Baxter enjoys 'friendly banter'
Jose Baxter is looking forward to more teasing with his former Everton team-mates before Oldham face the Toffees again in the FA Cup. The 21-year-old playmaker, who rejected a new contract at Goodison Park last summer in pursuit of regular first-team football, played his part for Oldham in their dramatic 2-2 draw against David Moyes' men in the fifth round. Matt Smith's equaliser deep into stoppage time sent Boundary Park into raptures and put Oldham's name in the hat for the quarter-finals for the first time since 1994. The teams will do battle against on Wednesday, February 27, at Goodison. Baxter has remained in regular contact with a number of the Everton first-team squad and exchanged text messages with England duo Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka before the match, in which the latter handed the Premier League side a 2-1 lead. "It's only friendly banter like 'I'll see you soon' and Bainesy having a little bit of a joke," Baxter said. "They're proper professionals. They wouldn't disrespect me or the club and say they're going to beat us. "They really are top lads and the performances they put in for Everton show how good they are." Baxter retains a strong affinity for a club where his appearance on the opening day of the 2008/09 season against Blackburn made him the youngest player in their history at 16 years and 191 days - a record that still stands today - and he relished an at times overwhelming occasion yesterday. He said: "It was unbelievable, seeing so many of my old team-mates and my old manager who gave me the chance that I'm really grateful for, and what a manager he is. "Instead of them being my team-mates and my manager they were the opposition, so it was a bit of an awkward one but I didn't half enjoy it." Baxter's fellow Finch Farm academy graduate, Victor Anichebe, hauled Everton level after on-loan Reading winger Jordan Obita handed Oldham a 13th-minute lead, but Moyes was left to rue a last-gasp intervention from a man who is fast becoming the scourge of Merseyside. Smith scored twice in an all-action display when Oldham stunned Liverpool 3-2 in round four, only to suffer a shoulder injury late in the contest. The 6ft 6ins striker climbed off the bench for his first action since then in the final half-hour on Saturday evening and rewarded caretaker manager Tony Philliskirk by powering home Jonathan Grounds' right-wing corner. "A few of my scouse mates won't be happy with him, but I sure love him," Baxter said. "I think he's done fantastically for us. He came off the bench and had a great influence, along with Dean Furman and (Robbie) Simpson. The lads who came on really did show they were fresh-legged and ready to go." Philliskirk took up the reins at Boundary Park a fortnight ago following Paul Dickov's resignation and ended a run of 10 npower League One games without a win when MK Dons were beaten 3-1 last weekend. That result, coupled with Latics' continued cup heroics, strengthens the 48-year-old's case to be handed the job permanently. But Philliskirk, who led Oldham's youth team to a 1-1 draw with Rochdale on Saturday morning, believes his talents are best suited to his day job of nurturing the club's future stars. That was a feeling underlined by a difficult decision on the eve of the Everton match concerning a young striker. "I honestly believe my strength is coaching and youth development," former Bolton striker Philliskirk said. "Before the game I had to pull Dan Taylor in because Matt Smith and Robbie Simpson were both fit and Dan's been on the bench and involved in the first team all season. "I just wanted to do it right because I knew what I was like when I was a player. I pulled the kid in and had to say, 'Dan, you're not on the bench today'. That bothered me, that really bothered me. "When I was debating the decision of who would make the bench I actually went to sleep with a heavy heart. Is that a signal that it's not for me? Maybe so." Along with alleging a foul on goalkeeper Tim Howard in the flurry of set-piece pressure that led to Oldham's equaliser, Moyes felt there was a question of offside surrounding Obita's opener. The Everton manager said: "There was a little bit, but it was our fault - it was our corner kick and we didn't defend it well enough, the ball broke out from the edge of the box and we ended up losing a goal at the other end. So from our point of view, it was a really poor goal." The replay will be Everton's first home game in the cup this season but Moyes acknowledges his team must take the rough with the smooth if they are to end an 18-year trophy drought. He added: "I think sometimes when you are having a run in the cup, you don't always get it quite the way you want it. We have not had any draws at home. All we can do now is try to win the next game against Oldham."
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