When you write these match reports they start to form in your head as the game nears the end.
Deep into injury time at Boundary Park the tone of this one was going to be about Everton showing a certain degree of Premier League professionalism, especially in the second half, against a ‘spirited’ Oldham side who gave the sort of performance that attracts the cameras and gives the FA Cup its lustre.
However, with Paddy McGuinness already halfway down the ‘love lift’, the massive Matt Smith headed home a corner, amid a crowd that looked like they were trying to get on the last chopper out of Saigon, and forced a replay.
In those circumstances you either go back and re-evaluate your whole opinion of the preceding 94 minutes or you kind of accept that maybe that’s just the way things go sometimes and look forward to getting them back to Goodison Park.
Mindful of what the Latics did to Liverpool in the previous round, David Moyes played something approaching his strongest side, with Victor Anichebe partnering Nikica Jelavic up front and Kevin Mirallas on the bench. However, that didn’t stop the home side taking the lead on 12 minutes. Lee Croft – who looks uncannily like the owl the Oldham badge – out-muscled Leon Osman, broke down the right and crossed low for Jordan Obita to tap in at the far post. There was some question over whether he stayed onside but if Darron Gibson had shown a little more awareness he could have stepped up and left the linesman in no doubt whatsoever.
Midway through the half though, Anichebe repaid Moyes’s faith in him when he outfought Jean-Yves M’voto for Jelavic’s header and absolutely twatted a volley past the exposed Dean Bouzanis.
Only moments later though Obita almost re-established Oldham’s lead with a low shot that beat Howard ‘all ends up’ – whatever that means – but struck the inside of the post.
The sides went in level at the break then and to Moyes’s credit he made the changes that for most of the second period gave Everton the advantage. Anichebe may have felt hard done to, making way for Mirallas after scoring, but the Belgian’s introduction definitely made the Blues look more threatening. That was partly down to his own play but also because of how it altered the shape of the rest of the midfield.
Marouane Fellaini apparently insists that he is a central midfielder and not a centre-forward but every time he gets an opportunity to prove it he fails to convince. He’s not as consistent or disciplined as Darron Gibson in terms of playing the ‘deep-lying’ position and he doesn’t have Leon Osman’s creativity. That’s why he got pushed up into the ‘Tim Cahill role’ in the first place. As the attacking midfielder/withdrawn striker he can get away with playing in spurts and he can use his physical attributes to their full effect. That’s what he was doing earlier in the season when he was ‘beasting’, ‘monstering’ and even ‘stairwell nonce bashing’ even the top sides and people were talking about him as a £30 million player. When everyone’s fit it should be a straight choice between him and Anichebe to play alongside Jelavic.
The Croatian is struggling to score but he is still working his plums off for the team – in which case if he’s fit he should start. Form and class, etc.
Only two minutes after his introduction Mirallas took an ace corner from the left that Phil Jagielka, despite being mauled, couldn’t help but glance home.
For most of the remainder of the game then Everton looked to have too much for the home side but, as is so often the case, the lack of a certain something in the final third of the pitch meant that Oldham remained in with a sniff. In the last 10 minutes they began to take some risks, lashing the ball forward towards substitute Smith, but it seemed as if Everton, who you couldn’t criticise for lack of effort, were going to stand firm, especially when Howard produced a couple of top class saves.
However, it wasn’t to be and Oldham earned the replay that even Moyes said they deserved. It’s hard to begrudge them it really – although that goodwill is obviously contingent on us wellying them from pillar to post at Goodison.
Given that the updating of this here portion of the internet has become a bit sporadic lately, this is probably as good a time and place as any to mention Moyes and the on-going situation regarding his contract.
As everyone knows, his present deal expires in the summer and he is refusing to say whether he will agree to a new one until then. He says it’s because he doesn’t want it to distract from the push for Europe and the Cup, but that is clearly bollocks – the present uncertainty is far more unsettling. The idea has been put out there that he is waiting to see if we qualify for the Champions League as well, but again that seems fanciful. What difference would that make?
What seems the most likely is that he wants to see if he gets a better offer, which he is perfectly entitled to do. Despite what a lot of people would have you believe though, there are actually few posts out there that are better than Everton. Everyone obsesses over the handful of mega-rich behemoths and that blinds them to the situation at the vast majority of clubs in Britain. Moyes gets very well paid at Everton and has a board who, for all their faults, he has a great working relationship with.
However, the Chelsea and Manchester City managerial roles look like they could become vacant this summer and Moyes must feel there’s a good chance that he will get ‘his turn’, almost by default. In fact, he must have been delighted when Pep Guardiola chose Bayern Munich but his arse must go every time José Mourinho makes an enigmatic hint about returning to the Premier League.
Moyes has been magnificent for Everton, that’s a stone cold fact. You can point out his flaws – because he has them – but overall the job he has done given the financial handicaps he has in comparison to the clubs he is expected to compete with is almost unparallelled.
However, his biggest attribute, so we are constantly told, is his single-mindedness and his drive. If he fails to land a job with a massively wealthy club this summer then, will that fire still burn when he ‘settles’ for another four or five years with Everton?
Or, and this isn’t an easy thing to contemplate for anyone who genuinely admires Moyes, is 10 years simply enough?