Frank Lampard had indicated he wouldn’t take today’s opponents Boreham Wood for granted despite their non-League status, and with injuries and cup-tied players limiting his selections he went with his regular pairing of Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure in the middle for Everton. January signings Nathan Patterson and Vitalii Mykolenko both got starts as well, while Under 23s Lewis Dobbin, Isaac Price, Reece Welch and Ryan Astley all made the bench for the FA Cup Fifth Round clash.
A frustrating first half saw the Blues suckered into playing exactly how their visitors wanted them, trying to break through a crowded central channel. Everton’s passing was wayward at times as they failed to really make The Wood move and create openings.
However, Richarlison came on at the break and the Toffees switched to a more effective 4-4-2 and eventually Salomon Rondon scored twice as Everton overcame a well-drilled Boreham Wood side to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
After a dull first half Everton improved after the break and were deserved winners, though the result only really felt safe when Rondon headed the second with seven minutes left. It is job done though and Everton now go onto to a date with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in the last eight.
It was a classy touch by Everton to hand Mykolenko the captaincy given the ongoing war in Ukraine. The Toffees players were once again draped in Ukraine flags as they made their way onto the pitch with John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ playing after Z-Cars. Everton once again getting the tone just right.
It was great to see Nathan Patterson finally pull on an Everton shirt in a senior fixture. The £10m signing from Rangers has been restricted to U21 action since his arrival in January, but this was the ideal game for him to feature. The 20-year-old was able to push on as an attacking wing-back with Boreham Wood, understandably, defending in numbers.
He was perhaps Everton’s biggest threat during the first half, though that was not saying much. It was a turgid opening 45, punctuated by a couple of long-range Anthony Gordon efforts and a few Patterson crosses from the byline.
It was far too slow, allowing Boreham Wood to get back into defensive positions and squeeze the space. The National League club had yet to concede a goal in the FA Cup this season and have one of the best defensive records in England’s top five divisions, so they know how to keep clean sheets.
The grumbles of frustration at the half-time whistle were understandable.
Frank Lampard reacted during the break, bringing on Richarlison for Patterson and ditching the three-at-the-back/wing-backs formation. Patterson was a bit unlucky as Everton’s struggles were not his fault, but the tactical tweak immediately made the Toffees look more comfortable at the start of the second half. They played at a much higher tempo and created two early opportunities which Salomon Rondon spurned. The third one though, he buried, stretching to meet Jonjoe Kenny’s low cross from the right and guiding the ball into the near post.
There was a certain irony midway though the second half when Richarlison thought he had doubled Everton’s lead only for VAR to rule it out for handball. Replays suggested it was marginal as the ball smashed into his body from point-blank range, but it was nowhere near as blatant as the one not awarded against Manchester City at the weekend.
As we entered the final 10 minutes Everton’s goal had not been threatened, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t getting nervous. It was with some considerable relief that the Toffees grabbed a second, Andros Townsend’s cross from a short corner on the left finding Rondon, whose powerful header was pushed away by goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond, but only after the ball had gone over the line.
2-0. Game over.
The second goal prompted Lampard to throw some of the kids on, something he probably wanted to do much earlier, with Dobbin, Price and Welch all coming on for the final few minutes - the latter two making their senior debuts.