Watford 1 - 0 Everton
I met Stuart at the bus stop and arrived at Lime Street for the 8:34am train to Watford Junction, via Birmingham New Street. Stuart bumped into a gaggle of Evertonians who he knew and we all got the train together. A good laugh it was on the rattler. A lot of banter which helped the journey go quickly and before we knew it we had arrived at Watford Junction.
A friend, Dan, who’s a Watford fan, met us at the station and took us to a decent pub called Molloy’s, where we watched the Fulham vs Manchester United match with some food. Dan was quick to clear something up with us, about a so-called Watford supporter's rivalry with Everton. I frankly find an Everton/Watford rivalry absurd, and there is apparently no such thing; their issue is with Marco Silva, not Everton. “All invented by the media” said Dan. I think you’ll also find many Evertonians' issue is also with Marco Silva but more on that later.
A few other Southern-based Blues joined up with us and there was quite a crowd of us making our way to Vicarage Road at about 2:30pm. We’d had the team news by then and Cenk Tosun led the line this time with Gylfi Sigurdsson deployed out on the left. It felt like Marco was trying to accommodate Gylfi when I’d have prefered to have seen Ademola Lookman given a go. That said, Gylfi and Richarlison are the only ones in the team who score any goals so I can see why they were both wanted in the team.
It was nice to hear Z-Cars ring out pre-kick off and we attacked the opposite end in the dire first half. So little happened on the pitch that I spend most of the half having a good old chat with Ian who was stood next to me, while keeping an eye on proceedings. Watford had the best chance of the half when Etienne Capoue was thwarted from close range by Jordan Pickford. Though I haven’t seen it since (I seldom put myself through the misery of watching Match of the Day these days) we felt Capoue may have been offside but, nevertheless, it was an excellent save from Jordan.
Otherwise, I’d say we probably had more of the play. Cenk Tosun forced Ben Foster into action and Kurt Zouma had an effort at goal but that was about all. There was one moment when Gylfi Sigurdsson put a ball into the box but Cenk Tosun criminally didn’t attack the space and it came to nothing. At the break we went off goalless which was all the turgid game deserved.
Into the second half and the game followed a similar pattern. Watford did have us pinned back for a little while with a succession of corner kicks but just when it looked as though we had withstood it, Will Hughes was set free down our left and his inviting ball was put into the net by half time substitute Andre Grey. I didn’t know why at the time but, refreshingly unusually for Everton, four of our players were incensed with Lee Probert and remonstrated with him for some time.
As it turns out, and I haven’t seen it since, the original corner kick should not have been such, as Jordan Pickford didn’t touch the ball so it should have been our goal kick. When you’re in a struggle, these things work against you I suppose. Credit Javi Gracia for making a positive change at the break and putting Andre Grey on I suppose. Watford with the goal which proved to be enough to win the game.
That said, and I guess The Hornets were swarming all over us once they had an advantage, but I’m not having it that they were better than us. We didn’t play well. Actually we were very poor but so too were they. We definitely should have got a point out of the game. Things don’t quite run for you when you’re struggling, and I’d say Gylfi Sigurdsson deserved better with some outstanding improvisation which saw his dinked effort clip the top of the crossbar and bounce away. Somehow it didn’t clip the bar twice and bounce back into play to our waiting striker.
Lucas Digne also pinged the top of the crossbar with an exceptional effort which also might have deserved better. Cenk Tosun hit wide when he should have done better, and substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s header was wayward when he really should have scored. He also missed another presentable chance later in the game; as too did Cenk. He didn’t know he was offside but he really should be putting that into the net. He seemed pretty upset about that miss at full time.
And therein lies our problem - we just can’t score goals. If you’re strikers miss chances as good as those ones, and you don’t quite get the rub with your more high quality efforts, I don’t really know what Marco is supposed to. Couple that with a bad decision at the other end and he and the players must feel a bit like the world is against him. Have negative vibes and negative things will happen. They need to get that feeling out of their system somehow. That doesn’t defend our playing style or Marco’s tactics but, at the end of the day, if you pass up chances as easy as them it’s difficult to get something out of any game.
