As a tribute to George Harrison, who was born a few miles from Goodison Park, black armbands were worn and Here Comes The Sun was played as the teams prepared to kick-off. The line about a "long and lonely winter" seems particularly apt for Southampton.
That they require more of a cutting edge has been recognised by their manager Gordon Strachan, who will today complete the transfer of Blackpool's highly-rated striker Brett Ormerod for £1.75m. Walter Smith did not disagree with Strachan's assessment of an arid first half that Southampton were "the better side in a bad game" but, crucially, they failed to take their chances.
Once Steve Simonsen had saved wonderfully from Paul Telfer and Claus Ludekvam, and Smith used Paul Gascoigne to inject some life and belief into his midfield, Southampton petered out.
When the teams slunk off at half-time, Goodison was a pool of festering discontent. Injuries to Duncan Ferguson and Kevin Campbell had forced Smith to employ Steve Watson, a full-back, as a makeshift striker and in the opening 45 minutes Everton had not managed a shot. Watson, a Tynesider, may be no Alan Shearer but he is game and had a hand in both goals. It was his flick, with the side of the boot, that sent Thomas Radzinski sprinting down the left flank before cutting inside and mixing power and placement in a shot that found the bottom corner of Paul Jones' net. It was the first goal Goodison had seen since 27 October and laid the foundations for Everton's first victory in six weeks.
Gascoigne was its principal architect. He has started just three games this season but when he ran at a melting Southampton defence and saw his shot saved supremely well there were flashes of the old forgotten magic. "It was not a pleasant dressing-room to be in at half time," he said. "The manager went absolutely ballistic; but we got among them. I was starting to get a nosebleed, I was that far up the pitch. I probably won't play next week, but I don't mind, I'm just enjoying the football."
His manager thought his most brilliant and troubled midfielder "brings a bit of confidence to the team. We wanted to get a grip of midfield and Paul gave us the ability to do that." However, Smith would have rested easier in his dug-out had Thomas Gravesen, who was far more effective when moved to the right wing, taken the two glittering opportunities which fell his way.
He chose to place one and blast the other and both led to Smith punching the air with anger and frustration. In the Dane's defence, his clearance off the line from Anders Svensson's header, the one clear opening Southampton created after the interval, proved crucial. His and Smith's nerves were soothed once Gravesen, feeding off Watson's pass, crossed for Mark Pembridge to slide in the second, which put a battered and financially bruised club a point behind Manchester United.
Goals: Radzinski (50) 1-0; Pembridge (86) 2-0.
Everton: (4-4-2) Simonsen 7, Pistone 5, Stubbs 6, Weir 7, Unsworth 5 (Pembridge 6, h-t), Alexandersson 5 (Gascoigne 7, h-t), Gemill 5, Gravesen 7, Naysmith 5, Watson 6, Radzinski 6. Substitutes not used: Abel Xavier, Moore, Gerrard (gk).
Southampton: (4-4-2) Jones 5, Dodd 5, Ludekvam 6, Williams 4, Bridge 5, Telfer 6, Svensson 6, Oakley 4, Marsden 4 (Davies 5, 68), Pahars 4, Beattie 6. Substitutes not used: Moss (gk), Delap, El Khalej, Petrescu.
Booking: Southampton: Williams.
Referee: J Winters (Stockton-on-Tees) 5.
Man of the match: Gascoigne.
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