Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins passes England audition for national boss Gareth Southgate


Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins passes English audition in victory against Everton for Gareth Southgate … Three Lions boss may be tempted to pick both him and Dominic Calvert-Lewin with squads expanded to 26 players

  • Watkins, as well as Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin, will have impressed
  • The forward’s Villa teammates Matt Targett and Matty Cash also played well
  • Southgate will also have noticed goalkeeper Jordan Pickford’s excellent form

Gareth Southgate got up from his chair in the Director’s Box and put a notepad in his pocket. It had been a busy night and the page the England head coach had been scribbling on was nearly full.

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 on this occasion. Everywhere he looked, there was something to consider as he formulated his European Championship plans.

He would have been clarified on Jordan Pickford’s form to begin with. When Southgate saw Everton play against Leicester in January, the mistake he made that night suggested he had a fight to start the tournament, but now all doubts have been cleared.

Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins (right) impressed in his side’s 2-1 away win against Everton

English manager Gareth Southgate (center) has probably noted his good performance

English manager Gareth Southgate (center) has probably noted his good performance

Pickford’s genius kept Everton in this game much longer than their impoverished efforts deserved and only an injury will stop him from lining up against Croatia on June 13.

He’s better than Dean Henderson and Nick Pope and his form improves at the right time. Little could have been done about the goals he encountered, particularly Anwar El Ghazi’s howitzer which turned out to be decisive.

Other players will have their names written, such as Villa’s energetic full-backs Matty Cash and Matt Targett, while it was also intriguing to see Ross Barkley – back on familiar ground – perform with a spark.

He was excellent, but you feel that it is too little, too late. Southgate will also know that Jack Grealish is expected to return from a calf problem next week.

Toffees goalkeeper Jordan Pickford also played well despite playing against Villa twice

Toffees goalkeeper Jordan Pickford also played well despite playing against Villa twice

However, the men who demanded the most attention were the strikers on display. Ollie Watkins was fantastic for Villa, as Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s determination jumped. Southgate watched both men intently throughout the night and, having both scored, is perhaps now grateful to be able to name 26 players in his squad.

Calvert-Lewin has been a fixture at parties in England this season, but Watkins is a relatively new addition. His timing could be impeccable, though, as this was one of his best burgundy-and-blue displays. He was the inspiration behind a 2-1 win and earned more than one goal.

“His game has gotten better,” said Villa boss Dean Smith enthusiastically. ‘I would always say he is one of the best striker in the Premier League, which is indeed praising the quality in this league.

‘But he supports that with goals and his build-up game has gotten better. He is a boy who often beat himself up when he missed opportunities, but he gets over that much faster now. That is a sign of a really hungry and top player. ‘

Smith was understandably lively, but his counterpart Carlo Ancelotti looked thorough enough after a defeat that will make it very difficult for Everton to qualify for Europe.

Had Goodison been full, the home fans would have discharged their anger after a sixth home defeat since January. This view was not acceptable.

“We have to change attitudes,” Ancelotti said. ‘If we want to stay in the fight, every game is vital. That’s how it was this game, because this game was really important, but now it’s vital.

‘We missed a great big opportunity … but fortunately it is not the last chance we have. We have other opportunities, we have another chance, but of course we have to change attitudes. ‘

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 69 minutes 5): Iwobi 4 (Bernard 76 minutes 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.