Watford end dismal run with victory over struggling Newcastle
Watford ended their four-game losing streak in the Barclays Premier League with a much-needed 2-1 victory over Newcastle at Vicarage Road.
Odion Ighalo scored the opening goal of the game just 44 seconds into the second half before Craig Cathcart doubled the home side's lead shortly before the hour mark.
Jamaal Lascelles pulled one back for the visitors, but the defeat for Newcastle sees Steve McClaren's side remain in the relegation places while Watford move up to 10th.
Heading into Saturday's encounter, Quique Sanchez Flores claimed fatigue had contributed to his team's poor run, but the Watford manager made only one change with Juan Carlos Paredes coming in for Allan Nyom. Nordin Amrabat, the £6million signing from Malaga, was handed a place on the bench.
For the visitors, Lascelles was drafted into McLaren's starting XI while Henri Saivet was handed his full debut, and Rolando Aarons made his first league start of the season.
It was Aarons, operating as a left wing-back, who had the first opportunity of the game. The ball fell to the 20-year-old on the edge of the Watford area, but he steered his half volley just wide of Heurelho Gomes' left post.
Ahead of the game, Watford had failed to score in their last two matches while Newcastle had netted only five times on the road this season - the lowest of any team in the top seven tiers of English football. Unsurprisingly the first half saw few opportunities for either a side.
After 17 minutes Etienne Capoue seemed certain to score when Troy Deeney's effort was fumbled by Rob Elliot but the Newcastle keeper scrambled to his feet to block the Frenchman's follow-up strike. Midway through the first half Georginio Wijnaldum teed up Aleksandar Mitrovic, but his effort was saved by the legs of Gomes and the ball drifted out for a corner.
That was as good as it got with referee Andre Marriner blowing his whistle on a rather dreary first half.
The second period was a different story altogether, and just 44 seconds had gone when Capoue dinked a ball over the top of Newcastle's static defence and Ighalo had only Elliot to beat. The Nigerian made no mistake as he rounded the Magpies' stopper and side-footed home into an empty net.
Replays suggested Ighalo, now with 14 goals to his name this term, may have been offside, but neither the home fans were not complaining.
Watford were in command and moments after Valon Behrami was booked for being adjudged to have dived in the penalty area, the home side doubled their advantage. Newcastle failed to deal with a corner and the ball fell to Cathcart who fired home from close range shortly before the hour mark.
A double substitution ensued for the visitors with Yoan Gouffran and Ayoze Perez replacing Aarons and Saivet. Moments after coming on, the latter found himself unmarked and six yards from goal, but his header - following a pinpoint cross by Moussa Sissoko - went high and wide.
It did not look as though it would be Newcastle's afternoon, but suddenly they were handed a lifeline when Lascelles out-jumped Miguel Britos to head home Jonjo Shelvey's corner.
Substitute Perez was then played through by Wijnaldum but fired his shot over. At the other end Ighalo twisted one way and the other before his fierce shot was well saved by Elliot.
Newcastle pressed for an equaliser but it never came as Watford recorded their third victory over the Magpies this season.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
#WFCVNUFC - "Newcastle's away record points to relegation. WBA/Watford losses damaging. Where are the points coming from?" - The Newcastle Chronicle's Newcastle United editor Mark Douglas (@MsiDouglas) does not seem to hold out much hope...
Heurelho Gomes 7
Juan Carlos Paredes 6
Miguel Britos 6
Craig Cathcart 7
Nathan Ake 7
Jose Manuel Jurado 8
Valon Behrami 7
Etienne Capoue 8
Ben Watson 7
Troy Deeney 8
Odion Ighalo 8
Almen Abdi 5
Allan Nyom 5
Nordin Amrabat 5
Rob Elliot 6
Fabricio Coloccini 5
Chancel Mbemba 5
Jamaal Lascelles 6
Rolando Aarons 6
Daryl Janmaat 5
Henri Saivet 4
Jonjo Shelvey 5
Georginio Wijnaldum 5
Moussa Sissoko 6
Aleksandar Mitrovic 4
Ayoze Perez 5
Yoan Gouffran 5
Emmanuel Riviere 5
Troy Deeney has been linked with a move to Arsenal and it is not hard to see why. The Watford skipper was influential for the home side throughout Saturday's match and enhanced his cult status by handing over his boots to a fan at the final whistle.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Odion Ighalo has been one of the Premier League's surprises in this most unpredictable of seasons. He ended his four-match goalless streak with a fine finish just 44 seconds into the second half.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Steve McClaren's side have only scored six goals on the road this season and the Newcastle manager was incandescent in the first half when Aleksandar Mitrovic lost possession following a needless flick.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Newcastle's finishing was dreadful throughout Saturday's match. Surely, McClaren will be desperate to get his hands on a new forward in the final week of the transfer window .
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Nottingham Forest v Watford, FA Cup fourth round, Saturday 30 January.
Everton v Newcastle United, Barclays Premier League, Wednesday 3 February.