Javi Gracia hailed Tom Cleverley’s winning goal as “amazing” after Watford came from behind to defeat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park.
Just six minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute, Cleverley completed Watford’s comeback with a fine volley into the top corner, his first goal since October 2017.
Saturday’s match had been level going into the final stages after Craig Cathcart followed up his first-half own goal with a header at the right end.
Watford are up to seventh, with Cleverley shining despite being yet to start a Premier League game this season as he recovers his full fitness after an Achilles operation.
Asked if he had shown good management to bring Cleverley off the bench, Gracia told BBC Sport: “No, he’s a good player! The first half we had very good chances to score, and started the game with one clear chance to score.
“We continued and believe we are able to win the game and Tom was very important in that moment, like against Bournemouth. He is playing well after a long period injured. He is recovering his best condition.
“All my players deserve more time to play as they are all working very hard to play. I felt the best option was Tom and he scored an amazing goal.
“The next game is against Burnley, step by step and this is the best mentality to achieve what we want at the end of the season.”
Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra both hit the post in the same third-minute move, while Troy Deeney had a deflected effort cleared off the line by Aaron Wan-Bissaka after the break.
Gracia added: “I think we had the confidence during the game, we started by conceding an own goal but after that the level was the same and in the second half we got the reward with two amazing goals. I am very happy with the performance and attitude of my players.
“All the games against Crystal Palace are always very equal, this was again. We created enough chances to win the game.”
Hard work pays off
”The most important thing is the win today, but for me personally it’s a really big reward for what’s been a tough year.”
— Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) January 12, 2019
Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, conceded the key moments had gone against Palace and is hoping “one or two” January additions can boost his 14th-placed side.
He said: “Tom Cleverley scores a wondergoal. They happen in football matches and there’s not much you can do about them. Watford are a good team and they held out and got the victory.
“We probably needed to create more chances to get the second goal, Watford were good on the counter-attack. We have to accept we could have won but it’s also a game you can lose and we did.
“Like every other club we are working at transfers and to maximise any opportunities that might arise. It is not easy and we don’t have a pot full of cash to pluck out any player in the world. It has to be someone who is available and available for us.
“All I can do is hope [sporting director] Dougie Freedman and the scouting staff and chairman find that person, but I don’t envy them. The squad we have is good enough. It is not like we don’t have anybody but it would be nice to add a new face or two with five going out.”
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