A late John Heitinga goal booked Everton’s place in the next round of the FA Cup as David Moyes’ side saw of Bolton Wanderers, setting up a meeting with the conquerors of Liverpool, Oldham Athletic, who five years ago knocked Everton out of the same competition at Goodison Park.
It was the third round then, when a long-range Gary McDonald effort caught goalkeeper Stefan Wessels off his line just before half-time, and with Everton unable to overturn the deficit a humiliating exit from the competition was the outcome for the five-time winners.
There are a number of players left over at Everton from that match. The starting XI contained Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar, while Victor Anichebe came on as a substitute just after the hour mark, while Alan Stubbs, now reserve team manager, was Jagielka’s defensive partner.
The list of disappointing cup results under Moyes is sadly long and the loss to the Latics is up at the top, arguably only surpassed by Moyes’ first FA Cup experience with Everton, the loss to Shrewsbury Town. There has already been one addition this season, the defeat to Leeds United in the Capital One Cup, and Everton will have to be on their mettle to avoid Liverpool’s fate at Boundary Park.
Last season’s trip to the semi-final was another tantalising taste of Wembley that ultimately ended in disappointment, leaving the Toffees one for three on trips to the national stadium since they won the trophy in 1995. Liverpool’s elimination at least means the double pain of losing a showpiece match to their local rivals will not befall Everton this year.
There is though a long way to go before Everton have a semi-final to contend with. They were very nearly taken to a replay by Bolton, with both the manager and Phil Neville admitting Everton were someway short of their best.
That has been a theme of Everton’s recent matches, perhaps a slight mid-season slump in the last three matches, but despite that dip Everton have not lost since Chelsea just after Christmas. Indeed, avoiding defeat at home to West Bromwich Albion in midweek will ensure Everton go the whole month of January unbeaten.
Goals had dried up in their last two fixtures but returned at the Reebok Stadium, although not for Nikica Jelavic, but progression to the next round was the most important outcome to take from Bolton. The Croatian’s problem can wait, but not forever, as the recurrence of Kevin Mirallas’ injury underscores just how thin Moyes’ attacking options are.
With the transfer window coming to a close next week it looks increasingly unlikely that, bar any late, late moves, Moyes will stick with what he has until the end of the season. This current group will have to learn from Liverpool’s mistakes against Oldham, and keep their minds on the Premier League too. Everton were sixth last time they met Oldham, so the league placing is similar, but they best be wary of a repeat result.
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