Heurelho Gomes 7
The goalkeeper gave Costel Pantilimon no reason to expect a start in the Premier League any time soon. The game could have panned out very differently had the Brazilian not brilliantly denied Aleksandar Mitrovic with his outstretched left leg early in the first half when the game was goalless. He continues to punch away crosses rather than catch them, and a couple of his goal kicks fell short or were wayward, including one which skewed out for a Newcastle United throw in, but his performance was solid. Six of his eight clean sheets have come at home and he will have been disappointed to not have registered a seventh at Vicarage Road but he did exceptionally well to get a strong hand to Jamaal Lascelles header.
Juan Carlos Paredes 6.5
A prolonged dip in the form of Allan Nyom meant the Ecuador international was given his second start of the season. Paredes will have enjoyed being asked to push high and wide by Quique Sanchez Flores. He and Ben Watson were not on the same wavelength when the midfielder played a slide-rule pass in expectation of Paredes overlapping. He did, though, dovetail nicely with Etienne Capoue down the right, giving the makeshift left-back Chancel Mbemba a chastening afternoon, most notably when he teed up a cross that invited someone to rise and bury it into the back of the net and then supplying the pass for Capoue to go down theatrically in search of a first-half penalty. Produced the odd heart-stopping moment. One dangerous back pass to Gomes was inches away from being intercepted by Mitrovic while he was caught on his heels when Yoan Gouffran got in front and ahead of him with a header he should really have scored from.
Craig Cathcart 7.5
Back to his reliable best and has cut out the daft moments. Set the tone early on with a block on Georginio Wijnaldum and then threw himself in front of a Rolando Aarons shot as he pulled the trigger from the next phase of play. Scored his first goal since the decisive one against Birmingham City in April. This one, at the same end, wasn’t as spectacular but he won’t care. He generously conceded post-match that he should have tracked Lascelles better to prevent Newcastle’s goal. He was being harsh on himself.
Miguel Britos 7
You wondered if it was going to be one of those afternoons when the Uruguayan, who is so cool in possession, saw his first clearance charged down in front of the Graham Taylor Stand. He dealt comfortably with Newcastle’s attacking threat thereafter and, if anything, was too eager to win the ball, climbing over the back of Mitrovic on a couple occassions. He was eventually booked for tugging back Mitrovic after the striker turned away from him, earning a yellow card for the fourth time in eight matches. Played a largely unseen part in the decisive second goal, turning the ball back into the box, with his unfavoured right foot, for Troy Deeney to head down to Cathcart. Won two decisive headers in his own box late on as Newcastle threw the kitchen sink at the home side.
Nathan Ake 6
Claimed enthusiastically for a penalty appeal early on when Moussa Sissoko seemed to lean into him from a Jose Manuel Jurado free-kick, but referee Andre Marriner waved away the appeal. This wasn’t one of his best games but then Sissoko and the overlapping Daryl Janmaat are a real handful, as Jose Holebas found out in the FA Cup tie. No wonder he thanked Valon Behrami at full-time for providing such reliable cover in front of him. Ake’s end product needs a bit of work but let’s not forget this is a 20-year-old playing in his first full season in the Premier League.
Etienne Capoue 7.5
He did more running when chasing down Newcastle’s left-back and then pressuring Rob Elliot than he did in the entire matches at Southampton and Swansea. This was more like the Capoue who had sparkled and shone before Christmas. How he did not garnish his best performance in weeks with a goal only he will know. Was a touch unfortunate Elliot saved his close-range first-half effort with his leg but should have found the target, or a teammate in a better position, after he did all the hard work by chasing down Gouffran late on. Made one kamikazee first-half pass across the middle of the field straight to Mitrovic and we reckon someone from the club had a quiet word in his ear as after he went down the tunnel laughing and joking at the Liberty Stadium, he was the last Watford player to leave the pitch here and applauded all four sides of the ground.
Ben Watson 7
Played as the deepest and most central midfielder in this new 4-3-1-2 system. He spent the match screening the back four and plonked his first dead-ball delivery straight onto the head of Ake only for the left back to be pulled back. Did everything with a minimum of fuss.
Valon Behrami 8
Back to his controlled, snapping and snarling self. Ran across from the left of midfield to make a vital crunching tackle in the first half and it was his high pressing that led to the first-half chance for Capoue. Disrupted the supply line between Jon-Jo Shelvey and Henri Saivet and his discipline and appetite for the defensive side of the game allowed Jurado the freedom to roam. He will be embarrassed when he sees the replay of the way he went down under the challenge of Fabricio Coloccini yet Sanchez Flores will be purring with delight when he watches a re-run of the manner he broke up play with a decisive tackle on Janmaat and then charged into the Newcastle penalty box.
Jose Manuel Jurado 8
A free role behind Deeney and Odion Ighalo suited Jurado to a tee. He did everything he usually does creative wise in a game but this time from a central position and where he can hurt teams. Was loose with a couple of early passes but he provided the smartest of conduits between midfield and attack. We loved the way how, in the middle of one move, he instructed Behrami to slow down and keep possession, bringing calmness and a cool head to Watford’s sometimes helter-skelter attacking play. His best moment was a delightful flick in the middle of dense traffic to Deeney which allowed the captain to fire off a left-footed effort on goal. Ran out of steam and was replaced by Almen Abdi but he received plenty of applause as he exited the stage. Rightly collected the man-of-the-match award.
Odion Ighalo 8
Back to his best after an unusually complacent and lazy display last week at Swansea. The Nigerian was a willing recipient of the ball and keen to hold it up at every opportunity but also played on the last shoulder, evidenced when he peeled off Coloccini to run onto Deeney’s pass for the opener. He might well have been offside but he will feel he earned a bit of luck after having the goal at Chelsea taken off him. He can add Lascelles to the list of players he’s fooled with his scoop.
Troy Deeney 7.5
Showed he can unpick the lock as well as smash the door down by threading a lovely weighted pass through for Ighalo to round Elliot for the opener. He’ll remind you that was his sixth assist of the season. It was also Deeney who kept the ball alive by heading a deep cross back into the box towards Ighalo, which led to Watford’s second goal. One of the hardest workers in the squad, he might want to stay behind in training this week and work on shooting with his left foot as, in the first half, he snatched at one chance and opted against pulling the trigger with another.
Came on in place of Jurado and took up a similarly creative position, one which will certainly suit him more than the up and down right-midfield one he has been asked to play for most of the campaign. Got into a great position to receive a pass from Capoue near the end and would almost certainly have scored had Capoue not opted to shoot. His 13 minutes of play were not enough for him to earn a rating.
Came on with a minute to go in place of Paredes, presumably to run down the clock. His height came in handy as Watford had to deal with a late corner.
It was a surprise he stayed on the bench for so long and even more of one when he came on for Deeney, who is so good when defending corners, with seconds to go. It was still time, however, for the fans to come up with a chant for him, singing ‘Nordin Amrabat’ to the tune of KC & The Sunshine Band’s ‘Give it up’.
*All pictures by Paul Dawson. Follow him at @poleydeepics