Inspiration from the bench booked Everton a last-8 encounter with Arsenal in the FA Cup as they toiled to a 3-1 win over Swansea City.
Lacina Traore took only four minutes to make an impact on his debut, giving Everton the lead at Goodison Park with an improvised back-heel.
The mini-bus load of Swansea fans saw their side equalise 10 minutes later-despite caretaker manager Gary Monk fielding a weakened side- when Jonathan de Guzman headed in from close range.
But Roberto Martinez’s double substitution on the hour mark made the difference, with Steven Naismith taking advantage of a poor back-pass after just four minutes on the pitch, slotting beyond Gerhard Tremmel. The Scot was later brought down in the area, allowing Leighton Baines to convert from the spot.
Everything seemed in place for a routine passage to the quarter finals for Roberto Martinez’s men. Swansea lined up having made eight changes, looking like a team unwilling to risk important players like Ashley Williams and Wilfried Bony in a cup that would only prove distracting from their task of staying in the Premier League.
Their own fans seemed to have as little faith as the bookmakers in their chances of securing a place in the next round with only a 100 or so making the trip from South Wales. And despite a two minute scare for Everton when Alvaro Vazquez spurned a golden opportunity to take the lead, it seemed an Everton win would be a mere formality when Traore opened the scoring.
Kevin Mirallas’ free-kick ended up at the feet of Sylvain Distin who rather then shoot for goal at the first attempt, calmly took a touch and laid it off for the 6ft 8 inch Ivorian. Somehow the débutantes’ audacious back-heel flick found it’s way past the covering defender to send the Blues on their way.
Only, Swansea decided to make it more difficult for the home side and Evertonian’s sensed their team might be the creators of their own destruction. Steven Pienaar tried to escape from out of defence by playing a cross field ball across the area that only narrowly missed Joel Robles’ goal and out for a corner.
On 15 minutes Swansea were level when de Guzman ghosted between Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines to head home a Neil Taylor cross. Whether the nerves had transferred from the players to the crowd or vice versa wasn’t clear but both looked uncomfortable for a long spell in the first half when the Blues tried to play out from the back.
Pienaar almost made amends for his bizarre gift, starting a sweeping move with a deft touch to play in Baines before the defender pulled back for the South African just inside the area. His first time effort on goal met the joining of crossbar and post and the lurking Traore could not direct his header beyond Tremmel.
Ross Barkley, who may have been trying too hard at times, shot wide of Tremmel’s left post after a smart turn and the German was equal to a Mirallas free-kick, but Everton had still not gotten out of bed in what was a frustrating first half.
There was more energy from Everton after the break but it was not until the 61st minute introduction of Naismith and Leon Osman for Traore and Barkley that the game really started to swing in Everton’s favour.
Pienaar again went close, this time with a header but it was a mixture of misfortune and opportunity which saw Everton take the lead once again. This time Swansea’s tendency to play out from the back cost them when Naismith latched onto a poor Taylor pass before coolly placing the ball beyond the on-rushing Tremmel.
Naismith was later involved in Everton’s third too as he was brought down by Ashley Richards in the area on 72 minutes. There was no doubt that Baines would seal Everton’s progress into the quarter finals and the England man didn’t disappoint, sending Tremmel the wrong way to net his first goal at Goodison since February 2013.
The only sour note on the afternoon’s work (and hard work they made of it too) was super-sub Naismith having to leave the field after a collision with Jordi Amat which left the home side to finish the game with 10 men.
After a tricky first half in which Everton worryingly seemed to have ran out of ideas, Martinez proved his worth with timely substitutions which undoubtedly changed the game in Everton’s favour and ensured a trip to the Emirates in the sixth round.
Naismith may not be the man to start week in week out in Romelu Lukaku’s absence, but not for the first time he has shown just how effective substitutes can be when the margins are tight.