Fellaini, on nine yellow cards, wisely moved to the bench, but otherwise, no team-weakening youngsters for a classic Third Round tie in this once great competition... Moyes taking the FA Cup seriously for once?
Pienaar got in a weak toe-poke after an early foray forward, while Macclesfield's Dunfield had a great chance inside the second minute that he leathered over the bar. It was frenetic at times but Everton were doing their best to play possession football, but the hard, bumpy pitch required some inevitable aerial balls forward.
Another glorious chance for the home side went begging on 10 minutes. a quick free-kick catching them out and Brown failing with a gift of a header at the far post. For Everton, Baines delivered a perfect cross that both Anichebe and Osman failed to convert.
Arteta was back to his old self with a dreadful free-kick that flow yards away from the home goal as the Blues' football descended to the standard of their hosts. Cahill eventually had a sight of goal but struck the shot into the ground from 8 yards out, allowing Brain to save it comfortably.
But just before half-time, a beautiful touch of class from Osman, the ball coming out to him, he controlled it superbly and half-volleyed into the top corner from the edge of the area. Nice!
After the break, Everton took control but could not get that second goal, Jagielka looping one shot onto the roof of the net. Anichebe then slipped and looked to have pulled his hamstring but came back on, to little effect though. He had had one attempt at goal, an ambitious cross-shot that went wide.
There was a flurry of attacks from Macclesfield late on, with ex-Everton Academy youngster, 18-year-old John Rooney (the somewhat less ugly brother of a certain Wayne Rooney) coming on for the locals, and Gosling on for Pienaar. Danny Thomas had a good chance but could not keep his late shot down.
Howard had to be alert right on the final whistle, as a decent shot came in from Dunfield. So Everton progress economically into the Fourth Round, a few nervy moments but they were in control most of the time, despite a painful lack of guile, creativity and finishing power in front of goal.
Blues do enough to edge through
Anyone who remembers the ignominy of the Shrewsbury Town tie in 2003 — and which Evertonian doesn't? — or the Oldham Athletic defeat at Goodison last season will know that performances don't really matter when it comes to the FA Cup Third Round; it's all about the result.
Just as well, really, because Everton's display against Macclesfield Town will not live long in the memory, but the result might if David Moyes can guide his team all the way to Wembley come May. With the likes of Manchester City and Stoke City succumbing to giant-killling acts by Nottingham Forest and Hartlepool United elsewhere today, being in tomorrow's Fourth Round draw is the most important thing.
League Two Macclesfield Town, some 76 places below the Blues in English football's league ladder, certainly posed a potential banana skin for Moyes's side but save for four good chances, two in each half, they rarely threatened their illustrious visitors. Instead, it was merely a question of whether Everton would find the crucial breakthrough having survived a couple of early scares.
Terry Dunfield could have sown the seeds of a big upset in the second minute had he driven his 16-yard shot a couple of yards lower. And Matt Brown missed with an even better opportunity nine minutes later when he finished a quick break down the Macclesfield right by heading a cross over atn the back post.
Everton for their part, having seen Steven Pienaar poke a shot through the crowd into goalkeeper Brain's arms in the first minute, were all neat passing and patient build-up but precious little end product.
Victor Anichebe was deployed up front with Tim Cahill but both found space difficult to come by in the cramped environs of Moss Rose and neither had a sniff of a chance until Leighton Baines fizzed a cross across the face of goal, the ball just eluding first Anichebe and then Osman on its way.
Then, after Mikel Arteta had missed badly with a direct free kick from 30 yards, Cahill got on the end of a throw-in from the right but he couldn't connect cleanly from eight yards out and Brain was able to gather it fairly comfortably.
The game was petering out to half time when out of nowhere, Everton scored. Arteta's cross was cleared to the edge of the box where Osman chested it neatly and fired beautifully into the top corner.
As it turned out, it was to be both the best and the most decisive moment of the game. It knocked the stuffing out of Macclesfield who no doubt felt that they could make it to the interval and then regroup for a second-half assault.
