|Venue: The New Den, London||FA Cup||Saturday 7 January 2006; 3:00pm|
|Williams (39')||Half Time: 1-0
|Attendance: 16,440||3rd Round||Referee: Rob Styles|
It's FA Cup time and a slew of team changes by David Moyes that will cause some puzzlement. No Martyn (ankle problem); no Yobo (shoulder injury); Beattie, Ferguson and Osman on the bench; Neville returns after suspension. And they face a very young Millwall team, with only two over 24.
A couple of early chances hopefully set the scene for Everton, with the returning Tim Cahill being given a roasting by the New Den fans. Both Cahill and Bent had early runs at the Millwall goal, driven forward by the good work of Mikel Arteta.
But after 10 mins or so, Millwall got into it a lot more, and really roused the home crowd, with some nervy defending from Everton as they weathered a little pressure. A great move between Bent and Hibbert saw the full-back swing in a great cross that Bent fired in on goal but Marshall saved.
The first real threat from Millwall saw Wright out to smother the bal under pressure from Williams, with Ferrari at fault. Cogan's corner was headed in by Livermore and needed a goal-line clearance from Weir, with Wright all at sea.
But Arteta was caught badly on his left ankle but played on with obvious discomfort after treatment as McFadden got on the end of a misqued Millwall clearance, his shot was straight at Marshall. Cahill could only put the rebound wide with the goal gapping.
Then, in a poor sequence of play for Everton, an aimless ball from Arteta conceded possession. May got the ball forward to Marvin Williams, beating the offside trap easily, and advanced on Wright but it was an easy finish past the Everton keeper to put the London team ahead against their Premiership visitors.
The second half started in very scrappy manner. Valente got his shirt pulled inside the area but Styles gave a corner that Cahill headed over, the first threat from a lacklustre Everton. David Moyes finally acted, swapping out his strike force with Beattie and Ferguson getting their chance. Beattie's first contribution from Neville's excellent pass was to blast over in characteristic fashion.
Weir got a yellow card for bringing down Williams, conceding a dangerous free-kick that needed a good save by Wright. In response, Everton put together a better move to set Neville up but it was blocked for a corner. A scramble in front of goal saw Kilbane go close but the ball was scooped off the line as an element of desperation started to enter Everton's play.
A good move started by Ferguson saw Hibbert put in another good cross to back to the big man but he couldn't get enough power on the header form a narrow angle. With ime running out, on came Leon Osman in a crucial substitution by David Moyes.
And minutes later a good ball in from Kilbane, Osman stole in at the far post, with Marshall blocking his first attempt but little Leon Osman was able to direct the rebound past Marshall and into the net for a vital Everton equalizer — what a relief!
On the next attack Osman and Beattie combined to set up Ferguson but it was on his weaker right foot. Osman next showed more skill, breaking forward and chipping superbly but Marshall scrambled back to get it over the bar. Much better pressure from Everton as it became shooting practice in the last 10 mins, but would the ball go in the net?
Everton were finally turning things on with some great build-up play, and another chance for Ferguson but it was blocked away. Osman had a chance on the volley in stoppage time, but mis-hit it completely. Kilbane then blazed over form 7 yards. No composure in front of goal as the chances kept coming.
A late free-kick to Millwall in the last minute saw everyone pile forward but nothing came from it and it's a replay on 18 January at Goodison Park.
It's amazing what two wins can do. 9 days ago, Everton were seemingly anchored in the doldrums having suffered four straight loses, shipped 11 goals and slumped to the brink of the relegation zone. Now, having mugged Sunderland of three points and dismissed Charlton with relative ease, the Blues have their tails up and a cup-tie that has "banana skin" written all over it suddenly looks a lot less daunting.
Of course, complacency is something that has plagued Everton teams for more years than I care to remember and it will behoove David Moyes to keep that in check as he prepares for this FA Cup 3rd round tie. The fact that his team has been dumped out of three cup competitions at the first attempt already this season should be motivation enough... you would think so.
Two more players, in the form of Gary Naysmith and Lee Carsley, have come off the long-term injured list in the past week, but Andy van der Meyde and Alessandro Pistone are still in rehabilitation, Per Krøldrup is struggling with an ankle injury and Simon Davies is also a major doubt. Li Tie? Well, who knows what on earth is up with him?
Both Carsley and Naysmith will probably need a couple of games for the Reserves before they're ready for first-team action; Phil Neville is eligible once again after serving a two-game suspension. He is by no means guaranteed to walk back into the side, though. The performances of Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill in central midfield against Charlton provided ample evidence that they deserve the chance to develop a partnership, and Kevin Kilbane also had an impressive game. Moyes could opt to switch Arteta back to the right wing and deploy Neville in a central role, but the Spaniard is wasted there, if you ask me.
Up front, it remains to be seen if Duncan Ferguson will have the legs to start a second-successive match, but either Marcus Bent or James McFadden can deputise.
Since winning this competition 11 years ago, Everton haven't managed to get further than the Quarter Finals and Moyes hasn't taken the Blues past the 5th round... and, of course, there's that humiliating 2-1 defeat to Shrewsbury Town three years ago that will never be erased from the history books.
We're certainly due a decent cup run; whether or not we are equipped to go all the way this year remains to be seen. Much might depend on what happens in the transfer window this month, but a convincing win at a Millwall side battling at the wrong end of The Championship will be a great start.