Everton boss Frank Lampard insists responsibility for another season battling relegation falls on his shoulders but vowed to stay at Goodison to fight his way to safety. On a day marked with protests. the beleaguered Toffees boss saw his side undone for the second straight home game by the club sitting bottom of the Premier League.
Just under three weeks after Wolves smash and grabbed their way to a 2-1 win, Southampton capped a fine week registering victory by the same scoreline, James Ward-Prowse with both goals. Lampard insisted he remains focused on the job in hand despite the “off-field noise”.
That’s after fans at the final whistle called for regime change, starting with the board but not excluding either players or management. He said: “I’m completely focused on what we’re doing on the pitch. The off-field noise is there but the things we can control as staff and players is on the pitch – and today we got beaten,” he said.
“There is so much passion at this club, everyone wants the best for the club. Of course, over the years we’ve come in a direction where we were in a relegation battle last year and again this year. We know that’s not enough and I’ll be the first to take responsibility for that.”
“It is clear in football sometimes it (losing) can become contagious. We know we are in that spot. I can only focus on me and the players. It sounds a simple answer but the answer is more work. We haven’t won enough games and we have to lift ourselves.
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“We are in a tough moment and everything can feel tough. I remain confident in myself. I know I’m not the best coach in the world but what I do know is that I work as hard as I can to be as good as I can be.” It could have worked in Lampard’s favour that the board had been advised to stay away from a toxic Goodison following what the club described as credible threats to their safety.
If that keeps him safe for the time being it seems only a matter of timefor the axe to fall unless he can effect a serious and lasting change. Next up are West Ham in London next Saturday and with them level on points with Southampton and Lampard’s side, defeat there could bring the curtain down.
At any other time the visit of bottom club Southampton might have been welcomed. But for a club experiencing the sort of convulsions and panic Everton are there seems no fixture they cannot turn into a toxic pill.
Lampard used his programme notes to call for calm, hard work and unity. Admirable sentiments but the reality is that this Everton crowd is never more than a mistake away from turning. Everton did their best to provide relief taking the lead six minutes from the end of a tense first half, Amadou Onana heading his first goal for the club from Demarai Gray’s corner.
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But it was too prove a fragile lead indeed. Just 48 seconds after the break it was ripped from their grasp. The move was simplicity itself, Kyle Walker-Peters firing a hopeful ball from the halfway line on the right, Che Adams nodding the ball into Ward-Prowse’s path and the Saints skipper stepping inside Ben Godfrey’s lunge and slotting home.
Ward-Prowse was at the heart of everything positive for Saints. He had forced Pickford to tip a shot on to his post at the end of the first half and was again denied by the England keeper in the second. Everton fought hard to reestablish their lead and went close when Calvert Lewin firing a shot, partially blocked by Lyanco, which looped over the goalkeeper and rebounded off the underside of the bar.
But with the game becoming stretched it was Southampton who edged it. Lampard deserved credit for attempting to win the game but his decision to throw on Anthony Gordon for Seamus Coleman backfired spectacularly.
The one thing Gordon was not on for was to give Saints a lifeline but tracking back he clumsily barged into Adams 25 yards out to give away a free-kick. There was an inevitability about the outcome when Ward-Prowse stood over the dead ball. Moments later, with Pickford rooted, the Southampton captain fired over the wall into the open left side of the net.