Football: Barmby becomes the catalyst

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The Independent Online
Everton 7 Southampton 1

If ever a match typified football's unpredictability this was it. Only three weeks ago Southampton were celebrating their extraordinary 6-3 win over Manchester United. Everton, meanwhile, had been finding goalscoring a problem and had managed only 12 in 11 games prior to Saturday.

Yet such was Everton's overwhelming superiority in this match that even Graeme Souness, the Southampton manager, admitted after the game that his side were "lucky to get away with a six-goal deficit". He added: "We were naive in the extreme. As well as Everton played, we contributed to our own downfall and defended very badly."

While Southampton did indeed defend poorly, no credit should be taken away from Everton. With Duncan Ferguson on the bench, Graham Stuart had to play in an unfamiliar role in attack as Everton reshaped their team to accommodate their new pounds 5.75m signing from Middlesbrough, Nick Barmby.

He did not let them down. Barmby laid on three goals and scored one himself and said after the game. "It's the best team performance I have ever played in or had the pleasure of witnessing. This is the basis of a good side. Everyone worked hard for each other. I thought it went very well and the most pleasing thing was that we didn't take our foot off the pedal."

Everton attacked with passion and skill in equal measures and Joe Royle, the manager, positively drooled over his team's performance. "We were irresistible at times today," Royle said. "That has been coming for a while - a number of sides have got off lightly here. It's hard to pick a man of the match but Nick Barmby did the lot. I think you could say he's a catalyst. He linked the back four through the midfield and was dangerous."

Gary Speed scored the first hat-trick of his career, taking his tally for the season to six, as Everton enjoyed the biggest win of Royle's managerial reign. It also brought back happy memories of when Royle scored four goals in an 8-0 Everton victory over Southampton 25 years ago.

Everton never looked back after taking the lead through Stuart. After 35 minutes they were 5-0 up, and although Egil Ostenstad pulled one back after 39 minutes for Southampton there was no stopping them.

This result could transform Everton's season, although Royle will be determined to bring his players down to earth in time for their next Premiership game on Wednesday - the small matter of a Merseyside derby at Anfield.

Goals: Stuart (12) 1-0; Kanchelskis (22) 2-0; Speed (30) 3-0; Speed (32) 4-0; Kanchelskis (35) 5-0; Ostenstad (39) 5-1; Barmby (57) 6-1; Speed (72) 7-1.

Everton (4-4-1-1): Southall (Gerrard 45); Barrett, Unsworth, Watson, Hinchcliffe; Kanchelskis, Parkinson, Grant, Speed; Barmby; Stuart. Substitutes not used: Ferguson, Branch, Short, Allen.

Southampton (4-4-1-1): Woods; Van Gobbel, Lundekvam, Dodd, Monkou; Slater, Magilton, Charlton (Heaney, 8, Neilson, 45), Berkovic; Le Tissier (Watson 56); Ostenstad. Substitutes not used: Maddison, Beasant (gk).

Referee: M Riley (Leeds). Attendance: 35,669.

Man of the match: Barmby.