Jordan Pickford errors go unpunished in Everton win at Fleetwood Town

Jordan Pickford errors go unpunished in Everton win at Fleetwood Town

There was a cold-eyed, quizzical stare in Jordan Pickford’s direction when Fleetwood briefly threatened Everton’s progress but otherwise this was another encouraging step for Carlo Ancelotti. A fourth successive win from the start of the season underlined the improvement in resources and confidence at Everton as they secured a fourth-round home tie against David Moyes’s West Ham.

Joey Barton’s side rallied in the second half and capitalised on two slips by the Everton goalkeeper but the Premier League visitors had too much authority, creativity and options for the League One side.

Ancelotti selected a much stronger lineup against the League One side than for Salford last week, with six changes to the team that started the second‑round tie at Goodison Park. The biggest surprise was not the inclusion of Dominic Calvert-Lewin or Richarlison but the exclusion of Anthony Gordon after what his manager described as an “inspired” performance against Graham Alexander’s side.

Niels Nkounkou, the summer signing from Marseille, was another 19-year-old who impressed against Salford and he was given opportunity to build on an encouraging start in an Everton shirt. The left-back seized it again, delivering a series of telling crosses into the Fleetwood area and providing constant support for Richarlison as the visitors stretched Barton’s team throughout the first half. The Premier League side dominated from the start and wore down Fleetwood as they followed Ancelotti’s instructions to target the flanks and work the ball quickly.

Alex Iwobi was on his first start of the season and almost opened the scoring with a 25-yard shot that struck the crossbar via a deflection off the veteran midfielder Glenn Whelan. Everton maintained the pressure from the resulting corner. Iwobi turned a clearance inside to Bernard who, spotting a blindside run from Richarlison on the right, lofted an inch-perfect delivery over the Fleetwood defence for his compatriot to score his first goal of the campaign with a diving header. The second was not long in coming.

Iwobi went close again with a low drive from distance and Bernard also threatened when he cut inside on to his favoured left foot and curled a shot just outside Alex Cairns’s goal. The Cod Army could do little to stem the tide and Richarlison delivered the comfort of a second for the visitors with a smart move. Receiving a pass from Fabian Delph, the Brazil international weaved his way into the area and found Iwobi, who returned the ball into his path with a delightful back-heel. Richarlison beat Cairns with a first‑time shot from close range.

Delph was making his first Everton appearance since February. The midfielder hobbled on after taking a heavy blow to the ankle from Josh Morris in the early stages and, having received the first booking of the game, was warned by Ancelotti to cool down af ter sliding into a challenge moments later. He apologised to his manager and eased well into his much-needed run-out.

The hosts received an unlikely lifeline early in the second half when over-elaboration in the Everton defence offered up their first chance of the game. Michael Keane’s back-pass put Pickford under pressure and the goalkeeper’s attempted clearance was charged down by Morris. The rebound fell perfectly for the substitute Mark Duffy to score into an unguarded net.

Everton restored their two‑goal lead within a minute. Gordon, a half‑time replacement for Calvert‑Lewin, burst away from Paul Coutts on the left and centred low across the penalty area. Richarlison failed to connect at the near post but Iwobi, following in behind, made no mistake from 10 yards.

That should have been sufficient for the visitors to see out the game but Barton’s switch to 4-3-3 injected far more threat into Fleetwood’s performance. They struck again, and in some style, when Whelan’s cross was headed on by Ched Evans to Callum Camps, who beat Pickford with an overhead kick.

The England international was weak for both Fleetwood goals – as Ancelotti’s cold-eyed stare in his direction testified – but did not cost his team as Bernard secured victory. Gordon exchanged passes with Iwobi before crossing towards Richarlison. Morgan Boyes’s challenge denied the Brazilian his chance of a hat-trick but the ball broke to Bernard who found the top corner with an emphatic finish. Moise Kean made it five when he converted Nkounkou’s cheeky back-heeled cross in the final seconds.