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Season 2018-19
Watford (h) Premier League


Saturday 3rd November 2018, 3.00pm

 St. James' Park

Conditions: Potentially priceless



Newcastle United


1 - 0




Half time: Magpies 0 Hornets 0

65 mins Ki exchanged passes with Salomon Rondon and was bundled over by Will Hughes on the left hand corner of the Watford area as he received the return ball.  

The midfielder took the resultant free kick, whipping in a dipping right-footed effort that found Ayoze Perez in space seven yards out, his flicked header flying past motionless goalkeeper Ben Foster into the roof of the Gallowgate End net. 

The scorer was inevitably mobbed by his team mates, celebrating by sticking his finger in his ears - either a response to some audible booing from home fans earlier in the game, or recent negative comments on social media. Or maybe both.

PS: The provider later admitted that he was attempting a shot on goal.

Full time: Magpies 1 Hornets 0

We Said


Rafa Benitez:

"We needed the first win to have more confidence and hopefully we can play with the same intensity as we did today and score a couple more goals.

"We had three problems, three substitutions - the reaction of players was quite good against a very good team. 

"It's a great three points. It was a difficult game as they have confidence - we could have conceded but we could have scored the second goal. 

"It was a good game for the fans to watch. I'm really pleased with the performance. We needed energy and commitment from everyone.  The fans have been fantastic all season and today was another example. The players have tried their best but have made mistakes - starting with me. 

"They have enjoyed that because they have stayed with us. It was a pity after so many games where it was close we couldn’t do it. But there was a connection today and everybody was pulling in the right direction.

"I have been using all my experience to think about what we could do to change things. I was reading all my notes from the past, and from psychology, looking for things you could do.

"I was checking everything. At Tenerife and Valencia, we were winning, so it was more Extremadura. When you are at Extremadura, it is more normal that you are at the bottom of the table. You have to analyse things and look at what you did.

"I am quite old now, I have experience, so I have a lot of notes about everything I have done. But we were trying everything, and we were so close, so we decided it was not really a case of having to change this or that because we were doing so well. We just needed to win to confirm that everything we were doing was right. Now, we have done that."

"We knew we needed to win. If we continue winning, maybe this will be one of my biggest results. What I will say is that it is a little bit difficult when you are doing well, but you cannot win. Then you go to the next game, and you can feel that confidence is low.

"The feeling is really good because after so many games and training sessions doing the right things, still we could not win. This was a prize for everything we did. I'm really pleased with that. 

"How important? It could be massive for us. If we can carry on winning games, it will have been massive."

On the three enforced substitutions:

"Normally players need time to settle down but my players were focused and knew what they have to do. There are a couple of muscle problems with
(Jonjo) Shelvey and (Yoshinori) Muto. We will see what is going on. 

(Lascelles) had a little problem with his shoulder in a training session the other day, but we will have to wait a little bit and see how they are. For Muto, it was the calf, but still it's too early to know what he has (done).

"As I said before, the three of them made a contribution because they were working hard, but also on the ball, they were quite good.

"Ayoze (Perez) was trying to hold the ball and run, looking for the second ball; Ki was good on the ball and (Fabian) Schar also, we know he has quality on the ball.

"The three of them gave us something and in a difficult game, we needed maybe these kind of things."

On the owner:

"I wasn't there
(when he visited the dressing room), but when I spoke to him he said 'well done, congratulations - thank you'. He congratulated the team and then he congratulated the staff.

"He's welcome - he's the owner, He can do what he wants. He hasn't been to training, but I have no problem with anyone. We have to concentrate on now and what we have to. 

On the January transfer window:

"We have plenty of opportunities to talk about that. We have to maximise what we have now. The future can wait."

They Said


Javi Gracia said:

"I think in the first half we played much better, we had more chances - clear chances - and a lot of them. If you don't score, then from a free-kick Newcastle can score. 

"We need to improve for the next game. I can be disappointed with the result but not with my players. If you do not score and kill the game when you have the chance to do something like today can happen.

"I like to be demanding and want us to finish better, but we have played well and need to keep this level. Today was a missed opportunity but that is football.

