Shaun Harrad scoring in the previous round. - Michael Steele
Everton take on Cheltenham Town on Monday night in front of the ESPN cameras for this FA Cup Third Round fixture. This has the potential to be an upset, especially if Everton come out flat.
Twice in David Moyes' reign Everton have been knocked out in the FA Cup against lower-table opposition, in 2003 against Shrewsbury Town and then in 2008 against Oldham Athletic. Earlier this season they lost at Leeds United in the Capital One League Cup as well. With that in mind, and also keeping in mind that the FA Cup still remains Moyes' best bet at getting some silverware for the Goodison Park trophy cabinet, we can expect a semi-full strength squad to be named for this game. If any good omens were needed, then twice Everton have started their FA Cup campaigns on January 7th, and both times they went on to win the competition (1984, 1995).
Cheltenham Town are flying pretty high in League Two themselves, sitting in fourth place just outside one of the automatic promotion places. The Robins have been very strong at their Whaddon Road home stadium, winning eight and drawing two of their fixtures there. Despite being a lower league team, they actually play an attractive game under former player Mark Yates, keeping the ball on the ground with some one-touch passing. As their earlier round tie against Hereford United showed, they are not a kicking and hacking team and this should provide for some entertaining football.
Team News -
Having played four games over twelve days during a hectic holiday schedule, this is Moyes' chance to give some key players a much-needed rest. You can expect Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka to sit this one out, and possibly Steven Pienaar, Leon Osman and Nikica Jelavić. Jelavić has been in a slump though, and getting a goal or two here could do wonders for his confidence. Marouane Fellaini is coming off a three-match suspension and looked rusty against Newcastle, so ideally he should play. Besides, his physical and intimidating style might be required to subdue the Robins. Darron Gibson, Kevin Mirallas, Tony Hibbert and Seamus Coleman remain injured and will not feature.
For Mark Yates' side, key midfielder Darren Carter suffered a facial injury on New Year's Day and will need to be assessed just before the game. The former West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City man could keep the game interesting in the middle of the park. The on-loan Reading duo Jake Taylor and Lawson D'Ath will not play after seeing their terms expire at the turn of the year.
Keys To The Game -
Most fans would rather see Moyes start a strong side that sews the game up in the first hour and then rest some players. The gaffer's challenge will be to see how many players he can bench without losing integrity on the field. Everton will need to be strong in the middle as that is where this game will be won for them. The Toffees cannot afford any gaffes in defence again, and will need to be on their guard especially on setpieces.
For the Robins, this represents a dream date, taking on a top five Premier League side at home on national television. No matter what their current form, the players will be expected to give their all with the world's eyes trained upon Whaddon Road on Monday night. Goalie Scott Brown is in excellent nick, and defensive pairing Alan Bennett and Steve Elliott are solid. Jermaine McGlashan's pace is a threat and striker Shaun Harrad has seven goals on the season.
Match Facts -
Everton, founded in 1878, have never played Cheltenham Town, founded in 1887.
The Toffees have won the FA Cup five times in their history, with the last being in 1995.
Darren Carter is the only player on the Robins with Premier League experience.
Cheltenham reserve keeper Connor Roberts is a product of the Everton youth team.
Everton go into the game three tiers and 67 places higher than their Gloucestershire opponents.