Rafa Benitez defended his selection policy and says Newcastle need to concentrate on just one competition after their FA Cup exit.
Hornets boss Javi Gracia made 11 changes and opposite number Rafael Benitez seven for a tie which was played out in front of a crowd of just 34,604 at St James’ Park, very nearly 18,000 short of capacity at the usually packed stadium, with both looking ahead to important midweek league fixtures.
A fan-base at war with owner Mike Ashley has not seen the club progress past the fourth round since the year before he bought the club in 2007 and the visit of a much-changed Watford side seemed the perfect opportunity for the six-time winners to address that failing.
Instead, Benitez made a point with his team selection – the point being that his squad is not big enough or strong enough to compete for anything other than Premier League survival – as his mounting frustration at the club’s less-than-effective recruitment strategy reached new heights.
In the event, supporters who turned up hoping for a little light relief left wondering what might have been as the Spaniard kept his powder dry for Tuesday night’s league clash with champions Manchester City, a game in which he knows they could turn in their best performance of the season and still lose comfortably.
However, Benitez was unrepentant.
He said: “The fans, they know, so it’s not that I have to explain every time the situation. We put a team on the pitch that could win, we didn’t do it and that proved that we have to just concentrate on one competition.”