Football: Jones emerges out of red haze

Southampton 2 Le Tissier pen 69, Ostenstad 86 Everton 1 Tiler 89 Attendance: 15,102
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NOMINATIONS for the buy of the season should be closed forthwith. The gong has presumably already been inscribed with the name of the Southampton goalkeeper, Paul Jones, and if any doubts existed they were erased in such immaculate style at the Dell yesterday that an engraver may well have been pressed into service last night.

Jones was outstanding for Stockport last season and since his pounds 900,000 summer transfer he has been exemplary in the Premiership. His saves were not the solitary reason for Southampton's eventual win against Everton but they provided a solidly constructed platform. He denied Everton in the crucial period when they were the more fluent, incisive team.

Jones apart, the match was noteworthy for the sendings-off of two defenders who committed professional fouls. The first to go was Southampton's Ken Monkou and he was followed an hour later by Slaven Bilic, of Everton, the third time he has taken an early bath this season and the second for such an offence. Managers might disagree with these decisions (David Jones of Southampton was more inclined to do so than Howard Kendall of Everton) but the referee, David Elleray, was merely interpreting the law correctly in both cases.

Jones stamped his immense quality on the proceedings in the 18th minute when Everton were already establishing themselves by working their way behind Southampton's defence on the flanks. He jumped high and instinctively to keep out Don Hutchison's firm header from a right-wing cross. But it was his wonderful dive to his right to parry Hutchison's 37th-minute penalty after Monkou had brought down Mickael Madar that perhaps turned the match. Southampton were down to 10 men but that save provided them with inspiration.

When, early in the second half, the furiously back-pedalling Jones nudged away Gareth Farrelly's swerving shot, they must have known that they were still in it. In the 68th minute, Le Tissier delivered a neatly weighted ball for Egil Ostenstad when Bilic intervened. Hutchison ought to have watched as Le Tissier gave a swift master class in the art of penalty taking. It was low, hard and hurried inside the right-hand post. Not even Jones could have stopped it and nor did Everton's Thomas Myhre, himself no slouch.

That might have been that but Southampton increased their lead three minutes from time when Ostenstad headed in at the far post and Everton then reduced the deficit as Carl Tiler's downward header scurried over the line. The big surprise was that Jones, a commanding presence who is obviously enjoying his elevation to the top division at the age of 30, was beaten at all. But his day's work had already been done and Southampton's points were secure.