Anxiety (noun)

• a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.

That definition from the English dictionary summed me up before kick off. I’m normally pretty calm and collected before the match, but today this game felt absolutely massive. As I took my place in the Gallowgate with Alex and Si, I felt an overwhelming feeling of nervousness. A defeat today would have been disastrous. A draw would have been sufficient, but in reality a win was what we really needed.
We headed into this game on our worst ever start to a top flight season since 1898, whereas Watford were enjoying their best ever start to a season at the top level of English football. Surely then, the result could only go one way…!?
Before kick off, a minute’s silence was announced to pay respects to the victims of the Leicester City helicopter tragedy. Calls for silence were ignored. Instead a loud round of applause went around the stadium. I can only assume that most Toon fans probably looked at what Leicester’s late Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha did for their club, compared to our owner, and felt that applause was more appropriate for him and what he had achieved with the Foxes.
I was looking forward to seeing Muto and Rondon playing together up front, Rondon being the only change to Rafa’s starting eleven from our previous outing at Southampton, with Perez making way for the imposing Venezuelan.
I think it’s fair to say that our first half display was poor. It felt like we were playing away from home, sitting in deep, soaking up pressure and trying counter attacks. Our number 10 Muto was so deep he was almost playing as a central midfielder.

We had a couple of promising moments in the first ten minutes but then the Hornets started to stamp some authority on the game, dominating the midfield in what appeared to be a 4-3-3 formation. Jonjo Shelvey was starved of the ball and we struggled to get any sort of decent attacks going.

Come the 15th minute, after a flurry of Watford corners, they found Adrian Mariappa completely unmarked at our back post. The Watford captain had his header blocked on the line. Will Hughes tried to force the ball home but his shot was blocked. The rebound fell to Mariappa who somehow managed to drag his shot wide. A big let off for us.

More Watford pressure followed before big Mo Diame managed to get a shot off on Watford’s goal from the edge of the box, but Ben Foster was equal to it and he pushed it behind for a corner.
Watford were trying to feed the ball in to the pacy Belgian winger Gerard Deulofeu to get in behind our defence, however Yedlin’s pace was a match for him and he managed to cut out a couple of through ball’s to the Watford man.
Then in the 25th minute Kenedy somehow found himself in a shooting position to the right of the penalty spot in Watford’s box, but his effort was crucially blocked by a Watford defender. Our best chance of the afternoon so far.
Both teams then went on to have set piece attempts at goal from about ten yards outside the box. Firstly Etienne Capoue put the ball over Dubravka’s bar, followed by Jonjo Shelvey doing likewise at the Leazes End.
It actually took until the 45th minute for Watford to force Martin Dubravka into any sort of save. Isaac Success found himself in space and hit a low shot which our Slovakian stopper managed to get a hand on and turn round the post for a corner. Great save.

Yoshinori Muto hobbled off just prior to half time with a knock and he was replaced by Ayoze Perez.

We only managed 40% possession in the first half and we had 5 attempts at goal, compared to Watford’s 13. Of these though, both sides only had one shot on target.
A pretty poor showing again over the first 45 minutes from the Magpies.

Rafa was forced into making yet another change due to injury at half time, with Fabian Schar coming on to replace Jamaal Lascelles, who suffered a shoulder injury. It’s worth noting that I heard no boos for Lascelles, after the debate around his comments in support of our illustrious owner.

As the second half began, it was obvious that we were playing with more urgency.

Watford broke away down the left and Success somehow shrugged off DeAndre Yedlin before squaring the ball to the in form Roberto Pereyra, who smashed a shot against our crossbar. Another let off for us.

Unbelievably, we were then forced into yet another substitution at the fifty minute mark, with Shelvey walking off the pitch gingerly to be replaced by Ki Sung-yeung. This probably turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us in this match as it happened. Ki was superb. His simple passes and one twos were so refreshing to see in the middle of the park. He wasn’t looking to make Hollywood or ‘killer’ passes like Shelvey would, he was just keeping it simple, keeping possession and always making sure to find a Toon player with his pass.

And it was Ki who won a freekick on the left hand corner of Watford’s penalty box on the 65th minute. Matt Ritchie and Ki stood over the ball but it was the South Korean who whipped a vicious cross towards the near post, which needed the subtlest of flicks from the head of unmarked substitute Ayoze Perez to put the Toon into a 1-0 lead.

This was Ayoze’s first goal in eleven Premier League matches, since scoring against Chelsea on the final day of last season. Four of our seven goals in the league this season have been headers, read into that what you will.
The release of tension at this point was incredible. The Gallowgate went absolutely crazy.

The noise inside the stadium cranked up a notch and you could sense that this might just be our day. Watford continued to waste opportunities and our defence were clearing the ball from some dangerous situations, as the Hornets started to resort to playing long balls forward.

We started to look very composed and confident on the ball, similarly to when we were 2-0 up at Old Trafford. It’s clear to me that when the team do go forward and try to take the game to the opposition we can play some good football. Perhaps all this sitting back and soaking up pressure needs to be scaled back!? Maybe we should be bolder, especially at home? But I’m not about to criticise Rafa’s tactics given his extensive honours list!

Watford piled on the pressure in the final few minutes, with a dangerous low cross fired across our packed penalty area (which came to nothing) and then a Watford man saw a shot from close range fly over the crossbar. More signs this was to be our day at last?

There was a scuffle between both sets of players as we headed into injury time. Watford kept pushing but the whistle finally went and there was a huge outpouring of relief around St.James’ Park as our first Premier League win of the season was confirmed.

A really impressive second half display from the lads, and yet another clean sheet to go with it. Rafa will be extremely pleased tonight, as will everyone connected with the club I’m sure. This felt WAY overdue.
We restricted Watford to just three shots in the second half, none of which were on target. It’s so pleasing to see us defending well and not leaking goals like Fulham, Huddersfield and Cardiff are.
This was Rafa’s 50th win as Newcastle United boss, in what was his 116th game in charge.

My choice for man of the match would be Ki. He changed the game for us when he came on, without question. He won the freekick which he then took to assist Perez’s goal. He seemed to refresh our midfield and his retention of possession is so important for us, given that we usually end the game with less than 50% possession across 90 minutes.

All in all a VERY pleasing match to have been at, ultimately with a huge three points to hopefully get our season going.

Relief (noun)

• a feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress.

ROB CLOTHIER – Follow Rob on @RobClothier14