Will Hughes’ early goal helped Watford secure their first Premier League point of the season with a battling draw at Newcastle.
The Hornets stay bottom of the table but a spirited performance at St James’ Park ended a run of three consecutive defeats at the start of the new campaign.
In a game of few clear-cut chances, Hughes steered the opening goal into the bottom left corner from 10 yards after just 78 seconds following a deflected Tom Cleverley shot.
Defender Fabian Schar equalised four minutes before the break, guiding a 10-yard left-foot shot past Ben Foster after the ball fell into his path from Isaac Hayden’s knockdown.
The point lifts Steve Bruce’s Newcastle up to 14th in the table going into the international break.
After a barren start to the season in which his side had conceded seven times, Watford manager Javi Gracia adjusted both the shape and personnel of the team for their trip to the north east.
Gerard Deulofeu – Gracia’s most creative player in their defeat by West Ham – was consigned to the substitutes’ bench as the Hornets fielded three central defenders.
And, while that conservative approach was far from easy on the eye at times, Watford did at least appear disciplined in executing Gracia’s gameplan.
Sitting deep for long periods, the visitors looked content to concede possession in front of them and counter quickly.
All three of their shots on target came in that manner and the approach nearly provided them with the cushion of a second goal before Newcastle equalised – Kiko curling a right-foot shot just over the bar, and Andre Gray failing to hit the target from close range after being found expertly by Roberto Pereyra.
Newcastle lack sparkle
With injury depriving Bruce of first-choice wingers Allan Saint-Maximin and Matt Ritchie, the hosts toiled for significant periods.
And their performance did little to enthuse the 44,157 crowd, which was well below last season’s average of 51,121.
Sean Longstaff’s distribution from central midfield was errant throughout – his passing accuracy was below 80% – while Christian Atsu, who impressed at Tottenham, and Miguel Almiron were initially on the periphery.
It was a performance devoid of sparkle, though they did improve after taking an old-fashioned route to their equalising goal, which came with their first shot on target.
Swedish full-back Emil Krafth’s lofted ball into the Watford penalty area found its way to Schar, and his goal galvanised his side.
Hayden’s rasping drive forced Foster into a superb saved after the break, and substitute Yoshinori Muto and Schar also had chances to grab all three points.
Man of the match – Tom Cleverley (Watford)
Tom Cleverley played a part in Watford’s goal and had the best passing accuracy of any player (93%)
Newcastle’s recovery act – the stats
Newcastle have lost two of their 10 top-flight home games against Watford (W5 D3).
Watford are without a win in eight Premier League matches (D2 L6), their longest streak since an 11-game run between November 2006 and January 2007.
Watford have picked up just one point from their opening four Premier League games, their lowest tally at this stage of a season since 2006-07 (also one), when they were relegated under Aidy Boothroyd.
Since the start of 2019, Newcastle have won seven points from losing positions at St James’ Park in the Premier League; only Tottenham and West Ham (both eight) have recovered more after going behind on home soil this year.
Hughes’ opener was Watford’s second fastest goal in the Premier League – Etienne Capoue scored after 32 seconds against Leicester in November 2016.
Newcastle are the first side Hughes has scored more than one Premier League goal against, with both of his goals in the competition against the Magpies coming at St. James’ Park (the first was in November 2017)
Since the start of 2019, Schar has scored five Premier League goals, more than any other current Newcastle player. Four of those have come at St. James’ Park.
Newcastle’s next Premier League match is on Saturday, 14 September when they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool (12:30 BST). Watford resume their Premier League duties on Sunday, 15 September when they host Arsenal