Another away day, another pointless trip for Newcastle United and their fans, this time at the hands of Watford in the League.
After losing at Watford just a couple of weeks ago in the cup after dominating the game, today was a rather sorry affair. Many questions will need to be asked of McClaren who chose to rip up the blueprint that had served us so well against Manchester United and then West Ham at home. His change in formation resulted in a disjointed and rather sorry performance and ultimately a 2-1 loss as the Vicarage Road side climbed to 10th in the table and left the Magpies stranded once more in the drop zone.
With Dummett failing to recover from a knock taken in the game against the Hammers, with Mbabu and Haidara’s continued absence through injury and then the news that Colback, who could have filled in a left back, would also be unavailable, McClaren took the decision to break up his centre half partnership and move Mbemba into left fullback. This change, with Lascelles coming in to partner Coloccini in the centre of defence seemed to totally unsettle our back line who were culpable for both the Watford goals. Whilst a change in formation to a 4-4-1-1 also seemed to completely disrupt some of the attacking flow we’d finally seen in our last two games.
From the first whistle it seemed pretty clear that Watford were going to dominate the first half and Newcastle would count themselves lucky on the balance of play to be in at half time at 0-0. Having said that, an on form Mitrovic when having a chance to run at the last defender would have gone on to beat his man and score, er, probably?! Well, Ighalo certainly would. And with 44 seconds of the second half gone he did.
Newcastle will be kicking themselves at letting Odion Ighalo break the offside trap (probably, just) to round Elliot and score so soon after the break. And when the 14 goal man then turned provider for Cathcart to drive home on 57 minutes after Newcastle failed to clear their lines, that would seemingly be that.
As Watford were tucking away their second goal Newcastle had been preparing two substitutions in Gouffran and Perez who would come on for Saivet (who played ok) and Aarons (who looked like he’d been out for ages, probably because he had). Whether it was these changes or Watford thinking they’d just lost their last 4 games and getting the jitters we will never know but something sparked Newcastle into life.
Perez and Mbemba would miss with headers before Lascelles finally put one away from a Shelvey corner with a great leap and finish, getting a gash to the head that would require 7 stitches before he could soldier on. Perez would then blast over the top before both Mitrovic and then Riviere, on for his first appearance of the season, would both miss with headers late on.
Newcastle’s second half, certainly after going two down, would be an awful lot better then the first, so at least the fight hasn’t gone. The goals however still haven’t started to flow and today proves once more that NUFC are desperate for a striker who knows where the goal is.
For most the lack of goals from Mitrovic, just two including a penalty, will be most alarming. Whilst he is just a kid it’s not as if he’s not getting the chances. In his last 10 games he’s had 27 attempts at goal and hit the target 14 times. Quite simply, as much as we may love the bloke, this just isn’t good enough. And this certainly isn’t going to keep Newcastle in the Premier League.
With a tricky trip to Everton up next in ten days we can only be glad that Liverpool did us a huge favour in today’s lunch time game and somehow scored a 95th minute winner in a 5-4 win at Norwich. And with the Mackems and Bournemouth sharing the spoils down the road it is a worrying sign that are now having to examine everyone else’s scores so closely.
OUR VERDICT: Most disappointing today will be the knowledge that Watford were there for the taking and, but for the fact that we don’t have a natural goalscorer we’d probably have taken something from the game. What makes it worse was watching Mitrovic putting his last chance wide as a certain Austin was bagging a winner for Southampton at Old Trafford after his £4m move. One thing is for sure, if we don’t find the killer instinct soon we’ll be wondering how many of this lot will still be playing for us in the Championship next season. Now may just be the time to start having a little panic.