It was the final home game of the season for Watford, who needed a win to mathematically secure Premier League status for next season. Newcastle meanwhile were already safe and looking to finish in the top half of the top flight for the first time since 2014.
That narrative played out it the opening half, as it was Watford who started the brighter and hungrier, looking like a side who’s safety in the league wasn’t guaranteed against a Newcastle team who were already on the beach. The Hornets overwhelmed the away side in a dominating first half display.
It took the home side just two minutes to take the lead. They capitalized after a poor clearance from Paul Dummett, which fell straight to Abdoulaye Doucoure. The Frenchman squared the ball to Roberto Pereyra, who made no mistake – slotting the ball past Martin Dubravka, scoring his fifth goal of the campaign.
Watford’s second came just before the half hour mark. Pereyra this time turned the provider. The Argentinian was set free down the left from a wonderful give and go with Troy Deeney and after a clever bit of skill to work a yard of space, he lifted an inciting cross deep to the far post. Dubravka misjudged the flight of the ball, and left Gray with a free header into the empty net.
The Hornets should have made it three on the 40th minute after referee, Roger East, awarded them a penalty. Gray was brought down on the byline by a clumsy challenge from Dummet, who was having a half to forget. Deeney stepped up but was denied brilliantly by Dubravka twice in quick succession. The keeper saved the spot kick low to his right, then reacted quickly to block the follow-up.
Watford could have had the game and all three points sewn up at half-time, but as often in football, were made to pay for their missed chances. And ten minutes into the second half it was Newcastle who struck next to reduce the deficit to one.
Javier Manquillo found himself with acres of space on the right and delivered a cross straight into the path of a sliding Ayoze Perez, who somehow manged to control his half-volley at full stretch, guiding the ball past Orestis Karnezis into the back of the net.
Newcastle piled on the pressure for the remainder of the game, with Rafa Benitez’s side showing the kind of resilience that has guided them to tenth in the league. Watford got deeper and deeper, which coincided with Jonjo Shelvey’s ever growing influence on the game.
Chances fell to Dwight Gayle and Perez but the Toon Army were unable to exploit their control. The best opportunity fell to substitute Mikel Merino in the dying moments after the energetic DeAndre Yedlin, once again found space down the flank and cut the ball back for the Spanish midfielder. He was denied though from a terrific block from Adrian Mariappa, throwing himself at the ball to deflect it over the bar.
Javi Garcia’s men defended resolutely, hanging-on, to stagger over the finish line and confirm their place in the Premier League for another season. It should have been so much easier but nonetheless, the game finished 2-1 and Watford breathe a sigh of relief.