Football: Marching all over Saints

Everton 4 Gough 36, Lundekvam og 47 Jeffers 48, Campbell 54 Southampton 1 Pahars 70 Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 31,755: FA Premiership: Old men of the midfield hoist Middlesbrough to second
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The Independent Online
ULTIMATELY IT was a stroll for Everton as, in raw data terms at least, they swept past a team many predict will be vying with them for the safety berths next May. Before they get ambitions of a higher nature, however, it is worth noting that they were far from impressive for periods long enough for a team of a higher calibre to have inflicted mortal wounds on them.

Walter Smith, their manager, barely cracked a smile when saying, succinctly, that the result pleased him. He was more keen to consider the shortcomings of a drab first half in which his team just had the edge both in terms of a narrow lead and quality, such as it was.

"We didn't do much and, though we got the breakthrough, I felt we had to do much better after the break and we then enjoyed a good period," he said.

If he sounded disaffected, then he had some reason. Too often the lively strike partnership of Francis Jeffers and Kevin Campbell was given poor service, their best moments coming from neat, swift passes to each other. "They can be a dangerous partnership, but only if we play as we did for those 15 minutes in the second half," Smith added.

Spare a thought, then, for his counterpart Dave Jones who watched his team fluster and battle through the early periods only to see his defence crumble and, in disarray, concede three goals in an eight-minute bulldozing. "If you don't defend properly," he shrugged, "you are going to concede goals."

Quite so. But there were others at fault. For long periods Southampton pitched ugly balls from all angles towards Kevin Davies, whose only on- target efforts were too feeble to trouble Paul Gerrard, and an indifferent Marian Pahars, whose consolation strike served only to highlight his general ineffectiveness.

Davies, whose move back to Hampshire from Blackburn has put him in the harsh glare of the media spotlight, looked out of sorts. "His confidence is shot to pieces, but we'll keep working with him," Jones added.

He was certainly no match for Richard Gough in the heart of the Everton defence who, apart from making the slip which allowed Davies to round him and supply the pass for Pahars' goal, swallowed up any potential threats.

Gough it was who finally broke the deadlock and, to some extent at least, relieved the increasingly vocal frustrations of the home crowd when, following a corner, his defensive partner David Weir picked up on the loose ball to cross for the Scot to head home.

Everton scored twice within moments of the restart to seal the three points. The first of the brace was an own-goal by Claus Lundekvam who, assuming an offside flag would be raised against Campbell, lost concentration and then his man and tried to make amends by clearing high.

He achieved his aim, but not in the way he intended, clearing high over Jones' leap and into the gaping goal. Jeffers followed up when, latching on to Campbell's neat pass, he drove low from the right.

A rout threatened and Campbell, with just ten minutes having elapsed since half-time, added the fourth - though Jeffers is claiming the final touch - following a bout of pinball football in the under-siege Southampton penalty box.