Enner Valencia strike sets Everton on way to Southampton victory
On-loan striker Enner Valencia may have given Everton manager Ronald Koeman one less thing to think about in the January transfer window after his game-changing substitute appearance in the 3-0 victory over Southampton.
The Ecuador international came off the bench to enliven a dreary occasion, scoring the 73rd-minute opener and winning the late penalty which allowed Leighton Baines to double their lead before Romelu Lukaku gave the scoreline a flattering appearance.
That late show papered over some of the cracks which were evident in the preceding three-quarters of a game which seemed to be meandering towards a dull draw until Valencia's introduction.
Koeman made four changes, Saints boss Claude Puel six, and that disruption was not helped by enforced substitutions in the opening 12 minutes.
Southampton right-back Cedric Soares departed with a head injury after colliding with the advertising boards while 19-year-old Dominic Calvert-Lewin, making his first Everton start, went off with an ankle problem.
Despite the Toffees having an extra day's rest they looked lethargic, struggled to string more than a couple of passes together, their control was poor and they lacked any invention going forward.
Considering Koeman's limited options on the bench, having already used Kevin Mirallas and with former Barcelona youth team forward Gerard Deulofeu's days looking numbered after being omitted from the squad for the second successive match, his desire to add both quality and numbers now the transfer window is open is obvious.
With defensive midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye, arguably their best player this season, now joining up with Senegal for the African Nations Cup there is even greater need for reinforcements.
The performance should, at the very least, strengthen Koeman's case for the need for new blood with majority shareholder and billionaire Farhad Moshiri, who was present to see the shortcomings first-hand.
Southampton were not much better in the early stages but improved slightly towards the end of a half which saw Fraser Forster make two saves from Ross Barkley and Lukaku, and Jay Rodriguez, who did actually put the ball in the net - with his arm although it was ruled out for offside - seeing his cross-shot deflect off Ashley Williams, forcing Joel Robles to claw the ball away.
Rodriguez, who easily turned Tom Davies and beat Williams, and substitute Mirallas then both wasted good chances just before half-time with Nathan Redmond also heading wide.
The introduction of Valencia, Koeman's only other attacking option off the bench, on the hour injected some life into proceedings and produced the breakthrough, although Lukaku took most of the credit.
Forster did well to stop the Belgium international's powerful close-range header but the striker deflected the rebound to his team-mate who scrambled home.
Baines made it seven points from nine over the Christmas period from the spot after Valencia was fouled by Maya Yoshida and Lukaku's second in three games added gloss to the display.
A third successive defeat made it a miserable festive period for Southampton, however.