Sam Allardyce says Tom Davies’ last-ditch equaliser was reward for Everton’s “never-say-die attitude” against Southampton – but conceded the Toffees “did not play as well as we wanted to” in their clash with Mark Hughes' team.
The visitors’ excellent goalkeeper Alex McCarthy saved acrobatically from Leighton Baines’ stoppage-time free-kick before Davies swept in via a deflection off centre-back Wesley Hoedt with the final kick of the match.
Southampton had led since the 56th minute when forward Nathan Redmond headed home from Cedric Soares’ deep right-wing cross.
Visiting defender Maya Yoshida was dismissed after picking up a second yellow card for upending substitute Oumar Niasse with five minutes remaining.
And Everton made their late pressure count when Idrissa Gana Gueye teed up fellow midfielder Davies to shoot home from the edge of the box.
The Toffees stay eighth in the Premier League table and hold a five-point advantage over Leicester City in ninth after losing only once in eight matches.
“The effort to not give up and never-say-die attitude and determination to keep going right until the end got us to a 1-1 draw,” Allardyce told evertontv.
“Everybody in this league, particularly the guys who will win the league, says it is important that when they do not play well they still do not lose or they nick a win. We did not play well and we nicked a point.
“The players did not play as well as they wanted to for the fans and with their families being here for the last home game of the season after what has been a gigantic push into the top half of the table – and what a fantastic job they have done [to climb to eighth from a position near the foot of the division].”
Allardyce replaced Yannick Bolasie with Ramiro Funes Mori at half-time in order to change Everton’s shape, with the Blues reverting to a three-man backline and pushing Baines and Seamus Coleman into wing-back roles.
And after Redmond had broken the deadlock the manager sent on the impressive Niasse to partner Cenk Tosun in attack.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made a crucial save from Redmond as Southampton sought to hit Everton on the counter – the Blues number one adding to terrific first-half stops from Charlie Austin and Oriol Romeu.
But it was the Toffees making most of the running in the closing stages, with Coleman in particular driving his team forward.
The forceful right-back sent in a succession of crosses and was fouled by Hoedt for the free-kick from which Baines nearly hauled his side level.
Everton finally got themselves on terms when Gana collected Ryan Bertrand’s poor clearance and fed Davies to pull the trigger first time from 20 yards. The Blues have collected 28 points from the past 42 available on their own ground – winning eight and drawing four of their past 14 matches, and losing only to top two Manchester City and Manchester United in that period.
“You get your reward when you hit the target – a little deflection and it is in the net,” said Allardyce. “There was a wonderful save before that from the goalkeeper. I thought Leighton was going to put one of his specials in the top corner, but it was a wonderful, wonderful save.
“Seamus is a super professional in terms of his drive and commitment and always gives his best. Even he admitted he was not at his best but he kept going like everybody else and he drives people on. He is a great example as a professional.
“Changes and substitutions made a difference – I changed the shape twice. From our normal, very successful 4-3-3, we went to a 3-5-2, then switched to a diamond with two up top and we got something out of the match.”