I reckon this preview of tonight’s FA Cup fifth-round replay between Everton and Oldham Athletic will take you about three minutes to read, but I’m not going to tell David Moyes that, just in case it takes about three minutes and 20 seconds.
Because woe betide if something lasted a few seconds longer than I promised (much to my girlfriend’s dismay), and if I didn’t tell the Everton boss about the extra seconds he would probably go off on one and petulantly refuse to shake my hand.
Apparently the reason Everton lost at Norwich City on Saturday was because referee Lee Mason played an extra 20 seconds on top of the minimum of three minutes’ added time and with the scores level at 1-1, Grant Holt stabbed home a late winner. But I think the key word here, David, is ‘minimum’.
As Moyes made a show of himself first by storming on to the pitch and confronting Mason, pulling away from a handshake and then by moaning about it post-match, in truth, he was trying to implement chapter one of the Big Fergie Book of Deflecting Attention Away from a Damaging Defeat, because the loss at Carrow Road leaves Everton’s European hopes in peril.
Tottenham’s win over West Ham last night means the Toffees are nine points off third, seven points from fourth-placed Chelsea and five behind Arsenal in fifth, and with sixth place in the Premier League not yet guaranteed Europa League football thanks to Swansea City’s Capital One Cup victory, a season that promised much is in danger of petering out.
Of course, that is the exact opposite of what normally happens for Everton under Moyes, when a bad start is usually followed by a rip-roaring last third of the season, but the Blues have won just two of their last eight league games and are lacking their early-season vim and vigour.
One route into Europe would be to win the FA Cup, and in fairness, it is one competition where Everton are well placed.
A home tie with Wigan Athletic awaits the winner of the replay Oldham will contest at Goodison Park tonight and if you’d have offered that route to a Wembley semi-final to Moyes at the start of the season, he would have been delighted.
And I don’t see Everton making any mistakes against their League One opponents, although at 7/50 I will be looking at a better way to get value on a terribly short price on the hosts.
The draw is 25/4, with the away win chalked up at 17/1 – 17/1! – which does look a bit on the big side, especially with Athletic hitting some form.
Oldham are unbeaten since Paul Dickov was dismissed and Tony Philliskirk was placed in temporary control of team affairs and three league wins in succession, as well as the 2-2 draw in the original tie at Boundary Park, show the decision to be a correct one.
And having already done for Liverpool in the competition, Oldham can give Everton another fright.
Oldham will have happy memories of Goodison Park after winning a third-round FA Cup tie there in 2008 and they can grab a goal on Merseyside.
Moyes’ team just don’t keep clean sheets, and a return of four shut-outs in the Premier League all season, and a mere two at home, is very poor – only Reading have kept fewer.
And despite their struggles under Dickov, Oldham scored plenty of goals and have struck in 14 of their last 17, hitting eight in the last four.
With Matt Smith such a difficult customer – he has three goals in the two games with Liverpool and Everton – Oldham can score at Goodison (Smith looks pretty huge at 16/1 to score first and 9/2 any time).
But that said, I just don’t see Everton slipping up, so the 31/10 on the Blues winning 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 looks okay to me.
The Merseysiders have won seven games at Goodison this year and in the last five of those that bet would have landed.
And with the trophy that Moyes so desperately craves coming over the horizon, I believe his team will get the job done in the replay against third-tier opposition.