Silva relief as Everton edge past plucky Imps
For Lincoln City there will be no new shockwave to follow the one they caused in 2017 by becoming the first non- league club for 103 years to reach the FA Cup quarter- fi nals but they certainly gave it a good go. On a chilly Merseyside afternoon Danny Cowley’s men, now leaders of League Two, pushed Everton all the way in a third- round tie during which it was tough at times to tell the favourites from the underdogs.
Having gone 2- 0 up in the space of two first- half minutes, Everton ultimately did enough to seal their place in the fourth round but this was another largely unconvincing display from Marco Silva’s side.
Everton toiled against opponents who sit 58 places below them and all but closed that gap with a display brimming with togetherness and defiance. Indeed, it was telling that, having been roared on throughout from the 5,000 or so spectators who travelled here from the east Midlands, Lincoln’s players also received a standing ovation from sections of the home support on the fi nal whistle – a nice touch and one that was richly deserved.
“We can be really proud of our efforts,” said Cowley. “When you’re 2- 0 down after 15 minutes at a Premier League club you fear the worst. But we’ve got a really resilient, gritty group and we showed all of those qualities.”
That they did, most notably Michael O’Connor and the captain Lee Frecklington in central midfi eld, while Tom Pett, operating just behind the combative lone striker, John Akinde, also caught the eye with his work- rate and determination. It was not pretty but it was absorbing and on 82 minutes a replay looked on the cards after Jason Shackell rose to meet Bruno Andrade’s left- sided corner. The ball appeared to be heading in only for Richarlison, having just come on as a substitute, to clear the ball from underneath his crossbar.
It was via Shackell’s head that Lincoln got back into th e game. On 28 minutes the centre- half met O’Connor’s free- kick and, though Jordan Pickford was able to keep his effort out with an excellent reaction save, he could do nothing to stop Lincoln’s other centre- half, Michael Bostwick, from smashing in the rebound.
It was a bolt from the blue – or rather from the red and white – and, as Silva conceded, his players subsequently lost their focus having started this game in commanding manner. A side containing five changes from that which lost to Leicester here on New Year’s Day moved the ball with composure and confidence and struck after 12 minutes when Ademola Lookman glanced in Leighton Baines’ cross. Bernard quickly doubled the hosts’ lead with a lovely lifted finish following Dominic Calvert- Lewin’s deft pass. It was the Brazil international’s fi rst goal for Everton since joining from Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer.
Lookman and Bernard were two of the players brought into the home team’s lineup by Silva and they generally impressed but many others in blue failed to make an impact. While this was a much- needed result for Everton following a run of one victory in eight games, it did little to suggest all is going to plan under their latest manager.
“It looked in some moments that we didn’t want to have a quiet afternoon,” said Silva. “But we achieve the main thing to play the next round. That was our obligation.”
Bernard deftly lifts the ball over Josh Vickers to give Everton a 2- 0 lead