Boreham Wood will endeavour to write their names into non-league history when they travel to Everton for the fifth round of the FA Cup on Thursday evening.
The Toffees eased past Brentford in the previous round to make it this far, while their National League visitors incredibly got the better of Bournemouth.
The emotional scenes between Ukraine’s Oleksandr Zinchenko and Vitaly Mykolenko touched the footballing world at Goodison Park, with the compatriots taking their place on their respective benches amid the terrible scenes of devastation back home.
On the pitch, however, Everton were left ‘absolutely incandescent’ at Chris Kavanagh‘s decision not to penalise a seemingly clear handball in the area by Manchester City’s Rodri, and the champions broke the Toffees’ resistance through Phil Foden after a costly mistake by Michael Keane.
Everton are now understood to have lodged a complaint to the Premier League over recent refereeing decisions, but there is no time for Frank Lampard and his troops to dwell on that now, as the Merseysiders seek to avoid becoming victims of one of the greatest giant killings the FA Cup has ever witnessed.
Rewarded with a tie versus the non-league side after scraping past Hull City and serving Brentford a slice of humble pie with a 4-1 triumph, Everton have made the quarter-finals in the last five times that they have reached the fifth round and will be desperate to give the home crowd something to cheer amid their dreadful top-flight fortunes.
Three wins from their last 10 at Goodison Park in all competitions will not serve to increase the confidence on the blue half of Merseyside, though, and Boreham Wood travel North West with nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.
Facing a host of celebrated names in Scott Parker‘s Bournemouth ranks would seemingly mark the end of Boreham Wood’s magical FA Cup run, but the National League promotion hopefuls had a whole bunch of other ideas at the Vitality Stadium.
Captain Mark Ricketts and his 37-year-old legs made the net ripple after 38 minutes on the Cherries’ turf, and despite Parker sending on the likes of Todd Cantwell and Dominic Solanke to try to salvage something, it was a fruitless endeavour against Luke Garrard‘s inspired outfit.
Potentially now only 90 minutes away from becoming just the second non-league team in history to make the FA Cup quarter-finals – following in the footsteps of Lincoln City before they were seen off by Arsenal in the last eight in 2016-17 – Boreham Wood warmed up for this gargantuan contest with a 1-0 league success over Eastleigh, nearly five months after seeing them off in the first round of the cup.
The Wood also sent Barnet, St Albans City and AFC Wimbledon packing in the earlier rounds and travel to Goodison having not conceded a single goal in the tournament so far – unsurprisingly a non-league first – but such resilience will be tested to the extreme against Lampard’s crop.
A three-game run without a win or a goal away from home does not make for pleasant reading for the travelling fans either, but Boreham Wood’s story will live long in the memory as they prepare for a first-ever competitive showdown with a Premier League side.
Everton’s January arrivals Donny van de Beek, Dele Alli and Anwar El Ghazi are all cup-tied and will play no part in Thursday’s contest, although the former had to be taken off with cramp in the Man City defeat anyway.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin‘s adductor injury will also keep him out of the fifth-round contest, and he is joined on the sidelines by Tom Davies, Yerry Mina, Ben Godfrey and Fabian Delph.
Lampard is sure to give some of his youthful and fringe players a run-out here either way, with Jarrad Branthwaite, Nathan Patterson and Mykolenko – assuming he is in the right frame of mind – all candidates to start.
As for Boreham Wood, defender Jamal Fyfield – who recently signed a two-year extension with the non-league side – is thought to have a slim chance of returning from his hamstring injury in time for Thursday’s battle.
Number one Nathan Ashmore is also back in the squad after a 16-week layoff, while right-back Kane Smith – a boyhood Everton fan – has not played since going off injured against Maidenhead United on February 19.
Garrard is hopeful that Smith will be able to “play some part” in the contest, and the same goes for fourth-round hero Ricketts, but both men may be restricted to substitute outings.
Everton possible starting lineup:
Begovic; Patterson, Branthwaite, Keane, Mykolenko; Townsend, Gomes, Allan, Gordon; Richarlison, Rondon
Boreham Wood possible starting lineup:
Ashby-Hammond; Stevens, Evans, Stephens; Lewis, Comley, Raymond, Rees, Mendy; Marsh, Boden
Even with Everton hardly the force they once were and Boreham Wood still boasting their 100% defensive record in the FA Cup, we cannot envisage any more surprises at Goodison Park.
Lampard’s second-string XI still has the firepower and nous to get the job done, and with the wounded Toffees still reeling from the weekend’s injustice and determined to regain a measure of confidence, an inspired Boreham Wood’s FA Cup journey should come to an end here.