Gracia: “My Players Show A Lot Of Heart”
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia felt his side’s never-say-die attitude came to the fore against Southampton and meant they were able to salvage a point from a game that looked to have got away from them.
The Saints were on course to severely dent the Hornets’ seventh-place aspirations on the back of the fastest-ever Premier League goal from Shane Long, but Gracia’s side conjured up yet another late goal here and again it was Andre Gray doing the business.
He came off the bench to score winners against Everton, Leicester and Crystal Palace and also turn the game with Fulham on its head. On from the start this time, he popped up in the 90th minute to scoop one into the roof of the net with his left foot. It nudged the Hornets up into seventh spot, one point ahead of Everton with three games left and created a bit of momentum going into the game with Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.
“My team, my players are showing in all the games a lot of heart,” said Gracia. “Playing this way we are getting goals at the end and they don’t want to lose. They are really giving their best and this is the only way we know how to compete.”
Gray must have thought his big chance had passed him by when he missed two in quick succession shortly after Long scored, but he stuck at it and was Johnny-on-the-spot once again at the death. He now has eight for the season.
“Andre is always there, ready to score in the last minutes,” said the Head Coach. “He has scored important goals in some games at home and today he did it again. It is not a surprise for me. He is a good player, a good striker.”
Gracia was not about to throw Craig Cathcart under the bus for his mistake in the Saints’ record-breaking opener. The Northern Ireland international has been one of the performers of the season and everyone is allowed to make a mistake now and then, just like Ben Foster did in the last home game.
“If we speak about Ben Foster or Craig Cathcart, they are players who very concentrated,” said Gracia. “It’s something that happens sometimes. You ever know exactly why. I’m sure in the next games these players and the rest of team will be very focussed. We try to avoid mistakes in the next game.”
The freakishly early goal was a real kick in the solar plexus and led to a real disjointed first-half performance from the Hornets, as disjointed as they have been all season.
“The first goal was very strange,” said Gracia. “We conceded an early goal and then Southampton played better. They could have killed the game. In the second we tried to change something and find a better balance playing that way. From this new position we found a better balance and we played better, creating some chances to score and take an important point. I like to give value the point. It’s an important point.”
Everyone would have liked three points from the game and to give the team clear daylight between themselves and Everton, but a point is not to be sniffed at and it means the Hornets’ fate is in their own hands.
“To be honest, I’m thinking about the next game, the next three points,” said Gracia. “I want to get the next three points. I’m not sure we if we achieve seventh, eighth or ninth. To know our position doesn’t help us to play better, to do our job. It is only a position. There are a few games left and we have to be ready for the next one.”