The Imps weren’t to make it into the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup this afternoon following a 2-1 defeat to their Premier League hosts, Everton.
The Toffees raced into a two goal lead early in proceedings with Ademola Lookman and Bernard scoring in the opening 15 minutes but when Michael Bostwick pulled a goal back just over ten minutes later it changed the whole context of the tie. Try as they might, the hosts just couldn’t shake off the Imps who were in the game right to the end and deservingly received an ovation from almost everyone in the stadium at the final whistle.
The Imps made three changes to the side which picked up a point against Port Vale on New Year’s Day, Josh Vickers, John Akinde and Tom Pett coming back into the starting eleven replacing Sam Slocombe, Matt Rhead and Shay McCartan respectively. The home side made five changes to their side as Ademola Lookman, Yerry Mina, Leighton Baines, Bernard and Tom Davies returned to the Toffee’s line up.
The players came out to a cacophony of noise from a packed out Goodison Park with 5,500 travelling Imps far from being outsung by the hosts. City started the game quickly and putting the home defence on their heels, Lee Frecklington made a trademark burst forward but was snuffed out by two Everton defenders. Before you could draw breath, the play was in the Imps’ half, Ademola Lookman taking aim and firing just over the top of Josh Vickers’ goal. City were really making their presence felt as John Akinde almost set up Harry Anderson but he couldn’t take control of the ball, before the latter then was inches away from setting Bruno Andrade on his way but the offside flag went up.
Everton began to probe around the edge of the Imps’ penalty area with intent, but the visitors were standing strong, Frecklington denying Gylfi Sigurdsson the chance to get a shot away on the edge of the box and Andrade working hard and winning the ball back in defensive areas. Tom Pett tried his luck from outside the box after a City free kick was only half cleared as away fans singing and support of the side was constant.
The home side took the lead however and were to hit the Imps hard in a devastating four-minute spell. Firstly, a cross from the left by Baines was met by the head of Lookman who looped his effort over Vickers and into the goal, before the lead was doubled when Bernard made his way into the box following some clever play between Sigurdsson and Tom Davies putting the Brazilian in to coolly chip home.
The home side were pressing forward quickly and Vickers was called into action when Dominic Calvert-Lewin broke free on halfway, capitalising on a loose ball, the England international got into the box but his effort was superbly blocked by the City stopper.
City though continued to work hard and were unlucky when Frecklington did well just inside the Everton half to win back possession, the skipper then let fly from 25 yards but it flew over the top. The Imps fans urged their side forward with a renewed vigour and when Akinde was brought down just outside the left of the Toffee’s area, Michael O’Connor was given the chance to whip in a dangerous ball and how he made it count.
The curling ball was played to the back post where Jason Shackell met it powerfully, Jordan Pickford saved the header which was destined for the net, but the ball rebounded to MICHAEL BOSTWICK who slammed home the rebound.
The Imps immediately poured forward looking for the equaliser winning two quick corners which the home side struggled to clear, City won a third set piece and atmosphere around the stadium changed completely on its head despite Everton keeping the ball out of their net for a second time. The home fans almost silent, while the Imps’ supporters were almost raising the roof off Goodison Park. It was now the visitors who were asking all the questions, Pett had a shot blocked following sterling work from Harry Toffolo and Andrade down the left before the hosts were again forced into hurriedly clearing the ball under intense City pressure.
Things settled down somewhat as half time approached but it continued to be the visiting side who were making the most of the game, Akinde was brought down by Yerry Mina and O’Connor was again the player putting in the cross from the resulting free kick. Mina however this time atoning for his earlier foul by beating Shackell to the cross and heading clear, it was to be the last opportunity of a captivating first half for either side.
Everton 2 The Imps 1
The home side made a double change at the break, bringing on Cenk Tosun and André Gomes to signal their intentions but it was The Imps who continued to hassle and harry their opponents as they looked to make an early second half impact. Although chances weren’t forthcoming the visiting supporters were still the buoyant ones.
O’ Connor and Pett were determined in the tackle, Frecklington’s guile on the ball was a real feature and the City defence were dealing well with the threat posed by the hosts. Anderson’s energy was causing problems for Baines, as well as Akinde and Mina having a real battle of physicality and it was all supplemented by a thundering soundtrack from the away supporters.
The looming threat from the Premier League side though was highlighted when Sigurdsson found just enough space to get a shot away which was met by the palms of Vickers, diving to his left to save. Gomes then tried a similar effort from outside the area but it whistled wide of the mark.
Slowly the Toffees started to dominate possession, pushing forward with intend to put the Imps out of sight but Bostwick was there just as Sigurdsson let his shot go, the City number 16 threw himself in front of the ball to block. City’s rearguard action was tremendous, and when the hosts did get a cross though from Baines on the left, Tosun’s little flick was gobbled up by Vickers who was out sharply to save.
City made two substitutions as the game went into its final quarter, Shay McCartan and Matt Rhead on for O’Connor and Akinde who received a rapturous round of applause for their efforts. The home side couldn’t finish off the determined City side who continued to throw everything inbetween the Everton attack and the goal, the Toffees were dominating possession but the desire shown by City was just as inspiring.
Ellis Chapman was introduced for Pett with just over ten minutes remaining with Pett going off to yet another tremendous ovation. City were looking for the chance to score an equaliser and when Rhead was brought down around 30 yards out, Eardley lined up the free kick . It was delivered onto the head of Shackell got on the end of but the home side deflected it for a corner in front of the travelling City fans. Andrade lifted it in and for a second time, Shackell met it and somehow Everton hooked it almost off the line!
It was to the final opportunity for the visiting side who leave Goodison Park with their heads held high and more than deserving of the ovation they got from both the travelling support and those in home areas.
Everton 2 The Imps 1
1 Jordan PICKFORD
3 Leighton BAINES
5 Kurt ZOUMA
10 Gylfi SIGURDSSON
13 Yerry MINA
17 Idrissa GANA GUEYE
26 Tom DAVIES
29 Dominic CALVERT-LEWIN
31 Ademola LOOKMAN
43 Jonjoe KENNY
Goal: Lookman 12’ Bernard 14’
Booked: Kenny 47’
22 Maartan STEKLENGURG
6 Phil JAGIELKA
8 André GOMES (46’ for Davies)
14 Cenk TOSUN (46’ for Calvert-Lewin)
16 James McCARTHY
23 Seamus COLEMAN
30 RICHARLISON (80’ for Sigurdsson)
1 Josh VICKERS
4 Michael O’CONNOR
5 Jason SHACKELL
7 Tom PETT
8 Lee FRECKLINGTON
11 Bruno ANDRADE
14 Harry TOFFOLO
16 Michael BOSTWICK
23 Neal EARDLEY
26 Harry ANDERSON
29 John AKINDE
24 Sam SLOCOMBE
2 Kellan GORDON
6 Scott WHARTON
9 Matt RHEAD (71’ for Akinde)
12 Ellis CHAPMAN (78’ for Pett)
17 Shay McCARTAN (72’ for O’Connor)
18 Bernard MENSAH
GOAL: Bostwick 28’
Referee: John Brooks
Assistants: Akil Howson & Lee Venamore
4th Official: Michael Salisbury
Attendance: 37,900 (5,481 Imps' supporters)