It was 10 years ago this month that David Moyes suffered his most embarrassing defeat as Everton manager, when a Shrewsbury side bottom of the fourth tier beat them 2-1 at Gay Meadow in the FA Cup.
A decade on, the ESPN cameras were at Cheltenham Town last night no doubt in the hope of seeing the Premier League side at least run close by a home team placed fourth in League Two, 66 places below their visitors, and undefeated at Whaddon Road since October. What they got instead was a comprehensive victory by the Merseysiders who showed their intent by starting with a near full-strength team and duly took a firm grip on proceedings with early goals from Nikica Jelavic and Leighton Baines, the latter a penalty.
Leon Osman, Seamus Coleman and Marouane Fellaini completed the scoring in the second half – Russ Penn replying for Cheltenham – as Everton set up a fourth-round trip to Bolton Wanderers or Sunderland.
Everton may be in the chase for Champions League places but the FA Cup has brought Moyes closest to silverware – a final appearance in 2009 and last year's run to the last four – and they gave little chance to opponents who have still never beaten a top-flight team.
Cheltenham began with plenty of energy, fashioning an early opening for Darren Carter. It followed good work by their left winger Kaid Mohamed but Carter failed to connect cleanly with his shot and the ball trickled wide.
If that stoked up the home crowd, their hopes were quickly dampened. Moyes has asked Jelavic to raise his game in front of goal and the Croat duly came up with the opening goal, his first in six matches, after 11 minutes. Bryan Oviedo jinked in from the left and combined with Fellaini to craft a shooting opportunity for the big Belgian. He drove a low angled shot past Scott Brown and on to the far post and Jelavic was first to the rebound, stretching to turn home.
Home goalkeeper Brown saved impressively when diving across his goal to pluck away Baines's free-kick. It proved in vain as the left-back soon added Everton's second. Phil Neville sent a long throw into the six-yard box where Alan Bennett was penalised for climbing on the back of Fellaini. It looked a harsh decision but Baines duly tucked the ball low to the right.
Everton had taken the wind out of Cheltenham's sails and for Moyes it was reward for a strong team selection. Last night the Scot altered just two names from the victorious starting XI at Newcastle on 2 January, with Victor Anichebe and Oviedo coming in for Steven Naismith and the absent Steven Pienaar.
Everton may be chasing the pot of gold that is Champions League qualification but the lure of this old pot cannot be underestimated, not least for Moyes, still seeking to deliver Everton's first trophy since 1995.
Cheltenham heads did not drop and even when Osman turned in Baines's low cross shortly after the restart, Mark Yates's men kept at it and quickly got a goal back as Penn drove past Howard after 51 minutes.
It really was game over six minutes later, however, after a fine strike by Coleman. The Irishman marked his return from injury by breaking down the right, feeding Anichebe out wide, and then meeting his return ball into the box with a first-time lob over Brown.
The contest was over but there was still plenty of satisfaction for the home side. As club chairman Paul Baker had noted beforehand, this was a "golden opportunity" to showcase a club usually overshadowed by racing and rugby; moreover, on a purely financial level, the tie reaped the Gloucestershire team around £200,000. It has already granted Yates room to manoeuvre in the transfer window, with two loan signings expected this week to boost his side's promotion push.
Back on the pitch, Bennett went close with a header but it was Fellaini who rounded off the scoring at the other end, turning in Anichebe's cross. The home fans chorused "We're gonna win 6-5", but Everton are the ones with their eyes on something shiny.
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