Ever­ton’s se­cond string do busi­ness

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP THIRD ROUND - By Chris Dunlavy

OUT­CLASSED? Yes. Out­mus­cled? With­out doubt. But that didn’t stop John Still hail­ing his ‘war­riors’ af­ter a stel­lar de­fen­sive dis­play at Good­i­son Park.

Sep­a­rated by 78 league places at kick-off, few gave Da­gen­ham & Red­bridge a hope of up­set­ting the Tof­fees, even against an a side miss­ing star striker Romelu Lukaku.

But while goals from Arouna Kone and Kevin Mi­ral­las en­sured the tie went to script, the Dag­gers more than held their own to leave Still – who re­turned to the club for a third stint as man­ager only in De­cem­ber – singing their praises.

“I’m very proud,” said Still, whose side lie 22nd in League Two.“I know it’s easy for me to say be­cause I’m a Da­gen­ham fan, a Da­gen­ham player and now the Da­gen­ham man­ager. But I was re­ally proud of the team and of the sup­port­ers.

“They’ve had a dif­fi­cult year, a dif­fi­cult sea­son. For al­most 2,000 of them to turn out and get be­hind the lads was ter­rific.

“And I think our play­ers re­sponded. They were war­riors – and be­tween now and the end of the sea­son we will need war­riors.”

Da­gen­ham’s os­ten­si­bly ad­ven­tur­ous 3-5-2 was, in prac­tice, more a flat back five, de­signed to sti­fle space and plug gaps.

It worked, too, re­strict­ing an un­der­strength Ever­ton to a hand­ful of chances in the shape of Steven Pien­aar’s way­ward header and a 20yard blast from Ramiro Fuentes Mori that Mark Cousins pushed over.

Joe Wor­rall, mak­ing his de­but on loan from Not­ting­ham For­est, was par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive. The 19year-old, who met up with the squad at their West Brom train­ing base only yes­ter­day, looked in­stantly at home at cen­tre-back, clear­ing from un­der his own cross­bar be­fore ex­e­cut­ing a per­fectly-timed block on the charg­ing Brendan Gal­loway.

“It was re­ally weird,” said Still. “We’d ac­tu­ally loaned a boy from Read­ing, Piers Sweeney, who in­jured him­self in the first minute of his first train­ing ses­sion.

“So I got hold of Dougie Freed­man at For­est and said ‘Can you help me?’ He said yes and Joe met up with us this morn­ing. He hadn’t even trained with us and it was the same with Ol­lie Mul­doon, who we got from Charl­ton. He’s a Rom­ford boy, a Da­gen­ham sup­porter.

“And I have to say, for how long those two boys have been with us, they re­ally did re­mark­ably well.”

Yet the Dag­gers’ game­plan could af­ford no weak links and, in Ash­ley Hem­mings, Ever­ton found one.The 24-year-old looked about as com­fort­able at wing-back as a salmon in the Sa­hara, a prob­lem bru­tally ex­ploited by Aaron Len­non and Bryan Oviedo.

Twice caught in pos­ses­sion, Hem­mings then dragged Len­non to the deck. Oviedo whipped the free­kick to the back post and Kone atoned for an oth­er­wise in­sipid dis­play with a firm header into the cor­ner. Flood­gates opened? Hardly.

Though aided by Ever­ton’s ca­pac­ity to over­play, the Dag­gers con­tin­ued to de­fend im­pres­sively, re­fus­ing to be dragged out of shape by the ma­raud­ing Kevin Mi­ral­las.

With the ex­cep­tion of a shot from Kone, the Tof­fees failed to muster a se­ri­ous ef­fort on goal af­ter the break. That said, Ever­ton de­serve credit too. Set pieces are the great lev­eller in games like this, turn­ing a mis­match into a lot­tery.

Yet the Tof­fees played with ma­tu­rity and dis­ci­pline, re­sist­ing any urge to give away soft cor­ners or

FULL STRETCH: Mark Cousins in ac­tion as Ever­ton’s Arouna Kone (out of pic­ture) heads wide. In­set: Kevin Mi­ral­las scores from the spot



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