On a day of speculation and transformation at The Dell, Southampton scored three goals in 15 second-half minutes against an impotent West Ham to secure only their second Premiership win of the season.
Although the final result - Saints' biggest win since beating Manchester United 6-3 nearly a year ago - was justified, it belied the fact that much of the game was uninspiring. Activity off the field was more frenzied.
Rumour on Saturday morning suggested that Southampton were preparing a bid for Paul Merson. The Saints' manager, Dave Jones, while not denying it, pointed out that the purchase price for the Middlesbrough man would be equivalent to almost 50 per cent of the club's pounds 10m annual turnover, and hence the move is unlikely.
Even more unlikely would be a late call for Southampton's Matt Le Tissier to join the England squad for Saturday's World Cup qualifier in Rome, despite Glenn Hoddle's presence on Saturday. Le Tissier was one of five Saints players returning from injury but never really shone. Carlton Palmer had a more industrious game, and demonstrated he is likely to be a real asset.
It was the Norwegian Egil Ostenstad, however, who changed the game shortly after coming on as a substitute seven minutes into the second half. A Kevin Davies header was dropped by the Hammers' goalkeeper, Ludek Miklosko, and the Norwegian was on hand to bundle the ball into the net.
Southampton went two ahead 10 minutes later when Davies collected a Francis Benali pass in the box, held off two defenders, and turned to score. Jason Dodd, the Saints' captain, made it three shortly afterwards with a 35- yard speculative half-volley.
Eyal Berkovitch, making his first return to The Dell as a West Ham player, was loudly booed at every touch. The jeers did not prevent him being the Hammers' most effective player, but the closest his side came to scoring was after five minutes when he crossed to John Hartson, who headed wide.
The West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, made no excuses and said his team had simply failed to perform. His counterpart was happy he had demonstrated how different his team can be when not plagued with injury. "It's the first time since I've joined the club I've had everyone fit," Jones said.
Aside from Jones, the most relieved people on Saturday were the Southampton board. The win overshadowed a supporters' protest against their lack of spending.
Goals: Ostenstad (54) 1-0; Davies (65) 2-0; Dodd (68) 3-0.
Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Charlton (Benali, 37), Lundekvam, Monkou, Dodd; Oakley (Slater, 73), Richardson, Palmer, Le Tissier; Evans (Ostenstad, 52), Davies. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk); Williams.
West Ham (3-5-2): Miklosko; Unsworth, Ferdinand, Pearce; Breacker, Lomas, Berkovitch, Impey, Bishop; Hartson, Dowie (Moore, 60). Substitutes not used: Forrest (gk), Potts, Omoyimni, Rowland.
Referee: M. Riley (Leeds).
Bookings: Southampton: Richardson. West Ham: Breacker, Pearce.
Man of the match: Palmer.
Attendance: 15,212.Reuse content