"If you ask me about the game or the result, I can be disappointed today with the result because I think we have done many things well, but I can’t be disappointed with the way my team played.

"We can speak about how many players had a good chance to score; Stefano Okaka, Roberto Pereyra hit the crossbar, Adrian Mariappa, Isaac Success, a lot of players had clear chances.

"We dominated the first half. Creating the chances we have today when playing away against Newcastle is not easy. We now need to be demanding and improve.

"I think all of the players have played well today and we knew if we left space players like (Jonjo) Shelvey would be able to create from the beginning.

"We needed the strikers to have good balance for the rest of the team and help us defend well. 

"During the game I am demanding of them and I am frustrated with the result but not the way we played.”


Newcastle won for the first time in the Premier League this season to end a run of ten games

In terms of a winless streak in the Premier League, ten games is the club's worst sequence in a single season, the run that ended today matching ones from February to May 2009 and from March to May 2015. They also endured a 14 game winless PL run across two seasons, the closing seven games of 1998/99 and the opening seven games of 1999/00. 

Victory at the eleventh time of asking meant that United avoided setting a new all-time record and instead matched their previous worst start in the 1898/99 season, when a 3-0 home success over Liverpool broke a ten game winless run.

Victory denied Watford what would have been a sixth consecutive league and cup win over us. 

Our most recent success against the Hornets before today was a 2-1 victory at Vicarage Road in the Championship back in February 2010. We also wore white socks that day...

Rafa Benitez completed a half century of victories in all competitions since taking charge, bringing up his 50 in game no.116 (16 Premier League, 29 Championship, 3 League Cup, 2 FA Cup).

The Magpies registered back to back clean sheets for the first time since March 2018, when they followed up a 3-0 home win over Southampton by beating Huddersield Town 1-0 at SJP.

Ayoze Perez opened his account for the season by scoring a 36th competitive goal for the club. It also ended an 11 game run without finding the net for him - still a way off his worst dry spell of 14 games in 2015.

The Spaniard now has 22 Premier League goals, taking him level in the scoring charts with Laurent Robert and one behind Kieron Dyer.

Newcastle have scored just four goals in their opening six home PL games this season - and they were all headers. Only one came in one in the first half at the Leazes End (Joselu v Spurs) with another three in the second half at the Gallowgate End (Joselu v Chelsea, Clark v Arsenal, Perez v Watford). Those three second half efforts were all scored by substitutes.

Hornets in Toon - all time:

2018/19 won 1-0 Perez
lost 0-3
2015/16 lost 1-2 Janmaat
2009/10 won 2-0 Lovenkrands, Pancrate
2006/07 won 2-1 Martins (2)
1999/00 won 1-0 Gallacher
1992/93 won 2-0 Peacock, Lee
1991/92 drew 2-2 Hunt, Clark
1990/91 won 1-0 Quinn(pen)
1989/90 won 2-1 Quinn, Gallacher
1988/89 drew 0-0 (FACR)
1988/89 drew 0-0 (FAC)
1987/88 won 3-0 O'Neill, Wharton, Tinnion
1986/87 drew 2-2 Anderson, McDonald
1985/86 drew 1-1 Gascoigne
1984/85 won 3-1 Megson, Cunningham, Reilly
1981/82 lost 0-1
1980/81 won 2-1 Hibbitt, Shinton
1979/80 lost 0-2
1931/32 won 5-0 Allen 3, Boyd, Richardson (FAC)


Thank **** for that....

After another week of unwanted headlines and self-inflicted division, Newcastle at last became United enough again to register their first victory of the season and climb out of the relegation zone.

The early signs weren't encouraging, a Watford side enjoying their best-ever Premier League start looking set on registering a third win in as many visits. Having romped to victory here a year ago by targeting full back DeAndre Yedlin and scoring three times from left wing crosses, the Hornets unsurprisingly repeated their tactics and only some thankfully wayward finishing let them down. 

United by contrast saw a bright opening rapidly dim, with only a couple of efforts from Kenedy to note - neither of which tested goalkeeper Ben Foster. The siren call of over-priced lager with no view of the pitch became irresistible for increasing numbers after the half hour mark.... 

