3802: Carling Cup Preview; Everton
by : Stephen Orford
Everton turn their attentions to cup football this Tuesday (October 24) when they welcome Luton Town to Goodison Park in the fourth round of the Carling Cup.
The Toffeemen have been defeated only once in the Premiership this term, and are showing signs of the sort of form which brought them Champions League qualification in 2004/05. While their league performance will remain a priority, the Carling Cup offers a welcome distraction. It is perhaps a genuine chance to pick up the club’s first piece of silverware since winning the FA Cup in 1995.
Standing in their way will be an improving Hatters outfit, managed by former Everton striker Mike Newell. After an impressive start to his managerial career with Hartlepool Newell has guided the Bedfordshire club to promotion to the Championship, and has moulded them into serious candidates for promotion to the Premiership. The side currently sit fifth in the table, just seven points off the pace being set by leaders Cardiff City.
All of which means that both sides have possibly got wider agendas for the remainder of the season than the Carling Cup, but that should not detract from what should be an interesting encounter at Goodison Park. Luton play an exciting brand of football under Newell, and showed last season that they can mix it with top flight sides. They led Liverpool 3-1 in the third round of last season’s FA Cup before finally succumbing 5-3 to Rafa Benitez’s side, and will no doubt have learned plenty from the experience of that dramatic clash.
Helping their cause is the virus which has worked its way through the Everton playing staff in recent days. All of Simon Davies, Tim Howard, Tim Cahill and James Beattie have suffered from the illness, although all except Davies have returned to training. Their participation remains questionable, as does that of Phil Neville who has a hamstring injury. Youngsters Mark Hughes and Patrick Boyle are included in a 19-man squad and could be given an opportunity by manager David Moyes.
Luton are sweating over the fitness of midfielder Ahmet Brkovic, but the absences of Lewis Emanuel and Sam Parkin will be a blow. Emanuel has a hamstring injury while Parkin has sustained an ankle knock, meaning that neither are likely to feature. The likely starting line-up still boasts one of the Championship’s leading scorers in Rowan Vine, with David Bell also on goalscoring form in his last two matches against Leeds United and Birmingham City.
The Kenilworth Road outfit arrive on Merseyside on the back of a thumping 5-1 win over sorry Leeds United at the weekend, and are in free-scoring mood after putting three past Steve Bruce’s Blues in their previous league outing. There is little doubt that they possess the guile and endeavour to trouble the Everton rearguard, but is in midfield where the home side may have a significant edge.
Mikel Arteta scored in the 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Saturday (October 21) and has been one of the main sources of creativity for Moyes’s team this season, while Cahill will offer his usual goal threat should he be passed fit to play. Lee Carsley’s return to form has offered a little reassurance from a defensive standpoint, and Everton will start favourites to progress despite the emergence of Newell’s men as a genuine Championship force.
Verdict; Everton 2 Luton Town 1
By Stephen Orford
24 October 2006