Southampton show there’s life after Nigel Adkins

Mauricio Pochettino on Tueday takes his new Southampton players off to his old stamping ground of the Olympic Stadium, Barcelona, for some training in slightly warmer climes.

They will travel buoyed by this point and a strong performance, especially in the first half when Rickie Lambert could have guaranteed ownership of the match-ball.

Out of the FA Cup, Southampton do not play next until Jan 30 at Manchester United, and are expected to stay north for the Feb 2 game at Wigan Athletic. The extended time on the road will help Pochettino get to know his players better but they certainly performed for him here.

Southampton fans sang the name of the dismissed Nigel Adkins loudly on three occasions, before kick-off, 10 minutes into the second half and then at the final whistle. As protests go, it was hardly from the Emmeline Pankhurst school.

There was little dissent shown towards the clubÔÇÖs executive chairman, Nicola Cortese, for the sacking of Adkins. The club, though, showed a lack of class by failing even to mention, let alone thank, the manager who brought them back-to-back promotions in the programme.

EvertonÔÇÖs support was impressive; 2,483 had braved the cold, the distance and the annoyance of a rescheduled fixture. They were poorly rewarded by the team, who gave one of their worst displays of the season in the first half and perked up really only when Victor Anichebe came on followed by Kevin Mirallas. Nikica Jelavic is struggling for goals, missing a great chance here, but David MoyesÔÇÖ belief in the Croatian remains total.

Southampton deserve praise for the way they nullified EvertonÔÇÖs usual threat. Jack Cork was diligence personified in midfield, anchoring alongside the excellent Morgan Schneiderlin in PochettinoÔÇÖs 4-2-3-1 system. There were good performances all round, not least from the captain.

Lambert received a few words from Pochettino before kick-off, and responded hungrily. He kept troubling EvertonÔÇÖs defence, kept going close. Lambert is responsible for his own development over the past couple of seasons but Adkins played his part. SouthamptonÔÇÖs NoÔÇë7 was also ably assisted by a three-strong supporting cast of Puncheon, Gast├│n Ram├¡rez and the left-sided Guly Do Prado. Ram├¡rez, operating in the hole but with a licence to roam, was outstanding in that encouraging opening for Pochettino. Southampton had started so brightly, sweeping the ball swiftly to feet, pressing hard in an attempt to win the ball back quickly. Cork and Schneiderlin gave EvertonÔÇÖs subdued midfield no respite in the opening 45 minutes.

SouthamptonÔÇÖs excellence should have been reflected by the scoreboard after four minutes. Ram├¡rez stroked the ball right to Lambert, who drilled it low and hard into the box. A sliding Phil Jagielka intercepted, managing to divert it just past the post for a corner. Then Nathaniel Clyne teed up Puncheon who failed to beat goalkeeper Tim Howard.

PochettinoÔÇÖs commitment to the pressing, attacking style of Marcelo Bielsa was soon seen. The full-backs, particularly Clyne, joined the attack and Marouane Fellaini almost exploited space vacated by the right-back. The pressing was relentless. Do Prado clattered Jagielka, who did him a favour by jumping back up swiftly. Ram├¡rez received a huge cheer for closing down Sylvain Distin, whose Portsmouth connections have not been forgotten here.

Southampton kept going close. Ram├¡rez had a shot saved by Howard. Lambert powered a free-kick on to a post. SouthamptonÔÇÖs captain then turned Leighton Baines, and was denied only by a smart stop by Howard.

Everton had a few first-half moments of hope, Steven Naismith testing Artur Boruc.

Back came Southampton. Ramírez curled over a free-kick from the right and Distin was lucky to escape sanction after placing both hands on Maya Yoshida, who tumbled to the cold tundra. Ramírez then charged down the inside-right, shooting right-footed but Howard was equal to the task.

EvertonÔÇÖs goal was leading a charmed life. LambertÔÇÖs header was cleared off the line by Nikica Jelavic. The loose ball was met by Jos Hooiveld but Howard saved. Lambert then headed wide, squandering the type of chance he usually takes.

Whatever language Pochettino used at the break, there were doubtless some blunt words from David Moyes in the away dressing-room. Everton emerged looking far more in the mood. Seamus Coleman clipped in a cross from the right that Fellaini controlled on his chest and fired goalwards. Boruc saved and then denied the Belgian again a minute later, catching his header.

As the Southampton fans broke into their loudest chant of ÔÇ£one Nigel AdkinsÔÇØ, Victor Anichebe came on for the hobbling Coleman and Phil Neville went to right-back.

Everton were far more of a force. Leon Osman, so disappointing in the first half, was markedly improved, firing in a shot that clipped YoshidaÔÇÖs head and diverted for a corner. Jelavic then missed that wonderful opportunity, the cross from Anichebe sticking under his feet.

Anichebe was imposing himself, running on to a pass from Fellaini and bringing a superb save from Boruc. Moyes had just removed Jelavic, who has been struggling for goals recently, and sent on Mirallas.

With Puncheon returning from his emergency pit-stop, Southampton found a second wind. With eight minutes remaining, Puncheon curled over a corner from the left and Lambert, rising above Distin at the far-post, headed just over. Puncheon darted through but Jagielka read the danger well. There was time for one more chant about Adkins but Pochettino is up and running.

by @prolixir.