Frank Lampard paced and prowled and kept looking at the floor. The clock was creeping towards full time and Everton were inching towards safety.
A point wasn’t the worst result in the world. Another positive was a second clean sheet in three games but he sensed there was some tension and frustration and, after keeping this little unbeaten sequence going at Watford, he felt it necessary to spell out the situation.
Victory, of course, would have soothed so many headaches but when you consider how the table looked 10 days to go to how it does on Thursday morning, Everton’s predicament has significantly improved and that was not lost on Lampard.
Frank Lampard cut a frustrated figure as his Everton side failed to beat Watford in 0-0 draw
Vitaliy Mykolenko was among a few Toffees players that spurned second-half chances
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Watford (4-3-3): Foster 7; Ngakia 6, Kayembe 6, Sema 6, Masina 6; Sissoko 7, Kabasale 6, Gosling 6; Kalu 5, Joao Pedro 5, Samir 5
Subs not used: Bachmann (GK), Etebo, Ekong, Cathcart, Sierralta, Morris, Cukur, Bake, Grieves
Manager –Roy Hodgson 6
Everton (4-2-3-1): Pickford 7; Coleman 7, Holgate 6.5, Keane 7; Iwobi 7, Delph 8 (Allan 81mins), Doucoure 6, Mykolenko 7; Gordon 6, Gray 6 (Calvert-Lewin 77mins); Richarlison 6
Subs not used: Begovic (GK), Kenny, Gomes, Davies, Branthwaite, Rondon, Alli
goals – None
Booked – None
Manager –Frank Lampard 6
Referee –Mike Dean 6
‘Look, let’s have it right, it wasn’t the best game in the world to watch, was it?’ Lampard noted with a refreshing degree of honesty. ‘The players were frustrated but I told them we’ve just taken seven points from the last nine. If you had offered us that before, we’d have bitten your hand off.’
Crucially, Everton’s fate remains in their own hands. Leeds crumbling at Chelsea’s hands has put them on the brink and should they lose to Brighton on Saturday – and Lampard oversees a Goodison Park win against Brentford 24 hours later – the job will be done.
Some will feel it should have been done here. News filtered through of Mason Mount’s goal at Leeds and it only added to the relentless positivity that was being shown in the away end, with those who had traveled down from Merseyside providing a soundtrack of encouragement.
It is amazing what a cause to pursue and unity can do for a fan base; such was the passion on show, it’s difficult to imagine the Evertonians would have been any noisier had their team being pursuing a trophy. Through the most challenging times, their support has been unfailing.
Here was a different challenge. Watford were never going to give Everton the chance to sit in and wreak havoc on the counterattack, as they had done in those invigorating successes against Chelsea and Leicester. Could they impose themselves and set the tone?
For the opening 45 minutes, the answer was firmly no. Though Lampard’s side were never subjected to pressure from the hosts – the best it got for Watford was when Seamus Coleman misjudged a back pass and Jordan Pickford plunged to his right to avert a calamity – Everton couldn’t dominate.
Clearly, they had identified Watford’s left side as a weak link but each time Alex Iwobi or Anthony Gordon scuttled down the flank, there was a lack of composure and accuracy with the final ball. Stood with his arms tightly-folded, Lampard fidgeted whenever a move broke down.
The relegation-threatened Toffees struggled to impose themselves in the first half at Watford
There was a lack of composure and accuracy from the likes of Alex Iwobi with the final ball
‘The knife is at Everton’s throat in terms of relegation,’ Roy Hodgson, Watford’s manager, observed. ‘I didn’t know what to expect from ourselves in terms of a performance.’
Everton did get themselves into decent positions but shots from Vitalii Mykolenko and Demarai Gray, plus a header from Michael Keane, didn’t result in Ben Foster working too hard. This had to change after the interval.
It did, just not enough to get three points. As the volume was cranked up behind Pickford’s goal – you could hear the emotion in everything they sang – so, too, did the speed at which Everton began to play and Richarlison, once of this parish, should have broken the deadlock in the 52nd minute .
His turn was sharp, his control was good but as he worked an opening to shot, he wanted to take it on with his right foot rather than his left and the Brazilian could only flick his effort towards Foster rather than whacking it past him.
Still, it was a change in momentum and, 10 minutes later, an even better chance arrived. Gray won possession, ushered a pass out to Iwobi and surged into the area to get the return goal, again, the finish lacked precision. Gray’s grimace told you he knew he should have done better.
Richarlison, once of this parish, should really have broken the deadlock in the 52nd minute
Demarai Gray then missed another excellent chance as his finish lacked precision
When Keane then headed straight at Foster from Iwobi’s corner, you began to wonder whether Everton were going to pass up an incredible opportunity. Watford’s play was nondescript and there was very little ambition, as it seemed they were content to play attack against defence.
One wonders what Rob Edwards, the incoming manager from Forest Green, will make of the squad he will inherit. Watford have many good people working at the club but the squad is bereft of any kind of magic.
‘They have appointed a talented young coach,’ said Hodgson. ‘I wish him every success.’
He will need it. ‘We’ve won the ball!’ the home crowd sang, swiftly followed by: ‘we’ll give it back!’ and they were right. You couldn’t help smile at the gallows humor and admire them for having fun in a charmless situation but they had call it exactly right. They were apt words for that kind of night.
A header from Michael Keane didn’t result in Hornets keeper Ben Foster working too hard either