Before the trophy was pocketed by the big clubs like an After Eight mint following a good meal, it used to be possible to pick out potential FA Cup winners at this stage of the season. They would not be competing for anything else but they had a decent squad and would be running into some serious form as February turned into March. They would look a lot like Everton.
"We are desperate to get to the final," said David Moyes. "From the first day of my first year as manager of Everton I have wanted to win a trophy." There are some, including his opposite number Ian Holloway, who thought this could be his year.
As a contest, it lasted six minutes, or two rounds of a boxing match, enough time for Everton to score twice before Blackpool had summoned themselves much beyond the halfway line. The thousands that had made the short journey from the Fylde coast might have reckoned that most rides on the Pleasure Beach last longer.
There were not many thrills for them but the first spill arrived after 49 seconds. Magaye Gueye wriggled past his marker and produced a low cross that Marouane Fellaini shielded from two defenders before pushing it out to Royston Drenthe, whose shot curled into the net beneath a sunlit Gwladys End.
The second was even more straightforward. A corner from Drenthe that Gueye flicked on fell to Denis Stracqualursi. The Argentinian's feet appeared to become tangled with the ball but, as he fell backwards, he launched another kick and lashed it into the net. Shortly afterwards, Blackpool lost Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who injured his knee in a collision with Tim Howard. It seemed inconceivable they would not capitulate.
The last time Blackpool had come to Goodison there had been eight goals and but for some luck and some fine, committed defending there might have been another eight, this time all in Matt Gilks' net. Robert Harris delivered a great tackle on Darron Gibson as it seemed the Irishman had to score and with 10 minutes remaining cleared Fellaini's shot delivered from near point-blank range off the line. Gilks, in turn, tipped a wicked shot from Drenthe into the crowd and then was alert enough to fend off a shot from Stracqualursi.
In the sportswriter's cliché the FA Cup is romantic, the League routine but for most of the afternoon Blackpool accepted their defeat as wearily as a man struck in Monday morning traffic. Moyes said that Everton had "six or seven chances to put the game to bed" only to see it waking up very late.
Holloway's two thirty-somethings, Kevin Phillips and Lomana Lua-Lua, both struck the frame of Howard's goal – the former nicked the top of the bar with a free kick while the man from the Democratic Republic of Congo curled a shot sensuously which Howard tipped on to the post at full stretch.
Then right at the finish, Michael Oliver judged that John Heitinga had brought down Roman Bednar, something the Dutchman was disputing with him after the final whistle in an argument that saw him win the support of the Blackpool manager. It fell to Phillips to take the penalty and with four minutes of stoppage time, there was a possibility of a final rally. That his kick finished up in the crowd told its own story.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Hibbert, Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Drenthe, Gibson (Barkley, 82), Neville, Gueye (Coleman, 60); Fellaini; Stracqualursi (Vellios, 88)
Blackpool (4-4-1-1): Gilks; Baptiste, Cathcart, Harris, Wilson; Basham, Sylvestre, Martinez (Lua-Lua, 72), Ince (Dicko, 72); Taylor-Fletcher (Bednar, 22); K Phillips.
Referee Michael Oliver.
Man of the match Drenthe (Everton).
Match rating 6/10.
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