First Team 03/04/2019

Hughes: “It Gives Us Confidence Going Into Sunday”

Will Hughes believes the Hornets can head to Wembley with a spring in their step on the back of a 4-1 win over Fulham.

The former England youth international also got himself on the scoresheet with a thundering volley that raised the roof at Vicarage Road.

But it wasn't all plain sailing, says Hughes, as Javi Gracia had to switch things around at half-time.

“It was a game of two halves - we were poor first half - and credit to them they popped it around nicely,” said the midfielder.

“Their shape dominated our shape, so we had to change it and credit to the manager for that.

“It puts [the fans] in good spirits and gives us confidence going into Sunday.

“The Vic has been a fortress at home, the crowd get behind us and that makes a big difference.

“We don’t put pressure on ourselves, we are doing well and we're enjoying it. There was no distraction [against Fulham] and now we are looking forward to Sunday.”

Hughes has scored 17 goals in senior football - with three of those coming this season for Watford - but last night's finish could be his best yet.

When José Holebas' corner was headed away, both Hughes and Abdoulaye Doucouré looked to shoot. Luckily the Frenchman got out of the way, as Hughes crashed home a spectacular effort past Sergio Rico to put Watford 2-1 up.

“I just wanted to connect with it, thankfully it went in and it helped us get three points tonight,” said Hughes.

“I've not seen it back yet, but it had a bit of speed on it and the keeper couldn't keep it out. I hit it really sweetly.

“In my career it would be up there [with my best], but I don't score many so I've not got many to pick from!”

First Team 03/04/2019

Gracia: “To Win Was The Best Way To Prepare”

Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below for his thoughts from his press conference.

By Kevin Affleck

A relentless Javi Gracia has challenged his side to kick on from setting a new benchmark for the club’s best ever Premier League points tally, to really push on and turn a really good season into a great one.

The handsome win over Fulham took the Golden Boys up to 46 points, one more than they achieved in a full season under Quique Sanchez Flores. With six games remaining, including four at fortress Vicarage Road, Gracia wants the Hornets to reach for the stars.

“There are many games left, some of them at home where we are feeling really well,” said Gracia. “It is something special for us, amazing to get 46 points, the best amount of points in the Premier League is something special and a very good reward for all these players. They were all working from the beginning and the players don’t want to stop there. They want to keep getting more points. They are very, very demanding.”

They get it from their coach who made no bones about the fact he was not happy with the first-half performance. He was barking at the back four long before Ryan Babel equalised and that continued in the dressing room at the break.

“Yes, I was [angry at half-time],” he said. “I didn’t like what I saw. We didn’t keep possession, we didn’t find the right balance, we didn’t adjust well in our movement. After, in the second half, we felt better, we felt more possession, created more chances, scoring more goals. That was the key to winning the game.”

Gracia showed it doesn’t matter who you are, whether you have played for Juventus or Barcelona – you are not immune from getting hooked at half-time if the Head Coach doesn’t like what he sees.

“We changed two players, but not only that,” he said. “It was important we adjusted the movement and the shape. In the first half, we didn't keep the shape and didn’t win a lot of the challenges. We needed to adjust positions, movements and we made two substitutions. In that moment we felt more comfortable on the pitch. We created better chances in the game.”

The Head Coach surprised many by picking a full-strength team just five days before the FA Cup semi-final, but it paid off spectacularly as they team now head to Wembley with no apparent injury concerns and on the back of a thumping win.

“All the players are tired after the effort today,” he said. “I think the game was very, very tough in the first half. Fulham played much, much better than us in the first half, but as I said before the game, to win today was the best way to prepare for the next game. The players have enough time to recover before the next important game.”