Goodison Park, Saturday, 15.00
James Ward-Prowse scoring both Saints goals, including one of the best free kicks you are ever likely to see
|What a difference week makes, although it is way too early to get excited, we are still bottom of the Premier League, albeit only on goal difference now. Love him, or loathe him, Nathan Jones is beginning to mould this team into, well, into a team.
We were all still recovering from the shock of beating Manchester City 2-0 in the League Cup quarter final and here we were just three days later back to business of survival in the league and a match at a ground which has never been a happy hunting ground for Saints, having not won there for nearly 25 years.
Finding a formation that worked, Jones clearly decided to stick with it for this match, although there were three changes. Elyounoussi came in for Djenepo, Adams for Mara and Edozie for Adam Armstrong. The only other notable selection was Saints new signing, the Argentinian youngster Alcaraz, was on the bench.
The situation at Everton is dire, threats made to the directors led to them missing the match altogether and you felt that if Saints scored early on then things could get very nasty very quickly.
|There was a huge amount riding on this game for both clubs and you could feel the tension in the air as the players took to the field.
It was not a pretty sight to begin with and it took 20 minutes before Gray was narrowly off target in their first meaningful attack on Saints goal. This was followed up by a good build up when Edozie played it across the goal and it was helped on by Ward-Prowse to Elyounoussi, whose on target shot was deflected wide for a corner. Good work and already it was clear that JWP was causing all sorts of problems for the home defenders.
Ward-Prowse then took the resulting corner, which Salisu got up to direct a thumping header directly at Pickford, who just palmed it away. The chances were coming, but the game itself was slow and tense.
The half ticked away and neither side seemed able to get the upper hand. Still 0-0 and could we hang on to half time?
With just over five minutes of normal time left to the break the answer came. Everton won a corner, Gary took it and floated the ball right into the centre of the penalty area, where Onana lost Elyounoussi and planted a downward header beyond the diving Bazunu. 1-0 and the home crowd went wild.
There was still time before the break for Everton to fashion another chance, which went just wide of the far post and then came a glorious chance for Saints to equalise when Edozie found Ward-Prowse, whose first time shot was pushed onto the post by Pickford and a following defender kicked the loose ball away. Close....
Halftime came and although 1-0 down, Saints were creating plenty of chances. Reasons to be cheerful. Maybe.
No changes at the start of the second half, although Jo Tessem on Solent just had time to tell us that Saints had changed formation, when Walker-Peters hit a long ball forward to Ché Adams. He headed down to James Ward-Prowse and the captain just danced through several defenders to hit a sublime shot beyond Pickford to make it 1-1. The equaliser arriving just one minute into the second half.
The mood in the stadium seemed to change in a flash and although Gray managed to hit the ball from distance straight at Bazunu, the rapid Saints equaliser had clearly knocked the stuffing out of them.
Time ticked by and gradually Everton started to get back into the game. Diallo lost the ball on halfway and quick as a flash it was up to Calvert-Lewin on the edge of the area, who turned a hit a powerful shot which crashed against the crossbar and down, where a grateful Bazunu fell on it.
Jones reacted quickly, with a double substitution. Off came Edozie, to be replaced by Adam Armstrong and Lavia was replaced by new Saints signing, young Argentinian, Carlos Alcaraz.
While we were digesting that, Ward-Prowse had a 35 yard shot saved by Pickford. This seemed match seemed to be turning into the Ward-Prowse v Pickford show.
Then came a bit of a scare for Saints, when Everton came forward once again. Bazunu came for a cross, but badly misjudged it and how it wasn't put in by one of the forwards I just don't know.
Saints then broke quickly, started by Adams from way back on the left. He slotted a pass through to Walker-Peters on the right and Everton were rapidly back-pedalling. His initial cross into the area intended for the unmarked Adam Armstrong, was headed out by a defender and who should come rushing in to collect it? None other than Ché Adams, but just as he was about to strike the ball he was clattered from behind by Gordon. This happened absolutely right in front of the referee, who immediately gave a free kick. JWP territory everyone thought as one.
There was then a wonderful little pantomime as Pickford was trying to line up the wall. Alcaraz went between the wall and Pickford and every time Pickford moved to see where Ward-Prowse was, Alcaraz moved as well, making sure he was in the keeper's line of sight. I like this lad already!
So, Ward-Prowse went through his normal build up and stepped up sending the ball high into the top left corner of the net, with Pickford rooted to the spot on the right. He didn't move an inch. Wonderful, wonderful free kick. With a little help from Alcaraz. 1-2 Saints led with about ten minutes of normal time left.
Jones reacted quickly again, this time a triple change with Adams replaced by Mara, Diallo by Maitland-Niles and Elyounoussi by Perraud.
There was still time for a last ditch attempt from Everton, but a combination of luck and a goal-line clearance from Alcaraz ensured that Saints ran out the winners.
The final whistle was greeted with cheers from the Saints fans and resounding boos from the home fans. Nathan Jones and the rest of the team and coaching staff celebrated with the away fans, while Frank Lampard trudged off looking a broken man. How long he has in the hot seat at Goodison remains to be seen. But the day was all about Jones and the transformation in his fortunes, after an abysmal start to his his Saints career.
|On a day when all in red and white were outstanding, there were just two candidates for the MoM in my mind. First was the manager, Nathan Jones who once again got all the major calls right. Furthermore he is beginning to turn the team into something more than just relegation fodder, although still bottom of the Premier League, there is only two points between Saints and Leeds in 14th place.
But I digress, the second candidate is only one person who stood head and shoulders above the rest of the team on the pitch: 'Captain Fantastic', James Ward-Prowse, my Man of the Match. He was everywhere, scored two, could have had a third. Simply amazing.
First Premier League win for Nathan Jones, but the third win in a row in all competitions