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PHIL JAGIELKA has urged Everton not to miss a golden opportunity to clinch a Wembley visit by letting their guard down again against Oldham.
The Blues conceded a last minute equaliser against the Latics at Boundary Park on Saturday, forcing them to have to replay their fifth round FA Cup tie again a week on Wednesday.
With the prospect of facing Wigan in the quarter-finals and being just 90 minutes from a trip to the national stadium, England international Jagielka (pictured below, celebrating his goal) says it is essential that Everton complete the task at Goodison Park.
He said: “If we don’t get through now, then it will be an even bigger disappointment. When you look at what teams are left in there, it’s not the top six of the Premier League which is going to be making up the last eight.
“We are desperate to get in there and the manager has said that as long as we are in the draw, then we have still got a chance.
“But when we come to prepare for the game we have got to make sure we come out on top.
“There are a few more ties and we will see then who is left in it, but we are desperate to go as far as we can.
“Several of the so-called big boys have dropped by the wayside and we don’t want to be one of those teams who look at it as an opportunity missed.
“Fair play to Oldham. They had a terrific result in the last round and they have had a good result this time. But there are another 90 minutes to play and we have got to prove that we are good enough to overcome this.”
Jagielka believes that reaching Wembley again this season, which would be Everton’s third visit in five years, would be a huge achievement – but he played down suggestions that a successful cup run would be the perfect way to persuade manager David Moyes to sign a new contract at Goodison.
“Well, at the end of the day, if we do win the cup and he doesn’t sign, it will still be a fantastic feat for the players,” said the 30-year-old.
“We are a very close squad and we get on very well. As much as we go out there to do it for the manager, we do it for each other as well.
“Obviously, the fans, too. We had a good following today and the fans are brilliant, too. So there is more than one person there to play for.
“We don’t have to feel that we have to prove anything. The manager has pretty much brought every single player in, bar one or two, so we are his players.
“He has made decisions that he wants to make. He has come out in the press and said he will not sign anything until the end of the season, which is fine with us.
“Obviously, it will be nice to give him a quick reminder of how good we are by keeping this cup run going and pushing as high as we can up the Premier League.”
OLDHAM caretaker manager Tony Philliskirk cut a satisfied figure after overseeing his second comeback of the day.
Philliskirk, who was thrust into the Latics hotseat after Paul Dickov’s resignation a fortnight ago, looked on from the sidelines as Matt Smith’s last-gasp equaliser earned a 2-2 draw and an FA Cup fifth-round replay against Everton.
But hours earlier the 48-year-old undertook his day job of youth team coach against Rochdale in Salford, surroundings far removed from the white-hot atmosphere that greeted David Moyes’ side at Boundary Park.
“We drew at Rochdale one-all,” he explained.
“We were losing there and came back to get an equaliser in the second half.
“There were about 20 or 30 there. All the parents of all the boys go and there’s one man and his dog walking around the outside.
“From the club’s perspective this (the Everton result) is massive. For me personally, seeing the development of those young players today – you take this any way you like – is as important as seeing that display there.”
“I’m under no illusions about what it means to the club financially and at the end of the day that’s the most important thing,” he added.
“Simon (Corney, chairman), I’m sure that he won’t like me saying this, has struggled through over the last few years and he keeps the club afloat. He works ever so hard with the board.
“All in all, hopefully it generates a feel-good factor, it’ll encourage people to come back but, more than anything, it’s what that means to the club – another game, at Goodison, possibly on TV again.”
PHIL NEVILLE insists Everton’s FA Cup dream lives on despite the disappointment of Matt Smith’s late equaliser for Oldham.
The League One club levelled with the last act of Saturday’s game but Neville knows that journeys to the latter stages of this competition rarely run smoothly.
Everton now have to beat Oldham at home on February 27 to book a quarter-final place and a Goodison visit from Wigan.
He said: “It is always tough to take when you concede a goal that late.
“But we are still in the hat for the next round and we have got Oldham to come to Goodison.
“Always during a cup run you get a game that goes to a replay after it’s been harder than you think; last year we had to go to Sunderland after drawing at home.”
Everton triumphed in the north east to book a Wembley date and Neville is determined for a similar outcome this time around.
