Last-Gasp Oldham Force Goodison Replay

Everton were seconds away from booking their place in the last eight of the FA Cup but a last-gasp equaliser by Oldham forced a replay at Goodison Park in 10 days' time.

Lyndon Lloyd 17/02/2013 0comments  |  Jump to last

Oldham Athletic 2-2 Everton

Everton were seconds away from booking their place in the last eight of the FA Cup but a last-gasp equaliser by substitute Matt Smith rescued Oldham and forced a replay at Goodison Park in 10 days' time.

The Blues looked to have successfully negotiated their way past the banana skin that upended Liverpool's hopes of progressing in the competition in the previous round and led 2-1 as the game ticked past the four minutes of stoppage time signaled by the fourth official. That's when a second successive corner launched from the home side's right found the head of 6' 6" Smith and he buried a header past the boxed-in Tim Howard to send Boundary Park into elation.

It presents another unwanted obstacle for David Moyes who must contend with an additional game on the calendar, but he will know that his side had enough in the tank to put this game to bed well before injury time and failed to do so.

Having fallen behind early on to a composed finish by Jordan Obita, the Blues leveled the game and then went ahead early in the second half. But Nikica Jelavic spurned their best chance to extend the advantage to two goals when he swept the a left-foot shot inches over the crossbar.

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That preceded a desperate late assault by a hitherto contained and subdued Oldham outfit who bombarded their Premier League visitors with increasing pressure in the closing stages and managed to force the ball home with almost the last touch of the game.

Though their performance was still arguably below the standards established earlier in the campaign when they emerged as genuine candidates to finish in the top four, Everton were fairly comfortable nonetheless - in terms of possession and control of the game, at least - against a team that found the Blue team from Merseyside a good deal less accommodating than the Red side had been in the fourth round.

Indeed, it was from an Everton attack that the Latics scored when they caught the visitors on a counter-attack launched by ex-Goodison forward Jose Baxter's clearance. Leon Osman lost a 50-50 challenge with Lee Croft near the halfway line and the winger surged forward before sliding a perfect centre to Obita who tucked the ball home past the stranded Tim Howard after 12 minutes.

After Pienaar's free kick had been cleared off the line, the Blues were back on terms 12 minutes later, though, when Jean-Yves M'voto misjudged a bouncing ball in his own area and Victor Anichebe smashed home an emphatic shot that blazed past Dean Bouzanis.

Though they would come closer to breaking parity again when Obita fired a deflected shot off the base of Howard's post, Oldham's influence on the game would progressively weaken towards the end of the first half and into the second. And it was Everton who would take the lead shortly after half time.

Kevin Mirallas, a half-time replacement for Anichebe who appeared to tweak a groin muscle late in the first period, whipped in a pin-point corner that found Phil Jagielka so precisely that the defender, almost comically pinned to the spot by a bear-hug from Barnard barely had to move to nod past the 'keeper from close range.

That should have provided the platform from which Moyes's side would go and kill the tie and the superb move that arrived within minutes of the second goal suggested that now felt more at ease. A neat one-two between Pienaar and Fellaini ended with terrific footwork by the South African but his eventual left-foot effort was saved.

Osman then went agonisingly close to connecting with another excellent Mirallas corner but poor control later let Jelavic down as he was put in for a potential one-on-one duel with Bouzanis, and the Croatian put the best chance over the bar having beaten the offside trap.

Oldham's increased urgency began to show, though, as the second half wore on and were it not for two impressive and vital stops by Howard to deny Smith and substitute Robbie Simpson, the League One side might have scored their second earlier than they did.

Their efforts appeared to be in vain, though, until a last-ditch assault on Everton's goal in stoppage time. As Moyes withdrew Jelavic and added the height of Shane Duffy to his defense, Bouzanis was sent forward to add an additional body to Oldham's arsenal. Though the first corner was successfully repelled by the Blues' defense, the second was delivered right onto Smith's head and with Howard pinned to his line by a crowd of blue jerseys, all the towering forward had to do was guide it onto the target to score.

It's tempting to view this performance through the same prism of the disappointing displays against Swansea, Southampton, Aston Villa and Manchester United but had Everton survived that late bamboozling by Oldham, the emphasis of the post-match analysis would surely have been on the nature of the cup and the paramount importance of just getting through.

Yes, the players could have kept the ball better and they were guilty of not putting the game to bed earlier but apportioning blame to the decision to bring on Duffy in place of Jelavic (leaving Mirallas as the outlet, it shouldn't be forgotten) is misguided to these eyes. At some point you have to credit how the spirit and will of Oldham manifested itself in a dramatic last-gasp goal that was almost indefensible once it was arriving towards Smith's head.

With the replay at Goodison, Everton will have no excuses if they don't progress to the home tie with Wigan Athletic that awaits the victors. If they get the job done as expected, the draw at Boundary Park and the replay it produced will have been a minor inconvenience as opposed to the disaster it represented to the neighbors across Stanley Park last month.

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