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Friday, March 22

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Javi Gracia defends squad rotation as Watford held to draw by spirited Newcastle

PA | 2mo
Abdoulaye Docoure headed a late equaliser for the Hornets after coming off the bench.

Watford boss Javi Gracia defended his decision to drop the likes of Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucoure as the latter came off the bench to earn a late draw at home to Newcastle.

The Hornets, showing six alterations from Boxing Day defeat to Chelsea, looked on course to slip to another loss after Salomon Rondon's first-half header had put the visitors ahead.

But Doucoure came on and levelled with a header of his own eight minutes from full-time to seal a 1-1 draw for Gracia's side.

Many would have seen Watford as the favourites against a side fighting for Premier League survival, with Gracia left answering questions as to the reasons behind the wholesale changes – which included captain Deeney dropping out of the side.

"I have to choose, in the games, different players," he said.

"At the moment playing every three, four days I have to give chances to all of my players.

"All of my players deserve to play because they are playing very well and we are a good squad, not just a good team so if I don't do it in this moment when can I do it? Some of them need a rest – I have to prepare for the games."

Asked if six changes may have been too much, the Spaniard added: "If you see the result you can say that, but I don't agree.

"I think we started well, created good chances, clear chances and we didn't take them. After that we knew the game would be very demanding for us but after conceding the goal it was even more difficult.

"We kept going, kept working and we scored one goal. Sometimes to have the possession is not the same as to have control of the game, today we knew Newcastle defend well and play on the counter-attack very well.

"At the end, I am happy with my players, maybe the game could have a different result but after seeing the game I am happy with our behaviour and how we are believing until the end."

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez was ultimately left disappointed to head back to St James' Park with a share of the spoils – even if he knew his side were in for a tough afternoon in Hertfordshire.

"I can be happy because before the game against a good team we knew it would be a good result but disappointed with the way we were defending and we were very close," he said.

"We had more or less control of the game — there weren't many situations that you could say they were quite dangerous. But the way we conceded, we could have stopped the cross and defended better."

Benitez recently said Newcastle would require a miracle to survive in the top-flight this season – but believes it can be achieved with similar performances to this one.

"I was very clear, today with the way the team was performing is the way we can get the miracle done," he added.

"This group of players were playing really well and doing really well. We have to realise that for us the key has to be the team effort.

"Every player giving 100 per-cent. In the first-half they did well but after their substitutions they had better players, at least on paper, and that happens in the Premier League."



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Premier League Table
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool31237170185276
2Manchester CityMan City30242479215874
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs30201957322561
4Arsenal30186663392460
5Manchester UnitedMan Utd30177658401858
6Chelsea30176750331757
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves30128103836244
8Watford30127114244-243
9West Ham UnitedWest Ham31126134146-542
10Leicester CityLeicester31125144043-341
11Everton31117134342140
12Bournemouth31115154356-1338
13Newcastle UnitedNewcastle3198143140-935
14Crystal Palace3096153641-533
15Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2996143242-1033
16Southampton3079143450-1630
17Burnley3186173559-2430
18Cardiff CityCardiff3084182757-3028
19Fulham3145222970-4117
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield3135231857-3914
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Select and display your favourite team's news and scores in this panel
Premier League Table
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool31237170185276
2Manchester CityMan City30242479215874
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs30201957322561
4Arsenal30186663392460
5Manchester UnitedMan Utd30177658401858
6Chelsea30176750331757
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves30128103836244
8Watford30127114244-243
9West Ham UnitedWest Ham31126134146-542
10Leicester CityLeicester31125144043-341
11Everton31117134342140
12Bournemouth31115154356-1338
13Newcastle UnitedNewcastle3198143140-935
14Crystal Palace3096153641-533
15Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2996143242-1033
16Southampton3079143450-1630
17Burnley3186173559-2430
18Cardiff CityCardiff3084182757-3028
19Fulham3145222970-4117
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield3135231857-3914
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