Wembley or bust! Well that was my attitude as we left Brum for merseyside this morning, but I was travelling with three somewhat indifferent companions, who seemed as much ‘up’ for this game, as they had been when we journeyed to Lincoln City pre-season for the friendly. Not to worry I thought, they’ll no doubt be fully ‘Up For Cup’ by the time we arrive at Goodison Park, the prospect of our first quarter-final appearance since 2000 proving too much of a lure to keep their exuberance and excitement down for long.
Neither side were at full strength, for a variety of reasons, with Everton no doubt determined to gain revenge for the home defeat they suffered at our hands back in early December, while our lads would hopefully be up to the task of keeping our tremendous away form continuing, and taking a further step towards an F.A. Cup Final appearance in May.
The Bad Guys:- Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Lescott, Baines, Gosling, Neville, Arteta, Rodwell, Cahill, Anichebe. Subs: Nash, Yobo, Van der Meyde, Castillo, Jacobsen, Baxter, Wallace.
Our Lot:- Friedel, Gardner, Knight, Davies, Luke Young, Milner, Sidwell, Petrov (captain), Ashley Young, Agbonlahor, Carew. Subs: Guzan, Harewood, Delfouneso, Salifou, Shorey, Albrighton, Lowry.
Everton got off to a flier, winning their first corner virtually straight from the off, Leighton Baines’ bending the flag kick in, only for Brad to unconvincingly flap the ball away. Our keeper redeemed himself a few seconds later, coming out to collect a through ball destined for Tim Cahill.
On four minutes though, our slow start saw us fall behind, Everton youngster Rodwell forcing the ball home, after Petrov had handled on the line to thwart Cahill, an indiscretion somehow missed by the referee. A lucky escape indeed for captain for the day Stan, but not so lucky for the lads, who now found themselves facing an uphill task. With ten men, it would have been a nigh on impossible task.
It was all Everton, as they poured forward and managed to force another couple of corners, until out of the blue, in the eighth minute, we hauled ourselves level.
Petrov sent a superb ball down the flank to Gabby, who sprinted clear of Hibbert, only for the Toffee to blatantly clip his heels and concede a spot-kick.
James Milner’s effort was hardly convincing, in fact if I’m honest I thought for a horrible second that Howard had saved it, but the ball somehow crept home, to put us back on level terms. Maybe the wake-up jolt we need, I thought at the time.
The game entered a scrappy spell. Tim Cahill got himself booked, as Hibbert had been for his penalty area challenge on Gabby, then Curtis Davies looked to suffer an injury following what looked a harmless enough aerial challenge with Cahill. The Aussie was then just inches away from connecting with an Anichebe flick on. It was quickly turning into the Tim Cahill/Manuel Arteta show.
On twenty five minutes though the home side were back in front, following a powerful run from Anichebe, his run halted only by a blatant foul challenge from Steve Sidwell. Obvious penalty, Arteta steps up, sends Brad the wrong way, 2-1 for the hosts. Yellow card for Sidwell too.
On the half hour mark we had a great chance to draw level again. Ashley floated in a terrific ball right onto Gabby’s head, and yet completely unmarked, he succeeded only in glancing the ball wide. Great opportunity, wasted.
That proved to be our last real chance of the half, forty-five minutes that were definitely shaded by the home team.
Into the second half, and a booking for James Milner, while my mate comments that we’re very definitely missing Gareth Barry.
On the hour mark a superb save from Howard denies an up to now disappointing John Carew, who managed to flick a James Milner cross goalwards from seven or eight yards out. It looked to have beaten Howard, but he somehow managed to get down sharply to make the save. Close, but not close enough.
It looked as if we were getting back into the game at this stage, but we still looked a little lead-footed and lethargic, certainly not the Villa of recent weeks. Chances were coming though, so a Villa comeback couldn’t be discounted just yet.
Gabby should have done better when the ball fell to him on the edge of the box on seventy minutes, and then Sidwell, completely unmarked, sent a weak header from a James Milner cross, well wide of the Everton goal.
We looked heavy, lacking a spark, which in view of the week we have ahead, is the last thing we need to witness. We’d had chances, but overall Everton still looked the likely winners.
Fifteen minutes to go and its 3-1 Everton. Davies and Knight are all at sea, both failing to make clearances, leaving Cahill in space to shoot beyond Brad.
Nathan came on for Steve Sidwell in the eightieth minute, but we were looking a well beaten side.
Arteta had been superb for The Toffees, very impressive throughout. All the big-men today had been wearing blue. We’d been very much second best throughout the game.
A disappointing display from Marts lads, but if you listen to some, that’s not altogether a bad thing. We now have just two fronts to concentrate on. Make your own minds up on that one.
One things for certain. A quick return to form is needed for our next two games, two games where a couple of reversals doesn’t bear thinking about.
Oh well, I’d really hoped that this was to be our year for lifting that glittering F.A. Cup trophy. Sadly, it isn’t to be. On the day, Everton were the better team, and fully deserved to progress.
For what its worth, here’s the glensider marks out of ten:-
Luke Young 6
Ashley Young 6
not on long enough.