Here we are again, heading to Vicarage road for another massive game. We lost the last one, in which Watford had just one good chance, gifted to them by Winjaldum, much like Chancel Mbemba did on Saturday. Compared to the superb goals we seemingly need to score – one of these gifts would be handy at some point for Newcastle United. I wrote about Watford a few weeks ago and how well they’d done. They sat seventh at the time and all was well. One draw and seven defeats later, their slide down the league has some Hornets looking over their shoulder, so poor have the performances of then men from Hertfordshire been. A chance for victory here – of that there can be no doubt.
The last game at Vicarage road was strange. I only managed to listen to the game in full and see limited highlights, so I can’t claim to really know what went on. The fury of the travelling support may have been the fact we were simply in the relegation zone and out of the cup. It may have been at the performance. However it would seem that as Watford created 0 chances and we created lots. That may not have been the way it panned out, but it’s what McClaren had us believe. Three days later we put in a very good 60 minutes against Man Utd and a superb 90 minutes against West Ham. There are signs the tide is turning and United are no longer the rank average team they’ve been since December 2013.
The positive thing about the West Ham result is that we were actually good. This is a barren list, but since December 2013 – we’ve won 13 home games. Not a lot. In that time we’ve had some notable results. We beat Chelsea, last season’s champions, but it was a game where we didn’t have a shot in the first half and played a defensive counter attacking game. Nothing wrong with that. It was the result that mattered though and it wasn’t enjoyable to watch until we actually took the lead. Besides that the other teams we’ve beaten have been Vile, Cardiff, Leicester (when they were rubbish), Liverpool (who were rubbish), QPR, Everton, Vile, West Ham, Liverpool and now West Ham again. The only team in the top 5 at the time of playing them were West Ham on Saturday. The only team we played off the pitch and you can legitimately say the score line flatters them was West Ham this Saturday. That’s why it’s such a big win, that’s why it matters so much. The Norwich game was good – but we still played a dodgy counterattacking game with two genuine holding midfielders on the toes of the back 4.
I’ve bene vocal this season that Steve McClaren has been underperforming. The board has been underperforming but I believe McClaren was handed a squad capable of parity with the likes of West Brom and Watford. Still a bit shite, but not one point better than Sunderland and below Norwich and Bournemouth. Saturday was the first time I can say that we played against a fellow team in the Premier League at home, and played them off the pitch. Even if it was for 40 minutes until West Ham came back into the game. So fair play to Steve McClaren. If we’d played like that against say, Stoke at home, we’d have beaten them comfortably. I’m sure McClaren would say he didn’t have the tools to produce such a performance, but I’d disagree. It’s no coincidence that Colo is looking back to his best without Anita and Colback stood directly in front of him for 90 minutes.
We need to take points this weekend though. One of Sunderland and Bournemouth will be picking up points this weekend. Norwich will be looking for a point minimum against an average Liverpool side at Carrow Road. Swansea will think they can get at least a point at Goodison. No we shouldn’t worry about other sides as only Newcastle United winning games will keep Newcastle United in this league, but it’s worth remembering that there’s no time left for close misses, like Watford away in the cup. No time at all.
The team picks itself, unfortunately. Not since the Championship or Keegan’s return has there ever been competition for places in Ashley’s Newcastle United. Dummet should come back in and we know what to expect from there. I loved the West Ham performance for so many reasons, but the blistering start won us the game. Watford haven’t won in 6 league games, losing four. Let’s not give them a chance to grow into the game. We all know where the danger lies. No silly formations which you ditch at half time, Steve. Against Swansea on Monday, a game I had the misfortune to sit through, the rest of the team looked shocking and the front two were below par. They still probably should have taken a draw from the game. Watford look incapable of scoring goals. After 5 goals in two games against defensively sound opposition, let’s hope we can get at least two here. It should be enough to win the game.
There’s a break next weekend as FA Cup football commences before we take have two massive games against Everton away and West Brom at home. You get the feeling less than 4 points from these three games would be disastrous. 6 points required in reality.
Prediction 3-1 United
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892