Watson's hat-trick humiliates Leeds

Everton 4 Leeds 0
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The Independent Football

You can measure Leeds United's decline by their visits to Goodison Park.

Two seasons' ago, their chairman, Peter Ridsdale, confronted his club's supporters in the stands as they blamed the first-team coach, Brian Kidd, for undermining their title challenge. When they returned last winter, it was in the immediate aftermath of Jonathan Woodgate's sale when Terry Venables was debating whether to resign. Yesterday, they presented an embarrassing spectacle of a club which, having fallen apart off the pitch, was disintegrating on it, ready for the cold embrace of the Nationwide League.

A club knows it is in trouble when it concedes a hat-trick to a man who wears the number two shirt and who often plays right-back for Everton. But this is to underestimate Steve Watson, who as a teenager began his league career for Newcastle as a striker and who yesterday finished with the incisiveness of a Shearer. Watson had been told by David Moyes that he was in danger of being dropped, although he responded more emphatically than the Everton manager could have dreamed. The rout began with a one-two with Duncan Ferguson that culminated in a drive into the roof of the net; it was a fine goal, a striker's goal, but the other two were even better.

In the 37th minute, Robinson raced out of his area to clear a long ball intended for Tomasz Radzinski but he punted it straight to Watson who, 35 yards out, chipped it back over the heads of the keeper and his captain and into the net. The hat-trick was completed with another chip from a tight angle after he controlled David Unsworth's cross with a mixture of throat and chest and sent a gentle lob over the line. Needless to say, there was not a worthwhile challenge in sight from Roque Junior and Zoumana Camara.

They would have greeted Watson's departure, a quarter of an hour from the end, with a sigh of gratitude except that his replacement was Wayne Rooney, who within 20 seconds of his arrival had Robinson turning a fierce drive around the post. Let through on goal seconds from time after the last of many errors from Camara, Rooney somehow sent his shot wide. Leeds were continually tormented by the youthful excellence of James McFadden.

Rooney was on the bench since Moyes had decided to give Duncan Ferguson his first start since April last year in the hope of exploiting Leeds' vulnerability against crosses which had been ruthlessly exposed at Leicester. It would have been hard for him not to have scored under the circumstances and the goal arrived in the manner Moyes would have predicted; a cross from the hard-working Tony Hibbert, bundled in by the big man for his first headed goal for Everton in five years.

For Peter Reid, the other Everton icon at Goodison yesterday, this was a miserable homecoming. "I can't justify that to Leeds fans, we were lucky it was not more than four," he said. "You can get them on the training pitch but if they haven't the desire, what can you do?" A little under a year ago he had been sacked as Sunderland manager after a surrender at Highbury every bit as feeble as this, and although the club may have changed, the performances have not.

Goals: Watson (27) 1-0; Watson (34) 2-0; Ferguson (39) 3-0; Watson (52) 4-0.

Everton (4-4-2): Martyn 6; Hibbert 7, Yobo 6, Stubbs 6, Unsworth 6; Watson 9 (Rooney, 75), Gravesen 7, Carsley 6, McFadden 8 (Linderoth, 86); Radzinski 6 (Kilbane, 75), Ferguson 6. Substitutes not used: Turner (gk), Weir.

Leeds (4-4-2): Robinson 5; Kelly 5, Roque Junior 2, Camara 2, Matteo 5; Pennant 3 (Lennon 4, h-t), Morris 4, Johnson 3 (Olembe 3, h-t), Sakho 2 (Bridges 6, h-t); Viduka 4, Smith 5. Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Harte.

Referee: P Durkin (Portland) 8.

Booked: Leeds: Camara, Bridges.

Man of the match: Watson.

Attendance: 39,151.