Having opted to pair Salomon Rondon with Yoshinori Muto at the expense of Ayoze Perez, Rafa Benitez was forced to call the latter into action just before the break after the Japanese forward landed awkwardly and limped off.

Jamaal Lascelles then failed to reappear for the second half with a shoulder problem and was replaced by Fabian Schar, before the last of a trio of enforced substitutions saw Jonjo Shelvey forced off soon after the interval and make way for the seldom-seen Ki Sungyueng.

It's unlikely that those replacements would have followed in normal circumstances; Rondon surely not being expected to complete what was his first 90 minutes for the club. However the enforced reshuffle paid dividends when the Korean's free kick was headed in by the Spaniard for a precious opener, while both Ki and Schar used the ball intelligently as their side played further up the field.  

The star of the show again though was Federico Fernandez, with some immaculately-timed tackles and good distribution and an ability to derail opposition pressure in the closing stages with work "off the ball", notably taking a blow in the face and ensuring a free kick award, having contributed to some jostling after an apparent stamp on Yedlin. Getting in their faces it used to be called.   

Watford were by no means angelic though; referee Pawson clearly sickening of Isaac Success and his increasingly unconvincing claims of being fouled. The officials seemed less able to deal with
Gerard Deulofeu though, who continually blocking set plays and worked his ticket - one farcical episode seeing him claim possession of the ball as it was positioned ahead of a home free kick. 

Where poor finishing and misfortune had cost Newcastle here a fortnight earlier against Brighton, the rub of the green favoured the home side today: Roberto Pereyro hitting the crossbar early in the second half and the black and whites riding their luck on numerous other occasions, notably the heart-stopping finale when Stefano Osaka somehow skied his effort from six yards out.

Had our nemesis Troy Deeney played then the outcome may have been altered, but equally a fully fit Newcastle number 9 could have provided a much-needed mobile presence in the final third. 

Aptly described as chunky by one (Irish) radio pundit, Rondon's evident effort in the closing minutes epitomised the character in adversity demanded by captain Lascelles in a pre-match press call. Several other players meanwhile played on despite incurring knicks and knocks. 

That spirit was memorably captured shortly after the goal by Kenedy, whose sprint from one end of the field to saw him arrive in perfect time to deny the unmarked Andre Gray a certain equaliser. 

To have conceded late on would have been an absolute body blow for the confidence and morale of the team and supporters alike - both groups having been visibly bolstered by the goal. 

Benitez now has some welcome selection dilemmas, players today heeding his call to impress him when chances arose - in stark contrast to the indifferent contributions of messrs Hayden, Atsu, Murphy and Manquillo when opportunity knocked for them earlier this season.

What has hopefully been registered by the owner during his extended viewing of this part of his empire is that the basis of a serviceable team is here; namely a goalkeeper and a defence. There remains a responsibility to build on that with quality acquisitions at 2019 prices - paying the dividend for the thrift of acquiring Dubravka, Fernandez, Ki and Schar for a comparative pittance.

Not to do so is sheer folly in business terms, never mind the personal satisfaction of making something that is successful not only in monetary measurement. His captain may think that he's a "nice guy" after breaking (garlic) bread, but Ashley never seems to be particularly enjoying any of this. 

Contrast that to the stories that have emerged following the events in Leicester and the evident pleasure that their owner - doubtless just as much of a boardroom bully as ours - gained and was able to give via his £££. While the Leicester players went to Srivaddhanaprabha's funeral; some Newcastle fans would dance on Ashley's grave - the consequence of a decade of deceit and distrust.  

The relief at this long-overdue victory is of course fleeting, with the players back in training less than 24 hours after the final whistle as they prepare for the next crucial contest on Saturday. 

They'll do so in better fettle than before though, with the return of the dark nights bringing a welcome lessening of the gloom around here. Victory over Bournemouth would be a sizeable achievement, not quite restoring St.James' to fortress status, but at least making it less of a sandcastle.  


Page last updated 09 November, 2018