Woe for Watson

Aston Villa 3 Milosevic 41, Staunton 50, Yorke 54 Everton 1 Unswor th 14 Attendance:39,339
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Aston Villa were no more than efficient yet did not need an outstanding performance to deal Dave Watson a losing start to his temporary stewardship at Everton, who began full of new purpose but faded rapidly after seeing an early lead cancelled out.

Brian Little's side have quietly collected 17 points from their last nine matches and this result provides a significant boost to their chances of playing in Europe next season. By contrast, Everton enter their last six matches with the lingering threat of relegation still not removed from Joe Royle's legacy.

"I was disappointed with the way we reacted to Villa's second goal," Watson said afterwards. "One or two heads dropped, but I felt that our preparation for the game had been right and I hope the players can go away remembering that we did well in the first half."

Indeed it had seemed, until Villa drew level just before half-time, that the combative spirit that had been missing during the closing part of Royle's reign had been rekindled. Even before David Unsworth scrambled home the opening goal, cashing in on Duncan Ferguson's power in the air, Graham Stuart might have twice put them in front, defied each time by the agility of Michael Oakes, standing in for an injured Mark Bosnich in Villa's goal.

In Little's own words, Villa looked "very uncomfortable" at times during the first half but gradually asserted themselves and were rewarded with an equaliser five minutes before half-time.

A corner from the left was not effectively cleared and in the scramble that followed Ugo Ehiogu chipped the ball on to the head of Savo Milosevic, who could scarcely miss from an unguarded position in the six-yard box.

Eight minutes into the second half, Villa had not only taken control in midfield, where young Gareth Farrelly proved a more than able deputy for the suspended Andy Townsend, but had turned the match completely on its head.

First Steve Staunton, stepping up after Claus Thomsen had fouled Dwight Yorke just outside the area, beat the wall of Everton defenders and Neville Southall with a superbly executed free-kick that he curled in with the left foot in a manner of which Gianfranco Zola would have been proud.

Then, after pushing a fine effort from Farrelly over his crossbar, the Welsh goalkeeper was beaten again when Yorke, pouncing on Ehiogu's knock- down, bundled the ball over the line from close range with Everton's defence in disarray.

Little was more impressed with the scoreline than he had been with the performance, although he acknowledged that other results augered well for his side's prospects of claiming the Uefa Cup place he sees as their ultimate goal.

He said: "I felt Everton had the look of a tired team after we went ahead and we might have increased our lead. It is important now that we follow this up because there have been times this season when we have had good days such as this and not made the most of them."

Comments