Stevenage vs. Everton: 6 Things We Learned
Playing on a sticky surface, in a howling gale and in front of a raucous crowd, the scene was seemingly set for an upset—not that the Toffees took much notice.
Roberto Martinez's side grabbed a crucial early lead on five minutes, as Steven Naismith bundled home after a cutback from Aiden McGeady.
He doubled his and his side's tally on 32 minutes, running onto Leon Osman's pass and calmly converting.
John Heitinga then added a third goal on 55 minutes, nodding in Kevin Mirallas' overhead kick, before Magaye Gueye rounded off the scoring on 84 minutes—again via Osman.
Here's a look at some Everton-related talking points to emerge from this contest.
Naismith Impresses in Forward Berth
Steven Naismith arrived at Everton as a striker, but has primarily played as a wide player during his first 18 months at Goodison Park.
The Scotsman has his uses on a flank. He's industrious enough to tirelessly track his man and is not shy of putting in a challenge—useful traits to introduce when closing out a game.
However, his biggest strengths clearly appear in the final third, as was evident from this performance.
His movement was excellent and he continually found space in dangerous areas. He also showed his clinical side, calmly finishing two chances.
With Romelu Lukaku and the newly-arrived Lacina Traore the only genuine strikers at the club, it's time for Naismith to spend less time out wide.
Win Marred by Sickening Injury
As pleasing as it is to advance, this win was very much tainted by a horrific injury to Bryan Oviedo.
The Costa Rican tangled with Simon Heslop and was stretchered off after just 18 minutes, clearly in a lot of distress.
The incident caused a delay of several minutes as medics treated him on the pitch before taking him straight to the hospital.
It's a cruel blow for a player who's made a significant impact during his second season at Everton, scoring a memorable winner at Old Trafford.
He also has a World Cup on the horizon, and any prolonged absence will be felt by both club and country.
After the game, it was confirmed he suffered a double leg fracture.
Injuries Piling Up
Oviedo is the latest addition to a growing injury list at Everton.
The Costa Rican joins Darron Gibson, Arouna Kone, Steven Pienaar, Antolin Alcaraz, Sylvain Distin, Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman on the sidelines—almost an entire XI.
The fact Phil Jagielka was substituted as a precaution could turn a testing situation into a crisis, with Everton stretched in most positions on the field.
Having implied Lacina Traore may be his last signing, Martinez may be tempted to dip into the transfer market once more.
Better Signs from Robles
Joel Robles has appeared hesitant and a little erratic during his first five appearances for Everton.
A young goalkeeper's biggest flaw is often consistency but this was by far the best performance from the Spanish stopper.
After spilling an early save, he preserved his side's clean sheet with a number of important stops.
Stevenage had six shots on target (just one fewer than Everton), all of which were saved by Robles.
The former Wigan man appeared far more assured and must take confidence from this showing.
Parting Gift from Heitinga?
John Heitinga may have mimicked Nikica Jelavic by scoring an FA Cup goal in his final appearance for the club.
It was only the fifth time the centre-back has played this season, falling behind Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, John Stones and Antolin Alcaraz.
This was his fifth goal in his 140th appearance for Everton, which will almost certainly be one of his last.
Ideal Preparation for Merseyside Derby
Everton have already met Stevenage this season, scraping past them in the Capital One Cup after extra time.
In that match, the Toffees fired in 31 shots but needed a late goal from Marouane Fellaini to progress with a 2-1 win.
In far worse conditions, it was a completely different story this time around. Everton recorded 18 shots fewer, but managed to score four goals to see off their opponents in style.
Such an emphatic win was ideal preparation for Tuesday's crunch Merseyside derby.
Martinez was able to rest certain players and those involved were able to coast through and conserve energy for most of the second half—while remaining clinical in attack.