Instead, the second period was controlled by Everton but, again, even though their opposition were clearly no match, it was tedious and uneventful fare. Tony Hibbert in particular was enjoying the freedom of Moss Rose, time and again being afforded acres of space to attack but he wasn't able to produce a single telling ball beyond those that won a a flurry of corners before the hour mark.
Set-pieces presented numerous opportunities for the Blues' well-honed threat from dead-ball situations to pay dividends but only a half-chance for Cahill and a hooked effort by Phil Jagielka that landed on the top of the net caused the home side any real panic. Arteta was having another of those days where his sights seemed to be well off and all too often his deliveries were blocked or simply found a defender's head.
Still, there were other chances from open play. Jagielka volleyed a low Baines cross just over, Pienaar flashed a shot wide and Anichebe swept a shot past the far post.
The expected late rally by Macclesfield duly came in the final quarter of an hour. First Simon Yeo scuffed a first-time effort straight at Tim Howard with his first shot after coming on as a 78th-minute sub, then Dunfield blazed a free kick over the crossbar rather than throwing the ball into the area hoping for a lucky bounce.
Danny Thomas had the home fans baying for a penalty when he tumbled under Hibbert's challenge with five minutes left before the same player looped a good chance over from 20 yards after Jagielka had slipped.
The Blues were closing out the game when in the last minute of injury time, the ball broke for Yeo once more with a clear sight of goal but Howard pushed his fierce shot away to safety whereupon referee Peter Walton blew for full time.
All in all, a pretty dismal display by Everton but they avoided both embarrassing defeat and the need for a replay at Goodison so there's not much to complain about. Conditions were freezing and the pitch less than ideal so this was never going to be an exhibition of the beautiful game anyway.
What the game might impress upon Moyes, though, is that he does need to address the lack of numbers up front. At one point, Anichebe looked to be heading for the sidelines again after suffering what looked to be a dead le but the Nigerian international looked ponderous and one-dimensional throughout.
Moyes's rhetoric is again cautious and uninspiring where it comes to the possibility of strengthening the squad this month but if he harbours hopes of winning this competition, he is going to need more firepower than was on display here today.
Howard 7; Hibbert 5; Baines 6; Jagielka 7; Lescott 7; Neville 6; Arteta 6; Osman 7 (MotM); Pienaar 6; Cahill 6; Anichebe 6
Ah... the Third Round of the FA Cup, and a magical tie away to League 2 Macclesfield, in the tiny Moss Rose stadium, capacity 6,355. Only a small portion of the tremendously loyal travelling Blue horde will be there in person to savour this one, but Everton have kindly arranged for a live TV feed at Goodison Park for season-ticket holders. There were fears for the match all week, due to freezing temperatures, that brought about some extraordinary measures from the local ground staff to keep the turf warm
Such romantic pairings in the FA Cup are traditionally viewed as potential banana-skins, and David Moyes is no stranger to being a victim of giant-killing acts by minions his team should be beating hands down... We need no reminders of the recent disasters against Tranmere Rovers, Oldham Athletic and the mighty Shrewsbury Town whose reward for beating Everton was to drop out of the Football League entirely!
The bad news about Louis Saha's injury woes will not help Moyes's preparation for this one, where he must chose how to construct an effective attack that is sadly devoid of most strikers, with only Anichebe fit, but increasingly ineffective, at least in the Premier League. Could this be an opportunity for young Lukas Jutkiewicz to show his mettle from the start? Or will Moyes adopt the more trusted half-measure with Cahill once again nominally leading the line form his normal advanced midfield role?
Given four massive games upcoming in the League, it would seem perhaps foolhardy to expect Moyes to field a weakened tam against the Macclesfield minnows... although this is exactly how he has been caught out in those past games, underestimating the opposition. Perhaps we can expect Fellaini to be rested given that he is on 9 yellow cards: the next bringing an automatic two-game suspension. Gosling should certainly expect to start in his place.
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|Jennings (70' Thomas)|
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