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

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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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