Football: Cleland lifts Everton blues

Everton 1 Southampton 0
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The Independent Online
THESE ARE not exactly exciting times at Everton, but just possibly they are times for a certain grim satisfaction.

There was a moment towards the end of this generally turgid affair when the complete lack of atmosphere at Goodison gave way to the quiet knowledge that, whatevever their many failings, the Blues were drawing level on points with the team across Stanley Park and that, just for the present, they are not the Merseyside club in the more obvious crisis.

It might say more about the general standard of the Premiership than it does about Everton that they have now taken 10 points from the last 12 on offer, but those are the bald figures.

No one, least of all Everton's largely inaudible manager Walter Smith, is yet whispering - let alone shouting - anything from the rooftops. Nor should they; Everton won this match by virtue of two missed open goals by the Premiership's most toothless attack coupled with an uncharacteristically clinical piece of finishing from Ibrahima Bakayoko - scoring his first Premiership goal in his ninth League game.

Bakayoko showed a new confidence once he had scored, but a contribution of potentially equal significance came from Alex Cleland.

Smith's recruit from his old squad at Rangers has had a limited impact at Everton and has been largely confined to duties as a substitute for much of the last two months. But against Southampton he was one of their notable successes in the right wing-back role and his constructive forays were responsible for much of the opportunity Bakayoko found to run at the defence.

He hit the bar with an effort of his own, and his neat and tidy work in what in truth was a technically woeful match, was enough to make ensure that he stood out.

It could not be argued seriously that other departments of the side are in as good order. Smith left out Marco Materazzi for reasons about which he was enigmatic, but which revolve around a training ground argument, and gave Slaven Bilic his first appearance of the season in the back three.

But that defence presented open invitations to score to Hassan Kachloul and Mark Hughes before either side had found even a faltering rhythm.

The Moroccan midfielder had an unhappy afternoon. Apart from squandering his sitter, it was his mistake that let in Bakayoko, and he was also booked for an extravagant dive in the penalty area.

According to his manager, David Jones, he cannot put a foot wrong in training, or in the reserves. It is upon these consolations that doomed campaigns are built.

Goal: Bakayoko (31) 1-0.

Everton (3-5-2): Myhre; Dunne, Bilic, Unsworth; Cleland, Grant (Barmby, 86), Hutchison, Collins, Ball; Bakayoko, Madar (Dacourt, 75). Substitutes not used: Branch, Ward, Gerrard (gk).

Southampton (4-3-1-2): Jones; Dodd, Monk, Lundekvam, Hiley; Oakley, Hughes, Kachloul (Ripley 83); Le Tissier; Beattie (Bradley, 87), Ostenstad. Substitutes not used: Stensgaard (gk), Bridge, Dryden.

Referee: A Wilkie (Co Durham).

Bookings: Ball, Unsworth, Kachloul, Hughes.

Man of the match: Cleland.

Attendance: 32,073.