Goals in each half by Arouna Kone and Kevin Mirallas were sufficient for the Blues to book their place in the FA Cup Fourth Round as Roberto Martinez's much-changed team made their dominance tell.
After a lot of Everton pressure, Kone finally made the breakthrough on the half-hour, heading home an excellent cross from Bryan Oviedo to make it 1-0 at half time. The home side's dominance in possession failed to translate into further goals until Mirallas was felled in the area with five minutes to go and the Belgian stepped up to seal the win from the spot.
Phil Jagielka had led the team out after two-and-a-half months out of action with medial knee ligament damage while Steven Pienaar's latest comeback from a catalogue of injury problems was another of eight changes made by Martinez.
Joel Robles started in goal again while Bryan Oviedo filled in at right back, Darron Gibson replaced Gareth Barry in central midfield there were starts for Aaron Lennon, Kone and Mirallas. Uruguayan striker Leandro Rodriguez was on the bench and would make a late cameo with a minute or so to go.
Everton had an early chance when Pienaar should have scored off a cross from Oviedo but he headed well over. This was followed by shots from Gibson and Oviedo before Mirallas had his shot saved. The visitors then had a flurry of possession and a free-kick that was blocked away.
Everton won a corner, taken by Mirallas but it came to nothing. More shots and corners as Everton dominated. A tremendous long-distance strike from Funes Mori brought a fantastic save from Cousins in the Daggers goal.
The Blues were generally lacklustre in the final third until their control of the contest manifested itself in the breakthrough just past the half-hour, Kone heading home at the far post off an excellent set-piece delivery from Bryan Oviedo.
Funes Mori wasn't able to finish the half, though, after suffering a gash to the head and he was replaced in first-half stoppage time by Matthew Pennington.
More efforts from Mirallas and Oviedo were off target as Everton failed to put their League Two opponents to the sword, Cousins also making another great stop from Kone.
With Everton's attacking ideas becoming a little stale, the home side were crying out for a substitution to liven things up and Martinez eventually obliged, sending Leon Osman on in place of a shattered Steven Pienaar with 15 minutes left.
Kone then go on the end of another nice cross but his header flew inches wide but the game was wrapped up late on when Mirallas was brought down inside the Daggers' area for a penalty by Nyron Nosworthy, as a black and white cat made a cameo of his own by invading the field. Unruffled, Mirallas scored easily from the spot, ensuring that Everton comfortably side-stepped a potential banana skin and will be in Monday evening's draw.
From My Seat: Dagenham & Redbridge (H)
We all assembled and ordered the beer and somehow you could just tell how the day would go by the fact no one really talked footy until the teams were beamed through. Most claimed to have forecast the eight changes and were delighted to see the long term injured getting a start. Oviedo, Jagielka, Gibson, Pienaar. How have they recovered? Will they slot right back in or take time to shake the rust? As the game panned out they would be aided and abetted by the visitors.
Time for the walk up and on hitting the streets it was eerily quiet for a match day, it wasn’t until Goodison Road was reached that we found a road chock full of punters. Fat Van and Fan Zone were popular and I am always amazed at how much merchandise the ‘Hat Scarf and Badge stall’ can cram into one small doorway. The giveaway to the attendance though was the very short queue at the ‘Blue Dragon’.
Z-Cars, handshakes and off we go. Within two minutes the MO of this game was laid before us. Oviedo got forward with ease and put in a pinpoint cross for Pienaar to head it back the way it came and on target and we are up and running but he missed heading over the bar. Bits of rust were found in the Park End!
From the resultant goal kick, it was easy to spot how the visitors had set up: 1-8-2 — now that was going to be difficult to penetrate but it also gave the returning players plenty of ball time as we patiently passed and passed to try to find a way through and such was our superiority and their determination not to leave their penalty box they could do it in the knowledge that they would not get much of a kicking.
The visiting fans chastised us for our lack of support but all Blues in attendance completely ignored that as we sat waiting for the first goal; it was certain to be ours as they didn’t do attacking but they did get a free kick some 25 yards out which whistled a few inches over the bar but Joel was alive to its height and waved it by. Our first real dangerous effort was from Funes Mori which the keeper tipped away. Funes Mori got a good handclap for that effort.
Dagenham had a rare foray forward but their player headed wide. The rain was getting heavier and the wind that bit more chill as we sat patiently for something to happen. The half hour mark arrived and the impressive Oviedo took a free kick and missed the first man and delivered to the far post where Kone climbed and showed Pienaar how it is done by heading back toward the taker, on target and one up but not too wild rapturous applause but more of ‘Well that’s it we are in the next round’ — such was the disparity between the teams plus Dagenham stuck to 1-8-2 so they were looking to avoid a tonking.
