Osman's last-gasp bolt for the Blues

Everton 1 - Southampton 0
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The Independent Online

Phew, what a shocker. But what a finish too. Leon Osman scored the game's only goal in the 89th minute to at least give this match a fair outcome. Everton remain third in the Premiership table largely because the teams below them are so poor, so far.

Phew, what a shocker. But what a finish too. Leon Osman scored the game's only goal in the 89th minute to at least give this match a fair outcome. Everton remain third in the Premiership table largely because the teams below them are so poor, so far.

They were a class above this Southampton side, though, which would have scraped out of the bottom three on goal difference had they hung on for the draw they played for. They remain without a win under their manager Steve Wigley and have only one victory all season. The Everton manager David Moyes was handed the Manager of the Month award before kick-off and he was back on the turf at the end, shaking hands with his players and applauding the home fans for sticking behind the team during a sub-standard game.

Southampton were trying to end their miserable run of form without any of their frontline strikers available. The injured quartet were Kevin Phillips, Marian Parhars, Peter Crouch and England international Kevin Beattie. That forced the Southampton manager Steve Wigley to hand debuts to two 18-year-old youth team pals, Leon Best and Dexter Blackstock. At least Best had the experience of two substitute appearances behind him and it is fair to say that there are more intimidating places than Goodison Park these days to start a Premiership career.

Southampton have looked so poor that they could well be short top-flight careers if they stay with the South Coast club this season. They made a good stab at this game, though, and there was little to indicate in the early exchanges that Everton were the third from top Premiership team playing the third from bottom.

Marcus Bent had a chance to change that when he seemed set to score in the 14th minute, but Everton's only out-and-out striker elected to pull the ball across the goal rather than try to shoot into it. As widely expected, this match began high on endeavour, but low on quality and there were few players out there capable of challenging that assumption.

The energetic Blackstock and Best remained keen to make their mark and Best had a chance with a header midway through the first half, but failed to find the target from Neil McCann's cross.

Bent's aim was even more woeful when he shot over the bar after excellent work by the ever-impressive Tim Cahill. Kevin Kilbane went close from a free-kick on the half-hour and Cahill shot narrowly over just before the interval. Everton were clearly on top, but Tottenham came here looking for a draw and stole a win in their last game and there was always the danger Southampton might do the same as long as Moyes's side failed to take or create many decent chances.

Those opportunities followed at the start of the second half when Bent finally got past goalkeeper Antti Niemi only for Andreas Jacobsson to hack it away for a corner with a sliding clearance. Another desperate block prevented the Everton forward from scoring when the ball was swung back in. Kilbane stumbled over another chance soon after and the expectant Everton fans must have wondered if they would ever score.

Worse still, for them, Southampton began to show signs of life going forward and won a couple of dangerous corners against the flow of play. Niemi made a good save from Bent, who shot from wide on the right with 25 minutes to go and nearly provided a chance for Osman with a near-post cross soon after, but the Everton fans now sounded increasingly anxious and agitated as the game approached its closing stages.

Moyes coaxed the players forward from the touchline and the crowd stayed as positive as they dared. The Everton manager made his move in the 77th minute when he sent on what he hoped would be a dynamic Scottish duo in Duncan Ferguson and James McFadden, for Cahill and Kilbane.

And Ferguson created confusion in the Southampton defence when Thomas Gravesen launched a long throw in the 89th minute. Osman took full advantage and controlled the loose ball before scoring with a low right-foot shot from 10 yards out. There was no time and no chances for Southampton to recover.

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