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Magilton in control

Southampton 2 (Watson 46, Magilton 77) Everton 2 (Stuart 52, Ho rne 56 )Attendance: 15,136
HAVING spent the first half at the Dell yesterday stifling yawns, it became increasingly difficult in the second to draw breath. On a cold, sunny afternoon Southampton and Everton went from a state of torpid indifference to one of thrilling purpose and adventure. It was a splendid advertisement for the art of half-time talks. The match was still short of sustained skill but it is easy to forgive that when there is positive intent.

Everton remain unbeaten in nine matches. Southampton could be partly satisfied that after falling behind through sloppiness, they mustered the spirit to equalise, and were denied victory in the final seconds only by a marvellous vintage save by Neville Southall, who had to swiftly readjust his movements.

A veil should be drawn over the initial part of the contest, if only because that will make it easier to forget. Matthew Le Tissier hit the bar with a delicate piece of work in the third minute, but that was the height of his ambition in almost every way. Le Tissier at least looked as sharp and adept as he had in months but it was not difficult to rise above what was around him.

It took some 15 seconds of the second half for the contest to be transformed. Le Tissier threaded a ball through for Mark Walters who did likewise with equal precision for Gordon Watson. The forward was not clinical in his execution but the ball struggled over the line off Southall's spread-eagled body.

Everton responded immediately with delightful verve. They were assisted by some careless defending, but the run by Anders Limpar which led to Graham Stuart's goal and the majestic volley from Barry Horne after he received the ball from Andrei Kanchelskis, all within the space of four minutes, were still thrilling moments. It was Horne's first League goal for two years.

Southampton are nothing if not spirited and they thoroughly deserved their equaliser with 12 minutes left. It was also the best goal of the match. The ball fell to Jim Magilton on the area's edge. He is another midfield player not prolific in his goalscoring but he controlled the ball and then unfolded a volley with his left foot which rose and dipped under the bar.

There could, maybe should, have been more goals but it was outstanding stuff. All that and a revitalised Le Tissier too.