Watson's strike leaves Newcastle blue

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The Independent Online


Everton 1

Newcastle United 0

Joy unconfined in the blue half of Merseyside. Liverpool out, Everton in; what a weekend to be a Blue. Such days have been rare for Evertonians over the last five years, and it was easy to understand the mood of celebration and relief which engulfed Goodison Park at the end of yesterday's quarter- final.

Their heroes were the two players who remember better days, Dave Watson and Neville Southall, the only survivors from Everton's last final, in 1989 - when they lost to Liverpool.

Watson scored the only goal of a game short on quality but long on tension with 25 minutes left. And with 12 minutes remaining, Southall played his part in making an outstanding save from Lee Clark as the game reached a pulsating climax.

Victory put Everton into their record 23rd semi-final for a meeting with Tottenham - conquerors of Liverpool - on 9 April. If it is to lead to their 12th final, they will have to transfer their home form to the semi- final venue.

This was their seventh successive victory at Goodison Park; they have only won twice away all season. Their football is limited in ambition but, in the right circumstances, effective. As the Newcastle manager, a bitterly disappointed Kevin Keegan, noted afterwards: "They are always dangerous from set-pieces."

And it was from one of these that Everton scored. Marc Hottiger gave away a free-kick by the touchline 30 yards from goal. David Unsworth bombed it in at Duncan Ferguson, who got ahead of Darren Peacock to head down. Hottiger failed to clear, and Watson lunged past him to head in. Scrappy, but not unexpected.

Everton created the better chances throughout, despite being manifestly second to Newcastle in terms of passing, invention and ball control. John Ebbrell failed to control just yards from goal after Anders Limpar had set him up after 16 minutes. Stuart Barlow, put clear after Ferguson headed on a Southall punt, then saw his shot tipped on to the bar by Pavel Srnicek after 27 minutes.

Barlow - a devastating finisher at reserve level, an inept one in the first team - then sprinted onto Gary Ablett's pass on the hour, but shot lamentably wide before Ferguson volleyed just over from outside the box.

The Scot had an even better chance to settle the match after Watson had scored, but chipped into Srnicek's gloves after Peacock had sold his goalkeeper short with a terrible headed back-pass.

By now, Newcastle were laying siege to Everton's goal, but the reshaped back four, in which Watson was outstanding, defended magnificently. And when Newcastle did break through they found Southall in excellent form. He had saved well from Paul Kitson in the second minute, and from Clark after 30, but his best moment came after 78 minutes.

An intelligent run took Kitson behind the Everton defence, he squared to Clark and Southall saved at point-blank range. The ball fell to Ruel Fox, but he thrashed it into the side-netting.

"The dream is over for another year," Keegan said. "I have nothing more to say, we're out." His team sorely missed the injured Peter Beardsley, and were further hampered by the suspension of Steve Howey and the early departure, through injury, of John Beresford. But Everton could argue that their potency was equally affected by the loss of Andy Hinchcliffe, whose left-foot crosses and corners have supplied so many of their recent goals.

His regular target, Ferguson, will miss the semi-final, unless Everton's appeal against his imminent four-match suspension is successful this week. In a vivid demonstration of his priorities, Joe Royle, the Everton manager, said that was a bonus as it meant he would be free for an extra League game.

Avoiding the drop remains the priority for Royle. As he found last year as manager of Oldham, reaching a semi-final is of little consolation if you finish the season in the relegation zone.

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Jackson, Watson, Ablett, Unsworth; Ebbrell, Parkinson, Horne, Limpar (Stuart, 62); Barlow, Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Samways, Reeves (gk).

Newcastle United (4-1-4-1): Srnicek; Hottiger (Watson, 79), Venison, Peacock, Beresford; Bracewell (Elliott, 51); Gillespie, Lee, Clark, Fox; Kitson. Substitute not used: Hooper (gk).

Referee: K Cooper (Pontypridd).


Manchester Utd v C Palace

or Wolves

Tottenham v Everton

Ties to be played Sunday 9 April