There were times at Vicarage Road on Wednesday night when you had to remember that this game between watford and Everton meant something. Everton still had work to do to preserve their top-flight status, and Watford, relegation confirmed last weekend, had pride in playing.
And yet, in the 75th minute, as Everton tried to go for the win, but not too much, Watford fans began a rendition of ‘we’ve lost the ball’ – sometimes increasing the volume to ‘we’ve got the ball’ – which only ended when applause filled the air for Craig Cathcart’s replacement. And then they started again.
It was infuriating, funny and absolutely instructive in a 0-0 that only Everton fans will remember, and only for the next two weeks. The point puts them two above the relegation zone in 16th, with Burnley and Leeds United below. Everton fans, boisterous throughout, feared the worst when Watford won a free kick deep in their half in added time. Then they were frustrated when two corners at the other end went back and forth before referee Mike Dean did the human thing and blew the final whistle.
There are no knockdowns when you are one point above the relegation zone in the second week of May, like Everton were when they arrived earlier in the evening. But it was as close to such a luxury as it gets and they refused to take it.
Because Watford were already down after their defeat against Crystal Palace this weekend, their sixth consecutive defeat and many of their players were already absent. Ismailia Sarr, Emmanuel Dennis, Tom Cleverley, Imran Louza, Juraj Kucka, Kiko Femenia, Josh King and Nicolas N’Koulou were all declared unavailable the day before this match, hence the seven changes. All with a combination of injury and illness, no doubt exacerbated by the premature end to their season and therefore their enthusiasm.
Many fans followed suit, according to the many empty seats on Vicarage Road. And fair enough. They had already seen the death of another premier league campaign with two managers. There was no need to watch the end of a third. Hours before kick-off, Roy Hodgson’s replacement was announced as Rob Edwards, following a orchestrated exit from Forest Green Rovers. Even the one who enters is under a cloud.
But the 10-point turnaround in their last five games, armed with one in hand on eighteenth-place Leeds United – hasn’t changed. Frank Lampardit’s tact. Their rise from the depths happened by treating every game as a must win and now was not the time to stray from that goal. Especially with just one line-up change – Michael Keane in place of Mina – after the win over Leicester City just three days ago.
And so the first half went tediously, sounding rusty hosts – Dan Gosling, anyone? — and openly cautious visitors moving around the ring, throwing a few punches but mostly staring at each other, waiting for the other to visibly tire. Watford actually had the better start, moving the ball back and forth enough to find the odd entry into the box from wide positions. Everton have slowly stepped up and established themselves, like predators approaching their gammy prey, although they are wary of harming themselves in the process like losing a filling.
Anthony Gordon and Richarlison, formerly of yellow and black, were the most direct, as always, and Gordon’s breakdowns on the right should have been greater, especially the one in which he superbly faked Ken Sema to sprint free. Support, however, was lacking, which was a familiar theme throughout the first half and surely to be rectified in the second. The appetite to do so on both sides, who had not scored a shot on target between them in the first 45, was all the more evident as they emerged after the break minutes before the referees.
It should have happened at 51 minutes, and at Watford. A free kick from a crossing position on the left was whipped in and found Moussa Sissoko rising highest past the penalty spot. The contact was so bad that he almost made a touch. Everton then returned the serve immediately, Richarlison rolling a body into the box and pushing an effort on goal which Ben Foster did well to recover after a deflection from Christian Kabasele.
The best chance came on the hour mark, a neat one-two between Demarai Gray and Alex Iwobi gave the latter a snap to take on the edge of the right-hand point of the six-yard box he dragged away from the left post. Then Keane headed comfortably into the hands of Ben Foster from a corner.
Then came the boring quarter of an hour, which actually featured plenty of openings for Everton, even shots on goal that were never straight at Foster at a comfortable pace.
Even in the final throes of Watford’s free-kick and Everton’s corner, no one really believed these two would be separated on the night. And as Gordon’s second corner sailed long, deep and offside and Dean exploded, Watford fans roared in approval, leaping in wry joy at not losing a seventh in a row. They’ll likely be in a similar (albeit sincere) situation by this time next year if the Championship promotion plays type. Everton fans have praised their side for another small step towards survival, one they will feel all the more attainable after Leeds’ freefall continued with a collage at the hands of Chelsea.
One thing was certain – there were no winners here.
Watford vs Everton result: Premier League score, goals, report
Source link Watford vs Everton result: Premier League score, goals, report