OPINION - Five thoughts following Watford's 1-0 win over Newcastle.
Watford progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday, as they beat Newcastle United 1-0 in a scrappy affair at Vicarage Road.
Troy Deeney's calm finish minutes before half-time, sealed the Hornets progression to the next round of the competition, despite the Golden Boys being second best for large parts of the game.
After attending Saturday's fixture at Vicarage Road, here are five of my thoughts:
1 - A game that won't live long in the memories
This season has been full of fantastic matches involving the Hornets. However, this wasn't one of them. It was a scrappy game that reminded me at least, of some matches last season in the Championship. The games against Blackburn and Ipswich at Vicarage Road spring to mind. Watford never really got going and they were second best for large parts of the game to a Newcastle side, who created some good chances in the first half and surely would have progressed to the next round of the competition if they had a top-quality striker up front. But they don't and Steve McClaren's men couldn't take their chances. In the end, the Magpies were made to pay for a sloppy error from Georginio Wijnaldum who has arguably been their best player all season. The second half was more even but the Golden Boys created little and in truth it was a game lacking in quality. It wasn't great for spectators. But hey-ho. Enough of me moaning. We got the job done and are in the next round of the competition. What's not to love about that?
2 - Sebastian Prodl stakes a claim for a starting berth.
Austrian defender Sebastian Prodl was one of four changes to the Watford side against the Magpies and he fitted seamlessly back into the defence. Making his first start since the 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in October, the Austrian international impressed at the heart of the Golden Boys defence. The 6ft 4in centre-back was dominant in the air and he pulled off some vital interceptions and tackles over the course of the 90 minutes. Wasn't afraid to put his foot through the ball to avert any possible danger either. Him and Cathcart reformed their good partnership which was evident in the first half of the season and it would be rather harsh on the Austrian if he was dropped to the subs bench against Southampton on Wednesday night. It's great to have three top class defenders in the squad and Prodl was my man of the match.
3 - Adlene Guedioura does himself no harm
Watford fans have been calling for Quique Sanchez Flores to start Adlene Guedioura since he returned to the club permanently in September. They finally got their wish against Newcastle, as the Algerian international started and played the full 90 minutes of the FA Cup third round fixture. Played in a deeper role alongside Ben Watson, Guedioura was entrusted with the task of helping the Hornets in defence, whilst also joining in with the Golden Boys' ventures up field. He didn't disappoint. It was an energetic display from the Algerian international who worked tirelessly for the team. He pulled off a number of good tackles and interceptions and drove forward on a number of occasions to join the Hornets attacks. Filled the void left by Etienne Capoue admirably and didn't stop running all game. Was fortunate to escape a yellow card for a late tackle on a Newcastle player mid-way through the second half, but on the whole it was a good performance. He has done his prospects of earning a regular starting berth in this Watford side no harm at all.
4 - More to come for Oulare.
When the starting line-ups were announced on Saturday, I was excited to see what Obbi Oulare had to offer. Since moving to Vicarage Road in the summer, Quique Sanchez Flores has been reluctant to throw him straight into the fold but the Spaniard handed the Belgium Under 21 international his debut against Newcastle on Saturday. On the whole, I thought Oulare did ok. He was strong in the air, winning a number of headers, and worked hard during the first half. You couldn't fault his effort. He was rather unfortunate, in my view, to be subbed off at half-time, as he did ok with the limited service that he had. Since the match, I've seen a number of people criticise the young Belgium striker. One fan even went as far as saying it was the worst debut he had ever seen. Both of the above are incredibly harsh. Some seem to be forgetting that Oulare is only 20. He was signed as a project. He was never meant to be challenging Deeney and Ighalo for a starting place. Oulare is a young player with pedigree from his home-land. The likes of Deeney and Ighalo didn't have great debuts. But look at the players they have blossomed into. Give Oulare time and the sceptics may be proved wrong.
5 - Watson marshals midfield once again.
Ben Watson put in another good performance for the Golden Boys on Saturday. He didn't quite reach the heights that we have seen from him this season, but it was still another calm and composed performance from the former Wigan Athletic man. Watson screened the back four well and pulled off some good interceptions. He kept possession well and played some good passes.Nearly scored directly from a free-kick, with the balls awkward bounce forcing Rob Elliott in to a good save. Surely must be one of the first names on the team-sheet now, given his ever growing importance to this Watford side.