For a team struggling through the kind of run Everton find themselves midway through the season, a home tie against a side in the fourth tier of the English football is precisely what you would want. Granted, any game against a lower league side is a potential banana skin and the Blues were unlikely to replicate Tottenham’s record-setting feat of last night against Tranmere but a healthy home win to calm the nerves was certainly on the cards.
That it didn’t turn out that way underlines the shortage of confidence and composure that has suddenly afflicted Marco Silva’s team. The Toffees won but the manner in which a fast start gave way to a disconcertingly disjointed display during which Lincoln more than held their own for long periods won't have dispelled the doubts that have crept in in recent weeks.
A lot of hope has been invested in this competition for the remainder of this season but it's hard to see a long road to Wembley on this evidence unless it's paved with home ties against lower-division teams.
Danny Cowley and his brother and assistant, Nicky have a pedigree in the FA Cup after their impressive run to the quarter finals two years ago which included knocking out Burnley but there shouldn’t have been as little difference between the Premier League and League Two outfits as the scoreline suggests.
Indeed, the threat of an unwanted replay wouldn’t have been hanging over Goodison until the final whistle had Everton not relinquished the vice-like grip they had established on the game over the first quarter of the contest.
Having controlled the ball, sped into a 2-0 lead before 15 minutes had elapsed and threatened to rack up a rugby score, the Blues took their foot off the pedal and quickly lapsed into the unconvincing, mistake-addled team they have so often been over the past month.
Coupled with their maddening susceptibility to set-piece goals, one that looks as though it will continue as long as Marco Silva persists with this hybrid of zonal and man marking, it gave Lincoln a way back into the game in the 27th minute.
Matters improved after half-time when Tom Davies was hooked in favour of André Gomes but there remained a lack of fluidity and confidence about Everton that suggests it’s going to continue to be a difficult road while the manager searches for the answers to a poor run of form since the Merseyside derby.
If the New Year’s Day defeat to Leicester demonstrated anything it’s that mentally and physically, Everton were struggling from a gruelling festive programme, one that had compounded the last-gasp punch to the gut at Anfield and the twin disappointments against Newcastle and Watford that followed.
In response, Gomes, Richarlison, Michael Keane, Theo Walcott and the virtually ever-present Lucas Digne were rested and opportunities to impress against an inferior side were handed to Tom Davies, the fit-again Ademola Lookman and Leighton Baines while Dominic Calvert-Lewin was preferred to Cenk Tosun up front and Bernard was back in the starting XI out wide.
And from the opening minute, it looked as though the replacements would seize their chance, with Lookman smashing a cracking left-footed effort just over the bar from outside the box.
The 21-year-old would find the net via the more unexpected route of his head 11 minutes, though, as Everton’s early pressure and slicker passing told. Spreading the ball across the pitch, the Blues eventually worked the ball wide the over-lapping Baines who curled a cross to the back post where, unmarked, Lookman looped a header over the goalkeeper and over the goal line where the covering defender couldn’t keep it out.
Two minutes later it was 2-0 and Everton were flying. Another nicely-worked move saw Gylfi Sigurdsson find Calvert-Lewin in the area, he played Bernard in behind the last man and the Brazilian lifted the ball expertly over Josh Vickers.
Lookman then missed narrowly with an attempted curler from 20 yards and Calvert-Lewin was denied by Vickers after he had knocked the ball past his man and bore down on the keeper as the Blues threatened to add to their lead.
The impetus suddenly and inexplicably left the Blues’ game, however, after that and Lincoln started growing in the game. John Akinde had been giving Kurt Zouma plenty of problems early on, not least when the Frenchman gave the ball away in the middle of the park and was then “skinned” by the burly striker as he tried to ward him off, but it was Mina’s cheap foul that handed the Imps a free-kick opportunity from which they scored.
The dead ball picked Jason Shackell out free in the six-yard box and while his point-blank header was repelled by Jordan Pickford, the rebound fell straight to Michael Bostwick who converted from close range.
