A late, late deflected shot from Tom Davies earned Everton a point and broke the hearts of Southampton who had battled hard and thought they’d got the victory they probably deserved.
Everton completed their home schedule of the 17/18 season exactly ninety years to the day that the great William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean leapt like a salmon to head home a cross from Alec Troup and in so doing, set a one season scoring record of sixty goals that will never be beaten. God bless you Dixie, you’ve given us something to celebrate today.
With manager Sam Allardyce suggesting that he feels he’s winning over the hearts and minds of Evertonians (?), he needed a win to keep the Blues favourites to finish eighth ahead of Leicester. Facing a Southampton side still desperate for points if they’re to survive the dreaded drop, Allardyce selected the same starting eleven that began the win at Huddersfield: Pickford, Baines, Keane, Jagielka (c), Coleman, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Davies, Bolasie, Vlasic and H Tosun.
For the visitors, grey haired Mark Hughes – desperate to avoid being the manager of two relegated clubs in one season – was hoping for the kind of form that saw his side prevail over Bournemouth in last weeks asking coast Derby. With the Saints winless at Goodison since November 1997, Hughes had a decision to make over whether to return Sofiane Boufal to his squad. He eventually lined his side up: McCarthy, Bednarek, Yoshida, Hoedt, Soares, Romeu, Lemina, Bertrand (c), Tadic, Austin and Hojbjerg.
Our referee on a gloriously sunny afternoon was the not quite as portly as on previous visits, Jonathon Moss.
Everton were first on the attack with Davies collecting a pass to turn and fire a 20-yard effort across the face of goal and wide. Southampton countered with Bertrand crossing from the left but too long for Soares arriving at the back post.
A patient build-up in the ninth minute led to Vlasic crossing from the right but while Bolasie got the header it, there was no power or direction to trouble McCarthy in the Saints goal.
A right wing cross from Coleman on twelve minutes saw Tosun climb to win the header that beat McCarthy and the crossbar.
The best chance of the half though fell to the visitors on 19 minutes as a ball in from the right bounced awkwardly past Keane and Austin crashed in a first time volley from the edge of the box that Pickford turned aside in acrobatic fashion.
Pickford again came with the goods as Romeu chanced a long range shot that had the England goalie diving to his right this time. Everton were in need of tightening up as the visitors, in need of a win, were beginning to grow in confidence.
The remainder of the half though was largely a non event with only Austin being yellow carded just before the break for pulling down Seamus Coleman.
Half Time: 0-0
Biggest cheer of the afternoon so far went to Speedo Mick who, after presenting a cheque for £9217.00, raced away to take ball and score into the Gwladys Street goal followed by dive and cartwheel celebrations.
Sam Allardyce reacted to a poor first half from Yannick Bolasie by replacing him with Ramiro Funes Mori at the start of the second session. The intent being to play a back three and push both Baines and Coleman into more forward attacking roles.
Southampton too made an half time change, Redmond replacing the injured Lemina.
Romeu saw yellow for a foul on Tosun as he looked to run at the heart of the Saints defence before the visitors earned the first corner of the game, that was easily cleared.
But the visitors took the lead ninety seconds later as Soares got away down the right and fired a deep cross to the back post for Redmond to head home.
Oumar Niasse replaced Vlasic on 57 minutes and his energy immediately had an effect as the Blues won two quick corners.
Niasse was again at the heart of things on 65 minutes as Baines threw a long cross from the left that Niasse controlled and tried to find Tosun but the Turkish forward couldn’t reach it.
Ward-Prowse replaced Tadic on 69 minutes before Yoshida was rightly booked for a foul on RFM. Shane Long then came on for Austin and Schneiderlin was booked.
Davy Klaassen appeared on 78 minutes at the expense of Jagielka in a last throw of the substitution dice.
But it was the visitors still looking more likely to score as Long sent Redmond away only to see his shot rise and clear the bar.
On 84 minutes Ward-Prowse bent a free kick around the wall to rest Pickford and from his clearance, Yoshida saw yellow and red for an agricultural challenge on Niasse.
Redmond then went on a mazy run that saw him beat Keane twice before seeing his shot beaten away by Pickford.
Into four minutes of added on time and Baines saw a long range free kick aiming for the top corner tipped away by McCarthy.
And with the seconds ticking down, the ball fell nicely to Tom Davies and his shot took a deflection to nestle into the Gwladys Street net for that oh so late equaliser.
Despite the relief of the result, the final whistle was greeted by a chorus of boos from the home support, and some chants of ‘Go away Sam Allardyce’ but in rather more earthen terms.
Full Time: 1-1
Following the game, the annual ‘lap of appreciation’ went ahead as normal, but by the time the players returned to the pitch, huge swathes of the full house at kick off crowd had left the ground, in fact, probably less than a third remained behind.
It was very noticeable however that Sam Allardyce did not appear to join the players who did get a warm round of applause.