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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Andy Hunter at Goodison Park

James Ward-Prowse leads Southampton comeback at spiralling Everton

James Ward-Prowse celebrates his second goal for Southampton against Everton.
James Ward-Prowse celebrates his second goal for Southampton against Everton. Photograph: Matt Watson/Southampton FC/Getty Images

There is hope for Southampton. For Frank Lampard and Everton – broken, toxic, despairing Everton – there is not even a glimmer. There was mutiny in the stands and monotony on the pitch as a 10th defeat in 13 matches, the latest against a team propping up the Premier League table, continued Everton’s inexorable slide towards the Championship and weakened their manager’s precarious grip on his job.

A few thousand Everton fans stayed behind after the final whistle to demand much-needed and overdue change at boardroom level. None is on the horizon, according to the club’s absent owner, Farhad Moshiri. But relegation is. James Ward-Prowse condemned Everton to a fourth successive home league defeat – the club’s worst run since 1958 – with two polished second-half strikes that delivered the first league win of Nathan Jones’s reign.

Amadou Onana gave Lampard’s team the lead with his first Everton goal but a clueless second-half display, encapsulated by the Anthony Gordon foul that invited Ward-Prowse to settle matters with a trademark free-kick, invited Southampton’s first league win at Goodison Park for 26 years. Lampard’s last game as Chelsea manager came against a Luton Town team managed by Jones. History may repeat itself, regardless of Moshiri’s recent vote of confidence, with Everton recording their lowest points tally at the halfway stage of any Premier League campaign.

Everton fans with a banner in protest to chairman Bill Kenwright and the board.
Everton fans with a banner in protest to chairman Bill Kenwright and the board. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

Everton’s board of directors stayed away on the instructions of their own security advisers. Had any been present they would have seen banners all around the ground telling them to quit. One was even reserved for the chief finance officer, Grant Ingles, although most were aimed at the chairman, Bill Kenwright, and urged Moshiri to address a long-term decline before it’s too late.

It was a different matter in respect of the Everton team. Hundreds of supporters waited on Goodison Road to welcome the team coach while Lampard and his players received a warm ovation before kick off. Considering they had not produced a Premier League win since 22 October, it was an impressive response by the Goodison faithful. Yet again, their backing went unrewarded.

There were more nerves than quality on display in the first half. Everton controlled the possession and tempo while Southampton, seeking to build on Wednesday’s accomplished Carabao Cup defeat of Manchester City, were sharp on the attack. A poor final touch or decision in front of Jordan Pickford’s goal, however, often undermined their confident buildup play.

James Ward-Prowse watches his free-kick curl into the Everton net to give Southampton the lead.
James Ward-Prowse watches his free-kick curl into the Everton net to give Southampton the lead. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

Demarai Gray and Onana were Everton’s only sources of inspiration. The winger won and delivered the corner that briefly lifted some of the Goodison gloom when Onana headed the hosts into a precious lead. The powerful midfielder held off Mohamed Elyounoussi as Gray’s delivery arrived in the middle to steer a thumping header beyond Gavin Bazunu.

Everton were energised but Ward-Prowse served notice of his threat from deep, Lampard-like midfield runs in first-half stoppage time when connecting with Samuel Edozie’s pass. Pickford reacted superbly to tip the Southampton captain’s shot on to a post but the warning was not heeded. Within seconds of the restart, Ward-Prowse had drawn his club level.

Jones switched Kyle Walker-Peters from left midfield to right-back at the interval and was rewarded immediately when the defender’s lofted ball found the head of Che Adams. Ward-Prowse was first to the forward’s flick into the Everton area and cut inside a sliding challenge from Ben Godfrey before rolling a confident finish past Pickford.

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin struck the crossbar with a shot that deflected off Mohammed Salisu and Godfrey was unable to convert at the back post when Bazunu missed an Onana cross. But just when Everton were in the ascendancy, with Lampard throwing Gordon into the fray in search of a winner, they were punished by Ward-Prowse once more. Gordon gave the midfielder a free-kick in a position he craves with a foolish foul on Adams. With a certain inevitability, the midfielder lifted the set-piece up and over the wall and inside Pickford’s right-hand post with the keeper rooted to the spot.

It was Ward-Prowse’s 16th Premier League goal from a free-kick, two shy of David Beckham’s record. “I’m sure he’s going to get there soon,” said a delighted Jones. “He is one of the best technicians I’ve ever seen, world-class, and he’s been outstanding since I came in.” Jones can look forward. Lampard, by contrast, is looking nervously over his shoulder.

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