Football: Watson clears up Everton's mess

Everton 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
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The Independent Online
Even though his recurring tale of injury problems is getting a little bit hard to take and, presumably, will not in the end be a credible enough excuse to save his job, you had to sympathise with Gerry Francis if only on the grounds that unlike Everton's caretaker player-manager, Dave Watson, he could only care from the touchline. Watson put all of his concern into retaining the three points that should keep Everton in the top division for their 44th season.

Watson was more bin man than caretaker as he cleared up and sifted through the debris of a match that Francis said had plenty of "X rated tackles". He now has 14 players on an injury list that has never this season been less than half a dozen. But the who has been deeply missed is Gary Mabbutt. In a struggle like this he would at least have matched Watson's conspicuous leadership.

Though Everton's only goal was not only the winning one and a gem amongst a heavy load of dross, it had to be preserved from as early as the 11th minute. It was Watson more than anyone who did that, most notably near the end when standing sentry on the line behind a defensive line that Terry Sheringham's free-kick pierced. He blocked the ball which rebounded to Jason Dozzell. Then Dozell's shot was magnificently saved by Neville Southall whose career at Goodison Park Watson has ensured after Joe Royle had begun to point him the general direction of sheltered accommodation.

With another Merseyside derby still to come on Wednesday, Watson was later still saying all the right things about not assuming relegation was impossible until "mathematically its over" but this was a match in which Everton showed that under his organisation they still had a feel for history and passion, whereas Francis talked about the "battlefield out there" as if such affairs of the spirit were something in which he and his club should not be involved. They should not, but the reason they are is not all down to injuries. Players of the quality of Sheringham should not have matches in which they are upstaged by kids and comparatively old men.

Gary Speed's goal, and one remarkable run by Spurs' substitute Ruel Fox when he beat five players, were the only true highlights. The rest was all drama. Paul Rideout, who is about to move to China, suggested that he still has plenty to offer nearer home when running strongly out of his own half, setting up Graham Stuart for a defence-teasing cross that Speed headed in with the reliable accuracy that has shone through Everton's troubled season.

Goal: Speed (11) 1-0.

Everton (4-1-3-2): Southall; Barrett, Watson, Dunne, Phelan (Ball, 46); Thomsen; Stuart, Rideout, Speed; Branch (Barmby, 58), Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Gerrard (gk), Hottiger, Hills.

Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-1-1): Walker; Vega, Calderwood, Scales (Fenn, 46); Carr (Fox, 51), Dozzell, Campbell, Nielsen (Austin, 32), Edinburgh; Sheringham; Rosenthal. Substitutes not used: Baardsen (gk), McVeigh. Referee: G Willard (Worthing).

Bookings: Everton: Dunne, Ball, Stuart, Thomsen, Ferguson, Rideout. Tottenham:

Edinburgh, Sheringham, Austin.

Man of the match: Watson.

Attendance: 36,380.