There was no blowing of a lead away from home this afternoon as the Hornets triumphantly reaffirmed their status as one of the Premier League’s most dangerous and exciting teams on the road with a thumping win on Tyneside.
In putting the defeat at Everton to bed once and for all, the Hornets charged into a two-goal half-time lead with another goal for Will Hughes and an own goal, making themselves safe on the hour with that all-important third from Andre Gray. There was to be no Chelsea or Everton collapse this time. This team is learning – and learning quick.
In a performance where everybody played their part, however big or small, Marvin Zeegalaar stood out. He created the first two, ensuring Jose Holebas, another left-back who likes an assist, was barely missed. Zeegalaar had his nose re-arranged by Andy Carroll on his debut against West Ham but here it was his turn to bloody a few noses. He wore a protective mask and rather appropriately proved elusive down the left for much of the afternoon but particularly in the first 45.
This was another classic away performance from the Hornets, full of stout defending when required and electric and deadly movement on the counterattack. They probably didn’t play as well as they did against Chelsea or Everton and there was another gear always in reserve, but they still won with something to spare, some achievement when you consider Newcastle started the match just three places below them. It added to the feeling that something special is brewing at Vicarage Road.
Newcastle had only conceded five goals in their previous six matches here but the potent Golden Boys plundered three and could have had more. That’s now seven away games in a row the Hornets have scored twice away and the first time they have scored three. They couldn’t buy one on the road last season.
They looked in control from the outset. Yes, Matt Ritchie raised the pulses of home fans by crashing one into the side netting but Watford, led by the excellent Adrian Mariappa and the even better Christian Kabasele, kept them at arm’s length.
Watford took a little while to get into their stride as an attacking force but then they did, Newcastle struggled to deal with their elusive movement and their quick and incisive play down the flanks, particularly the left.
Not long after Richarlison had forced a one-handed save from Rob Elliott – Gray was screaming for the ball to be squared but the in-form Brazilian couldn’t be blamed for going for goal – the Hornets were in front with a brilliantly-executed move.
Kabasele picked out the overlapping Zeegalaar with a smashing crossfield pass. The Dutchman galloped down the left before having the presence of mind to cut it back, instead of flashing it hopefully across the face, and there was Hughes to clinically dispatch it into the far corner. First blood to the Golden Boys.
Zeegalaar was in the same position again minutes later but this time his lofted cross proved just out of reach of the emerging Abdoulaye Doucourè.
They didn’t quite drive home their advantage as you thought they might, sitting back and inviting Newcastle on. Their play was sloppy at times and it needed a couple of headers from Miguel Britos, a save from Heurelho Gomes and international-class defending from Kabasele and Mariappa to keep the back door shut.
The Hornets looked like they were going to have to settle for the cushion of just one goal at the break when they struck with virtually the last kick of the half. Again, the goal originated down the left and again it was Zeegalaar at the heart of things, the full-back showing his qualities as a former winger to send in a low cross that DeAndre Yedlin turned into his own net. The half-time refreshments would have tasted particularly sweet.
The lead could have been extended even more straight after half-time when Gray was sent haring down the inside left channel. He drove at goal, steadied himself and then shot wide with a skewed left-footed effort. He then flashed a header just over.
The feeling that he was getting closer to his second goal in a Watford shirt came to fruition just past the hour when poked in a quite brilliant curled centre from the left from Richarlison. The goal was scored by an Englishman but it was very much made in Brazil. Richarlison celebrated with the warming up Roberto Pereyra who would have appreciated that piece of skill.
So in charge were the Golden Boys thereafter that Marco Silva could afford to take off Richarlison with Tuesday night’s game against Manchester United in mind. There were “olés” long before the end and chants of “We want four” from the jubilant Hornets fans up in the clouds. The scars of the implosions at Chelsea and Everton are well and truly healed.