For the next half hour of the match, Everton struggled to rediscover their rhythm, even after Silva had moved to address the lack of control in the middle by replacing the disappointing Davies with Gomes at half-time. This was the kind of match that the likes of Sigurdsson, Idrissa Gueye and Bernard, all of whom who have played in World Cups, should have been absolutely bossing from start to finish and for the likes of Davies, Calvert-Lewin and Tosun, it was a chance to really shine.
Of the younger players drafted into the side, Lookman was the only one who made a strong case in patches for a regular first-choice berth and only Baines lived up to his billing as a former international and Premier League star.
In terms of his offensive production, this was vintage Baines but too many of his team-mates seemed bereft of confidence and unable to reliably find a blue shirt. Lincoln deserved enormous credit for their industry and their determination to close down every ball and for long periods Everton had few answers to it.
The introduction of Gomes, with his calm on the ball and ability to keep cycling it through midfield eventually allowed Everton to regain the upper hand and Sigurdsson was twice foiled by the Lincoln back line either side of the hour mark. First, Vickers dived to his left to push away a powerful shot from the Icelandic international and then, after Sigurdsson had played a one-two with Baines, the last defender was able to deflect his shot behind for a corner.
Baines had a decent shout for a penalty turned down when he was flattened in the box but Everton’s ability to put the game to bed meant that the last 10 minutes or so were unnecessarily nervy.
Richarlison, on for Sigurdsson as an 80th-minute sub, had to put the ball over his own crossbar following a Lincoln free-kick and then a corner and when Shay McCartan stole in in the 90th minute in a rare opening for the visitors from open play, Zouma came across well to toe it away from him.
In between, Richarlison had gone very close to notching Everton’s third but his shot fizzed wide and Tosun saw a shot from Baines’s low centre comfortably gathered by the keeper but in the end the two early goals proved to be enough.
In the cup, the final score is always paramount and, in that respect, the Blues being in the hat for the next round is what matters. In the context of this match being an opportunity to reset, for the players to re-find their groove and build their confidence, and in view of the calibre of the opposition, this should have been a lot more convincing than it was.
Next Sunday’s clash with Bournemouth, when a more familiar starting XI will no doubt be deployed after the first week-long break the players will have had since mid-December, will be more instructive as to how Silva and his staff have been able to right the ship after a turbulent month.
And while this wasn’t the kind of dominant performance Evertonians would have hoped for, both Silva and Marcel Brands will have added more information and context to their plans for further strengthening the squad, whether that is advanced during the current transfer window or over the summer.
Reader Comments (28)
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1 Posted 05/01/2019 at 18:47:06
Fair play to Lincoln when they had gone two goals down, they didn't let their heads go down they rolled their sleeves up and fought back. On the more concerning side we rarely looked like increasing the lead after they had scored.
When I first saw the team with five changes, I thought okay rotation with experience and fringe players given a chance to show what they can do. What happens, we get two early goals and then make it hard work for the remainder of the game.
One thing it did show, more than if we needed reminding, that we desperately need a striker, Calvert-Lewin was okay to start with... then faded, Tosun was woeful the whole time he was on. The few times in the second half we got crosses into their box, there was no-one there to convert them.
While it may be harsh to blame the strikers alone, the whole system was poor, which has to go back to Silva.
2 Posted 05/01/2019 at 20:22:20
Makes a change to actually be in it.
It was a piss poor performance by the team as a whole today with the exception of Baines and Kenny and my ratings would be as follows.
Pickford (6) Had little to do against basically an upgraded Sunday league strike force (no I'm not talking about ours lol)
Baines (8) Head and shoulders a class above the rest on show, the only player we possess with intelligence and a brain.
Zouma (5) Let himself get involved in too many scraps with that big cart horse they had up front instead of just letting the donkey have it and staying tight.
Mina (5) Read Zouma, made too many stupid unnecessary fouls and needs to quickly learn on that front that you just won't get away with it in this country.
Kenny (7) Good and hard in the tackle, not great going forward but then again Coleman offers little on that front these days so we never missed out on him not playing.
Time for a run now in the team for Kenny as it's justified.
Gana (5) Passing was utter dross today and did we even need him?
Davies (3) Woeful performance, trotted around barely interested and I'll say it again, what does he offer the team? People say he brings energy but I've seen more energy in an 88-year-old woman walking to the bingo.
