This is a big game. When we took the lead last week at Old Trafford it was fun while it lasted, but the fact that we were soundly beaten in the end by a much, much better side shouldn’t really linger. We’re not there yet and that’s OK. This one however is important and we could really do with getting something from it to keep us on track. If we don’t I won’t panic but I worry about the negative effects of another defeat.

Our fan base seems to be at breaking point, in spite of our perfectly respectable league position, all things considered. Another meltdown would not do us any good with all that’s going on off the pitch, which is no doubt contributing to the fragile state of some of our lot. We mustn’t forget though that Rafa and the lads are working as hard as ever to win games with the threadbare squad we started with in August.

I’ve said it before, but the effort level of this group and of course the manager just can’t be brought into question. Our limitations in terms of quality are not the fault of anyone on the pitch or in the dugout on a match day. These are the lads that need our support. Rafa has been saying it for nearly 2 years. We did it against Liverpool, West Ham and even Spurs and we got better performances as a result, but we haven’t really played our part in the other games.

So please lads, no booing if we fail to score or if we concede. No chanting for Mitro unless he actually comes on – it DOESN’T HELP the lads on the pitch. No groaning if a pass goes out of play and no screaming at a striker whose confidence looks short. Let’s give this hard working group of players the support they have earned for dragging us out of the shit over the last 18 months. No matter what the future brings, these lads have earned that and are not responsible for what’s gone on before Rafa.

On to the game itself. Watford, like Bournemouth, have got a good deal more fire power than us. This in spite of the fact that Watford sold their top scorer from the previous season in January in a very Mike Ashley move. They finished the season with 7 defeats from 8, scoring in only 2 of those games. Alas they have definitely addressed that in the summer. They’ve added André Grey, a Rafa target, and Richarlison to their attacking options and have not been short of goals this term (scoring the most outside of the top six so far). They’ve got goals coming from all over the pitch and look like they’ve

So, we are going to once again rely heavily on the defensive solidity that Rafa has built into this United squad. Man Utd aside, we’ve been excellent and only let down by the odd mistake or soft goal which have resulted in defeats due to the lack of goals we need to compliment the defensive side of our game. We miss Lascelles’s leadership but I have faith in the lads that are fit to be up to the task again here.

The one positive from last week was the reminder that we do have a goalscorer in the squad. Fit and firing, Dwight Gayle can yet be our most important player this season again. As his match fitness and sharpness returns, he can add the goals we’ve been lacking whether it be upfront with Joselu (thus taking some of the pressure off him) or leading the line. Patience and support is again something that he has earned for his efforts last season and with the crowd behind him I think Dwight Gayle can rip these apart. Watford have conceded more goals than they have scored so are there for the taking if we can keep things tight again.

This will still though be a tight affair just like the majority of PL games this year. That may frustrate some and I beg these people to see the bigger picture here. You can only work with what you’ve got and we will continue to contest this sort of game in this way whilst working to improve every week under Rafa. NUFC is work in progress. It could be a masterpiece in progress, but we are still in the early stages of this and hard fought low scoring games is where we have to start with this squad. 4- 6 points from these two games should set minds at ease and also give us the confidence to crack on this season. There was always going to be some good and bad spells this season. The important thing is not to get too consumed with a few results and continue to concentrate on everything else that has happened since Rafa arrived.

Prediction

1-1 (followed by a win at West Brom on Tuesday)

SIMON CAMPBELL – FOLLOW SIMON ON @SimonCampbell11

 

 

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