Everton 1-2 Luton Town

Woodrow steals it in added-on time

The now sadly usual marked lack of quality in finishing cost Everton dearly as having come from behind they couldn’t find a winner and right at the death, from an added-on time corner, the ball wasn’t cleared and substitute Woodrow poked home the winner that sent Luton into the fifth round draw.

The next step on the road to Wembley saw Luton Town with former Blues Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend arrive at the Grand Old Lady for this fourth round tie. Both clubs had needed to reach this stage via third round replays, Everton disposing of Crystal Palace while the Hatters progressed at the expense of Bolton Wanderers.

Everton and Sean Dyche had selection problems to overcome as Andre Gomes, Seamus Coleman and Abdoulaye Doucoure were all ruled out through injury and with Idrissa Gana Gueye still away at the AFCON tournament, the Blues were potentially looking at being somewhat light in midfield.

The conundrums facing Sean Dyche in the lead up to submitting his team sheet were whether to stick with Joao Virginia in goal, whether to add Arnaut Danjuma to the midfield or include Beto to give the Blues two striking options right from the get-go.

All was revealed and the questions answered when the team news confirmed the starting eleven to be: Joao Virginia, Nathan Patterson, James Tarkowski (c), Jarrad Branthwaite, Vitalii Mykolenko, Jack Harrison, James Garner, Amadou Onana, Dwight McNeil, Beto and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Luton under Rob Edwards have been making some steady progress in recent weeks and whilst still in the bottom three of the Premier League table, one place and one point behind the Blues, he was looking forward to trying to repeat their surprise, early season victory at Goodison.

In his midweek press briefing he noted, “The FA Cup is an amazing competition so we’re taking it very, very seriously. For us, we want to continue building our performances and the feel-good factor because we’ve been in good form. We’re really looking forward to it; Everton’s a brilliant football club, it’s a great stadium so the motivation is there for us.”

Looking to guide Luton into the fifth round for only the fifth time, Edwards named a strong side thus: Krul, Burke, Mengi, Bell, Doughty, Ogbene, Lokonga, Barkley, Townsend, Morris and Adebayo.

On a cool but not unpleasant afternoon, our referee was Simon Hooper.

A bright start by the visitors saw them have early opportunities, the best falling to Doughty who blazed his effort over the bar before Barkley tried his luck from long range and he too sent his shot far too high to trouble Joao Virginia and then Morris hooked a ball over the target. A through ball by Harrison for Beto saw the Blues forward called back for a foul on Mengi as the home side tried to get forward with meaning.

A good break down the left channel by DCL saw him play the ball inside for Beto and his first time side-footed effort went just wide of the far post but, much better from the Blues and a good link-up between the two strikers. Having let Luton have the better of the opening minutes, Everton were now pressing forward and making it hard for the visitors to clear their lines and when they did get free, a cross from the left aimed towards Adebayo was well claimed by Virginia. Everton countered, again down the left and an early cross from Mykolenko was just too strong for DCL.

Onana was hurt in a challenge with Burke that saw both players need some treatment, the Belgian coming off the worst and concerned about his left knee before gingerly making his way to the touchline while Patterson hoisted a highly speculative shot high into the Park End. Onana returned to the field with a look of pain still etched across his face. DCL tried to release Onana down the left only for Lokonga to push him over and give the Blues a free kick that was wasted, failing to clear the first man.

Twenty minutes gone and Lokonga again transgressed with a challenge that left McNeil in some pain with only a cursory comment from the referee. Luton got forward and an angled ball in from Morris found the head of Adebayo but, his header went wide of the near post – another warning for the Blues to tighten up at the back. Branthwaite headed a Doughty cross from the left out as far as Barkley, his first time effort headed out by Tarkowski and a few moments later, Luton won a corner from their right hand side. Doughty sent it long and Harrison got the ball away initially before Luton came again and Mykolenko was caught by Mengi.

Mengi then fouled Beto outside the area after he appeared to hold the Portuguese in the area, Garner seeing his disappointing free kick headed clear by Barkley, and the Luton counter ended tamely with Ogbene crossing easily for Virginia to gather and launch all the way downfield to his opposite number, Tim Krul.

Luton got back in numbers to deny Beto any chance of a shot after a nice feed from DCL and the next attack saw McNeil play a ball far too strongly for Garner to reach. As we’ve seen so many times this season, the lack of quality in the Blues play was outweighing the industry and effort being expended.

