Fonte: Saints can match best

Before the 3-0 win at St Mary???s, Southampton had recorded five successive defeats in all competitions ??? their worst run in 14 years ??? including a dispiriting Capital One Cup exit to third-tier Sheffield United.

However the comprehensive win over Everton, which began with Romelu Lukaku’s first-half own goal, featured a strong strike from Graziano Pelle and an unorthodox shoulder finish from Maya Yoshida.

“It’s massive after the results that we’ve been having,” Saints captain Fonte said.

“Not so much the performances, because I thought that we deserved more in a couple of games, but the fact is we had zero points in four games.

“So, to have a performance like we had, and get the clean sheet ??? three points, three goals – just puts us on the right track to go on a good run again.”

The win had extra importance as it was the first time Southampton had been able to secure at least a point from a team that finished higher than them last season.

Defeats to Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United

only strengthened critics who claimed Saints could not cut it against the top teams and were only flying high due to a kind fixture schedule.

The win against Everton, who finished fifth last season, could therefore mark an important turning point for the club, especially with home matches to come against Chelsea and Arsenal following the Boxing Day trip to Crystal Palace.

“They are great games, again,” said Fonte, who is suspended for the trip to Selhurst Park.

“Once and for all I think we have to prove we can compete against these big teams

“We’ll prepare ourselves first for Crystal Palace – that’s the most important – and then we’ll think about the others, but we want to prove we’re at the same level.”