Southampton end run in style

The home side were not at their fluent best but picked up their first league points since November 24 courtesy of a Romelu Lukaku own goal, Graziano Pelle’s 12th of the season and a Maya??Yoshida header.

The win keeps Southampton fifth while Roberto Martinez’s inconsistent side remain 10th after an insipid display that rarely tested Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

Everton began well, perhaps seeking to exploit any home nerves following their poor run of form, but failed to fashion a chance while on top ??? Jose Fonte’s brilliant challenge denying Steven Naismith a clear shot at goal.

And as Saints slowly warmed to their task, Sylvain Distin was lucky to avoid a booking ??? or even conceding a foul ??? for seemingly hauling down Shane Long on the break, while Pelle headed Nathaniel Clyne’s cross over from 10 yards to serve warning of the home side’s growing confidence.??

Pelle did have the ball in the back of the net midway through the half ??? the referee’s whistle cutting short any celebrations after a foul in the build up ??? and the home fans were then screaming for a penalty when Long beat Phil Jagielka to a high ball and then tumbled under the England defender’s clumsy challenge.??

Justice was served from the resulting corner though as James Ward-Prowse’s inswinger was knocked into his own net from close range by Lukaku to continue a run of three consecutive own goals by Everton at St Mary’s.

And it might have been two a couple of minutes later as Long and Ryan Bertrand combined well down the left, but Pelle could only poke the resulting cross the wrong side of the post.

Clyne’s cross then fell just behind the on-rushing Ward-Prowse as Saints ended the half in the ascendancy.

Everton’s response after the break was to up their intensity, but they could find no way through a resilient Southampton defence superbly marshalled by Fonte ??? resorting to long-range potshots that rarely beat the first man.

At the other end, Southampton were happy to be a threat on the break and Distin was at full stretch to cut out Bertrand’s cross before Pelle grabbed the home side’s second in the 65th minute.

With little room to manouevre, Clyne did brilliantly to dig out a cross from the right and Long’s knock-down fell to the Italian, who poked past Tim Howard from eight yards.??

Fonte then met another immaculate Ward-Prowse delivery with a stooping header that Howard did well to parry away in a crowded area, before Forster was finally forced into meaningful action with a full-stretch save to tip over Lukaku’s 25-yard drive.

But any hope of an Everton revival was ended eight minutes from time as Sean Davis’ impudent cross with the outside of his boot was met by Yoshida, who ghosted between the two centre-halves to head home and complete the win.

Soccer Saturday verdict – Charlie Nicholas

???Southampton were back to their old selves today. I???d say 3-0 maybe flatters them a little touch because Everton were in the game for long periods without really troubling Fraser Forster too often. It was down to really good defending today. The shape was much better. Fonte was a different class and was a proper leader today; strong and decisive in his decision making.”??

Player Ratings:??

Southampton: Forster (7), Clyne (8), Fonte (8), Alderweireld (8), Yoshida (8), Bertrand (8), Reed (7), Davis (7), Ward-Prowse (9), Long (8), Pelle (8)

Subs used: Targett (7), Gape (6)

Everton: Howard (7), Coleman (6), Jagielka (6), Distin (6), Baines (5), Barry (7), Besic (6), Barkley (7), Steven Naismith (6), Samuel Eto???o (5), Romelu Lukaku (6)

Man of the Match: James Ward-Prowse