New­cas­tle look­ing bet­ter af­ter ugly win over Wat­ford

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Luke Ed­wards at St James’ Park

There are mo­ments over cam­paigns, sin­gle flashes of drama, that end up defin­ing the out­come of them. This felt like one of those for New­cas­tle United.

Out­played, un­able to string more than a few passes to­gether and forced to send on all three sub­sti­tutes be­fore an hour, New­cas­tle were look­ing at a sixth suc­ces­sive home de­feat when Ay­oze Perez glanced in Ki Sung Yueng’s free-kick to give them the lead at home for the first time in five months.

Some­how, in a col­lec­tive show of de­fi­ance, which had started on the pitch and spread into the stands, they man­aged to take the lead and then, with their backs against the walls and, with the ten­sion in the sta­dium al­most un­bear­able, hold on to it. It was a gar­goyle of a tri­umph, ugly but sym­bolic.

This is what New­cas­tle home games should sound like. Even when the team were play­ing badly, the sup­port­ers, sens­ing their frag­ile state of mind af­ter 10 games with­out a win, stayed with them in the first half and roared them on in the sec­ond. The win lifts New­cas­tle out of the bot­tom three and into touch­ing dis­tance of a typ­i­cally crowded Pre­mier League mid-ta­ble.

“You could see ev­ery­body was try­ing their best and the con­nec­tion be­tween the fans and the play­ers was there,” said man­ager Rafael Ben­itez. “Ev­ery­body was push­ing in the same di­rec­tion. The play­ers are giv­ing ev­ery­thing. We are mak­ing mis­takes, start­ing from me, but still try­ing our best. The fans ap­pre­ci­ate that. Even in the worst sit­u­a­tions, they were still be­hind the team.”

Wat­ford can feel ag­grieved. They had more than enough chances to take at least a point but paid the price for some woe­ful fin­ish­ing. Ger­ard Deulofeu missed twice in the first half when he should have scored, the worst com­ing when, one-on-one with goal­keeper Martin Dubravka, he pan­icked and dragged a weak ef­fort wide.

Adrian Mari­appa also missed with free header from a cor­ner blocked on the line by Ja­maal Las­celles, then poked a loose ball wide from six yards af­ter a goal­mouth scram­ble.

New­cas­tle’s only ef­forts on goal in the first half were a long-range shot from Mo Di­ame and an­other from Kenedy, blocked by Craig Cath­cart.

They looked to be head­ing to­wards more suf­fer­ing as Las­celles was forced off at half-time, closely fol­lowed by their only cre­ative mid­field player, Jonjo Shelvey, but the sub­sti­tu­tions shifted the game in their favour, with Ki and Perez com­bin­ing for the goal.

The joy that erupted was fol­lowed by anx­i­ety, with 25 min­utes still left to play. Wat­ford should have equalised, An­dre Gray de­nied a tap-in by a mag­nif­i­cent last-ditch tackle from Kenedy be­fore Ste­fano Okaka scooped over from six yards in stop­page time. “If you don’t kill the game when you have chance to do it, some­thing like this can hap­pen,” said man­ager Javi Gra­cia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.