Much of this week has been spent with the attention of English football centred on the two cup competitions. The participants in the Capital One Cup final have been decided while the Fourth Round of the FA Cup takes place this weekend with Everton travelling to Bolton Wanderers.
The presence of Swansea City and Bradford City in the League Cup final underlines the opportunity Everton missed when they were knocked out of the competition by Leeds United in the third round. It was one of Everton’s poorest performances of the season – although surpassed by the first-half at Southampton on Monday – and the Championship side fully deserved to progress.
Once again a cup competition had come and gone with Everton unable to make an impact. In nearly 11 years under Moyes Everton have reached the semi-finals of the League Cup, a competition they have never won, only once, in 2008, when Chelsea won over two legs.
Chelsea have been a regular feature of Everton’s League Cup disappointments, knocking out Everton in 2002, Moyes’ first full season in charge, and again in 2007 and 2011. The 2008 semi-final was the only time Everton have gotten past the fourth round under the current manager.
That record includes defeats by the likes of Middlesbrough, Blackburn Rovers and, on penalties, Brentford, although also sees more credible losses to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. But that Swansea and Bradford will contest this year’s final no doubt sticks in Moyes’ craw, offering proof that the tournament is one Everton have the capability to do far better in.
Everton’s FA Cup record under Moyes is a little healthier. A final appearance against Chelsea in 2009 and a semi-final against Liverpool in 2012 may be scant return, but for a club that has not won a trophy since 1995 each Wembley appearance is at least a step in the right direction.
While the 2009 cup run eventually ended in disappointment as Chelsea strolled to victory despite Louis Saha’s lightning-fast opening goal, it did provide one of the most memorable days in Everton’s recent history.
The semi-final penalty shootout win over Manchester United lives long in the memory for anyone in the Everton end of the stadium – the noise, the tension, the explosion when Phil Jagielka converted the decisive kick. Only the FA Cup can provide that sort of experience, and it is one Evertonians will be eager to repeat this season.
To do so, Everton will have to get past Championship Bolton. Moyes took the previous round, against Cheltenham Town, with the utmost seriousness, naming a very strong side containing almost all of his first choice players. Chances are he will do likewise for this fixture, although the poor showing in the first-half at Southampton may spur changes to the starting XI.
Nikica Jelavic in particular must have his place under threat after the lively cameo from Victor Anichebe, but a winning cup goal from the out-of-sorts Croatian would turn his form around and keep Everton’s trophy hope alive.
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