Everton swept into the FA Cup fourth round with a 5-1 rout of League Two minnows Cheltenham on Monday.
Although Everton are flying high in the Premier League and harbor genuine ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League, Toffees boss David Moyes refused to rest his key players and sent out a strong side at Whaddon Road to guard against a potential third round giant-killing.
His senior stars proved too hot for fourth-tier Cheltenham to handle as Nikica Jelavic’s early goal and a Leighton Baines penalty put the result beyond doubt within 21 minutes.
Leon Osman added Everton’s third goal soon after half-time and although Russell Penn got one back for Cheltenham there was never any chance of a comeback.
Seamus Coleman and Marouane Fellaini rounded off the scoring to ensure Everton, beaten by Liverpool in the semi-finals last season, earned a last 32 clash with Bolton or Sunderland later this month.
“The manager wants to win the FA Cup and I think that is a sign with the team he picked,” Everton captain Phil Neville told ESPN.
“He could have rotated the team because we have a game a week until the end of the season, but I think he wanted to keep the momentum going. We are on a good run,” he said.
Moyes said: “It was a tough game for us which is what you expect in the FA Cup. The pitch was difficult, but we got the job done.”
With 67 places between the clubs in the English league system it was hardly surprising to see Everton, featuring eight of the team that won 2-1 at Newcastle in their previous game, take charge right from the kick-off.
The Toffees opened the scoring after 12 minutes when Fellaini’s curling shot from the right crashed against the far post and Croatia forward Jelavic alertly slotted home the rebound for his seventh goal of the campaign.
Everton were cutting through the home defense with ease and Jelavic shot wide after more good play by Fellaini before Scott Brown produced a superb save to keep out Baines’ curling free-kick.
Baines was not to be denied and the England left-back doubled Everton’s lead from the penalty spot in the 21st minute.
Cheltenham captain Alan Bennett was harshly ruled to have fouled Fellaini and the resulting spot-kick from Baines contained too much power for Brown.
Moyes’ men killed off the tie after 49 minutes when Osman slotted the ball past Brown.
Cheltenham’s training ground was broken into last week, but there was no chance they would rob Everton of victory even after they pulled one back two minutes later through Penn’s powerful finish.
Coleman re-established Everton’s three-goal lead in the 58th minute with a clever flick over Brown after exchanging passes with Victor Anichebe.