First Team 10/11/2019

Dawson: “It's Just The Start For Us”

Craig Dawson said the unwavering support of the fans played a significant role in helping the team secure a confidence-restoring first Premier League win of the season.

Dawson and his defensive cohorts knew they were going to be in for a late barrage after Christian Kabasele was sent off with just under a third of the match remaining. It was all hands to the pump at times, but the defender said the team drew huge encouragement from the noise generated by the 1,600 away fans at Carrow Road and were determined to keep the home at bay.

“I think you could see the spirit in the lads,” Dawson told Added Time, the club's post-match show. “Everyone put in a real shift and the fans brought us home in the last 20 minutes. It was tough but they were on our side all the way through the game and the early goal settled everyone’s nerves and raises confidence. It's a great feeling and reward for all the hard work in recent weeks. We’ve not quite had the result so I’m just happy for the lads for all their hard work and of course the fans as well who were great.”

Dawson had his best game in a Watford shirt, making a team-high seven clearances in the process of getting his head, body and legs in front of everything Norwich threw at him. That's now three clean sheets in five matches and is not only a further sign of the work Quique Sánchez Flores is putting in on the training ground, but evidence that it's working, too.

“[The defence] is massively important for us and it’s something we’ve been working hard on,” said Dawson. “I think we defended from the from the front today and Will [Hughes] got stuck in there. It's obviously something we have worked hard on. I think we’re starting to see the benefits now and today was great for us to get two goals. I think the shape is so important for us and the work rate, I think we need to keep going as it’s just the start for us now.”

It helped that the team got their noses in front for only the third time in the league this season. On each occasion they have done that, away at Newcastle, Tottenham and now Norwich, they have not lost.

“It was obviously important to go 1-0 up at half-time,” said Dawson. “The confidence of the lads was showing early in the game and it was just about starting the second half well, and I thought we did that. Obviously the sending off didn’t help us but the spirit and togetherness of the group was great and showed really well. It's great to go into the international break with those three points. Next week we will be working hard on the training pitch to make sure we can follow it up.”

First Team 10/11/2019

Hughes: “We Showed A Lot Of Character”

Will Hughes feels Watford are always going to have a chance of edging the close games they are involved in with a player of Gerard Deulofeu's quality in the ranks.

Quique Sánchez Flores has set his stall out to make his side extremely difficult to beat and makes no apologies for this defence-first approach, believing it creates the platform for someone of Deulofeu's ilk to emerge as the match-winner with a moment of brilliance or two.

The Spanish forward gave the Hornets the dream start at Carrow Road on Friday night with a goal after 76 seconds following a coruscating run and then helped clinch it, with a nonchalant flick of his gifted right foot seven minutes into the second half to tee up Andre Gray for the second.

“It's the quality he possesses,” Hughes told Added Time, the club's post-match show. “He’s a fantastic player and he can do things like that. When you’ve got that in the first few minutes it settles everyone down. Especially away from home because it puts them under pressure and their crowd gets on them and we took advantage of that.”

Hughes possesses a left foot capable of opening tin cans, but he showed the other side of his all-court game in Norfolk, running the second most kilometres of anyone on the pitch. 

“We’ve been working hard all season,” he said, “but the table doesn’t lie and we’ve clearly not been good enough. Tonight, we’ve come to a tricky place, under pressure as well and going down to ten men with 20/25 minutes to go, everyone’s thinking a bit on edge. I thought we dug in and showed a lot of character.”

Gray's goal provided a comfort blanket and put the team two goals in front for the first time in a league game this season. They were then able to sit back, challenge Norwich to break them down and then keep hitting the Canaries on the counter. 

“Andre has grafted hard and deserves his goal tonight,” said Hughes. “I thought he did well. The two-goal buffer gave us something to hang on to especially when we went down to ten men. Saying that I don’t think they troubled us as much as they could have in the last 20 minutes for me. They had a few half chances but I don’t think they opened us when we had ten men. I think that’s down to our shape and everyone knows their job to come through it in the end.”

The confidence should, in theory, start flowing after this result and there were signs as the match wore on of players running faster, jumping higher and throwing themselves into tackles. The monkey is now off the back and players can operate with more freedom and conviction.

“It's only natural to have a confidence dip after such poor results in a row,” said Hughes. “I don’t think the performances have warranted the results but that’s football, sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s difficult getting that win after such a long time, going back to last season in fact. Hopefully this will be a change and we can get our heads up and move up the table from now.”

Nobody at the training ground is kidding themselves that one win, against a newly-promoted team, makes a season. There is a lot of hard work still to be done and Sánchez Flores will be cranking things up during the international break.

“It's more relief than anything,” said Hughes. “We’re not kidding ourselves and we know we are still in such a difficult position. We’re still adrift from safety so this means nothing if we don’t go and replicate that again against Burnley and Southampton. We’ve got to get our heads down and keep working hard and hopefully our luck will change and this is the start to our season.”