Benitez demands more from stuttering Newcastle

Newcastle United have been challenged to finish the Premier League season on a high by Rafael Benitez after a third successive defeat.

Newcastle's Rafael Benitez   -  Getty Images

Rafael Benitez expects Newcastle United to raise their performance levels in the final two matches of the Premier League season after they slipped to a third defeat in a row at Watford.

A run of four consecutive victories saw Newcastle pull away from the relegation battle, but they have failed to maintain that momentum and have not tasted victory since beating Arsenal in mid-April.

Goals from Roberto Pereyra and Andre Gray left the Magpies 2-0 down at Vicarage Road on Saturday, while Watford skipper Troy Deeney also saw a penalty saved.

Newcastle improved in the second half but could not complete a comeback, falling to a 2-1 defeat, much to the frustration of their Spanish manager.

"I'm really proud of the players, but I'd like to see us winning and finish on a high," Benitez told a news conference after the game.

"It's a fantastic achievement for this group of players but need to continue to do our best.

"We made too many mistakes [against Watford] and we paid.

"It was a lack of focus and we were worried about their strikers and so we didn’t defend as a team. In the end we lost a game where we could have got a point."

He added: "It's not a question of motivation. To stay up with five games to go was a big achievement. We are making mistakes because we don't have the same need to get points.

"The teams in the Premier League are good and if you make a mistake you pay for that."

Watford boss Javi Gracia, meanwhile, was delighted by his side's display as they secured their top-flight status, but was disappointed they allowed Newcastle back into the match.

"I’m happy because we achieved the objective [of survival]," Gracia said.

"We could have killed the game if we got the third goal, we missed a penalty and in the second half Newcastle played better.

"In the first half we showed more quality and in the second half we showed something different."

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