The debate beforehand had centred on how ardently David Moyes would pursue progress in the FA Cup during a season when the ultimate aim is a fourth place finish in the league, but it was quickly settled when the team-sheets arrived – and sealed after what eventually proved to be a one-horse race. Instead of fielding a similar fringe line-up to the one which was defeated at Elland Road in the Capital One Cup earlier this season, the Blues boss made only three changes from the side which had beaten Newcastle last week. The message to his small, over-stretched squad was simple – the best way to keep momentum going is by winning – not making a raft of changes.
In-form Victor Anichebe replaced Steven Naismith, Bryan Oviedo took the place of a rested Steven Pienaar, and fit-again Seamus Coleman was restored at right back with John Heitinga nursing an injury which, no matter how genuine, did little to dampen rumours he is seeking a January exit from Goodison. On the 10th anniversary of his side’s humbling at Shrewsbury, and with the presence of the ESPN cameras suggesting that someone had suspected a giant-killing – Moyes was taking no chances.
Certainly Cheltenham started in lively fashion, forcing the visitors to defend their six yard box and whipping some dangerous crosses towards Tim Howard’s far post. But Everton’s extra class did not take long to assert itself even if the breakthrough was slightly against the run of play. Marouane Fellaini’s very presence was giving the Robins back line jitters, and he turned smartly to crash a shot against the post on 12 minutes which Nikica Jelavic poked over the line to bag his seventh goal of the campaign.