Deeney finish hands Watford victory as Everton pay for lack of adventure
The striker’s 79th-minute goal was the only bright spot of a dire game.
Everton missed their chance to climb to seventh in the Premier League after falling to a 1-0 defeat at Watford.
Toffees manager Sam Allardyce has targeted being the highest-placed team behind the established big six in his pursuit of Europa League qualification.
That Burnley and Leicester had earlier dropped points meant that victory at Vicarage Road would have put Everton on course to do exactly that.
Instead, despite being able to select the likes of Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott and Gylfi Sigurdsson, Troy Deeney’s fine late finish was enough to secure all three points for Watford, who move to the relative safety of 10th.
Allardyce has consistently been criticised by Everton’s supporters for the uninspiring football they have produced since his appointment. In Javi Gracia’s team they faced unambitious and limited opponents, but even then demonstrated little desire to win.
In recalling Ashley Williams and Jonjoe Kenny to his side, two weeks after their 3-1 defeat of Crystal Palace, he made minimal changes to a winning team, yet rarely saw them threaten.
First Oumar Niasse saw a square ball into the area deflected towards goal by Adrian Mariappa, forcing Watford goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis into an early reaction save.
A run from Rooney before he exchanged possesses with Tom Davies then created a shooting chance for the former England captain that Karnezis routinely collected, and, after Etienne Capoue struck high and wide in response, it took until the second half for a further sight on goal.
Michael Keane headed harmlessly wide from Idrissa Gana Gueye’s cross, despite having time and space in front of goal.
A run and cross from Roberto Pereyra then created the chance for Deeney to head at goal, from where Jordan Pickford stretched to save.
Allardyce introduced January signing Cenk Tosun in an attempt to inspire his side, but before he could have a significant impact Deeney’s 79th-minute finish gave the hosts the lead.
Gracia had by then changed Watford’s shape to give them two strikers, and it was substitute Stefano Okaka whose right-wing cross found fellow frontman Deeney in front of goal, for the powerful strike on the turn he sent towards the top right corner.
With a low shot towards the bottom corner Okaka tested Pickford and almost doubled his team’s lead, before the stoppage-time scramble that almost led to an undeserved Everton equalising goal.
Pickford came forward for a late corner and, after he won the header and Watford struggled to clear, Tosun turned the ball goalwards, forcing a desperate, diving save from Karnezis that secured his team’s victory.