Everton face a potential banana-skin tonight, when the Premier League ever-presents play host to minnows Boreham Wood at Goodison Park in the fifth round of the FA Cup. With the Hertfordshire outfit by far the lowest-ranking side to make it this far in the competition, understandably the tie has been picked to be shown live on free-to-air TV in the UK, with the possibility of a giant-killing in the air. In order to avoid the humiliation of an exit from the cup at this stage, Frank Lampard will need to ensure his team takes their opponents very seriously indeed.
This season, Boreham Wood have shown some improvement from their previous league campaign, in which they finished 14th, sitting in sixth position currently. They have been amazingly resolute, conceding only 17 goals in 27 matches, by some margin the tightest defence in the league. Offensively, however they are unimpressive, being only 13th in terms of goals scored (37). In their FA Cup run, over four matches they have yet to concede, most impressively shutting out Championship outfit AFC Bournemouth in the fourth round, which is a testament to how they are set up. Since that victory, they’ve played four times, securing two wins against a draw and a 2-0 loss at Maidenhead United, only their third setback of the season.
Style of Play
Under manager Luke Garrard, the National League outfit consistently play a rigid 3-5-2 formation. Against Bournemouth, they deployed three hard-working central midfielders in order to make it very difficult for the Championship outfit to play through them and to effectively screen their three man defence. Of the midfielders, Josh Rees would look to join the attack when opportunities presented. Wing-backs Kane Smith (an Everton and Tony Hibbert fan) and Jacob Mendy, normally strong attacking outlets for the Wood, played in a disciplined manner, breaking forward only when something was on. The central defenders are all big, rugged old-school centre halves, not blessed technically or quick, but well-drilled and brave. The entire side doggedly stuck to instructions, despite long period out of possession.
It is likely the visitors will set up in a similar fashion as they did against the Cherries, seeing as like tonight, they were the away side playing significantly stronger opposition. In that tie, they finished with only 17% possession and mustered a mere 41% passing accuracy. Bournemouth would try and play out from the back and in those moments, Boreham Wood pressed high in order to create turnovers; once the home side had broken the press, or played it long, they would rapidly drop back into a compact shape and defend their own third with all ten outfield players. If Scott Parker’s side lost the ball then the National League outfit would try and get bodies forward to take advantage. Typically, such moves broke down due to errant passing.
Boreham Wood’s best player is probably left wing-back Mendy, who has pace and is a decent crosser of the ball; he also looks composed defensively. On the other flank, Smith is energetic and eager to get forward in support of attacks, but his crossing appears wayward and defensively he can be caught out of position, or beaten for pace. Striker Scott Boden typically leads the press and against Bournemouth the strong forward was adept at picking up cheap free kicks, which served to get his side up the pitch and relieve pressure. Frankie Raymond put in some decent free kick deliveries which, given the visitors possess some height, could give Everton some problems. All three of the team’s central defenders are big and aerially strong, but lacking in pace and agility.
Lampard will undoubtedly rest some of his players, where he can, but cannot (and surely will not) take this tie too lightly. The opposition do not leak goals and proved against a Championship team, in Bournemouth, that they are able to hang in against a higher-quality side, even when starved of the ball. They defended comfortably against the Cherries low-tempo build-up play, but looked more stretched later in the game when Parker made attacking substitutions and moved the ball more quickly. This should be Everton’s template tonight.