The Warm Down: Newcastle United stutter against Watford as relegation fight heats up
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JANUARY 15: Captains and ex teammates Moussa Sissoko of Watford FC (19) and Jamaal Lascelles of Newcastle United FC (6) embrace during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Watford at St. James Park on January 15, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - 

Newcastle United looked on course to pick up a second league win this season with Allan Saint-Maximin putting The Magpies ahead with a stunning solo effort. 

But after Josh King and Joao Pedro wasted chances for Watford, the Brazilian forward rose above Jamaal Lascelles to nod in Kiko Femenia's cross and send the travelling Watford fans into frenzy. 

The goal crushed Newcastles hopes of moving out the relegation zone for the first time in 106 days. Eddie Howe joined in on the crushing as the head coach took his anger on the 86th minute equaliser on a water bottle. But the draw was a reward for the visitors and Pedro, who continually caused a threat, with the Hornets remaining 17th. 

Newcastle's slip up against Watford was not helped by a Norwich City win over Everton, as they remained 19th and Burnley slipped to the bottom of the table.

This result cemented Newcastle’s inability to hold onto leads this season as the Geordies have lost more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League this season (21), and have only won one of the 10 games they have scored first in (D6 L3). 

A debut to forget for Chris Wood

It’ll be asked whether Newcastle should’ve created more for their new £25 million man, with Chris Wood having a meek effect on yesterday's game.

The 30-year-old striker took just three shots none of which found the target, had the lowest pass accuracy on the pitch, with 63 per cent.

Wood's saving grace was that he won four headers and had a 75 headed duel success rate. He was overshadowed by his teammate Joelinton in this area however, as the Brazilian shone in this area again. 

Wood was announced fully on Friday and only trained once with the team so you cannot expect miracles, but for this Newcastle side, it is becoming more apparent that they might just need one to get out of the relegation scrap.

The debutant did play the full 90 minutes and was surrounded by good crossers of the ball.

So, was it a lack of knowledge in the system? A lack of familiarity with team-mates? Even a lack of match sharpness? As his previous side Burnley had only played two games in 2022. 

Watford's game plan worked

Claudio Raneri had a plan; sit back and let Newcastle advance, use their height to deal with crosses, put men behind the ball and then counter.

It is what you expect from a Ranieri team away from home, it is what The Magpies got!

Newcastle fell for it hook line and sinker, and allowed themselves to get draw into a different kind of fight. 

As said in the introduction Watford had good chances to win this game. A kind of switch on the 1-1 draw between the two sides in back in September, in which Newcastle should have walked away comfortable victors. 

Watford deserve credit for how the stayed in the game and made Newcastle break them down.

The Toon did succeed in breaking Watford down, with Allan Saint-Maximin scoring a fantastic solo effort, which meant Watford's search for a clean sheet goes to 20 straight games continues.

Newcastle needed that one solo goal to get them on the score sheet because they failed to register another shot on target in the game. 

Watford were more clinical, passed the ball better, had more dangerous opportunities – despite Newcastle hitting the crossbar via Ryan Fraser – and probably deserved to win the game. 

Leeds is now another ‘crucial’ game 

The next fixture against Leeds United was always a crucial game in Newcastle’s calendar, with the Yorkshire side battling a massive injury list and a COVID-19 outbreak inside their camp.

Marcelo Bielsa's side now sit nine points outside of the relegation zone, after their win against West Ham this afternoon.

Newcastle were lucky to grab a draw in the reverse fixture back in September with Saint-Maximin again securing them not only the points, but all the plaudits. The Frenchman was excellent in the reverse fixture. 

With Leeds struggling to secure themselves crucial points it is a must for Newcastle to take advantage of a team faltering and pick up a much needed win. Especially with relegation rivals Watford and Burnley facing off on Tuesday. 

This gives Eddie Howe and the Newcastle hierarchy a chance to either dip back into the transfer market or give the team another week together to get Chris Wood up to speed. 

The main thing to note is, the games Newcastle United deep critical to win are running out and if these games run out before they get some results, so will The Magpies' time in the Premier League