Jose Jurado, Odion Ighalo on fire in Watford's win over Newcastle
It wasn't perfect, but Watford's 2-1 victory over Newcastle was a huge improvement on the previous two displays and ended their search for victory at the fifth attempt. The priority in this game was getting a result, but it was no hardship to watch. Both sides tried to attack creating an open contest.
Any tension among the home fans was lifted in the few seconds it took for Troy Deeney to lift pass through to Odion Ighalo, who rounded Rob Elliot to score -- a reassuring sign that the trusty combination still works.
Not for the first time this season, Quique Sanchez Flores responded to some poor form by fine-tuning his team. The 4-4-2 formation that had served them well in 2015 became 4-3-2-1, and the key beneficiary of this change was Jose Jurado, who had a more central and influential role.
The Spaniard looked a different player to the one that had been isolated on the wing, and his confidence appeared to grow as he began to see more of the ball. Another big change saw Juan Carlos Paredes replace Allan Nyom at right back. At his best Nyom is the better defensive player, but Paredes looked much more comfortable pushing forward from deep positions and providing overlapping runs for Watford's midfield.
In midfield, Valon Behrami reminded everyone of his qualities with a tenacious display, and Etienne Capoue continued his epic quest to score a goal, taking on half the Newcastle team single-handed in the closing stages. The crowd roared him on as he stumbled through the final despairing challenge but, alas, the climax of all his effort was a wild shot over the bar followed by an enormous groan of disappointment. He will score eventually, but whether any of us will still be alive to see it is another matter.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Heurelho Gomes, 6 -- Excellent save in the first half to deny Aleksander Mitrovic but wasn't at his commanding best and struggled with a few crosses.
DF Juan Carlos Paredes, 7 -- He is never going to be the most rock-solid full-back in the world, but this was an excellent return to form. Full of energy and began to develop a promising understanding with Etienne Capoue who was aware of his runs and played him into space on several occasions.
DF Craig Cathcar,t 7 -- Took his goal superbly and generally played well, but lost his concentration for a second at a corner that allowed Newcastle a route back into the game. Deserves to retain his place alongside Britos, however.
DF Miguel Britos, 8 -- Much more like the Britos that Watford fans have grown to love. Looked like he was enjoying his battles with Mitrovic, and played a part in Cathcart's goal.
DF Nathan Ake, 7 -- Very steady in his defensive work and made some great runs into attacking areas only to be let down by a poor final ball.
MF Jose Jurado, 9 -- A new role and a new lease on life. If this is how Watford are going to play for the foreseeable future, it could be the making of his career in England. Buzzed between midfield and attack, full of intelligent movement and excellent use of the ball.
MF Ben Watson, 5 -- The weakest of Watford's midfield three, Watson was too slow in possession. He's had an excellent season but needs to sharpen up with reports speculating that Mario Suarez is due to arrive from Fiorentina.
MF Valon Behrami, 8 -- Good to see him back on form. Behrami rarely appeared to be more than five yards away from the ball; his work rate when Newcastle had possession was crucial and has been sorely missed recently.
MF Etienne Capoue, 7 -- Had several incredible moments in this game, but his decision to shoot when he could have set up Ighalo for an easy third might have proved very costly had Newcastle found an equaliser.
MF Troy Deeney, 7 -- It still doesn't look right seeing Watford's number nine drifting back into midfield, but his pass for the opener was perfectly weighted.
FW Odion Ighalo, 9 -- The touch that took him away from Elliot to score the opener was Ighalo at his instinctive and brilliant best. Relentless effort to close down from the front and a superb assist for Cathcart. Wonderful to see him giving defenders nightmares with his scoop once again.
MF Almen Abdi, N/A -- Replaced the excellent Jurado to provide fresh legs in midfield in the closing stages.
DF Allan Nyom, N/A -- Replaced Paredes for the final few minutes.
MF Nordin Amrabat, N/A -- Introduced in injury time, hardly counts as a debut. We'll probably see more of him at Nottingham Forest next weekend.
Michael blogs about Watford for ESPN FC. Follow on Twitter: @Regista_Michael.