THROUGHOUT his Everton career, David Moyes has had to withstand accusations of being overly cautious.
However, the Goodison faithful will have had no qualms with the manager’s careful approach last night as their side comfortably sidestepped a potential FA Cup banana skin.
On the evening Moyes took no chances, Everton made the most of theirs to earn a comprehensive victory at League Two promotion hopefuls Cheltenham Town in their third round tie.
A surprisingly strong line-up ensured there would be no repeat of the horrors of Shrewsbury Town that, even 10 years on, remains the lowest point of Moyes’s Goodison tenure.
Lessons were learned from the Capital One Cup defeat at Leeds United in September, when a makeshift side succumbed to lower-league opposition.
Cheltenham’s preparations had been affected by thieves who broke into the club’s training ground on Sunday morning, stealing wallets, watches and mobile phones worth thousands of pounds.
But there was no robbery here. The teams were separated by 67 places in the league ladder and it showed, Cheltenham not at the races as Everton produced a clinically professional display.
It hasn’t always been the case under Moyes. But this is a different Everton this season, one determined to gain tangible reward for their consistently impressive form.
Nikica Jelavic’s seventh goal of the season and a penalty from in-form Leighton Baines inside the opening quarter wrested a grip strengthened by Leon Osman furthering the advantage shortly after the break.
And although Russell Penn’s clever finish gave Cheltenham cheer, Seamus Coleman put a lid on proceedings with the best goal of an entertaining night before Marouane Fellaini scored a late fifth.
A trip to Bolton Wanderers or Sunderland now awaits in the fourth round, neither of which will overly concern Everton in this form.
It was an evening of positives. Moyes will hope Jelavic’s goal can kickstart the Croat back into prolific life, while encouragement will be taken from another lively show from Victor Anichebe, further promise from Coleman and a steady third start for summer signing Bryan Oviedo.
Cheltenham hadn’t had such high-profile visitors since Newcastle United won 2-0 in the fourth round in 2006, with the Robins having lost all three of their previous games against top-flight opposition.
Mark Yates’s men are jostling for promotion to League One and went into the weekend in fourth place having been unbeaten at Whaddon Road since October.
Much of the pre-match patter had debated which players Moyes would rest with Everton still very much in the hunt for Champions League qualification.
However, the Goodison manager threw a curveball by selecting a strong starting line-up that showed only three changes from the midweek win at Newcastle United.
Cheltenham, backed by the majority of a capacity crowd, started brightly with striker Jeff Goulding scuffing a shot wide after Kaid Mohamed beat Seamus Coleman and drifted inside off the left flank.
The pace of Mohamed and fellow winger Jermaine McGlashan were pinpointed as prime dangers.
But while both showed early signs of promise, Everton firmly took control with two goals inside the opening quarter.
Jelavic struck first on 12 minutes. Oviedo played a delightful backheel into the path of Marouane Fellaini, and after the Belgian’s curling effort struck the post, Jelavic reacted quickest to force home the rebound.
The Croat should have scored again moments later when, from Fellaini’s knockdown, the ball sat up invitingly for the forward but he dragged his effort wide.
Baines solicited a fine flying save from Scott Brown with a curling free-kick that almost crept into the Cheltenham goalkeeper’s left-hand post.