By Kevin Affleck
Andre Gray is setting such high standards for himself right now that scoring two second-half goals to turn Saturday’s match with Real Sociedad on its head was not nearly enough to have him satisfied with his lot.
The striker finished last season by scoring five in the last nine home games, including memorable winners against Everton, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, and he was at it again at Vicarage Road on Saturday, squeezing in the equaliser just after half-time and then showing great composure, strength and speed to slide in the winner three minutes from full-time.
It would have been enough to leave most goal-getters on cloud nine, especially coming on the back of ones against Ajax and Bayer Leverkusen, but Gray feels he has some fine tuning to do ahead of the season opener.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the best game I’ve played for Watford,” said Gray. “I don’t think I played too well today. We’ve got a lot to work on but I’d rather do it [play not so well] this week and get the bad stuff out [of the way].”
Gray perhaps feels the need to bring slightly more to the party than just goals because there is Gerard Deulofeu waiting in the wings to return from injury while Stefano Okaka and Isaac Success are also handy options available to Javi Gracia. But scoring goals of any type, particularly on a day when things don’t go your way, is not a bad habit to have.
“I tried to keep positive and score a goal – and I managed to do it,” he said. "It’s only pre-season but it’s good for us strikers to get a goal … it’s good for confidence. But today was more about team performance and our shape.”
The goals were classic Gray. He engineered half a yard of space on both occasions to get a shot away and while the first one was a touch scruffy, the second one was nicely executed and not too dissimilar to the one he got against Leicester from the other side of the box.
“I always like to play on the shoulder – it’s a strong part of my game," he said. "Nothing was going for me and I kept losing the ball. In the second half I stepped away from coming short, stayed on the shoulder and stuck to my strengths. My confidence built as the game went on and I got two great balls [from Will Hughes and Étienne Capoue] and managed to score.”
Gray has scored 10 competitive goals under Gracia so the Head Coach is now well-accustomed to seeing the 28-year-old find the back of the net from a variety of different angles in the box, particularly in the final third of a game.
“It doesn't surprise me,” said the Head Coach. “He is always ready to make good movements and finish well. I think it's something he has. We have to take advantage of him always being ready, not only today but in other games. It's good news for the team.”