PREM: Everton 1-0 Watford


Ross Barkley

Ross Barkley brushed aside speculation about his future to fire in Everton's winner in their 1-0 victory at home to Watford


Manager Ronald Koeman has warned the 23-year-old he has until next weekend to tell the club whether he will be signing the contract extension on offer or be sold in the summer.

Whether the situation at his boyhood club is weighing heavy only the player himself can say, but after a nondescript 56 minutes he produced an impressive winner from distance - his fifth Premier League goal of the season, ending a 12-match drought.

If that is Goodison's final memory of Barkley in a blue shirt it will be a fitting one but there would no doubt be greater feelings of loss that one of their most promising academy graduates failed to realise his full potential at his spiritual home. While there remains another week of speculation about Barkley's future there was also uncertainty over whether the famous old ground has also seen the last of striker Romelu Lukaku.

The Premier League's top scorer has two years left on his contract but has told the club he will not sign the extension on offer and he has already been linked with a host of clubs. His display against a doughty Watford side playing for the point which would mathematically guarantee top-flight safety may have posed a few more questions for those suitors but they are unlikely to be deterred from making a bid in the summer.

The Belgian's one moment of note came midway through the second half when he should probably have been awarded a penalty as a result of Daryl Janmaat's tackle when Heurelho Gomes could only parry Kevin Mirallas' shot.

Mirallas, who admitted in the announcement of his new three-year contract just before kick-off he needed to be more consistent, was frustratingly inconsistent as Watford smothered Everton to the extent that often the hosts just passed sideways or backwards. Equally Lukaku and Barkley, with whom there is arguably greater responsibility, produced little inspirational spark.

Barkley had one early shot parried by Gomes but the sight of him flat on his back after slipping and planting a long-range shot halfway up the Park End was not the enduring image he wanted to leave Goodison with this season. Gomes was the busier of the two goalkeepers, stopping a close-range Phil Jagielka effort and a Tom Davies attempt from distance.

Watford's physical superiority gives them an advantage at set-pieces with Adrian Mariappa heading over a corner and Stefano Okaka out-muscling the defence to flash a low shot just wide of a post. Koeman made a positive change at the break, sending on forward Enner Valencia for Mason Holgate and moving Davies, probably Everton's most proactive player, to right-back.

Troy Deeney squandered the best chance of the game when he side-footed wide after Everton were caught in possession deep in their own half before Barkley finally delivered on the expectations a demanding Goodison had placed on him.

Given far too much space to receive Davies' pass, the England midfielder advanced before hitting a low, dipping shot which Gomes may have got to had he not taken a step to his left as it was struck. Barkley eventually departed to a standing ovation with 10 minutes to go. Fans at Goodison will hope it is not the last they have seen of him.


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