Wherever you stand on the current Newcastle fan spectrum, from long-term stay away to consistently attending Boycott-denier, surely we’ve all got one thing in common: Games like the ones we’ve experienced at SJP so far this season can ruin your weekend.
No matter how hard you try to isolate and ignore the match, it still sits like a gargoyle on the corner of your mood, adding an edge of darkness to otherwise happy times, or throwing fuel on the fire when you’re having a bad one.
Today’s result was long overdue as a spot of therapy. It may be significant or ultimately inconsequential, but I had a nicer time during my days off work for what happened here. Maybe the lack of expectation made it even more uplifting.
God knows how low the Watford fans must be feeling, by contrast, as the comments collected on here evidenced their expectation of turning up and smashing the little guy. Watford have made a fine start, but get cocky in the Premier League at your peril. A team that have had a three season stay in the PL so far and who finished four places below us last season, seemed to be approaching the match as though it was a cup tie against a side two divisions lower, expecting three and four goal wins and dismissing our side as relegation fodder.
To be fair, you had to fear a similar thing, as their more impressive, more invested in side started the game looking like adding to their five game winning streak over us. Fortunately, it seemed the over sure approach had filtered through to the players.
United had a decent go early on, but the lack of a killer ball was excruciating, especially with the long-awaited likely pairing of Muto and Rondon up front. Watford, by contrast, were quick on the break and looked like threatening every time they crossed the halfway line. Deulofeu lazily firing hopelessly wide when a 2 v 1 threatened to carve the home defence open, summed up their approach, he seemed to be thinking “it’s bound to come, so I can afford a few potshots.”
A terrifying goalmouth scramble caused by Dummett’s unnecessary corner concession looked like the opening to let in a similar daft scruffy goal that Brighton were rude enough to celebrate last time out, but Mariappa was decent enough to miss horribly from five yards. Towards the end of the half, Watford finally worked out where the target was through the busy Success, but Dubravka was equal to his drive.
We made it unscathed to half time. Sort of. With one minute’s injury time having gone up, Muto was apparently struggling to the extent he couldn’t even negotiate that period to have a half time assessment. Off he came and on trotted Perez (with claims from some that he was booed on, though I never heard them). Then Lascelles failed to emerge for the second half, replaced by Schar, with Shelvey taking the armband. Unfortunately, he only wore it for five minutes before succumbing himself to some niggle, Ki becoming our final substitute after 50 minutes. So, all options gone early and three vital players off in what was surely a horror show waiting to unfold.
Surprisingly, this perceived misfortune would become salvation. Schar’s drive across goal from his first corner just needed the right touch, but set the tone for a fine display from him, and Perez was to have a decisive contribution. The game changer though, was the arrival of Ki, who was magnificent in controlling the pace in midfield. The South Korean’s more measured, patient build up approach allowed the team to get forward en masse, whereas Shelvey’s quick balls forward can often leave them short-handed up front. Ki’s introduction saw both Kenedy and Ritchie get right into the game, and the second half would belong to United from here (after Watford had smacked the bar in the opening moments of the half mind).
The crucial moment arrived in the 63rd as Ki ran strongly in from the flank before looking for a one-two with Kenedy, only to be bundled over on the corner of the box before he could take the return pass. He then got up to deliver a powerful free kick that was beautifully measured, both looking on target and ripe to attack. Perez found the space to redirect it with a front post glancing header and Foster had no chance. Pandemonium as we actually led for the first time at home this season.
Perez stuck his fingers in his lugs as seemingly a gesture to the boo boys and it’s one that should stick. Yes, he’s often below par and off the pace, this season especially, but grieving your own players onto the pitch (if it happened) is counter productive bad crack of moronic proportions. No one do that again please.
Moments later Rondon, spurred on no doubt by the nervous energy that he was going to have to do 90 minutes, almost doubled the lead from Kenedy’s cross, but his header went the wrong side of the post.
The closing moments saw Watford flinging it at us, with terror abound as Doucoure’s vicious cross was spooned wonderfully high and hopeless by Okaka. Then some kind of fracas erupted when Yedlin went down holding his ankle, Fernandez getting booked for throwing some Watford players about in the resultant flumdiddery.
The ref was a bit of a spoilsport at the end, as with Foster up for a corner United swiftly cleared to Kenedy who had Perez with him to launch a counter on the open goal, only to be halted by the final whistle. Few cared though, as United had their win at the eleventh time of asking.
Some context for that then; incredibly, after so much drudgery, that solitary W was enough to lift us out of the relegation zone. Often in these cases the win can break the dam a bit, and see a run develop all of a sudden. The heavy opening fixtures mean we now have a very winnable sequence ahead to activate this run. Maybe weekends will be a lot more upbeat for the remainder of 2018.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Watford 0
Goal: Perez 65
Possession was Watford 58% Newcastle 42%
Total shots were Watford 16 Newcastle 10
Shots on target were Watford 1 Newcastle 2
Corners were Watford 9 Newcastle 8
Referee: Craig Pawson
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles (Schar 45), Fernandez, Dummett, Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey (Ki 51), Kenedy, Rondon, Muto (Perez 45+2)
Darlow, Joselu, Manquillo, Atsu
Crowd: 49,157 (Watford approx 1,500)
(Thousands of Newcastle fans didn’t miss much apart from a win! – Read HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Newcastle 1 Watford 0 – Read HERE)
(Javi Gracia can’t believe how his Watford side didn’t win, never mind get beat – Read HERE)
(Graeme Swann video message for Rafa Benitez after Newcastle win – See HERE)
(Charlie Nicholas dissects Newcastle 1 Watford 0 – Read HERE)
(Rafa Benitez post-match verdict – Read HERE)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf