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In Focus: Cheltenham v. Everton

6 January 2013

Fan and columnist Murry Toms looks ahead to the big game on Monday night.

So it's a little over 24 hours until Cheltenham Town take on Everton in the FA Cup third round tie at the Abbey Business Stadium.

Sixty-six places divides the clubs going into tomorrow night's intriguing final match of round three.

Cheltenham's will make their eighth appearance at the this stage of the competition, looking to reach the fourth round for only third time.

Everton on the other hand will be aiming to capture the famous trophy for a sixth time to pull them within one win of their neighbours Liverpool's tally of seven.

Matches against clubs from the top flight have become more frequent in recent times, although there hasn't too much to cheer about in terms of results.

Cheltenham have registered only one goal in three FA Cup fixtures against Premier League opposition since 2004.

Memorably, Grant McCann beat Edwin van der Sar from the best part of 35 yards to put his side in front in the narrow 2-1 defeat by Fulham at Loftus Road nine years ago.

Cheltenham had their chances against Newcastle United two years later (0-2), but missed the opportunity to pile further misery on under-fire boss Graeme Souness in front of the Match of the Day cameras.

Classy Tottenham Hotspur hit three without replay at White Hart Lane 12 months ago.

In the League Cup, John Ward's men pushed ten-man Sunderland all the way at the Stadium of Light before Anthony Le Tallec scored an extra-time winner in 2005.

And Ashley Vincent and Alex Russell grabbed the goals when then Premier League new boys Stoke City edged out the Robins (3-2) in the 2008 fixture at the Abbey Business Stadium.

Everton, last season's semi-finalists, have only lost once to the equivalent of a League Two side or below in a century, famously to Shrewsbury Town in 2003.

Kevin Ratcliffe, the Blues' most successful captain, masterminded the upset thanks to two goals by Nigel Jemson at Gay Meadow.

Then eighty places split the sides in boss David Moyes first season in charge. A crumb of hope perhaps?

It's too simplistic to compare the clubs' league form, but a glimpse at the Premier League table suggests Everton have performed very well away from Goodison Park this season.

Four wins, five draws and only two defeats on the road points to a pretty formidable league record so far this campaign.

There have been wins at Aston Villa, Swansea City, West Ham United and most recently, our 2006 fourth round opponents Newcastle United at St James Park with boss Mark Yates looking on from the stands.

The nine-times league champions have pressed home their Champions League credentials with a string of impressive performances against their top four rivals.

Moyes' men have beaten Manchester United (1-0), drawn at Manchester City (1-1), beaten Spurs (2-1) and more than matched against Chelsea, the European Champions, in a 2-1 reverse 10 days ago.

There have been setbacks though. Leeds United produced a spirited display to dump the Merseysiders out of the Capital One Cup (2-1) at Elland Road despite Sylvain Distin's goal nine minutes from time.

Does that result highlight a weakness in Moyes' cup selection, or heighten his focus on the most coveted trophy of the lot?

Meanwhile Yates has guided his side to League Two's most impressive home record.

Eight wins and two draws in 12 matches represents a stern test for any side visiting the Abbey Business Stadium, regardless of league standing.

It all points to another terrific occasion in the history of the Cheltenham Town Football Club, but maybe now is our best opportunity to steal the back pages on Tuesday morning with a magical 'I was there' moment.

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