Although he is confident ahead of the replay, the skipper admitted he harboured regrets over the Blues’ performance against Tony Philliskirk’s men.
He added: “Oldham played really well, they gave as good as they got. Maybe we should have had it wrapped up a little bit sooner.
“We have an experienced side that should be able to handle their late pressure.
“The disappointment is that we didn’t give the massive support we had the victory they wanted.
“But this is what the FA Cup does – Arsenal lost at home to Blackburn – and we are still in the hat.”
THE ramshackle charm of Oldham’s Ice station Zebra might have been missing its usual arctic chill, but somehow Everton still managed to freeze.
The Blues were supposed to be better equipped to deal with the League One club’s spirited physical onslaught at Boundary Park, after apparently watching and learning from the fate of their rivals across Stanley Park last month.
Granted David Moyes’ men did not self-destruct in quite the same manner as Liverpool, but still they failed to make their Premier League class show convincingly enough against a team treading water in the third tier of English football. And sure enough they paid for it in the end.
Matt Smith’s last-gasp header to force a replay in this fifth round FA Cup tie must certainly not be mistaken as a death knell for Everton’s dreams of a trophy this season, but it was a frustrating reminder of the defensive vulnerability which has haunted the club even throughout its brightest start to a campaign in eight years.
With the fight for fourth place in the Premier League becoming an increasingly muddled proposition, the importance of the Cup had seemingly grown even further.
Certainly Moyes could give no stronger indication of his desire to progress in the competition, than the starting 11 he sent out to try and capitalise on what had become a quarter-final stage loaded with winnable fixtures against lower league clubs and supplemented by the demise of Arsenal.
Typically though, Everton quickly found a way to temper undue optimism. They might have started solidly enough, winning a string of early free-kicks as Leighton Baines went close with an effort which was deflected narrowly over the bar. But it wasn’t long before they conceded their customary goal in a season which has seen them keep just five clean sheets in 31 games so far.
Former Goodison prodigy Jose Baxter cleared a corner from his old club and Leon Osman slipped while attempting to stop Lee Croft from surging past him. Off the midfielder went eating up the yards to bear down on goal, and although his miscued shot shouldn’t have worried Tim Howard, it skewed into a useful cross that Jordan Obita prodded home at the far post. Regular observers of Everton’s haphazard defending this season simply nodded in numb familiarity.
The visitors’ passing failed to instil much optimism for a swift response, with the patch-work surface proving difficult, and the nerves among the Blues were palpable. Thank heavens then for the blunt instrument that is Victor Anichebe. The Nigerian equalised with a proper League One-style goal, seizing on Phil Jagielka’s long punt, turning James Tarkowski and rifling home a powerful shot.
There was little time to become complacent though. Obita capitalised on good hold-up play by Lee Barnard to unleash a dangerous strike which clipped the post and rolled across the face of goal. It was a let off, and should have signalled the swing in momentum Everton needed to seize the tie. Instead they remained laboured and below-par as Oldham’s gutsy endeavour kept them largely at bay.
Ironically Everton’s most threatening moments came from a direct approach more associated with their opponents, and Darron Gibson picked out Marouane Fellaini near the break with a lofted cross from the right which the Belgian headed onto the roof of the net.
Moyes decided to introduce another Belgian, Kevin Mirallas, for the second half in place of Anichebe, and the former Olympiakos forward made a swift difference. It was his menacing corner kick which dropped just in front of Dean Bouzanis, and Phil Jagielka managed to escape the bear-hugs of the Oldham defence to nod into the goal.
It signalled a period of calm and superiority for the Toffees, who began to pick Oldham apart with their best passing spell of the contest although they still lacked a cutting edge.
And it didn’t stop Obita being a menace, as he forced Phil Neville into an error and burst through on goal only to send a tame effort into the arms of Howard.
Buoyed by the opening, Oldham sent on their battering ram Smith to try and turn the tie, and his introduction gave the home fans extra heart even as Everton began to dictate the game again. Osman and Pienaar played nifty triangles as the Latics tired at chasing the ball, but still the away fans couldn’t quite relax.
Oldham sub Robbie Simpson fired a low cross into the area and Smith turned smartly to force a terrific low save from Howard. At the other end Jelavic blazed over a glorious chance to effectively seal the contest.
