For three members of the Everton emporium, this amounted to an FA Cup defence. Roberto Martinez, James McCarthy and Joel Robles were all part of the winning Wigan experience at Wembley and might easily find themselves returning in May.
This was further evidence of the improvement made by Everton under Martinez. Though there will be better barometers by which to measure progress, Everton fizzed the ball about with Pythagorean precision. That this turned out to be as straightforward on grass as it appeared on paper is a reflection of the confidence coursing through Martinez’s side.
After Manchester City’s recovery against Watford Everton found themselves in the Punch and Judy slot, the day’s last hope of a shock result. The fanciful idea lasted all of six minutes, the time it took Steven Naismith to clip the ball past the keeper Chris Day.
Before that there was lots of earthy enthusiasm from the team rooted at the base of League One. John Stones would have had to watch the highlights to discover how he kept out Lucas Akins’ shot, the ball clattering against his cranium and away to safety with him oblivious to its whereabouts.
The goal quietened the stadium and allowed Everton room to impose their pedigree, particularly through Kevin Mirallas glorying in the central role ascribed to him.
The rain relented before kick-off, which was excellent news for the galleries as well as the players, including Joey Barton, who would not have enjoyed a dousing with his hair confection, growing copiously in the Continental fashion.
Barton, re-inventing himself as a football personality/intellectual, was part of the BT Sport outreach squad dispatched to the Lamex Stadium to capture the atmosphere for the cameras. There is still a degree of novelty in the lower leagues when the big broadcasters deign to visit.
Until the loss of Bryan Oviedo to a suspected broken leg in the 20th minute Everton had it mostly their own way. The Costa Rican injured himself conceding a free-kick that brought Robles in the Everton goal into the game, tipping a well-worked shot around the post.
Ten minutes later Stevenage found themselves two down, skipper John Ashton letting the ball slide beneath his foot to release Naismith. The Scotsman tore forward and finished neatly.
Everton replaced Phil Jagielka with John Heitinga at the start of the second half without any disruption in rhythm. Call it manager’s intuition. Ten minutes into the half it was Heitinga who met the overhead kick of Mirallas to power a header past Day for the third.
With the Merseyside derby looming on Tuesday, an amble towards the tape was required by Everton. Stevenage kept chasing every ball but their attacks were increasingly predictable. The difference between a team with Champions’ League ambitions and another clinging to the third tier of English football was evident in the patterns painted by the men in blue.
Naismith was marginally offside in pursuit of his hat-trick but chipped the keeper anyway just to show how it’s done. He was booked for his impudence, giving the home support at least something to cheer.
With 20 minutes to go they might have had more to celebrate after Stevenage fashioned a rare opportunity. François Zoko, the source of much pre-match optimism in these parts, chested the ball down on the edge of the box only to poke his shot tamely at goal.
Here is a footballer who sees in his own story something of fellow Ivorian Didier Drogba’s traipse across Planet Football. How one player progresses and another doesn’t is probably a matter of fractions, Drogba needing only a split second to make a difference; Zoko and his Stevenage brothers are evidently on a different clock.
Stevenage (4-3-3): Day, Smith, Ashton, Jones (Parrett, 72), Hartley; Morais (Andrade, 81), Charles, Heslop; Akins, Freeman, Zoko (Deacon, 85).
Everton (4-2-3-1): Robles, Hibbert, Jagielka (Heitinga, h-t), Stones, Baines; Barry, McGeady; Oviedo (Osman, 22), McCarthy, Mirallas (Gueye, 81); Naismith.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Man of the match: Naismith (Everton)
Match rating: 8/10