Newcastle boss Eddie Howe is refusing to throw in the towel after seeing his side squander two priceless points in their quest for Premier League survival.
Allan Saint-Maximin’s second-half strike had taken the Magpies to within three minutes of just their second win of the campaign, which would have lifted them out of the bottom three, but they succumbed to Joao Pedro’s late equaliser as Watford snatched a 1-1 draw to leave them still deep in trouble.
However, Howe said: “We saw today as a huge opportunity and that’s why it hurts so much. We were really pleased with what we saw up until half-time, so that gave us even more optimism that we could go on and win this match.
“One-nil for me is not the time to go into our shells. For me, that’s the time to put the game to bed, that’s the best way to handle that situation.
“But we have to understand the players’ mentality at this moment in time, maybe not thinking the same way, so that’s something we can change.
“There are a lot of twists and turns to come. We still believe in ourselves and the players, but obviously we know that every game gets more and more important.”
Newcastle had the better of a goalless first half and got their reward four minutes after the restart when Saint-Maximin robbed full-back Jeremy Ngakia and cut inside before blasting a shot past keeper Ben Foster.
However as time ran down, they retreated further and further towards their own goal and ultimately paid the price when Pedro got between Jamaal Lascelles and Kieran Trippier to send a fine header past Martin Dubravka.
The Magpies, who had briefly climbed out of the bottom three at Watford’s expense, slipped back into it and, while they remain only two points from safety, their inability to defend leads – they have have now dropped 21 points from winning positions this season – does not augur well for what remains of the campaign.
Howe said: “I don’t think it’s the time for shouting and screaming and that kind of reaction. I don’t think the players would welcome that and I don’t think that would do any good apart from just airing my frustrations on them and I don’t think that’s healthy with the current league position.
“I think it’s a case of trying to help the players understand why we didn’t win and then showing them and doing the work on the training pitch. I think that’s the only process that’s going to work.”
Watford boss Claudio Ranieri whose side had lost their six previous league games, felt a point was the least they deserved.
Ranieri said: “Of course, I want more from my players because I know what they can do. I’m happy, but half and half because I want more.
“The first half, we were waiting – I wanted more. They can do more. I can understand after six matches losing, maybe they were a little more anxious, but I hope this point will give them more electricity, more confidence, more belief in ourselves.”