Everton made short work of troubled Second Division opposition in their Carling Cup tie, with two goals from Duncan Ferguson and a most encouraging full debut from a more recently arrived Scot.
After a difficult start to the Premiership season, David Moyes left his usual strike-force of Wayne Rooney and Tomasz Radzinski on the bench and started with Ferguson and Nick Chadwick up front. The key to their success, however, was James McFadden, a £1.25m summer signing from Motherwell, who played wide on the left and looked the sort of player who will add something to the mix at Goodison this season.
McFadden, along with the hyperactive Thomas Gravesen, was involved in much of Everton's best work as they gave a less than generous welcome to their former midfielder, Kevin Richardson, who has been assisting Stockport's caretaker manager, John Hollins, since Carlton Palmer was sacked last week.
Some clubs and players treat the Carling Cup as though it is below their dignity, but Gravesen and McFadden went to the opposite extreme, humming with enthusiasm from the start.
After a couple of early opportunities had gone to waste, it was Gravesen's ball into the box that produced the first goal, Robert Jones' clumsy tackle upending Tony Hibbert and Ferguson, in his first start of the season, driving his penalty firmly past Nick Colgan's right hand.
McFadden's swift raid deserved better than Chadwick's weak finish, but Everton went two up before the break, with Gravesen again the provider of the through ball and Chadwick forcing his shot beneath the advancing Colgan's body.
Stockport could hardly muster an attack and they were fortunate not to go further behind when Joseph Yobo had his volley cleared off the line by John Hardicker's head. But 10 minutes after the break, McFadden's superb run down the flank left defenders trailing, drew Colgan off his line and gave Ferguson what was little more than a tap-in to complete his first double for more than three years.
At 3-0 down, one of the last things a side would like to see is Rooney coming on as an extra attacking midfielder, but he was part of a triple substitution on the hour as Moyes felt able to experiment. In truth, the job was done, although a cross from McFadden deserved to be volleyed in by Chadwick, rather than wide, before County had their best effort of the game through Aaron Lescott in the last minute.
"Everton paid us the respect by playing a good side," Hollins said. "We really enjoyed the day and we did our best.''
Everton (4-4-2): Martyn; Hibbert (Unsworth, 60), Yobo (Clarke, 60), Weir, Pistone; Watson, Carsley, Gravesen (Rooney, 60), McFadden; Chadwick, Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Radzinski, Turner (gk).
Stockport County (4-4-1-1): Colgan; Clare (Daly, h-t), Challinor, Jones, Smith; Williams (Barlow, 56), Hardiker, Lescott, Welsh; Lambert, Wilbraham. Substitutes not used: Spencer (gk), McLachlan, Morrison.
Referee: C Webster (Tyne and Wear).