Sigurdsson (4) Shite game and, other than a trademark good second-half shot, he just wasn't involved but when you have scored nine goals from midfield maybe you are allowed a couple of shit games? Today, though, he was shit.
Lookman (6) Started okay but faded and still has a frustrating trait of just running into traffic with one too many touches, I find that annoying. Worthy of a few games but I'm not too sure at Premier League level he'd offer that much more than Walcott.
Bernard (6) Classy goal, always bright but again needs more consistent end product. One of the few players though along with Baines who possess a football brain
Calvert-Lewin (3) Utter garbage, weak, never wins a battle, rarely makes the right runs that a centre-forward needs to make, woeful first touch, and never seems to get his kit dirty. Offers nothing and I very much doubt ever will. Might carve a decent career out at lower level and I hope for the lad he does but he's just not good enough.
Gomes (6) Did okay and was stronger than Davies but from the early signs of seeing Gomes he's not going to offer anything at all going forward. Is that really what we want to spend another £30-40 million on?
Tosun (1) Shite... just pure and utter shite – and the sooner the lad is shipped out will be better for him to be put out of his misery and we can move on and consign another wasted £27 million to the dustbin.
3 Posted 05/01/2019 at 20:58:54
5 Posted 05/01/2019 at 21:03:53
Midfield again was nullified by a Lincoln high defensive line. Gueye was reduced to inaccurate long passes, Davies was lightweight, and Sigurdsson was isolated. Most of Everton's play was channelled down the wings. The substitutions of Richarlison and Tosun just reinforced the weakness of Silva's coaching, as the wasted and lost possession put more pressure on midfield.
The coaching of defending against set pieces is non-existent. I am sick of crosses coming in from the right wing and a dwarf between two defenders heading a goal. Today it wasn't a dwarf, but someone who didn't have to jump, with three defenders round him, who were nowhere near being first to the ball.
Silva must have been in panic in the second half and rightly so he is a poor coach.
6 Posted 05/01/2019 at 21:42:35
I don't care how old he is, he is a poor Championship player at best. But as I said, we're in the hat – let's hope we get a good draw in next round.
7 Posted 05/01/2019 at 21:48:43
Also, I don't think that Seamus Coleman has been disgraceful for six months. Nor do I think that Calvert-Lewin and Davies deserve the level of bile you reserve for them. They are decent young players in a team lacking in belief and without leaders.
We all like to vent off but today really was not worth bursting a blood vessel over. Think Tony Marsh before you hit submit.
8 Posted 05/01/2019 at 22:09:06
You must be watching a different Everton if you think Tom Davies or Dominic Calvert-Lewin are anywhere near good enough.
Davies's application today was woeful, did he even sprint? He's a young lad but he just doesn't move or run and he hasn't got the physical strength or athleticism to do anything in midfield.
Calvert-Lewin is a complete waste of a shirt, he's 22 in two months and offers all the power of a kindergarten kid.
Coleman has been awful for six months, his crossing and his defending has been awful and why beat around the bush?
If you can tell me one good thing that you believe Calvert-Lewin or Davies offer, please do, but I just don't see it.
I've rated every player today with the honest assessment I believe they all deserved. I'm just glad we got through because, against a Championship side, or even top of League One, we'd have been kissing the silver goodbye.
9 Posted 05/01/2019 at 22:19:50
10 Posted 05/01/2019 at 22:20:20
Lyndon, in your post, you say the ball was crossed into the 6-yard box. That is true but a more accurate way of describing it would be to say it was headed from 3 yards out.
11 Posted 05/01/2019 at 22:30:42
Give the young lads a break. They're not ready to play for Everton at Goodison yet. They all need to learn their trade out on loan somewhere. But we are playing them because most of the senior pros we bought in the last 3 years have been shite!
Instead of Kenny, Davies and Calvert-Lewin getting a chance, would you prefer to see Tosun, Schneiderlin and all instead?
These lads just might have a future. Leon Osman was deemed not good enough at 21. By 23 he was a first-team regular who ended up representing his country.
Give the young lads a chance.
12 Posted 05/01/2019 at 22:39:32
Read my assessment mate!
Kenny should be given a long run in the team because Coleman has been gone for ages for me.
Davies and Calvert-Lewin should be playing on loan in the Championship (they arent Premier League players) and we arent a nursery where players can learn whilst being mediocre.
13 Posted 05/01/2019 at 23:04:11
We can only hope Silva and his staff use the free week ahead to work on the basics of defensive organisation and team play. Getting the basics right will help instil some confidence in a group of players seemingly bereft of it.
Baines was Man of the Match for us. That was remarkable given his lengthy absence from the team.
14 Posted 05/01/2019 at 23:23:24
Our players stood around in groups of 2 or 3 looking bedraggled and our manager, who had been in his technical area, retreated to the dug-out.
I can't speak for anyone else, but my own current lack of enthusiasm from the stand is that I am just not inspired by Marco Silva. I am sitting there thinking “We can't just keep sacking managers, we're bloody stuck with him”. I get the feeling that the players may be thinking the same thing.
On a separate note, Calvert-Lewin did play a very nice pass to Bernard for his goal.
15 Posted 05/01/2019 at 23:35:23
They said when the keeper goes down, and sure enough he did, the rest of the team would run to the manager/coach and he would give them a quick briefing. Pretty impressive idea to be honest as it also broke the head of steam Everton were building.
My visitors enjoyed the game and I congratulated them on their brilliant support. A number of, but not enough, Evertonians stayed in the stands and clapped off the Lincoln team which they, and their supporters seemed to appreciate.
I was obviously made up we won but also a little pleased that the game didn't turn into a Spurs vs Tranmere scenario as it looked like it might after our second goal went in.
16 Posted 05/01/2019 at 23:42:43
Whatever, the team selection is or tactics employed, we just don't have quality in depth, plus doubtful tactics. Depending on the FA Cup draw, we may have a cup run and mid-table at best in the league. Questions to be asked and questions to be answered.
It's Moshri's project; he sees what we see and he and the board will have the final say.
17 Posted 05/01/2019 at 00:14:24
Calvert-Lewin isn't the answer to our problem. Not by a long chalk. As has been said on here before, he never seems to strike the ball without scuffing it.
But last season, he led the line well. He showed for the ball and he was a genuine target man. He's reasonably strong. He's quick. But that's it. He ain't a goalscorer. He ain't a bully. He ain't nasty. He ain't prolific. He also ain't improving. He ain't good enough.
He's the best striking option we have, though, so we gotta support him until we have 3 players better than him in that position.
18 Posted 06/01/2019 at 03:20:02
Calvert-Lewin was in position to receive Sigurdsson's cross and lay it off for Bernard to score. The problem is that, if Sigurdsson is not in the game, the forward line has no support.
Calvert-Lewin at least gets into position and can successfully lay off the ball; neither Tosun nor Richarlison are able to do this; they both actually worsened the situation when they come on. Calvert-Lewin, Bernard and Lookman are better, because at least they have some football in them. . . and can all score.
If there was better coaching, they would be better.
19 Posted 06/01/2019 at 04:27:02
How is the defence expected to play confidently with a keeper who can't even control his 6-yard box? A great shot stopper, but he needs to take charge of those situations in his area.
20 Posted 06/01/2019 at 06:34:39
Our defensive set-up of zonal marking depends on a keeper with two hands controlling his zone, the 6-yard box. This is the root cause of the problem defending set pieces.
TW is constantly on about players not being good enough. What is the proposed solution? Spend another £300M when our current success rate at unearthing players is considered good enough in these threads is brutal.
As I posted in the live thread watching the game,.. We are far too slow in passing the ball which makes it easy for the opposition to set up defensively against us. This makes it much harder for our forwards to get clear-cut chances instead of half-chances. Hence rushed decision-making and few goals.
21 Posted 06/01/2019 at 10:37:35
Sigurdsson is an enigma. He does one or two special things in a match, runs forever but never wins a tackle, a header, or makes an interception. There is a much stronger case for playing Bernard in the No 10 role. Richarlison is the least skilful Brazilian I've seen, his first touch is awful, but has scored 9 goals although he contributes little else to the team. Both Mina and Zouma have had good games but struggled to contain a League Two centre-forward who bullied them all game.
Everton fans are a strange bunch of supporters, they rarely embrace young homegrown players as other clubs do, Liverpool and Spurs for example, they write off players at 30 because they are over the hill but, yet again yesterday, Baines proved as a footballer he was head and shoulders better than anyone on the field in terms of skill and football nouse.
Silva needs to persevere with Calvert-Lewin as he's the best we have at the moment and he needs the experience of playing to get better. Lookman needs to start ahead of both Walcott and Richarlison and be tolerant in the short-term of indifferent performances. Play Bernard at 10, rest Sigurdsson. See if it is possible to play Baines and Digne. Give the kids a break.
22 Posted 06/01/2019 at 13:23:14
I think that there are problems in the coaching of the midfield trio as well as set-pieces in defence and play in the final third. It's just too easy for the opposition to isolate and nullify Sigurdsson. Silva, in playing two midfielders against Brighton, may be clueless.
Lincoln, a League Two side, were able to replicate the tactics of the opposition that Everton have struggled with in the Premier League. Lincoln were sufficiently confident to push up Shackell in support of O'Connor in midfield. Even Bostwick, the midfielder who scored, was free to roam untracked.
The midfield trio are not mobile enough. They are not coached to interchange positions, overlap and keep equidistant shape. In the Premier League, all the top sides have a midfield trio who work in tandem. They keep the distance between them the same as they overlap, support each other in attack and defense. In the case of Tottenham, they even bring in an additional midfielder to provide more support.
Everton are too static. Gueye or Schneiderlin to defend; Gomes or Davies to carry; and Sigurdsson to link with the forwards. Once a high defensive line is used against them, they are nullified. All that has to be done is to nullify the carrier, by reducing his space. Silva with his preference for wing play, actually aids this tactic. Failure in the final third in pass completion, possession retention and wasteful finishing all play a part in helping the opposition with this tactic. Set-piece weaknesses are a result of players coming from deep untracked with uncoached defenders facing goal.
So the midfield trio needs to be working as a team interchanging position, overlapping, maintaining no unit shape, supported by high-pressing forwards providing alternatives and defenders supporting and offering alternatives. They are the central unit in a team that is best to defend and attack as a unit.
The team that Silva selected was good on paper, with the main doubt being Davies. The uncoached Davies progressively became more headless, Sigurdsson was isolated, and Gueye resorted to long passes, with his usual woeful completion rate. The subs just added to the problem.
Silva is beginning to emerge as not having the coaching ability necessary. Everton players are of the standard of 6th in the Premier League as Best of the Rest. . . or lower than that, and it is because of Silva's coaching.
23 Posted 06/01/2019 at 13:23:39
How a team can play so well for 25 minutes and then stop amazed me. This is not unusual this season. Maybe Sílva is going to be the right manager for us but, after 20-odd games, we are still seeing the failings of preseason.
24 Posted 06/01/2019 at 14:53:56
25 Posted 06/01/2019 at 16:28:02
26 Posted 06/01/2019 at 18:32:43
What is more worrying is that our record in the transfer market is also poor... so: Where to next? I ask.
27 Posted 06/01/2019 at 18:53:23
Not that I'd blame Allardyce who basically did his job as a stop gap and got paid accordingly which must have been in the contract; no-one can gripe at that. But a year on and there is no fight and certainly no organisation at the club anymore.
A bare semblance of a smile and a disjointed display against Lincoln indicated that fact. With our loan players likely to go back home soon, it will make hard work for the future.
Moyes came with nothing built a strong platform made some cheap shrewd buys and lasted 11 years, kept a consistent side, not the best but competitive. We won't see that again in a long while. It's very disheartening I'm afraid but we've seen enough recently to question the current manager.
Luckily Moshiri is a big investor – he may need help!!!
28 Posted 06/01/2019 at 21:20:44
I'm pleased we got through, and obviously it could have been a lot worse, but the game was a tough watch knowing that our lead was a fragile one.
29 Posted 06/01/2019 at 22:28:16
Very few players came through the game with any credit, Bernard, Baines and Lookman all performed well, the rest were pretty poor.
The result was what was needed, the performance needs to improve.
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