Report and free match highlights as Everton are frustrated by already-relegated Watford; hosts keep a first clean sheet in the league this season at Vicarage Road; Leeds' defeat against Chelsea boosts Everton's survival hopes
Thursday 12 May 2022 09:21, UK
Everton missed the chance to move further clear of the bottom three after a tepid goalless draw with already relegated Watford at Vicarage Road.
On the same day Watford confirmed Rob Edwards as their new manager for the start of next season in the Championship, the home side collected their first point on home soil since beating Manchester United in November.
Chances were at a premium with Ben Foster's fine save to deny Richarlison in the second period the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock - but Leeds' 3-0 home defeat to Chelsea edges Everton further away from the danger zone.
The result means they move on to 36 points in 16th place, while Watford are 19th on 23 points after a first home clean sheet of the campaign ahead of their final fixture in front of supporters against Leicester on Sunday.
Watford: Foster (7), Ngakia (7), Kabasele (8), Samir (8), Masina (6), Kalu (7), Sissoko (7), Sema (6), Gosling (6), Kayembe (6), Pedro (7).
Subs: Cathcart (n/a), Etebo (n/a).
Everton: Pickford (6), Mykolenko (7), Holgate (6), Keane (6), Coleman (7), Gordon (5), Delph (6), Doucoure (7), Iwobi (7), Gray (5), Richarlison (6).
Subs: Allan (n/a), Calvert-Lewin (n/a).
Man of the match: Samir.
"I wouldn't say I'm frustrated, I'm relatively happy," Frank Lampard said afterwards. "If you can't win, you mustn't lose. We were more than secure in the game, I don't think they had a shot on our goal. Jordan Pickford didn't have saves to make.
"We created a lot but probably for us when we entered the final third we weren't as zippy as we normally are and didn't have that cutting edge in forward areas. We didn't get enough clear-cut chances to win the game.
"We have to be level-headed as I can sense the frustration in the dressing room as it was seen as an opportunity. But I've been around long enough to know that no game is given to you. When you think about where we were a few weeks ago, if you'd offered us this situation then we'd have taken it.
"We weren't clinical enough and that's the Premier League - it's never easy and they had a team that had nothing to lose. I'm relatively happy with the point and we move on."
Lampard reiterated how his Everton team have always tried to remain positive during their tough spell in the relegation battle prior to kick-off, but there were very few openings in the first half an hour. Demarai Gray had a shot blocked while Anthony Gordon skied a cross from Alex Iwobi.
Forest Green chairman Dale Vince accused Watford of "doubling down on deceit" after Edwards left the club earlier on Wednesday and entered advanced talks for the position at Vicarage Road, where the club are preparing yet again for a year in the second tier.
Everton made just the one change to the side that won 2-1 at Leicester on Sunday with Michael Keane coming into the defence as Yerry Mina missed out with a calf strain. That meant Allan, Dominic Calvert-Lewin were on the bench once more while Vitalii Mykolenko overcame cramp at the end of the King Power Stadium contest to retain his starting berth.
Joao Pedro shook off a setback to start but there were seven changes to the side that lost 1-0 at Crystal Palace. Jeremy Ngakia, Pedro, Adam Masina, Ken Sema, Dan Gosling, Christian Kabasele and Samuel Kalu all started. Out came Kiko Femenia, Craig Cathcart, Tom Cleverley, Ismaila Sarr, Josh King, Emmanuel Dennis and the suspended Hassane Kamara.
Roy Hodgson used his programme notes to apologise for not acknowledging supporters who had witnessed the confirmation of Watford's relegation at Crystal Palace on Saturday, but there was plenty of pride shown from the home side here with Samuel Kalu a bright spark, combining well with Ken Sema down the left and firing over after 18 minutes.
In truth, there was very little quality throughout the first half as misplaced passes and unnecessary fouls were the constant feature. Kalu's free-kick in a dangerous position cleared Jordan Pickford's crossbar but the hosts were applauded off for their improvement on the Palace display.
There was further encouragement not long after the restart when another foul from Michael Keane allowed Sema to deliver from the left but Mousa Sissoko rose unopposed to glance his header wide.
It sparked Everton into life as Richarlison wriggled free inside the box only to see his deflected shot clawed away by Ben Foster's outstretched hand. A better chance would fall Gray's way just after the hour-mark when Kalu's slack lay-off allowed the forward to exchange passes with Iwobi before poking wide.
There were other half chances as Keane headed straight at Foster from a corner while Gray sliced horribly wide from range at the midway point of the second period as the moment of star quality continued to desert the visitors.
