This was a result that pretty much suited both parties in the end. Another point towards Everton’s attempt to avoid relegation for the first time in more than 70 years was not quite what Frank Lampard would have wished for before the game but, at this stage of the season, he will take anything they can get.
With home fixtures to come against Brentford and Crystal Palace and now a two-point cushion over Leeds, Everton’s destiny remains very much in their own hands. As for Watford, just ending a run of 11 successive home defeats in the league as Roy Hodgson finally picked up his first point here was enough to satisfy their long-suffering supporters.
Lampard had insisted before this game that the stakes in Everton’s relegation battle are bigger for him than any of his Premier League titles with Chelsea as his side sought revenge for a 5-2 beating at Goodison Park back in October. Their task certainly appeared to be more straightforward thanks to Hodgson’s decision to make seven changes from the side that started against Crystal Palace on Saturday, with Ismaïla Sarr, Joshua King and Emmanuel Dennis not even on a substitutes’ bench that contained three teenagers.
With the 74-year-old’s departure already confirmed, Watford are already making plans for life in the Championship next season having confirmed the appointment of Rob Edwards – 35 years Hodgson’s junior – as their next manager amid complaints from Forest Green Rovers that negotiations had been held behind their backs. The former Wales international will certainly have a major task on his hands after a haphazard campaign that will not be fondly remembered by any Watford supporters – especially given that run of home defeats that stretched back to November.
As well as Watford’s team selection, hearing the familiar Z-Cars anthem that greeted the sides before kick-off must have helped Everton feel right at home. Even the referee, Mike Dean, was afforded a small cheer as he took charge of one of his last matches before retiring after 22 seasons in the Premier League.
Denied the services of Yerry Mina, Lampard recalled Michael Keane at the heart of his five-man defense and it was the England defender who almost gifted Watford an early lead after he miscued a clearance after Jordan Pickford had given possession away. A wayward punch from Pickford that found its way to the unmarked Ken Sema could also have been punished by a more clinical side.
Yet while the traveling supporters were in full voice behind Everton, their team was struggling to pose a threat. Promising opportunities for Demarai Gray, Richarlison and Alex Iwobi all came to nothing, while a volley from Anthony Gordon that sailed into the stands summed up their issues in attack.
After a turgid first half, the most likely source of a goal seemed to be Watford’s João Pedro, who – like Richarlison – joined Watford from Fluminense but has yet to make quite the same impact. Pickford was off his line quickly to beat the lively Brazilian forward to a long through ball a few minutes after the restart. Richarlison then called Ben Foster into serious action for the first time when his goalbound shot deflected off Christian Kabasele.
A loose pass from Samuel Kalu then presented Gray with a golden opportunity but he could not hit the target after swiftly exchanging passes with Iwobi. Keane did manage to direct his header towards goal from a corner, only for Foster to gather comfortably. Lampard then had reason to look relieved when only a last-ditch tackle from Séamus Coleman prevented a Watford breakaway.
Lampard threw on Dominic Calvert-Lewin in a bid to find the breakthrough, while Hodgson responded by withdrawing Kalu for defender Craig Cathcart – a move that had the desired effect. The closest Everton came to snatching the points was a Vitalii Mykolenko shot that was easily parried by Foster to the delight of the home fans behind the goal, who celebrated loudly at the final whistle.