Another huge opportunity to take all three points, another opportunity missed as Joao Pedro’s late header sent the Hornets home with a point we just couldn’t afford to gift them.
Allan Saint-Maximin gave us the lead in the second half with a brilliant strike after cutting in from the left, but we played awfully after that, failing to capitalise on the boost it should have given us and allowing Watford to come back into it.
We’ve now dropped 21 points from winning positions this season – a stat that says everything you need to know about our worrying mentality after taking the lead. We get edgy, lose all shape, all composure and seem to constantly shoot ourselves in the foot.
Elsewhere, Norwich beat Rafa Benitez’s Everton to move off the bottom of the table, meaning we are now 19th and two points from safety, with Burnley – who are now bottom – having THREE games in hand on ourselves ahead of their game with Watford next week.
Howe made three changes from last weekend’s humiliating FA Cup defeat to Cambridge, seeing Chris Wood, Paul Dummett and Jamaal Lascelles replace Jacob Murphy, Matt Ritchie and Emil Krafth.
STARTING 11: Dubravka – Trippier, Lascelles, Schar, Dummett – Shelvey, S Longstaff, Joelinton – Fraser, Wood, Saint-Maximin.
SUBS: Darlow, Gillespie, Ritchie, Lewis, Krafth, Murphy*, Almiron*, Willock, Anderson.
We pressed well early on when Watford tried to play out from back, but lacked that same urgency when we had the ball in the final third.
We had chances in the first half, with Joelinton volleying a huge wide after clipping the bar, Wood heading over a few times and Longstaff firing way over after the ball fell kindly to him on the edge of the box.
We shaded the first 45, yet we looked edgy and unorganised at the back, were easily bypassed in midfield and often left Wood too isolated up top, with us lacking any real cohesion in attack and failing to test Foster in 10 first half shots.
Longstaff looked way off the pace, Shelvey was walking a tightrope from his early yellow card and Saint-Maximin was frustrating, either losing the ball too cheaply or struggling to win his battle against Watford’s Ngakia.
On the plus side, Trippier looked the best player on the pitch and was visibly a level above the rest. Joelinton wasn’t hiding and made his presence known on and off the ball, but he should’ve come off at half time with a goal to show for it.
A huge second half awaited and it started exactly as we needed it to as Saint-Maximin pounced on a mistake, cut inside and smashed a shot past Foster to send us 1-0 up.
At this point I turned to my Dad and said ‘let’s kill this off now!’….yet we did the exact opposite. We were OK for the next 10 minutes in terms of now allowing Watford to create any openings, however the final half an hour was an absolute car crash.
Howe claimed in his post-match presser that he told the players to keep pushing in search of another. What followed was anything but, as we immediately started to look edgy, desperate and all at sea positionally all over the pitch.
King had a one on one saved by Dubravka and Sissoko looked set to equalise before blazing over a huge chance. They were our warning sings, yet we didn’t heed them.
With 87 minutes on the clock, Dummett couldn’t get there quick enough to stop Femenia’s cross and Joao Pedro somehow outjumped Lascelles to head past Dubravka.
Heads in hands all around St James’ Park, a horrible goal to concede and yet another absolute sickener.
It’s another tough to take when we were just five minutes away from come out on top in this relegation six-pointer, yet we had just one shot on target all afternoon – a shocking stat against a side who haven’t kept a clean sheet all season – and played so badly in that final half an hour that this equaliser was coming.
If we can’t beat a Watford side who arrived on the back of SEVEN straight defeats, who are we going to beat this season?
Next up, a trip to Elland Road next Saturday.