I’ve only just found out that Kurt Zouma was sent off after the game also. Obviously I’ve no idea what he said to Lee Probert, but is the referee really going to make that same decision if it’s Vincent Kompany, or Virgil van Dijk, or David Luiz et al? Of course he isn’t. There would be uproar. I don’t know about the fitness of Yerry Mina and Phil Jagielka, but with a 17-day spell between now and our next game away at Cardiff City, you’d assume at least one of them can get themselves fit in time.
These 17 days are a really key moment. It gives us a lot of time to work on our next two games against Cardiff City and Liverpool. I’m not normally a fan of their little getaways to Dubai or Qatar around this time of year when we’re out of the cups, but maybe a change of scene for a few days might do the players morale some good at least as they seem so flat. Maybe even get a friendly against ATV Irdning to bang 22 goals in again.
We have to be targeting 6 points from these next two games. We just have to. Back-to-back wins, including a long overdue Merseyside derby victory, would make us feel a lot better about ourselves. I don’t think I’m being too dramatic when I say this is a critical time for Marco. He’s losing support with the fans rapidly and we’ve already seen how trigger happy Fahred Moshiri is. I personally don’t see the value in sacking him now. I just don’t want more players coming and going and don’t want the next guy lumbered with more players he didn’t sign and doesn’t want. While things are awful now, I’d like Marco to be given the opportunity of the summer to get it right.
That viewpoint may change should we crash and burn in these next two games of course. Our form may make his position untenable. Players, Marco and his staff – it’s time to stand up and be counted. More so now than ever before.
Pickford: I haven’t seen the goal since but I thought he had a solid game. His popularity seems a bit divided amongst supporters but I think we’ve got much bigger problems on the pitch myself. 7
Digne: Maybe he was sliced open a bit too easily for the goal but I thought he had a solid enough game otherwise and was unlucky not to score. 6
Zouma: Had a good commanding game. I’ve no doubt he will be missed at Cardiff City. 7
Keane: Did okay. 6
Kenny: Coped with Gerard Deulofeu pretty well but maybe didn’t get forward quite enough. 6
Gueye: My man of the match. Made countless tackles and his passing contribution was above par. Kept going until the end. 7
Davies: Worked hard. Not everything worked out for him but he kept on plugging away. He’s a better option than the others at the moment I think. 6
Gomes: Did nothing. 3
Richarlison: I can’t be doing with him. I’m sick of this wimpish attitude. He needs to man up. I wouldn’t have started him in the game as he doesn’t strike me as someone who can override the boos and jeers and he doesn’t respond well to be being kicked. He was always going to get that treatment today. 2
Sigurdsson: He worked hard and was very unlucky not to score but I don’t see his value out on the left. He probably would have done okay playing central instead of Gomes. 6
Tosun: Not enough movement for me and you never felt he was going to score. 4
Walcott (for Gomes): Did OK down the right. I’d have started him over Richarlison for sure. 6
Bernard (for Richarlison): Didn’t impact the game. 5
Calvert-Lewin (for Sigurdsson): I like Dominic, he seems a good lad and he works hard. Managers must see something in him because Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce and Marco Silva have all utilised him. However, at some point a player has to move on from ”promising” to “established”. I don’t like to criticise a 21-year-old but he really has to lose this habit of missing great headed opportunities. There were two against Watford, one against Wolverhampton Wanderers, one against Apoel Limassol and that’s just off the top of my head, I’m sure there are more if I think long and hard enough. There was also that sitter in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park last season which he skyed into the Gwladys Street. Dominic has now played 99 league games. Everton are desperately missing a striker. There is an opportunity there and unfortunately he isn’t taking it. If and when we finally get a striker in there may still be room for Dominic as back-up, but unless he goes on an unlikely scoring spree, surely that will be all we can offer Dominic. The opportunity is still there, Dominic. Grasp it! 3