Charlie Austin’s second-half double, on his return to the Southampton starting line-up, helped to earn his side a 4-1 Premier League win over Everton, whose misery continued on Sunday.
Southampton took the lead at St Mary’s in the 18th minute after Dusan Tadic finished off a fine team move but, just before the break, Everton levelled when Iceland’s Gylfi Sigurdsson got his first league goal for the club.
The goal did little to settle a nervous-looking Everton and they were soon behind again as Austin, making his first league start of the season, headed home in the 52nd minute before getting on the end of a left-wing cross to make it 3-1 six minutes later.
Captain Steven Davis fired home a late fourth as Southampton strolled to just their fifth home win of 2017 to move them up to 10th in the Premier League table, while 16th-placed Everton’s woes continue and David Unsworth’s chances of getting the manager’s job on a permanent basis were dealt another big blow.
Southampton pressed early and Austin, one of three changes to the side from last weekend’s 3-0 defeat by Liverpool, almost got on the end of a James Ward-Prowse free kick in the fifth minute.
A much-changed Everton side struggled to handle Austin, who was then denied by the foot of the post but, soon enough, Saints took the lead through Tadic, after he raced on to a fine Ryan Bertrand pass before finishing well.
Against the run of play, however, Sigurdsson thundered in a strike from 25 metres, via the underside of the crossbar twice, to level.
Southampton restored their lead just after the break as Austin pounced. The cross from Bertrand was perfect but Austin still had plenty to work to do, glancing his header expertly past Jordan Pickford.
“The best thing for me was that when they equalised we did not rush,” Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino said.
Then, in an almost carbon copy of his first goal, Austin headed home another cross, this time from Tadic.
“The second and third goals were really poor,” Unsworth said. “Teams are not having to work hard to score against us.”
Davis’s brilliant strike in the 87th minute provided further proof of the difficult task that awaits Everton’s next permanent manager to replace Ronald Koeman, who was sacked last month.
Reporting by Pete Hall; Editing by Clare Fallon