That miss was one pivotal moment, but Everton’s goalkeeper contributed another just before 90 minutes had elapsed. Simpson controlled a cross into Everton’s area and turned well to unleash a goal-bound effort that Howard again had to be at his best to divert.
It should have been enough to seal a place in the quarter-finals, but that reckoned without the scourge of Merseyside, Smith, who struck again deep into injury time as Moyes’ men allowed themselves to be pushed deeper and deeper.
If Everton are to progress into the quarter-finals, they’re going to have to do it the hard way now. The missed chance by Jelavic when the tie was still in their hands will add further fuel to fears that the Croatian’s first six months on Merseyside were an anomaly, and Moyes’ men still badly miss his former predatory guile.
Jelavic’s continued indifferent form only reinforces why Moyes was so keen to recruit another goal-scorer in January.
But there will be any time to debate that after this pivotal season has drawn to its conclusion.
For now the prospect of leaving that champagne on ice is still alive.
Everton just have to make sure they don’t freeze again in a fortnight.
Days of pure bliss have been few and far between in Oldham's recent history but January 5, 2008 is a date firmly etched on the minds of their long-suffering supporters.
It was the afternoon they made the short trip down the M62 to tackle Everton in the FA Cup's third round. Nobody gave them a chance but Gary McDonald's first-half goal caused one of the shocks of the season and sparked a party back Oldham.
Yet ask Simon Corney, Oldham's current chairman, what he remembers of that day and he will relay an different tale, one of deep frustration and huge personal expense.
'Believe it or not I was at a conference in Las Vegas,' Corney recalled.
'If you're going to miss something, you may as well be in Vegas, right? Thinking we were going to lose about 9-0, I went to the conference instead. I thought it was going to be too upsetting to watch us lose heavily.
'But I had a friend on the phone at the game for the whole 90 minutes, giving me commentary. It was an amazing day and I remember getting my phone bill when I got back and it was about $3000. It was worth it, in a way, but I've never really forgiven myself for it.'
Nothing will stop him from going to Goodison Park this time, though. Oldham's marvellous FA Cup story continues after they held their exalted opponents to a richly-deserved 2-2 draw and another big payday in the replay Goodison Park will further ease financial woes of the League One side.
'There's no doubt it helps,' said Corney. 'We would survive without it but it's nice to have. It's hard to put it into context. We've had such fantastic cup run; Nottingham Forest then Liverpool but when you go 2-1 behind against Everton, with the class they've got you don't think you're coming back.'
But they did. It may not have been the prettiest game but it was totally absorbing, as Oldham's players ran themselves to a standstill, first taking the lead through Jordan Obita before rallying with Matt Smith's last-gasp header after Victor Anichebe and Phil Jagielka had scored for Everton.
Nobody epitomised their efforts more than Jose Baxter, released by Everton last summer. One lung-busting surge ended with him thundering into a tackle to dispossess Steven Pienaar and he left the field at the end to find his phone besieged with messages for ticket requests.
Baxter first set foot on Goodison aged 16 years and 191 days, becoming the youngest player to represent Everton in August 2008, and his next appearance is likely to prove bittersweet.
'It's unbelievable,' said Baxter. 'It was my home at one time so to go back there will be different class. I'd never, ever have thought I'd be going this year. I would never have dreamed of it. To play against them and against Liverpool in the same year has been a dream.
'It was a little bit weird seeing some of my friends and old team mates playing against me. Now I don't know whether to laugh or cry but it was a brilliant result.'
Phil Jagielka claims David Moyes does not need any help from Everton’s players to decide his Blues’ future.
The England centre-half says the Toffees' players are relaxed about what might happen after Moyes put off talks over a new deal until the end of the season.
He feels the boss will make his mind up regardless of what the players do during the remainder of the campaign.
“We don’t feel that we have to prove anything,” said Jagielka. “The manager has pretty much brought every single player in, bar one or two, so we are his players.
“He’s made the decisions that he wants to make. He has come out and said he won’t sign anything until the end of the season, which is fine with us.
“At the end of the day, if we do win the FA Cup and he doesn’t sign, it will still be a fantastic feat for the players.
“We are a very close squad and we get on very well.
“As much as we go out there to do it for the manager, we also do it for each other as well as the fans.”