Everton 2 Watford 1: Johnson and Beattie strike up double act to inspire ambition

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The Independent Football

Everton have not enjoyed the benefits of a striker capable of consistently delivering 20 goals a season since Graeme Sharp served them so well during the 1980s glory days, which may explain the excitement generated by Andy Johnson's successful debut.

In the years since Sharp set the club's post-war goalscoring standard, Everton have repeatedly broken their transfer-fee record in their search for a successor worthy of comparison but as yet it is a quest unfulfilled.

Johnson, whose £8.6m price has raised the record again, thus carries a heavy weight of expectation. A goalless pre-season probably did not help, so there was probably relief as much as joy when he scored after 15 minutes on Saturday.

David Moyes, the Everton manager, said that he was never worried. "In my mind there was never any doubt the goals would come," he said. "I've told him now, 'that's you up and running. Keep your goals for the Premiership, forget about pre-season'. He will gain a lot of confidence from scoring but his play was good as well. He got in behind and helped link up the play as well, he did a lot of good things.

"The crowd liked him. They could see something bright and sharp and that things were liable to happen. We needed someone who could take the ball and run and always be a threat in behind which I think he was."

Not good news, perhaps, for James McFadden, who has just committed himself to a long-term contract at Goodison Park but might find himself warming the bench more than he would like. In Johnson and James Beattie, with whom the former Crystal Palace striker swapped touches in setting up the goal, Moyes has a potential partnership.

"He and Beattie linked up well for the goal," Moyes said. "There was some great twin-striker interplay. There was the makings of a decent partnership and I think there will be more to come." Compared with last season, he said, there was "a different feel" to the way Everton won, although there was no escaping the suspicion that Watford could have embarrassed them with better luck.

While Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta were bright sparks in Everton's midfield, each hitting the woodwork late in the first half, Adrian Boothroyd's Championship play-off winners were far from overawed. Marlon King and Darius Henderson looked as if they will trouble more defences than Everton's if they can sharpen up their finishing.

Moreover, the penalty that put them two behind with eight minutes left was as unjust as is possible, the ball Chris Powell is alleged by the referee Peter Walton to have handled clearly striking him on the forehead.

Moyes blamed carelessness for the late, deflected goal by which Damien Francis reduced the margin after Arteta had scored from the spot but it was no more than Watford deserved. "We need to learn fast but it was a pleasing, positive performance and evidence that we are capable of achieving something in this division," Boothroyd said.

Goals: Johnson (15) 1-0; Arteta pen (82) 2-0; Francis (90) 2-1.

Everton (4-4-2): Howard; Neville, Yobo, Stubbs, Nuno Valente (Lescott, 49); Davies (McFadden, 73), Carsley, Cahill, Arteta; Johnson, Beattie (Anichebe, 74). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Kilbane.

Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Doyley, Mariappa (DeMerit, 45), Shittu, Powell; Chambers (Bouazza 45), Mahon, Francis, Young; King, Henderson (Priskin, 79). Substitutes not used: Lee (gk), Spring.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

Bookings: Everton Beattie, Anichebe; Watford Shittu, Francis.

Man of the match: Johnson.

Attendance: 39,691.