only 25 minutes. Needless to say, Newcastle had been run ragged at the back.
Lascelles has been my player of the year this season but he was bullied by Troy Deeney yesterday.
It really should have been 3-0 when Dummett gave away a needless penalty. Many in the away end were furious about the decision but having been sat in the front row, it was literally right in front of me and Dummett could have no complaints. It was probably a soft penalty, but when you dive to ground in the box, and don’t make contact with the ball, while also making contact with the player, then you’re asking for it.
Dubravka stepped up to the plate again with a brilliant double save to deny Deeney. If we manage to sign this guy for only £4 million in the summer, it will be a great piece of business! Goalkeeper, and perhaps right back, is the only position I am not particularly concerned about this summer.
That was as bad a first half as I have seen from Newcastle at Watford… and that is saying something.
The second half wasn’t much better to be honest. At the very least though, Newcastle had a bit of urgency about them and a bit more drive… but they were by no means excellent, or even that good. Matt Ritchie came on early which helped the side, and when he was joined by Yedlin we started to look like a threat.
Our goal came through Perez who was one of the few players in both halves that did ok – or at least looked like they were up for it. It was a brilliant cross from Manquillo (although that’s all he did all game) and an even better finish from Perez. That might look like an easy finish on TV but let me assure you it’s not!
The closest we came to an equaliser, after putting a bit more pressure on, was Mariappa nearly putting it into his own net with what I think would have been his first touch.
It didn’t happen though, and in truth, it was never going to happen for a side that just looks so weak going forward.
Again, I want to stress that I am no fan of Mitro like a lot of other fans seem to be. However, I would love to know Rafa’s reasoning for getting rid of him and sticking with the likes of Gayle, Perez, Joselu etc… plus bringing in a similar player in Slimani. He has touched on the idea that Mitro doesn’t quite fit into how he wants to play, but I lost count of how many times yesterday Kenedy or Murphy received the ball out wide, looked to cross, and realised there was nobody there.
For a team that relies on width, and relies on Shelvey’s ability to pick out a pass, or put a good ball in the box, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Absolutely brilliant yesterday. No boos at half time or full time which is always nice to see, although maybe that was helped by the buoyant combination of excessive drinking and good weather!
It will be another sell out away crowd on Wednesday night, hopefully we will have more to cheer!
I do feel bad for being so critical of a side who have been brilliant as of late, but it is just an honest assessment of what was a second terrible performance in the space of a week.
My only gripe is that everyone, including myself, has made a big deal about how at the very least this Newcastle team is different from others because even if they lack the ability, then they will always give their all. Yesterday, in that first half, there were certainly a few who didn’t seem to be giving their all.
I don’t know if that’s harsh given they have met their expectations this season, but when people have paid lots of money to travel to Watford, and will do the same again on Wednesday night, then it doesn’t sit well with me.
Lets just hope they were saving themselves for Wednesday night ey? A win at Wembley would be the highlight of the season.
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)
(Javi Gracia admits Watford got lucky – Read HERE)
(Rafa Benitez still believes his team can beat anyone if they have this – Read HERE)
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn