Cheltenham Town 1 Everton 5
PREMIER League class shone brightly at the Abbey Business Stadium this evening as Everton disposed of Cheltenham Town with the minimum of fuss to book their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
It was a night to savour for the League Two Robins, but David Moyes’ team had far too much quality and an upset never looked likely after quick goals in the first half from Nikica Jelavic and Leighton Baines.
An already gargantuan task became even more daunting for Cheltenham in the 12th minute and it was Belgian sensation Marouane Fellaini who had a big say in it.
One of the most recognisable figures in the game twisted and shot on the turn with an effort that appeared to take Scott Brown by surprise.
The goalkeeper threw himself to his left, but he was unable to stop it rebounding off the post and Jelavic did what few players in the English game currently do better, tapping into the empty net from close range.
The ball arrived at the Croatian with pace and his controlled finish was not as simple as he made it look.
He celebrated his seventh goal of the season and the wind had been taken out of Cheltenham’s sails.
They started well, with Alan Bennett winning his first aerial test against the big-haired Fellaini and Sido Jombati showing that he was not overawed by the occasion, nonchalantly back-heeling his way out of the trouble early on.
Darren Carter was passed fit to play after sustaining an ankle injury in the 1-0 defeat at Oxford on New Year’s Day and the midfielder arrived in some promising attacking positions in the opening period.
He scuffed one wide in the sixth minute after being set up by Kaid Mohamed, the hero of the second round replay at Hereford United who was preferred to Jake Taylor on the left wing.
Brown made a comfortable save from Costa Rican Bryan Oviedo shortly before Cheltenham fell behind.
Carter forced Tim Howard into his first save in the 18th minute, but the American number one gathered it safely.
For once Billy Jones’ left foot was not the sweetest on show at Whaddon Road and the capacity crowd were given a first-hand look at one of the best in the business.
Baines forced Brown into a tremendous save with a free-kick from 30 yards in the 20th minute, but seconds later Everton were awarded a penalty.
It stemmed from a long throw from Phil Neville, who has over 500 Premier League appearances to his name.
Robins skipper Bennett was adjudged to have impeded Fellaini and despite Cheltenham’s protests, referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot in the 21st minute.
Baines stepped up and thumped his penalty past Brown, who guessed correctly, diving to his right but it was unstoppable.
Just as they had been in previous FA Cup ties against top flight opponents Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur, Cheltenham were 2-0 down at the break.
Fellaini sent a shot and a header wide as Everton put together some moves fitting for a team fifth in the top flight.
Baines underlined his class four minutes into the second half, setting up fellow England man Leon Osman, who skipped into space with some wonderfully neat touches before slamming past Brown to make it 3-0.
No-nonsense Osman rather sums up Everton and Moyes’ philosophy at Goodison Park and he showed why Roy Hodgson was so keen to call him into the national set-up this season.
There seemed no way back from Osman’s goal, but two minutes later Russ Penn gave Cheltenham a glimmer of hope with his first strike of the campaign.
He latched onto Mohamed’s pass and beat the advancing Howard for a goal he will never forget and Cheltenham’s first against top flight opposition in the FA Cup since Grant McCann’s stunner against Fulham in 2003/04.
Jermaine McGlashan relished the chance to run at Baines and he crossed from the right towards Jeff Goulding, but the lone front man failed to make a clean contact with his header from a good position.
Irish full-back Seamus Coleman scored the best goal of the night in the 58th minute to restore Everton’s three-goal advantage.
He exchanged passes with Victor Anichebe before calmly lifting a quite brilliant finish over Brown.
Steve Elliott nodded one close with 15 minutes remaining, but Everton were the epitome of professionalism.
Brown did well to keep out substitute Steven Naismith’s late effort, but Fellaini added the fifth after a perfect cross from Anichebe in the 89th minute and Everton will play at Sunderland or Bolton in round four.
CHELTENHAM TOWN: S Brown; S Jombati, A Bennett, S Elliott, B Jones; J McGlashan (S Deering 81), M Pack, R Penn, D Carter (J Taylor 66), K Mohamed; J Goulding (D Duffy 66). Subs not used: K Lowe, H Hooman, C Roberts, S Harrad.
EVERTON: T Howard; S Coleman, S Distin, P Jagielka, L Baines (M Gueye 64); V Anichebe, L Osman (S Naismith 69), P Neville, B Oviedo; M Fellaini, N Jelavic (T Hitzlsperger 81). Subs not used: J Mucha, R Barkley, A Vellios, S Duffy.
REFEREE: K Friend.
ATTENDANCE: 6,891 (1,101 away).
STAR MAN: Russ Penn.
To relive the action as it unfolded, click below: