A QUALIFIED teacher with a degree in biology he may be, but Paul Warne was rather hoping not to be on the receiving end of a ‘School of Science’ performance from Everton last night.
That phrase is synonymous with the golden days of Goodison, where the likes of Alan Ball, Howard Kendall and Colin Harvey passed the ball around with such sophistication.
Those heady days must feel like an eternity away for success-starved Evertonians, with former Hull City chief Marco Silva being the latest man entrusted with bringing the style back to the Toffees – and also ending the club’s lengthy trophy drought which stretches back to 1995.
An excellent crowd of 31,972 for a midweek fixture conveyed just how much the blue half of Merseyside cherish a re-acquaintance with silverware and in a week when the kudos of the Carabao Cup has taken a battering, rather more edifying headlines arrived here.
It proved a cup tie in which both sets of supporters went home with change in their pocket in front of an attendance which was Everton’s biggest at this stage of the competition since 1968.
While the scoreline will point to a routine enough progression on the night for Everton, the Millers made it an evening which was not all straightforward.
While the scoreline will point to a routine enough progression on the night for Everton, the Millers made it an evening which was not all straightforward.Leon Wobschall
An edgy finale was in store after Wirral-born Will Vaulks, a half-time substitute, powerfully headed home Anthony Forde’s corner to make it 2-1 four minutes from time – the prelude to a somersault celebration.
But a sublime curler barely a minute later from Sheffield-born Dominic Calvert Lewin, his second goal of the game – enabled the hosts to breathe a bit easier.
The Millers’ elimination means that just one Yorkshire representative remains in the competition at the third round stage in Middlesbrough.
Yet Rotherham’s spirited and game exit was in marked contrast to several other meek White Rose losses this week. It was an evening when no footballing lessons from the feted hosts were inflicted upon the visitors.
Although there was a self-inflicted one administered by the Millers, with a glaring miss seven minutes before the break from Sunday’s goalscoring hero Sean Raggett failing to prey upon the uncertainties of Everton.
With his side trailing to Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 28th-minute opener, Raggett spurned a glorious chance in front of the Gwladys Street end – skewing the ball high and wide when unmarked.
On a night when the Millers would have to be clinical to go close to inflicting a cup shock upon the Blues, they strayed on a couple of key occasions.
Still in the game despite trailing by a single goal, the visitors – backed by a vociferous following of around 2,000 supporters – switched off when Lucas Digne’s sweet 63rd-minute cross found an unmarked Calvert-Lewin, who made it 2-0.
The former Sheffield United player obligingly headed in his first goal since early February and first at Goodison in 2018.
It looked like a routine run home for Everton, but the Millers had other ideas with Jamie Proctor firing over and Huyton-born substitute Jon Taylor testing Maarten Stekelenburg before Vaulks provided the visitors with a lifeline ahead of Calvert-Lewin’s coup de grace.
The Millers gave as good as they got and were rarely troubled in the opening twenty minutes and pieced together some nice passages of play with the hosts producing an inhibited opening by comparison.
A touch of frustration was starting to disseminate among home supporters before Sigurdsson turned in a cross-shot from Sandro Ramirez – to provide a settler for the hosts.
Ramirez soon stung the palms of Price before the Millers regrouped, with Kurt Zouma’s flicked clearing header flying just wide of his own net following a probing centre from Joe Newell.
The gravity of that miss was almost instantly compounded when Price made a smart reaction save to deny Tom Davies – and bail out team-mate Semi Ajayi, who had been dispossessed.
After playing their part in the first half, the Millers were not without hope on the resumption, with the set-piece deliveries of Newell and Forde offering the most obvious threat.
A scrappy opening to the second period was a further development that will have suited Warne’s men before they erred just after the hour mark when the unmarked Calvert-Lewin struck.
The Yorkshireman later afforded himself the last word, but not before the Millers caused a few late flutters
Everton: Stekelenburg; Kenny, Holgate, Zouma, Digne; Davies, Dowell, Sigurdsson (Walcott 66); Ramirez (Schneiderlin 86), Niasse (Tosun 72), Calvert-Lewin. Unused substitutes: Baines, Coleman, Joao Virginia, Pennington.
Rotherham United: Price; Vyner, Ajayi, Raggett, Robertson; Forde, Palmer, Wiles (Vaulks 45), Newell (Taylor 72); Ball (Vassell 61); Proctor. Unused substitutes: Rodak, Wood, Jones, Williams.
Referee: G Scott (Oxon).