LIVERPOOL (AFP) – Romelu Lukaku’s late equaliser earned Everton an FA Cup replay against West Ham United and took the heat off manager Roberto Martinez following a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.
Martinez had been under growing pressure following a disappointing run of form which had seen Everton lose their last four matches heading into this third-round tie.
And Hammers defender James Collins looked like he had secured a safe passage to the fourth round for his side, and a meeting against either Doncaster or Bristol City, with a second-half header.
But Belgium striker Lukaku popped up in injury time to finish from close range, ensuring the Toffees players and Martinez left the pitch to cheers rather than jeers.
Everton were without left-back Leighton Baines, who had picked up a minor knock, as Martinez picked arguably his strongest team, spearheaded by an attacking triumvirate of Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith and Ross Barkley behind Lukaku.
West Ham were without striker Andy Carroll as Sam Allardyce made four changes to his starting line-up.
After a subdued start Everton started to find their rhythm and Lukaku saw a long-range shot spilled by West Ham goalkeeper Adrian, but Mirallas was unable to profit from the rebound.
The Toffees certainly did not look, initially at least, like a team who had lost their previous four matches as they stroked the ball about with confidence.
Naismith cleverly dropped into spaces in central areas and created a shooting opportunity for himself in the 20th minute but saw his low effort from distance flash just past the post.
Everton then had two chances in a matter of minutes as Lukaku’s shot went just wide of the far post and Naismith went even closer with an attempt from a still tighter angle.