Heroic end to an epic journey
Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date online: 27 February 2013
Everton 3, Athletic 1
Latics’ cup kings give town a club to cherish
ATHLETIC were left reflecting on the prize of the journey itself as the club proudly bowed out of the FA Cup.
The story is over. But what a story!
Looking back, it featured an incredible seven-minute, second-half turnaround at Nottingham Forest and the startling coming-of-age of monstrous striker Matt Smith, who further enhanced his reputation at Goodison Park
There was also the clinging on for a final few agonising minutes against the other Merseyside club, whose talisman Steven Gerrard hit a vicious shot which rattled the crossbar.
There is to be no repeat Wembley trip for Athletic, but what is beyond doubt is that thanks to this epic adventure, the club is back on the map.
More vital than every pound the run has dropped into Boundary Park’s bank account is that the town loves Athletic again. And didn’t the supporters who made it to Goodison Park show it? The fans displayed their adoration by straining their lungs for three solid hours.
For now, they also have a manager who cares just as much as they do.
Tony Philliskirk, who has developed and coached talent within Boundary Park for 15 years, will view Athletic’s defensive efforts on the big night clinically. The goals conceded were poor ones to give away.
First, there was Darron Gibson’s cross from deep which Mirallas swept in after sneaking beyond the back line.
Soon afterwards, Athletic were dreadfully unlucky twice: Baxter struck the inside of the far post with a beautiful shot, and referee Oliver ignored calls for handball as Gibson cradled a hurried clearance with his arm.
Everton were well on top in the first half, but in the second Athletic were the better side, invigorated by the introduction of Smith, who headed home unmarked from Jonathan Grounds’ corner.
Osman and Gibson missed with good opportunities to embellish Everton’s lead on the counter-attack as the visitors, to their credit, ended strongly. It just wasn't to be.
The supporters roared in pride as the club’s FA Cup flame finally burned out. What an occasion, again. What a ride.
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