WHILST not pretty, Everton’s FA Cup win at Bolton Wanderers last Saturday afternoon was enough to avoid a potential banana skin and book a fifth round trip against Oldham Athletic.
The competition has provided some of David Moyes’s best and worst memories since taking the helm; defeating Manchester United at Wembley and holders Chelsea on their own patch were in sharp contrast to the low ebbs against Shrewsbury Town and of course Liverpool in the semi-final last season.
A busy first half-hour witnessed Steven Pienaar’s early goal being cancelled out by Marvin Sordell’s leveller for the Trotters but it was the latest injury to the returning Kevin Mirallas which concerned the Blues’ faithful most.
The sight of Magaye Gueye readied for action on the touchline wouldn’t have warmed the blood of the shivering travelling support given the Frenchman’s previous cameos.
This lack of options is a key factor why we have looked a tad stale of late.
Everton have made the fewest substitutions (55) of any side in the top flight this season with the major factor being the shortage of game changing options from the bench rather than Moyes resistance to freshen things up.
Unsurprisingly, just five per cent of our goals have come from the bench compared with 20 per cent last season.
There was, of course, a sting in the tail with Moyes’s final substitution proving pivotal in the contest.
There was a certain degree of consternation at the manager’s decision to replace Nikica Jelavic with John Heitinga as the Blues chased the goal needed to avoid an unwanted replay.
The Dutchman’s sweet finish was completely out of context with what had been a tepid encounter, but given the options available and our history of going out to lower league opposition, relief was the pre-eminent emotion at the final whistle.
A busy seven days at L4 concludes with the arrival of arguably the league’s weakest side on Saturday and Aston Villa’s shaky back line should give us the opportunity to round a busy week off on a high.
Prior to the midweek fixtures, the Villains had conceded the most goals on their travels in the top flight (28) with the bulk of the chances conceded down their very weak left side.
Our record against the league’s poorer sides is not great – we’ve either drawn or lost against seven of the bottom eight teams – but this inexperienced Villa side seem very brittle and this should give us the edge to take three much needed points.