Everton sneak FA CUP win

Last updated : 06 January 2002 By Sports.com

Walter Smith's job is safe for the time being at least after his Everton side saw off the challenge of second division leaders Stoke City to progress into the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Smith, who received a vote of confidence from his board on Friday, watched as his side were more than matched by the Potters during the first 45 minutes. Stoke played some superb football but were punished for their inability to finish, when Everton defender Alan Stubbs drove home the only goal of the game in the 53rd minute.

There were early chances for both sides. Paul Gascoigne threaded the ball through the Stoke defence with a minute gone, but Joe-Max Moore lacked the power to beat Neil Cutler.

And barely a minute later, Stoke youngster Marc Goodfellow flashed the ball across the face of the Everton goal, but none of his team-mates were in a position to take advantage.

Duncan Ferguson hit a long-range effort well wide of the target, but the visitors were looking a shade nervous as Stoke scrapped for every ball. Goodfellow got behind Abel Xavier to send in a cross from the left, which was cleared only as far as Clive Clarke. The Stoke full-back raced by Xavier before sending the ball back inside and James O'Connor was agonisingly close to connecting with a stooping header.

In a rare Everton attack, a move orchestrated by Gascoigne ended when Moore's ten-yard header looped over the bar and landed on top of the net.

The Merseyside outfit, enjoying a spell on top, almost went in front when Ferguson controlled a left-wing cross before crashing in a half-volley which took a slight deflection before hitting the post. Jesper Blomqvist then fired a shot from just outside the box which flew inches wide of Cutler's left-hand upright.

Gascoigne tested Cutler with a 30-yard shot immediately after the interval before Wayne Thomas headed wide for Stoke at the other end. But it was the visitors who took the lead after Ferguson was brought down on the edge of the box by Thomas.

Scot Gemmill knocked the free-kick short to David Unsworth, who killed the ball dead and Stubbs came in to strike a bullet-like shot into the back of the net.

Twelve minutes later, Cutler dived low to his left to save superbly from Gascoigne, as Everton tried to wrap things up with a second goal.

The Potters fought desperately for an equalising goal, but Everton were in no mood to surrender their lead, winning at last after five straight defeats