So until half time we passed and probed and passed and probed everyone had time on the ball everyone had a good run out so the chances of having fit injury back-up in the coming games was enhanced. On half time we gain a corner and again Oviedo took a beaut. Funes Mori attacked the ball but clashed heads with his marker and with blood streaming down his face and hand he was led away to the stitching department and his impressive afternoon was over with youngster Pennington taking his place.
During the break we had two youngsters on the pitch one of which had been very brave in hospital and was a mad Evertonian. The players had been to see him in hospital. The man with the mike asked who he would like us to play in the Capitol One cup without hesitation he said Liverpool so our man asked why. ‘BECAUSE THEY ARE RUBBISH’ was the instant response and a great applause he got.
More of the same except we were now attacking the Street end and our main source of excitement was the number of golden chances we missed or the number of almost balls that would have had us in. after good approach work except for the wrong or misplaced pass that thwarted us. Kone was chief culprit when somehow he failed to convert great balls in from Mirallas and Besic when from my seat it seemed easier to score.
After the hour mark Dagenham made a sub and brought on Cureton who is now 40yrs old and made his pro debut against Everton n21yrs ago. I could not help thinking we better get another or this fella could make headlines and all the wrong ones for us. However, nothing changed: we attacked... they stuck resolutely together, and had the luck of the devil.
With 10 mins to go, we had a flurry of excitement that had the fans up and cheering for the first time in the match. Was it a magical move or a rocket shot with curve and dip that almost took the net off? No... a CAT had entered the field of play. It was Black and White in appearance and a wag near me shouted ‘He is looking for the postman’.
The cat went forward then came back and entered the penalty area and lay down. It wasn’t a dive — he was eying up a very big figure dressed in green who got almost within striking distance but the cat would have none of it and ran off toward the Park End stewards.
More excitement as Mirallas did a one-two and was promptly tackled and toppled to the floor. ‘PENALTY’ we yelled; ref agreed. Mirallas took hold of the ball and did not push or shove or show his tantrum side he merely placed the ball on spot and slotted with aplomb. Most were ready to head for the ale house now but we had more excitement in store as the rain came down resembling a shimmering curtain in its intensity when, from the Park End, a young lad who looked about 14 appeared from either our crowd or the visitors and set off up the pitch and sidestepped a couple of Street End stewards and doubled back and headed toward the dugouts. The last I saw of him, he was captured by the coaching staff and being led away. It takes all sorts, eh.
That was excitement over except to mention we saw Leandro come on for 5 mins, seems a nice lad but no time to show any skills as the whistle went and we are in the hat and Dagenham didn’t get walloped so all off home happy.
MotM: – Oviedo for me but I would not argue with your preferred choice
Papers like the Echo put forward a piece about what five things we learned today. But for me it was a 90-minute competitive training game that gave players valuable playing time and see how well they have recovered from their various injuries. I noticed early on Oviedo was in a cruncher of a tackle and took it in his stride so that probably did wonders for his confidence. He did well as stand-in right-back.
Playing against a team as limited as Dagenham, who came only to frustrate, it would be hard to find much we learned football-wise except Kone is off the boil in the conversion stakes.
Small matter of Man City, Chelsea. Swansea and Man City again to deal with in a short time. Wouldn’t it be nice to win them all? Be a tall order though.
UP THE BLUES
Comfortable Everton into the Fourth Round
With Ste having bought his ticket for this one only to be unable to make it, Katja made the last-minute decision to take his place and I drove, picking up Gary and Sue on route. Full houses and big attendances are always nice at Goodison Park, though I did appreciate the quieter walk up the ground and more spacious pub, until we got to Gwladys Street where it was all of a sudden bedlam. A crowd of 30,918 against lower-table League Two opposition is certainly not to be sniffed at.
With that, I'm glad Roberto Martinez did the fans justice by resting the correct players, whilst still giving much-needed game time to some of the fringe players, and also accommodating a couple of younger players. The perfect balance found from Roberto. I'm glad he didn't do what Jurgen Klopp did, for example, and field a largely reserve team as, like Liverpool, we can seldom afford another fixture with the busy, and crucial January period we are amidst.
Just on that actually, why is it a massive deal for the team with the fifth biggest wage bill to have an injury crisis? Arsenal have suffered similarly and we have our own problems. I remember back in 2001-02 and 2009-10 Everton being completely decimated by injury, though somewhat doubt the media even batted an eyelid. Anyway, enough about them, back on to us...
With Robles retained in goal, and Baines, Stones, Barry, Barkley and Deulofeu rested, while Coleman, McCarthy, Cleverley and Lukaku were all injured, Galloway, Jagielka, Oviedo, Gibson, Lennon, Pienaar, Mirallas and Kone were all given an opportunity as we attacked the Park End in the first half, and we were nearly ahead within three minutes when Steven Pienaar headed over the crossbar with a presentable opportunity from a really good Bryan Oviedo centre with his right foot.
Darron Gibson dictated all our play in the middle, suggesting he may yet have an Everton future with us (he probably is the perfect foil should anything happen to Gareth Barry, after all... if he can stay fit himself of course), whilst Dagenham & Redbridge stuck to their task gamely with a spirited display. Neither goalkeeper was tested too frequently in the first half (Joel Robles not actually dealing with a single shot on target all game) with Funes Mori forcing Mark Cousins into a good save with a distant drive.>
Our Argentine centre-back also attempted a speculative overhead volley in the first half. Okay, it sailed harmlessly wayward, but his goal threat from set-pieces (two goals already this season) is apparent and is a useful feature of his game. He didn't survive the first half, forced off with a nasty head injury, and it was great to see Matthew Pennington make his Goodison Park bow as his replacement. Hopefully Funes Mori is stitched up and returned quickly.
Prior to that, we had broken the brave resistance of the Daggers when another good ball from Bryan Oviedo, this one from a free kick after Lennon was fouled, was headed in smartly by Arouna Kone. Dagenham & Redbridge offered little attacking threat throughout, though kudos to Christian Doidge for battling gamely up front with precious little to work with. Everton ahead at the break.
At half time, Everton did some fantastic community work. You may have heard of the tough challenges facing young Noah from Southport who suffers with a muscle-wasting disease known as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I nipped to the loo so I'm not sure if he featured at the break or not, but it was his 12th birthday and it was fantastic for Everton to help raise awareness of his condition and make it such a special birthday for him. Generous supporters and players from Everton and Dagenham & Redbridge donated a total of 1,152 cards. You can donate to help his cause here - https://www.gofundme.com/teamnoah.
Everton weren't done there either. They showed a heart-warming video on the big screens of two young Evertonians Denver and Kyle opening their Christmas presents – that being an invitation to come along to the Dagenham & Redbridge game to meet their heros Phil Jagielka, Romelu Lukaku and Leighton Baines. Denver, only nine years old, has bravely suffered 15 different brain operations, whilst his elder brother Kyle, 10, has helped him along the way. The video is worth a watch - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqYXnlL_hQI. The boys were then introduced to the crowd and came out onto the pitch at the break. One of them was asked by Darren Griffiths who we would want in the League Cup Final should we get there? "Liverpool". "Why?" asked Darren. "Because they're rubbish" said the boy. Amazing work by Everton. Very well done.
Back to matters on the pitch; with Everton attacking the Gwladys Street in the second half, it was more entertaining for us and was more enjoyable than I imagined it would be. Arouna Kone almost scored on two separate occasions (I wish he had the confidence to shoot more regularly) and most of the footy was played in the Dagenham & Redbridge half. I was glad Kevin Mirallas was given the opportunity to exorcise some demons from the penalty spot as I think his long absence from the team generally stems back to 19 January 2015 when he fatefully took the ball from Leighton Baines and missed his spot kick.
Kevin worked ever so hard against Dagenham & Redbridge and cut a frustrated figure, irritating Dagenham & Redbridge players and referee throughout. I felt he might react and get himself a silly red card at some point but he thankfully retained his discipline. He was taken down in the penalty area, Darron Gibson was quick to get over to him and point at him to say it was the Belgian's penalty, and thankfully he sent the keeper the wrong way. Nice also to see Kevin tapping his badge towards the Gwladys Street in his celebration. 2-0 and game over. Our only penalty so far this season, by the way.
Roberto also gave Steven Pienaar as much time as he could on the pitch before giving Leon Osman some game time, and also gave Leandro Rodriguez his dĂ©but, albeit in the last minute. The visit onto the pitch of the cat made everyone chuckle though the feline wasn't the only intruder. I'd left by the time the pitch invader ran the whole length of the field from the Park End to the Gwladys Street. That would have been funny to see, the moral of the story - never leave early. The conditions heading home were awful, not a good day to realise you've a hole in your trainer!
So into the FA Cup Fourth Round we march. What are the chances we get Manchester City on Monday's draw?
