Stevenage are out of the FA Cup after a 4-0 Fourth Round defeat to a clinical Everton at a packed Lamex Stadium this evening.
A spirited Boro created numerous chances throughout the game and visiting ‘keeper Joel Robles was arguably the busier of the two goalkeepers on the night. However two first half goals from Steven Naismith were added to in the second half by John Heitinga and Magaye Gueye as the Toffees showed a real ruthlessness in front of goal.
With a capacity crowd roaring Stevenage on, the atmosphere at kick-off was electric. Boro nearly had a goal inside the opening minutes too when Joel Robles saved from Zoko and then Akins’ follow-up was blocked by Stones. The East Terrace cried for a penalty as the ball looked to hit Stones close to his arm but the referee waved away Boro's claims.
It didn’t take long though for Everton to threaten and indeed it was the Premier League side who took the lead with just five minutes on the clock. A Naismith dummy set Miralles free and whilst the Belgian’s shot was parried by Day, the subsequent cross back in was eventually turned home by Naismith.
Stevenage responded and when Morais whipped in a cross from the right flank it took a brave Everton head to clear the danger, just as Smith looked to pounce.
14 minutes in and Boro won a free-kick when Bryan Oviedo brought down Heslop on the edge of the area. The Toffees midfielder injured himself badly in the process and after a few minutes delay was taken off on a stretcher and replaced by Leon Osman.
Ingenuity in the resulting set-piece wrong-footed the Everton defence and set up Freeman for a chance, with Robles turning his shot behind.
Everton cleared the corner and broke at pace, with McGeady’s cross finding Osman at the back post but the sub sliced his shot over.
Stevenage kept up the pressure against their illustrious visitors and when Freeman wriggled past four Everton players he drew a foul from Gareth Barry and Boro had another dangerous set piece. Up stepped
Morais to curl an effort over the wall but there was Robles again to parry with an acrobatic save – Hartley then winning a corner with a neat back-heel which deflected behind. That corner eventually fell to Boro’s left-back but his header down into the six yard box just evaded Zoko and the keeper gathered.
Stevenage continued to push for an equaliser but Everton always looked threatening on the counter and doubled their lead just past the half hour. An Osman through-ball just evaded Ashton’s outstretched boot and in ran Naismith to calmly finish past Day for his second of the evening.
Bouyed by their lead the Toffees pushed for more and when Hartley was cautioned for a foul on the nippy McGeady, it handed them a free-kick out wide. Fortunately Luke Jones was there to clear the danger away.
As the fourth official indicated a minimum of six minutes added time, Freeman cut inside and set his sights but sliced a shot wide, when he perhaps had better options open to him.
Hartley was forced into a goal-line block as Naismith threatened to score a first-half hat-trick from an Osman cut-back, but Boro saw out the half to go in with just a two- goal deficit.
The hosts came out with purpose in the second half and forced Robles into yet more action within the opening couple of minutes. First the ‘keeper was forced to punch a lovely Morais cross away under pressure from Zoko. Smith then headed the ball back in and Akins fired in an effort which the Spaniard saved.
Everton’s pace had clearly threatened Boro all game with Kevin Miralles the next to put his speed and fancy footwork to good use. The Belgian ran at the home defence and advanced into the box before unleashing a shot which Day turned over. From the resulting corner he then turned provider, putting the ball back into the box with an overhead kick which John Heitinga met at the back post to give Everton a 3-0 lead.
Naismith thought he’d got his hat-trick on the hour when he ran through and chipped Day, but the offside flag had already gone up and he was subsequently cautioned by the referee for time-wasting. Miralles and Baines also saw efforts fly over the bar as the ruthless Toffees refused to sit back on their lead.
Everton were comfortable in possession and making Boro chase the ball, making chances limited for the hosts in the second half. On 68 minutes Zoko brought down a Freeman cross but could only poke agonisingly wide as the home faithful held their heads.
With seven minutes remaining, Everton further extended their lead through substitute Gueye, who received a pass from Barry and twisted and turned before rolling the ball home for a cool fourth.
Darius Charles, now playing up front, nearly grabbed a consolation for Boro when he was put through with just two minutes left. He beat Robles but the pitch slowed the ball down, allowing a defender to clear off the line – Parrett picked up the clearance and smashed at goal but even that was blocked too as the Toffees fought to preserve their clean sheet.
The Premier League side saw out the game and advance into the Fifth Round. Boro, meanwhile, must take the positives from their performance today into Tuesday’s crucial Sky Bet League 1 game against Crewe at The Lamex Stadium.
Boro: Day, Jones (Parrett 72), Ashton, Charles, Hartley, Morais (Andrade 81), Heslop, Smith, Freeman, Zoko (Deacon 85), Akins
Subs not used: A.Smith, Wedgbury, Burrow, Tounkara
Everton: Robles, Hibbert, Jagielka (Heitinga 46), Stones, Baines, McGeady, McCarthy, Barry, Oviedo (Osman 21), Miralles (Gueye 79), Naismith
Subs not used: Howard, Lukaku, Vellios, McAleny