Everton progress in FA Cup Fourth Round

Leon Osman competes for the ball during Everton's Fourth Round win at Stevenage. - Paul Gilham

Everton win at Stevenage courtesy of goals from Steven Naismith, Johnny Heitinga and Magaye Gueye, but a serious injury to Brian Oviedo overshadows events.

Everton came into the game on the back of a disappointing draw at West Brom and having to manage the loss of several key players. Ross Barkley, Steven Pienaar, Seamus Coleman and Antolin Alcaraz were all unavailable for the game. John Stones came in at centre back in place of Sylvain Distin with Tony Hibbert at right back and Aiden McGeady making his debut. Steven Naismith started up front with Romelu Lukaku on the bench. Joel Robles also replaced Tim Howard in goal.

Stevenage meanwhile found themselves bottom of League One coming into the fixture, though manager Graham Westley had talked up his sides ability to cause an upset before the game, something which was surprisingly reiterated by Roberto Martinez labeling them as favorites. They will also be boosted by Everton’s lack of options, and the fact they narrowly lost out at Goodison Park earlier in the season.

Predictably it was Stevanage who made the livelier start with their long ball game causing problems for Stones and Joel, the defender eventually blocking a goal bound effort superbly. Everton would take the lead soon after though with Steven Naismith converting following a Kevin Mirallas effort.  Good news was soon followed by bad however as Bryan Oviedo went down following a tackle on an opposition player, early indications from his teammates showing that it was a bad one for the young Costa Rican, Leon Osman soon replacing him.

The resulting free kick was a clever one from the home side, forcing Robles into a fingertip save. Osman would soon have a great opportunity to double Everton’s lead after they broke from the resulting corner, the midfielder firing wildly over the bar. Stevenage soon had another dangerous free kick with Filipe Morais forcing Robles into a fantastic save. The injury had clearly rattled Everton, and the home side sensed blood.

The poor pitch was proving a problem for both sides but Everton were undeterred and had their second before half time, Osman playing in Naismith who raced past the defender to finish comfortably under the keeper with the outside of his right boot, doubling his tally for the season in the process. There would be little else to report before half time aside from a cheeky McGeady chip that was comfortably saved, with Everton leading easily but events overshadowed by Oviedo’s injury.

The second half would see the appearance of Johnny Heitinga replacing Jagielka at half time, further reducing Everton’s numbers. Stevenage started the half brightly, Robles saving from Zoko after flapping at a cross, though Mirallas soon forced opposition keeper Day into a fine save, the resulting corner producing Everton’s third. A Baines miss-kick led to a Mirallas’ overhead kick being headed in by Heitinga, taking a deflection off the defender on its way. Everton were now comfortable and playing keep ball, Naismith having his chipped finish ruled out for offside, Mirallas firing over the top and Baines firing a free kick wide.

Stevenage hadn’t given up all hope however, with winger Freeman proving a pain for Tony Hibbert on the left wing and striker Zoko firing wide. Robles was then forced into a sharp save to stop an own goal from a corner as the game moved into the 75th minute. With 80 minutes on the clock, Everton used the opportunity to bring on Magaye Gueye for Mirallas, the Belgian having had a fine afternoon and much needed for the upcoming Merseyside derby. The Blues soon had a chance for a fourth, Naismith being played in by Gareth Barry for his hat trick, only to mis-control and then fall under pressure from the defender.

The fourth would come seconds later however as Gueye skipped past a challenge and squeezed his shot past the keeper to make an instant impact. Stevenage would soon come close to a consolation as a long ball found the striker, his shot squeezing under Spaniard Robles and bobbling towards goal, with both Heitinga and Hibbert going to ground to block it going in and Robles making an impressive follow up save to preserve his clean sheet. A comfortable win for Everton then to put them in themselves in the Fifth Round.

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