Robles: Certainly not a game to judge him on though he did manage to draw himself some daggers from Bryan Oviedo early on as he dithered when he could have collected a ball, resulting in Oviedo having to put the ball out for a corner. Some simple words of advice from captain Jagielka followed: "Talk". We won't know what Robles can do until he gets a run of games. Last time he got that, he kept three clean sheets in a row and was then dropped so there may be credence in the theory that he could do a good job for us. For whatever reason, however, I'm not so sure. I don't think he or Tim Howard are really the answer and a new goalkeeper is required regardless. 6
Galloway: Got forward well and did his job defensively. Final ball often lacking. 6
Funes Mori: Was doing well until that nasty head injury. Hopefully he won't be out for long. 7
Jagielka: Back in the swing of things seamlessly though not really tested throughout. I expect he'll start at The Etihad on Wednesday. 6
Oviedo: Did well in a slightly unfamiliar position. His ability to put a ball in on his wrong foot is useful. With Coleman out and now possibly Funes Mori also, he may be required at right back on Wednesday. 7
Gibson: Patrolled the midfield and took the responsibility of our pass-master with an influential game. Could be worth keeping as would be useful if anything happened to Gareth Barry. 7
Besic: Quietly effective throughout. I think he may be in for a run of games, especially whilst James McCarthy is out. 7
Pienaar: Great to see him back. He was in and out of the game throughout but getting 77 minutes under his belt will be invaluable in his fight for fitness. 6
Lennon: Also seemed to drift in and out of the game. 6
Mirallas: Was very involved throughout and had a very busy game and deserved his goal. If Tom Cleverley doesn't make it I've an inkling he might start on Wednesday. My man of the match. 8
Kone: Began up front and seemed to end up on the left. Could, and perhaps should, have gotten more goals than just the one, and it's difficult to judge him on this game given the opposition, but who knows, maybe he can do a stand in job for a short time if Romelu Lukaku fails to recover from his current injury. 7
Pennington (for Funes Mori): Coped well in quite a comfortable game. 6
Osman (for Pienaar): Got involved. 6<
Rodriguez (for Lennon): Difficult to judge as not on for long.
Everton embark on a second road to Wembley this weekend with the visit of Dagenham & Redbridge in the FA Cup Third Round.
A home tie against the team currently occupying 90th position in England's top four leagues, while not to be taken lightly, was always going to provide Roberto Martinez an opportunity to rest some weary legs and hand some playing time to up-and-coming or fringe playersbut the manager will also get to welcome two senior players back from injury.
Phil Jagielka will be in the starting XI following two and a half months out of action with medial knee ligament damage while Steven Pienaar is also in line to make his latest comeback from his own catalogue or injury problems.
Jagielka has made the bench for the past two games but his manager has confirmed that the captain will be in the side. Pienaar, meanwhile, has had a number of setbacks in his bid to remain fully fit but he came through 90 minutes of a behind-closed-doors practice game this week and will be included in the squad.
With a busy January programme perpetuating the packed festive schedule, Martinez will make further changes for the visit of the Daggers but injuries from Wednesday to three key players will force his hand where they are concerned. Tom Cleverley, Romelu Lukaku and Seamus Coleman are all ruled out and that could provide opportunities for up-and-coming members of the squad or players who have been battling to hopld down regular first-team spots.
Mason Holgate is a potential starter at right back, and striker Leandro Rodriguez who the manager indicated could make the squad. The two summer signings have featured at Under-21 level, although the Uruguayan was sidelined for a time with a hamstring problem which he has now overcome.
Then there are players like Kevin Mirallas, Aaron Lennon, Leon Osman and Gerard Deulofeu who could all benefit either from more game time or the confidence-booster that could come from playing against – and possibly scoring aainst – a lower-division.
Furthermore, the manager was asked about the futures of Aiden McGeady and Darron Gibson, two players who under normal circumstances would be viewed as pime candidates for a game like this, but the interest he confirmed in both Irishmen from other clubs in their services – whether on loan or a permanent transfer – could preclude their involvement tomorrow lest they pick up injuries.
Meanwhile, Martinez has yet to make a decision over whether Joel Robles or Tim Howard will get the nod to play in goal. The Spanish 'keeper has been the designated first-choice stopper for Everton's League Cup run and he was the man between the posts for last season's abortive FA Cup campaign because of injury to Howard.
As the League Cup ties against Barnsley and Reading demonstated, shuffling the pack too much can have a destablising effect on the side. On both occasions, Martinez was able to rectify the situation with targeted second-half substitutions but any Everton side playing at home against League Two opposition should have enough quality to progress to the next round.
Possible line-up: Robles, Holgate, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Galloway, Besic, Osman, Pienaar, Deulofeu, Mirallas, Kone
Note: The game is not being carried by any of the main global broadcasters