It was not only the Blue Dragon chip shop opposite Goodison Park that went up in smoke yesterday. Everton's FA Cup hopes went the same way as heroic Oldham Athletic pulled off the shock of the third round yesterday. A spectacular goal in first-half stoppage time from the left foot of the midfielder Gary McDonald decided an exciting tie and caused raptures among the players and supporters of League One's 13th-placed club, who have now registered seven successive away victories.
"Gary's naturally right-footed and I've been telling him he's shooting too much with his left," said the Oldham manager John Sheridan. "I've now had to apologise because we will all remember that one for a long time."
McDonald was Sheridan's first signing at Boundary Park in 2006 and scored the winner in this season's first-round replay at Doncaster Rovers. The potential for a repeat here appeared slight, though, with Everton having won 13 of their previous 17 games and lost only to Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal since early October.
The five-time winners are also the last from outside the big four to take the Cup and David Moyes, with one eye on Tuesday's Carling Cup semi-final at Chelsea, appeared justified in resting Joleon Lescott, Yakubu, Phil Neville and Tim Howard despite being without Tim Cahill, Joseph Yobo, Leon Osman and Mikel Arteta through injury or suspension. It was strange therefore to hear the manager say afterwards: "I don't think it was a vastly weakened team. In fact, it was a strong team but credit to Oldham. They defended fantastically and we'll see on Tuesday how we react. We didn't expect that."
Everton's start was purposeful enough and the 51-place gulf between the clubs was apparent as Mark Crossley saved superbly from the clean-through James Vaughan inside a minute.
It is to Oldham's huge credit that the 38-year-old former Nottingham Forest keeper, who saved Gary Lineker's penalty in the final in 1991 the same year that Sheridan hit a League Cup final winner for Sheffield Wednesday against Manchester United was never as stretched again.
Despite that Andy Johnson and Vaughan teed up James McFadden for a good chance that was deflected wide and the Scotland forward was denied by Kelvin Lomax's goalline clearance just before the breakthrough.
But the reassuringly composed Crossley, doubtful before kick-off with an ankle problem, was superbly protected by a defence on which Everton's mid-season bubble burst embarrassingly.
And, at the other end, Stefan Wessels' frequent unease helped Oldham into the contest after an opening half-hour in which they made no headway. The German keeper horribly misjudged one cross by Deane Smalley before Lee Hughes drove wide, Smalley turned for a volley that was pushed around the post and Mark Allott fired crisply over from 20 yards.
Then Oldham shocked Goodison by taking the lead. McDonald received a short pass by Lomax, took a couple of strides forward and hit a tremendous 25-yarder that clearly swerved and embarrassed Wessels by going in over his head.
Moyes sent on two more strikers, Yakubu and Victor Anichebe, just after the hour and the former Middlesbrough and Portsmouth forward hit a post from close range seconds before the whistle confirmed Oldham's place in the fourth round for only the second time in 12 seasons.
More than once, they sprung dangerous second-half counter-attacks through the pace of Hughes and Craig Davies and this famous conquest was certainly not a case of grim survival.
"I've told the lads to go out for a pint and enjoy the occasion," Sheridan added. "To come to a Premier League ground against a team who are flying and win is obviously very pleasing. It might not happen to them very often and I'm so proud."
It is not all bad news for the Goodison faithful though, the Blue Dragon is open again for business following the fire brigade visit that delayed kick-off for half an hour. Only Everton got their fingers burned.Reuse content