Match Report: Matt Smith conjures late Oldham Athletic magic against Everton
Oldham Athletic 2 Everton 2: Scourge of Liverpool in the last round rises to the occasion again to earn his side replay at Everton
Sunday 17 February 2013
This was a draw, but the reactions moments after the final whistle demonstrated what kind of draw it was. The Everton end was emptying, those in the two other stands that Boundary Park runs to were dancing, hugging, smiling.
It was the stuff of wild, improbable romance; a time for those who choose the post-match songs to reach for the obvious numbers. It was the Oldham anthem "The Boys in Blue" that accompanied most home.
With seconds to go, Everton must have thought themselves safe. Matt Smith, the tall graduate of Manchester University who had terrorised the Liverpool back four, had been given two clear chances to level matters and seen each of them superbly turned away by Tim Howard.
There was time for one more corner, delivered by Jonathan Grounds which his keeper, Dean Bouzanis, who had come up to make a nuisance of himself, looked as if he might punch in. Thankfully for Oldham, it was Smith's head, the one that had inflicted so much damage to Liverpool in the fourth round, that connected. There was no time to do anything else except celebrate.
At least Everton, unlike Arsenal, are still in the competition. However, the last time they faced Oldham at Goodison in the FA Cup in 2008, they lost. The replay is not just an opportunity to earn more money to finance a fourth stand for Boundary Park – the chance of further glory is not yet gone.
"We left it to the death but of course we deserved a replay," said Smith, who two years ago was turning out for Solihull Motors.
"It was an unbelievable performance, from the keeper to the substitutes. We have been working on swinging crosses all week and I managed to get my head on it. We deserved it, especially for the second-half performance."
A club like Oldham, drifting in the lower reaches of League One, are a strange mixture of ambitions. Young players dreaming of escape, old pros hoping for another contract and those on loan often in nondescript hotels wondering what they are doing at somewhere like Oldham.
However decrepit, Boundary Park represents a rather better bet than Portsmouth where Jordan Obita, an England Under-19 winger on Reading's books, had spent his last loan spell, for the very good reason that he was more likely to be paid.
His value would have increased after last night. Everton had begun determined to show none of the fragility that did for Liverpool in the fourth round. Leighton Baines had just sent one free-kick whistling into the mass of fans behind Bouzanis's goal and they had just pumped in another corner when Oldham broke out and the tie was broken open.
With his arms pumping, Lee Croft had muscled past Leon Osman and then delivered a low cross that took out two white-shirted defenders and found Obita.
Later, Obita was to turn and shoot against the foot of Tim Howard's post, via the faintest of touches from Marouane Fellaini's boot. The rebound fell to Croft who shot wildly wide.
Everton, by that stage, had drawn level, though they seldom suggested the tie was under control. Victor Anichebe's equaliser was a thing of pure control; a ball from Darron Gibson, flicked on by Nikica Jelavic. Jean-Yves M'voto, a Parisian brought to English football by Roy Keane during his furious time as Sunderland manager, committed himself too early. Anichebe took the ball down and thrashed it past Bouzanis. David Moyes clapped his hands hard.
Anichebe, always susceptible to injury, was withdrawn at half-time and replaced by Kevin Mirallas, who just minutes later, produced a wickedly delivered corner that Bouzanis never came close to reaching. Phil Jagielka barely had to move before heading Everton into the lead. The visitors suddenly seemed safe but, like so many Premier League sides in this year's competition, the dangers lurked all around them.
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