Mykolenko saw an effort smuggled to safety after Morris had fouled Beto and the quick long ball fund the Ukrainian in space. Onana saw a shot from longe range blocked and when the ball fell kindly to Beto, his effort on the turn went wide. A good cross by Mykolenko picked out McNeil charging into the area, his header whilst on target went straight at Krul.

Luton were fortunate to be awarded a corner after the ball appeared to go behind off Townsend and the corner to the near post saw Barkley clearly shove DCL in the back and out of the way for Burke to steer a header courtesy of a touch off Mykolenko and inside the near post with just over five minutes remaining on the first half. VAR reviewed and saw no fault, and Luton were ahead.

Four added minutes were signalled and Garner sent a free kick over the target and the half petered out disappointingly and some boos rang down from the terraces at the break.

Half Time: 0-1

As we were for the start of the second half, neither manager feeling a need to alter their line-up for the resumption of play, with the Blues knowing they had to be better in all areas of the field.

Luton won a fortuitous early corner that was cleared and after an Everton move was halted by a foul by DCL, Luton countered and won another corner that saw Doughty find the head of Mengi to bring a fine save from Virginia to keep the visitors from doubling their lead. Patterson was caught in possession and the crowd voiced its frustration but, it changed to cheers moments later as a ball from Beto picked out Jack Harrison who got away from Mengi and his shot from the edge of the box was too strong for Krul and on 55 minutes, it was one apiece.

Goodison was now in a much better frame of mind and with Beto encouraging even more noise, the fans responded. A slip by Branthwaite allowed Adebayo to get free and instead of squaring the ball to Townsend, he took the shot on and Virginia did well to turn it away across the face of goal for a corner that was defended. Passing the hour mark, the game was now wide open as clearly neither manager wanted a replay and urged their side to attack to force a result.

Luton spurned a glorious opportunity to regain the lead as Townsend got free in the Everton area to find Morris completely alone and his effort from less than ten yard was blocked and cleared by Patterson perfectly positioned on the goal line. Barkley wasted a free kick conceded by Branthwaite and Luton made their a triple change as Adebayo, Townsend and Lokonga made way for Chong, Woodrow and Mpanzu respectively.

Bell needlessly conceded a corner for Everton on the Blues left that Mpanzu headed behind for another but, that failed to produce. Into the final twenty minutes and the need for a breakthrough was now becoming desperate for both sides, Luton having had more chances even guiltier than Everton of a lack of quality in their finishing.

Barkley blazed another shot over the target before going down with cramp and being attended to by Amadou Onana. Everton won another corner as a shot from Beto was deflected behind off Burke, Luton clearing without too much trouble to get forward themselves for Barkley to see another effort blocked by Garner. Luton made two more changes on 75 minutes with Johnson and Berry replacing Doughty and Barkley who was impolitely booed from the pitch by the home crowd.

A cross from the left from McNeil found Harrison who tried a spectacular effort that went over the target and a double change by Sean Dyche saw DCL and Dwight McNeil replaced by Youssef Chermiti and Arnaut Danjuma.

A foul on Mengi on Onana gave the Blues a free kick midway inside the Luton half that saw Garner find the head of Onana and from his knock down, Beto lifted his first time effort over the bar, it wouldn’t have counted anyway as the referee had blown for Onana climbing on the defender. Into the final ten minutes, could either side find a winner?

A good ball from Patterson came to nothing as Beto was called for fouling Johnson, and then Patterson brought down Chong with Luton going all the way back to Krul. Another free kick for a foul by Berry on Onana as the play continued to be stop-start saw the ball reach Harrison and his cross for Chermiti saw a header easily gathered by Krul.

Luton cleared a cross from the right by Harrison and as the Blues came again, a cross from Mykolenko found Harrison, his shot being blocked and cleared by the Hatters. Everton were pouring forward and won another corner with Chermit and Burke both being booked for some push ‘n shove… and five added minutes were announced before the corner was taken and cleared far too easily.

Luton won a late, late corner and Woodrow netted as Danjuma twice failed to clear the six yard area – absolutely criminal defending by the Blues and whilst it pains me to say it, on the day, Luton probably deserved the result.

Full Time: 1-2

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