Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins passes England audition in win against Everton in front of Gareth Southgate… Three Lions boss may be tempted to pick both him and Dominic Calvert-Lewin with squads extended to 26 players
- Watkins, as well as Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, will have impressed
- The forward’s Villa team-mates Matt Targett and Matty Cash also played well
- Southgate will also have noted the superb form of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford
Gareth Southgate rose from his seat in the Director’s Box and shoved a notepad into his pocket. It had been a busy night and the page on which England’s head coach had been scribbling was almost out of space.
Southgate has been a frequent visitor to Goodison Park in recent months but it is doubtful he will have left this stadium with as much information to digest as he did on this occasion. Everywhere he looked, there was something to consider as he formulates his European Championship plans.
He would have received clarity on the form of Jordan Pickford, for starters. When Southgate watched Everton play Leicester in January, the mistake he made that night suggested he had a battle on his hands to begin the tournament but now all doubt has been removed.
Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins (right) impressed in his side’s 2-1 away win against Everton
England manager Gareth Southgate (centre) is likely to have noted down his fine performance
Pickford’s brilliance kept Everton in this contest far longer than their impoverished efforts deserved and only an injury will stop him lining up against Croatia on June 13.
He is better than Dean Henderson and Nick Pope and his form is improving at the right time. There was little he could have done about the goals he conceded, particularly Anwar El Ghazi’s howitzer that proved decisive.
Other players will have had their names jotted down, such as Villa’s energetic full-backs Matty Cash and Matt Targett, while it was intriguing, too, to see Ross Barkley – back on familiar territory – perform with dash.
He was excellent but, you sense, it is too little, too late. Southgate will also know Jack Grealish is expected to return from a calf issue next week.
Toffees goalkeeper Jordan Pickford also played well despite conceding twice against Villa
The men who command most attention, though, were the strikers on show. Ollie Watkins was fabulous for Villa, while determination leapt from Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Southgate studied them both men intently all night and, after both scored, is perhaps now thankful he can name 26 players in his squad.
Calvert-Lewin has been a fixture in England parties this season but Watkins is a relatively new arrival. His timing, though, could be impeccable as this was one of his best displays in claret-and-blue. He was the inspiration behind a 2-1 win and deserved more than one goal.
‘His game has got better,’ enthused Villa boss Dean Smith. ‘I’d always say he is one of the best pressing centre-forwards in the Premier League, which is high praise indeed with the quality in this league.
‘But he backs that up with goals and his build-up play has got better. He’s a lad who used to beat himself up a hell of a lot if he missed chances but he gets over that a hell of a lot quicker now. That’s a sign of a really hungry and top player.’
Smith was understandably buoyant but his opposite number Carlo Ancelotti looked thoroughly fed up after a defeat that is going to make it very difficult for Everton to qualify for Europe.
Had Goodison been full, the home fans would have unloaded their fury after a sixth home defeat since January. This display was not acceptable.
‘We have to change the attitude,’ Ancelotti said. ‘If we want to stay in the fight every game is vital. That is how it was this game, because this game was really important, but now it is vital.
‘We missed a great big opportunity…but it’s not the last chance that we have, fortunately. We have other chances, we have another chance, but of course we have to change the attitude.’
Match Facts: Everton v Aston Villa
EVERTON (4-3-3): Pickford 8: Coleman 5, Godfrey 6, Holgate 5, Digne 5: Sigurdsson 5, Allan 5, Gomes 4 (Delph 69mins 5): Iwobi 4 (Bernard 76mins 5), Calvert-Lewin 7, Richarlison 4.
Subs not used: Olsen (GK), Keane, King, Mina, Nkounkou, Davies.
Goals: Calvert-Lewin 19.
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti 5.
ASTON VILLA (4-2-3-1): Martinez 7: Cash 7, Konsa 7, Mings 6.5, Targett 7: Luiz 7, McGinn 7: Traore 8, Barkley 7, El Ghazi 7.5: Watkins 8.
Subs not used: Heaton (GK), Taylor, Wesley, Nakamba, El-Mohamady, Hause, Davies, Ramsey, Philogene-Bidace.
Manager: Dean Smith 7.
Referee: S Harper 7.
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