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Everton vs Boreham Wood: Match Preview | Toffees look to avoid almighty upset against non-leaguers

A place in the last eight is at stake

Everton v Brentford: The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Everton will attempt to put the fury of Saturday’s handball-gate to one side and focus on the FA Cup when they welcome Boreham Wood to Goodison Park on Thursday.

Even several days on Evertonians are struggling to comprehend how VAR Chris Kavanagh got the decision so wrong.

I was fortunate enough to be in an area of the Gwladys Street right in front of where the incident took place. You could tell by the reaction of the crowd that is was a penalty - This was not a hopeful handball shout, and you can tell the difference. When the decision went to VAR there was an expectation a penalty would be given. I, like many around me, were astonished when it wasn’t.

The subsequent apology from referees’ chief Mike Riley is scant consolation, just like it when the Premier League apologised for an error that cost the Toffees at Brighton in 2019. What we needed was an explanation as to how the error was made and what is being done to ensure it does not happen again.

The fact Chris Kavanagh refereed the Burnley vs Leicester game on Tuesday’s suggests lessons have not been learned and it is a case of carrying on as normal. The incident dolloped a considerable amount of salt on Evertonian wounds as the Toffees put in a battling display against the champions but came away with nothing.

It does, though, give me hope that the team can haul themselves away from danger if they can maintain that level of performance between now and the end of the season. Burnley’s defeat by the Foxes also meant the Toffees did not drop into the relegation zone, which would have been a real psychological blow.

For now though attention must switch to the FA Cup.

The prospect of reaching the quarter-finals and moving within one game of Wembley has kind of been lost amid the fog of the relegation battle. But the Toffees have a wonderful chance to do just that after being handed a kind draw.

These kinds of games carry risk, of course, and they will have to treat the game like any other if they are to avoid what would be one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition. But they go into the game with an expectation of victory.

The opposition

Thursday will be Everton’s first ever meeting with Boreham Wood.

The National League side were founded in 1948 but have spent all of their history in non-league football.

However, they are currently enjoying a golden period in their history having earned promotion to the National League, the top of the non-league pyramid, for the first time in 2015.

They reached the play-offs two years in a row - losing in the final to Tranmere at Wembley in 2018 before a semi-final defeat the following year.

They reached the third round of the FA Cup for the first time last season and have gone even better this time, with last month’s win at Championship Bournemouth earning a place in the fifth round for the first time.

Their celebrations at the Vitality Stadium featured full-back and boyhood Evertonian Kane Smith donning a Tony Hibbert Everton shirt to celebrate.

I suspect that is the first and last time we will see such a celebration - unless Smith and co come away with a win at Goodison on Thursday.

AFC Bournemouth v Boreham Wood: The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Team news

Frank Lampard has confirmed Vitaly Mykolenko will start for the Toffees at Goodison Park, just his fourth start in a Blues shirt. Tyler Onyango is out injured, but fellow Under-23s Lewis Dobbin, Reece Welch and Isaac Price are in the squad too.

January signings Dele Alli, Anwar El Ghazi and Donny van de Beek are cup-tied, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin again misses out with an abductor problem.

Ben Godfrey, Yerry Mina, Fabian Delph and Tom Davies remain sidelined, with Godfrey likely to be the first player back in a couple of weeks.

What they said

Everton boss Frank Lampard: “I have been here such a short period of time, we are a work in progress in terms of what we are doing on the pitch.

“This game is another opportunity to keep improving. We will consider the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses and try to be the best we can.

“There is no feeling of, ‘We will relax and have this incredible confidence, it will be fine’.

“We are not there, we need to keep working and play as well as possible.”

Boreham Wood boss Luke Garrard: “I’m taking Frank Lampard’s shirt off his back! His zippy, his ball. I’m getting everything.

“Seriously, though. This isn’t too much respect. We’ve done our analysis on them. So the respect’s there. Hugely. I’m not foolish in any way, shape, or form. They are unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable.

“These are international players playing week in week out the highest level. So trust me, there’s a huge respect.

“But we go there with a purpose, we go there with a job. And if we can implement our game plan, we will cause them problems. But we need to be lucky. And sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”

Final word

Everton should have enough to overcome non-league opposition, but this is the FA Cup. And given their season so far who knows? This Toffees side has really plunged to depths this campaign so there’s every chance they could do so again.