Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below.
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia knew his side got away with one at Loftus Road, the Head Coach openly admitting his side were second best for much of a high-octane encounter at QPR. But the Spaniard has been around long enough to know it's not about how you get through cup rounds, it's if you get through.
The Golden Boys were given a severe working over by the Hoops on a chastening night in West London and had to strain every defensive sinew to repel a wave of attacks and an assortment of balls into the box.
It was one of the most searching examinations they have undergone all season, but they came through it thanks to a bit of old-school defending and a nicely-taken first-half goal from Etienne Capoue.
“I think it was a very close game,” said Gracia. “QPR had big chances to score, maybe at the end of the game. We scored one goal and it was enough to win the game. Maybe it wasn't our best game today, but we knew before it would be a very demanding game to defend well, with long balls, second balls, set pieces. This team's results in the Championship weren't very good, but they are always competing very well, scoring a lot of goals. We knew it so it was not a surprise today.”
The goal was not a thing of beauty – Capoue eventually converted a pre-planned corner move that Christian Kabasele got in the way of and Tom Cleverley made a hash of – but it was enough to put the Hornets into the quarter-finals for the fourth time this century and the 11th time in total.
“I think we have done other good moments [this season] with the same [corner] play,” said Gracia. “Tom Cleverley was supposed to be the finisher. He tried to do it but after Capoue scored the goal. Capoue give us a good balance in the team and is an important player for us.”
More important today were Heurelho Gomes and Miguel Britos. Gomes made several good saves and commanded his box very well to negate the aerial threat of Matt Smith.
“Not only today, Heurelho is very important when he plays and when he doesn't play,” said Gracia on the Brazilian's 38th birthday. “His experience, his attitude is very important for the team. The victory is a good gift for him.”
In front of him, Britos was colossal as the Hornets bagged a sixth clean sheet in eight matches. They are yet to concede a goal in this season's FA Cup.
“At the beginning, Britos had a difficult moment as he clashed with Matt Smith, but he is a good professional,” said Gracia.
“But it's nothing different to Kabasele. Both played well today. Britos, Kabasele, Mariappa and Cathcart have showed they can do it perfectly. They can manage the line, and defend like they did today. It is another clean sheet and it's important for the team that we are getting these results. They have a high commitment to the club and they are good professionals.”
The way the Hornets stood up and held on was a further example of the spirit running through this team. Gracia has fostered an all-for-one mentality and the team are winning games they would have drawn and drawing games they would previously have lost.
“Not only today did we show what we can do as a team,” said the Head Coach. “We have suffered difficult moments when we have had to defend and be demanding. The team always keeps a high level, playing against Woking, playing against QPR or playing against Everton. You feel these players can compete in all the games and that we can beat anyone, but also lose to anyone.”
Anticipation is now building ahead of Monday's draw and to see just who will stand between the Hornets and a place in the semi-final of the FA Cup.
“To speak about what we can do in the future, maybe is a little lack of respect for teams we are going to play,” said Gracia. “Today we felt that playing against QPR we have suffered a lot. So playing against a Premier League or a Championship team will be very demanding.
“To achieve something special this season will only happen if we keep working in the same way and be focused on the next game. In this case it is Cardiff on Friday. I don't like to speak about the past or the future. Football is about the present. We are playing away a lot, though. I prefer to play at home. I want to play at home so I can enjoy it with our supporters.”