Nigel Martyn: I don't sense a cup upset this time around for in-form Blues

By Nigel Martyn on Dec 30, 08 11:34 AM in Columnists

ONE Premier League team in form, one League Two side struggling - all things being equal, you would have to expect Everton will be in the FA Cup Fourth round this time next week.

Some will examine the tie we have been given against Macclesfield and immediately fear the worst, thinking back to the banana skins of Shrewsbury Town and Oldham which we've slipped on in recent years.

But I would be flabbergasted if Macclesfield joined that list - having seen them taken apart by Bradford City a couple of days ago, I really don't envisage Everton being presented with too many problems at Moss Rose this weekend.

In all honesty, I would have been more concerned had we been paired with either Wycombe Wanderers or Brentford, two sides who are right on top of their game and would have relished the opportunity to try and take a Premier League side down a peg or two.

When teams are full of confidence, they have less difficulty bridging gulfs in class; look at what happened when Histon - who were then top of the Conference - played Leeds at a ground that screamed 'upset'.

Macclesfield will give it everything early on but if Everton play with the swagger and determination that has carried them through Christmas on the crest of a wave, they won't have any problems.

Given he has been on the wrong end of too many upsets, David Moyes will prepare for this tie as if we were facing Arsenal. There is no doubt he will have done his homework.

The one dilemma he will face is whether to give Carlo Nash a first appearance or stick with Tim Howard behind a defence that has rediscovered its mean streak - Tim will want to play but Carlo needs a taste of what it is like playing for Everton.

That is sure to be in David's mind and history points to him giving his second string keeper a run in the early rounds of cup competitions but, after five clean sheets in six games, Tim will be desperate to keep going.

I'd imagine, however, that will be the only tinkering the manager does. It's about time we had a long run in the FA Cup and he won't jeopardise that by making wholesale changes at a place where some people expect him to slip up.

Provided the attitude is right from first whistle, I'd be more than confident of an Everton victory before moving on to sterner examinations - and who knows? It may turn out to be the first step on the road to Wembley.

CHRISTMAS COULDN'T HAVE BEEN HAPPIER

CHRISTMAS will have been good to many people but few will have been smiling as broadly as David Moyes after the festive period.

Taking seven points from nine available, not conceding a goal and seeing a number of top players roar back to form suggests the New Year can be good to Everton and Europe is definitely going to be in the manager's thinking again.

We have overtaken Hull and ambitions now must be focused on catching Arsenal and Aston Villa - just say that Arsenal become detached from the top three, all of a sudden a Champions League place might become obtainable.

It certainly isn't beyond the realms of possibility but it is also worth erring on the side of caution, as a squad that is stretched in the way ours is at the minute only has so much of a shelf life - by that I mean they can't keep on running themselves into the ground.

But if he can make a couple of additions during the transfer window and those who are injured return, Everton can certainly be a force - and the confidence from their fruitful Christmas can be put to good use.



I WAS POLL-AXED!

NICE of Graham Poll to give an insight into the way referees think after Everton's draw with Chelsea last week.

He said that Phil Dowd "was thinking to himself, I've got a big decision to make as I'm about to send the captain of England off" following John Terry's clash with Leon Osman.

Excuse me? It doesn't matter whether you are England's captain or Wigan's left-back. Tackles like that deserve red cards and referees should not be swayed by reputation.

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