Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce was left to rue missed chances as Watford opened their Premier League account for the season with a 1-1 draw on Tyneside.
Miguel Almiron, who is still awaiting his first goal in a Newcastle since his £21million arrival at St James’ Park in January, was guilty of passing up two glorious opportunities either side of the break as they failed to follow-up last weekend’s fine win at Tottenham with another three points.
They head into the international break with four points from their opening four fixtures, a return which Bruce is relatively happy after a difficult start to his reign despite a crowd of just 44,157 – the lowest for a league game since December 2012 – in attendance.
He said with a smile: “What are we? One point behind Chelsea and one point behind Manchester United or something, is it? There you go, it hasn’t been such a bad start after all.
“Listen, in there has been Tottenham and Arsenal, so I have got to be reasonably pleased.”
Will Hughes stunned the Magpies with less than two minutes on the clock when he converted the rebound after Tom Cleverley’s shot had ricocheted off both Paul Dummett and Jamaal Lascelles and dropped neatly into his path.
Defender Fabian Schar levelled four minutes before the break, and although replays suggested the ball had hit Isaac Hayden’s hand as he challenged Craig Dawson during the build-up, the goal was allowed to stand.
Bruce said: “I thought Isaac just went for a challenge and I thought it was an aerial duel. But it did come off his hand, did it?
“Look, it’s difficult. We’re going to have many issues with VAR. It’s not the fixed answer – I’m not so sure I’m a big lover of it, to be perfectly honest, but we’ve got it and we have to see how it goes.”
Almiron, who had miscontrolled in front of goal during the first half, saw a second-half effort blocked by Christian Kabasele when he might have done better, but Bruce remains confident he can score goals in the Premier League.
“He might need just one to come off his backside and get up and running, and we sincerely hope so. But we had two big opportunities and didn’t quite take them,” Bruce added.
Watford boss Javi Gracia was relieved to get off the mark for the season, but admitted the visitors could have won or lost a tight game.
“It’s an important point for us because so far in three games, we weren’t able to get any points and then it’s a good point,” Gracia said.
“We started scoring; after they scored, in the first part of the second half, they played better; at the end, we changed and improved and we had some clear chances.
“To be honest, it was a close game, an equal game and it could have been a different result for us, for them, but I think it’s a good point.
“We need to improve and look for the first big victory in the next game.”