Well, that is one way to stop the crowd chanting their displeasure about the probable arrival of Glenn Hoddle. Just play so utterly, unbelievably badly that even the most rapid Pompey fan would be welcome as manager if he could stop such a display being repeated. And then, somehow, salvage a draw with a rousing, improbable, passionate finale. Half-time boos transformed into a standing ovation. Even the resurrection of Hoddle, at the club he so acrimoniously walked out on, could not be more dramatic.
Any doubts that he is returning should be banished by the presence of his agent, Dennis Roach, in that bewildered crowd and another angry tirade from the Southampton chairman, Rupert Lowe, who attacked the "irresponsible muckrakers" in the media. Goodness knows what manure would have been spread but for a penalty that should not have been and an injury-time goal of outstanding quality by Fabrice Fernandes which detracted from a storming, powerful performance by Everton's Wayne Rooney. "Exceptional," said his manager David Moyes, who, rightly, also pointed out that the teenager should have doubled his tally of two goals.
Southampton's caretaker manager, Steve Wigley, made his first mistake before a ball was kicked. Omitting James Beattie may have preserved the status quo - it was the fifth game in succession he had not started - but, in an unprolific side, was simply wrong. His introduction at half-time changed the game; a fierce, white-booted, high tackle on Joseph Yobo just 20 seconds after the interval re-set the tone for a team which until then had been bullied. Wigley acknowledged his error. "I'm pleased I wasn't sat before you at half-time," he told the press afterwards, "because I would have been fed to the lions."
Out-muscled and out-fought, Southampton looked as if it was not just Gordon Strachan who had taken his leave of the shell-shocked club. "It was a wake, but Gordon's not died, he's taken a sabbatical," Wigley added. It took them four minutes to get out of their half, seven to concede a goal.
Everton, with previously no wins in eight, adopted a seemingly more defensive approach, making five changes, and pushing Rooney further forward - which received immediate, rampant justification. After Tobias Linderoth stole possession, Rooney collected a short pass and, from distance, slammed a shot which struck the heel of Michael Svensson and scooted into the net.
Then, in the 32rd minute, a throw-in was unnecessarily conceded by Southampton, after pressure from Rooney, and from Thomas Gravesen's routine cross, Duncan Ferguson headed easily in.
By half-time Everton could have been out of sight. "We should have killed it off," Moyes said. Instead Beattie and the other substitute, Fernandes, provided impetus. David Prutton's cross was headed on by Rory Delap and Kevin Phillips reacted sharply to thump the ball past Nigel Martyn.
A lifeline - but that appeared to be quickly snapped as Rooney stepped up with a goal of rugged power. From a header, he shrugged off two challenges, before receiving a return pass and swerving the ball beyond Antti Niemi. But, this time, Southampton retaliated quickly with Linderoth penalised for an impetuous challenge on Prutton. It was outside the area but the referee gave the penalty, which Beattie walloped past Martyn.
The other substitute then intervened. As the pressure grew, the ball cannoned out to Fernandes whose powerful shot struck a post on its way in. It simply defied logic - but then so does so much else at Southampton these days.
Phillips 58, Beattie pen 82, Fernandes 90
Rooney 7, 78, Ferguson 32
Half-time: 0-2 Attendance: 31,875Reuse content