Newcastle United and manager Rafa Benitez came into Saturday’s match against Watford knowing that they had a tall task in front of them. A Magpies squad without a win through their first 10 Premier League fixtures, and facing a team in the top half of the table. More went wrong during the game as well, but in spite of it all the home side found a way to earn three points.
Newcastle secured a nervy 1-0 victory thanks to an Ayoze Pérez goal in the 65th minute, a strike from a player that was not guaranteed to get minutes on the day. Injuries struck the Toon early, with all three substitutions spent by the 51st minute. Yoshinori Muto (45’), team captain Jamaal Lascelles (46’) and Jonjo Shelvey (51’) all were forced off due to injury, and the second half looked bleak following the half-time break.
Watford certainly had their opportunities throughout, as Gerard Deulofeu could have easily netted a hat-trick with better finishing. United were struggling to contain the Hornets attack, particularly on the right side. Matt Ritchie and DeAndre Yedlin were busy, looking to slow down Roberto Pereyra and Jose Holebas any way that they could.
A bit of luck? Perhaps, but sometimes a club just need some things to go their way. Newcastle and Benitez have seen plenty of events go against them in 2018-19, and it was a pleasure to see the team fight for the result late in the contest. The Toon Army deserve to celebrate, and hopefully, Saturday can be the start of brighter moments ahead.
A timely victory
The past week divided many Newcastle fans, as Jamaal Lascelles’ new contract at St. James’ Park was interpreted in various ways. I, for one, still believe that it could be the beginning of the end for his time on Tyneside, but other comments caused issues also. The term “nice guy” was used by Lascelles to describe owner Mike Ashley, and some unfairly took that almost as an act of betrayal from their captain.
Few folks in any walk of life will take a direct shot at their boss upon receiving a pay raise but to each his own.
Ultimately, Newcastle needed this win, and they needed it in a variety of different ways. It took 11 games for the first victory to arrive, creating a long wait for supporters. It also moves the club out of the relegation zone at the moment, now in 17th place. The battle to avoid the drop will continue on, but this weekend was a big step in the right direction.
It was not pretty. It was not perfect. However, it was just what Newcastle United, Rafa Benitez and the fans required.