Well then, Everton managed to come through ‘Nam unscathed. That’s right, Chelter-Nam.
Obviously that would have worked better if they had lost, but it’s a small price to pay for safe passage through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. The whole thing about ‘Nam does remind us though that it would be absolutely fantastic if a former Liverpool yard dog decided to take up another sport like Freddie Flintoff, just for the Sky One documentary about his journey into the nightmarish depths of Frimley Green called Darts of Harkness. Similarly the Liverpool Echo sports desk are reportedly desperate for the day when there’s a mass brawl featuring the team from one of the city’s foremost gay bars, just so they can use the headline ‘UNSPORTING LISBON’.
Anyway, we always say that it seems far more straightforward to play a strong team against lower league opposition and make substitutions once you are in charge rather than encourage them by fielding some sort of wanky scratch side, and it appears that David Moyes has come around to the same way of thinking. The result was a professional performance with only one minor scare.
Bryan Oviedo’s inclusion along with Phil Neville and Marouane Fellaini gave the side the look of the wall of Dennis’s, the old barbers on County Road, and on 12 minutes, after a slow opening, the Costa Rican bundled through a couple of players at the corner of the home side’s penalty area. The ball broke for Fellaini whose curling shot struck the foot of the far post and Nikica Jelavic reacted quickest to turn it home from an awkward angle.
By modern Kopite woodwork-based calculations it should really have counted as 1.5 goals, but seeing as we won there’s no point quibbling this time.
On 19 minutes Scott Brown in the Cheltenham goal made a great save from Baines’s free-kick but from the resultant corner Alan Bennett, whose father knew Lloyd George, conceded a penalty when he was spotted climbing over the back of Fellaini. You could understand why the home side weren’t happy with it given that the Belgian never jumped but Leighton Baines showed no mercy, smashing the spot-kick home hard and low.
That took the wind out of the home side’s sails and for the remainder of the half only the excellent set-piece delivery of Billy Jones posed Everton any sort of threat whatsoever. The Blues for their part looked content to play patiently – Fellaini had the best opportunities to extend the lead with a low shot wide when he should have slipped Anichebe in and then a wayward header following a strong run and decent cross by Seamus Coleman.
Three minutes after the break, with the home defence all over the place, Baines cut the ball back to Leon Osman who almost walked the ball in, side-stepping Bennett and firing low past Brown.
Only two minutes later though, the Everton rearguard looked equally dishevelled when Russell Penn latched onto Kaid Mohamed’s smart pass and beat Tim Howard at his near post.
Jeff Goulding then passed up a decent opportunity with a header in the six yard box as Everton suddenly looked ready to make the game hard work. However, before the home side could get too excited the Blues scored the best goal of the night. Anichebe burst down the right-hand side before clipping a pass inside for Coleman. While running at full pelt the young Irishman controlled the ball brilliantly before lobbing it over the helpless Brown.
Finally, on 89 minutes, the excellent Anichebe turned provider again, this time breaking down the left before picking out Fellaini for a straightforward finish.
Overall it was the sort of performance that you always feel other top Premier League sides take for granted against lower league opposition but that Everton often fail to produce.
Away to either Sunderland or Bolton Wanderers in the next round definitely has a proper, messy ‘book Monday off’ look about it.