Lampard turned to Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the final 13 minutes as he sought to turn one point into three, as Gordon's tame effort was easily gathered by Foster.
Another tentative approach fell Vitalii Mykolenko's way in the closing stages following Richarlison's touch but his tame shot into the gloves of Foster summed up this stale affair that leaves Everton's hopes of survival still in the balance.
Everton boss Frank Lampard on bond with fans: "It's something I never took for granted as a London boy coming to manage Everton - you want to show them how much you care about it and want to do the job well. Hopefully they can see that. Evertonians are very understandable of where we're at. Sometimes there's a discrepancy in the national media compared to what Evertonians see.
"The national media is all about how much has been spent over the past five-six years, what a crazy situation it would be if they went down and the huge history. Evertonians knew when I came in that we were fighting to stay in the Premier League.
"History and how much has been spent means nothing. It's about how much you want to fight and get results. Hopefully [the fans] can see that from me and our responsibility as staff is solely to keep us in the league for the fans and for the club.
"It's in our hands and it'll become clearer what we need as we go along. If we win our remaining games then we're in the Premier League, if we win our next two home games then we have a good chance of being in the Premier League and we may well still be if we win none of them. It's up for grabs."
Watford boss Roy Hodgson: "I don't know if I expected to see anything other than an honest performance, but the players could've been forgiven if they didn't produce that sort of performance - given some of them had hardly played a game during my time at the club. With so many players unavailable against a side with an awful lot to play for - and with the knife at their throat in terms of trying to avoid relegation - we come away having deserved that point.
"The structure of our team for a while I feel has been OK but unfortunately we've had this propensity to make important mistakes that have allowed teams to score goals against us without dominating. I'm really pleased that we didn't allow that to happen tonight. It would've been sad if it had happened given how the players went about trying to win the game.
"The result was very much appreciated by the crowd. I wasn't sure how many people would turn up and I wouldn't have blamed them. But they did come, and they supported us in a good way which encouraged the players too, who gave something in return. They showed they are a team that aren't far away from being a good Premier League team."
On his successor Rob Edwards: "The direction is a quite sensible one. I know exactly what he's done at Forest Green and it's a good appointment. I haven't had any input in the direction the club should take but it seems to me to be the right one and I feel he'd have seen enough in the group tonight to believe he can get the team back into the Premier League.
"He's coming to a club that has had good spells in the Premier League. You'd say the club is currently in a yo-yo situation of being relegated and promoted.
"The structure here is everything a club would wish to find in terms of facilities and sports science. Watford are as good as any other in that respect and he'll encounter a group of players stung at not being able to stay up but who will want to show they are evidently better than what they've shown at times this season and who are hungry to get back into the Premier League."
Sky Sports' Ben Grounds at Vicarage Road:
There was a real lack of quality but no lack of fight on show at Vicarage Road as Everton earned another point towards their safety mission.
It may seem small against a Watford side who had lost their previous 11 home league fixtures - a new club, Premier League and English top-division record - but given the events at Elland Road, and the next two home fixtures, avoiding defeat could prove priceless come the final reckoning.
Everton took their full allocation of 2,500 fans but there were far more here flanking the segregated area to keep the soundtrack of the Spring - the Spirit of the Blues - going from Finch Farm the day before all the way to Hertfordshire.
A 328-mile round trip on a Wednesday shows there is a unity Frank Lampard has fostered in these past few weeks that their relegation rivals have struggled to replicate.
This was a performance not at the same level as witnessed at Leicester, who were far superior opponents than this heavily-depleted Watford outfit, but the stakes are so high now.
Lampard felt he couldn't change a winning formula as he stuck to the back five system that served him so well during those wins over Chelsea and the Foxes, but with Brentford and Crystal Palace coming up now at Goodison Park, this stalemate will have made him consider whether a more offensive formation is needed to clinch the two wins that could guarantee Everton's top-flight status.
It would have to be a Watford defender given this rare resolute home display full of the sort of character that has been desperately missing all season. The squad is playing for their future now under Edwards.
Samir was one of only four players to retain their place in Hodgson's team and alongside Christian Kabasele kept Richarlison at bay. Samir made a game-high five clearances to preserve a hard-fought point that comes too late in the day for the Hornets but at least gives their long-suffering fans reason to be hopeful for the future.
Watford host Leicester on Sunday in their final home Premier League game; kick-off 2pm. Everton are back at Goodison Park on the same day hosting Brentford, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 4.30pm.