Javi Gracia defended his decision to make six changes after Watford needed a late Abdoulaye Doucoure goal to earn a 1-1 draw at home to Newcastle United.

The Hornets boss decided to make five additional alterations in addition to the enforced absence of Christian Kabasele from the starting XI he fielded against Chelsea, but after starting well the home side struggled for the remainder of the first half after falling behind to a Salomon Rondon header.

The introduction of Troy Deeney and Doucoure from the bench saw an improvement, but the home side were still unable to gain control of the game and their final ball lacked quality until Gerard Deulofeu crossed for the French midfielder to head home with nine minutes remaining.

Asked initially about the decision to rest Doucoure, Gracia said: “I have to choose in all the games different players and in this moment playing every three, four days I have to give the chances for all of my players.

“I’ve many times said all my players deserve the chance to play because they are working very well. We are a good squad, not only a good team and if I don’t do it in this moment when can I do it.

“It was the moment to change the players because some of them need rest and today if you see Doucuore this season he is the third player with the most minutes (played).”

Pressed further on if six changes was too many, the Hornets boss responded: “If you see the result you can say that but I don’t agree.”

Gracia was pleased with the spirit his side showed to get back into the game and was not surprised by Newcastle’s approach.

He said: “I think we started well, created good chances, clear chances and didn’t take them and after that we knew the game would be very demanding for us, but after conceding the goal it was even more difficult for us.

“We kept going, working and we scored one goal. Sometimes to have the possession is not the same as to have the control of the game and today Newcastle defended well and they play on the counter-attack very well, creating good chances. In counter-attack, with lateral balls with Rondon at the far post, it was nothing different to what we expected.

“At the end I’m happy with my players and maybe the game could have a different result, but after the game I’m happy with how behaviour and how we are keeping believing to the end.”