Andros Townsend says Everton’s never-say-die attitude in their rollercoaster FA Cup victory against Championship side Hull shows the Toffees “are still fighting” for boss Rafael Benitez.
Everton fell behind inside 45 seconds to Tyler Smith’s header but rallied to lead via Demarai Gray and Andre Gomes.
Ryan Longman curled Hull level but Townsend’s strike won it in extra time.
“It meant a hell of a lot. One thing we can say is we are still fighting,” Townsend told BBC Sport.
“It seems in every game this season we’ve given ourselves a lot of work to do – we’ve either gone behind early or conceded a goal at some point,” added the former England winger.
“But this team has character and when we cut the silly mistakes out early in the game hopefully we can go on a run and pick up some points in the league.
“We’re getting players back, we’ve got a big squad and hopefully we can go far in this competition too.”
Substitute Townsend returned from a fractured foot to win the game and under-pressure boss Benitez, who did not risk Dominic Calvert-Lewin after his recent return from injury, also praised Gray for playing through the pain.
“We started by making things difficult for ourselves but the reaction of the team, as usual, was quite good, which means that the players care,” said the Toffees boss.
“Demarai played until we had to make the substitution because he was working so hard and Andros is injured but playing because he wants to help the team. That is the spirit you expect from our players.”
Hull, who hit the woodwork through Keane Lewis-Potter at 2-2 in normal time, came close to forcing penalties but Toffees keeper Asmir Begovic made a stunning save to deny Tom Eaves.
Boost for Benitez – but far from convincing
When Everton fell behind within a minute and some travelling Toffees supporters joined in with the underdogs’ time-honoured “you’re getting sacked in the morning” chant, things appeared bleak for Benitez.
Coming in to the game on a run of just one win in 12 Premier League matches that has seen the Toffees slip to 15th after a decent start to his reign, the former Liverpool boss is still struggling for acceptance from the Goodison faithful.
His cause was not helped by Smith heading home his first Hull goal since a summer move from Sheffield United as Everton began poorly and were fortunate not to fall further adrift.
Begovic was twice called on to thwart tall striker Eaves, the first from a powerful header and the second a shot from a tight angle, and the visitors looked all at sea at set-pieces.
But then Anthony Gordon and Gray weaved their magic, a classy exchange of passes in the Hull area culminating in the former Leicester man calmly tucking beneath Hull keeper Nathan Baxter.
Gordon has been one of Benitez’s bright sparks recently and he was at the centre of everything good Everton produced in the first half, clipping the outside of the post after a mazy run and setting Michael Keane clear for a shot superbly tipped aside by Baxter.
The 20-year-old played a role in Everton’s second too, teeing up Jonjoe Kenny for a cross that Gomes, timing his run into the six-yard area perfectly, dived in to head home.
It was a blow that appeared to rock Hull and the game looked to be meandering towards a routine Everton win when Longman found Begovic’s top corner from 20 yards just seven minutes after coming on.
Everton rallied with Gray almost replicating Longman’s strike, curling inches wide, and Hull’s Jacob Greaves fortunate there is no video assistant referee at non-Premier League grounds in the FA Cup when his raised hand blocked a Gray shot.
The Toffees had their own escape at the other end when Lewis-Potter’s low shot came back off Begovic’s near post, but the Championship side had no answer when Townsend produced a trademark swerving, dipping strike from distance to decide it.
Hull boss Grant McCann told BBC Sport: “I thought it was a cracking cup tie. We gave it a really good go. I said before the game we wanted to try to have a go at Everton and I thought we did for the majority of the game.
“We had some big opportunities in the game that we probably didn’t take but I thought the game was a real credit to the players and I thought they showed real character.
“I said to them afterwards that I was really proud of them and that they should be really proud of their performances today – they went toe-to-toe with Premier League players there and everyone has aspirations to play at that level in our changing room.
- 19WilliamsSubstituted forLongmanat 63′minutes
- 6SmallwoodSubstituted forHuddlestoneat 63′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 8DochertySubstituted forMoncurat 63′minutes
- 22SmithSubstituted forHindsat 105′minutes
- 22GodfreyBooked at 114mins
- 2KennySubstituted forDoucouréat 74′minutes
- 21André GomesSubstituted forGbaminat 88′minutes
- 19MykolenkoBooked at 45mins
- 24GordonSubstituted forTownsendat 66′minutes
- 33RondónSubstituted forTosunat 117′minutes
- 11GraySubstituted forDobbinat 105′minutes
- Andy Madley
Match ends, Hull City 2, Everton 3.
Second Half Extra Time ends, Hull City 2, Everton 3.
Corner, Everton. Conceded by Nathan Baxter.
Attempt saved. Cenk Tosun (Everton) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Attempt blocked. Allan (Everton) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Vitalii Mykolenko.
Josh Hinds (Hull City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Vitalii Mykolenko (Everton).
Attempt missed. Jean-Philippe Gbamin (Everton) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Allan following a set piece situation.
Substitution, Everton. Cenk Tosun replaces Salomón Rondón.
Foul by George Honeyman (Hull City).
Andros Townsend (Everton) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Tom Huddlestone (Hull City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Salomón Rondón (Everton).
Ben Godfrey (Everton) is shown the yellow card.
Corner, Everton. Conceded by Di’Shon Bernard.
Foul by Josh Hinds (Hull City).
Allan (Everton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Josh Hinds (Hull City) right footed shot from very close range is close, but misses to the right following a corner.
Attempt saved. Tom Eaves (Hull City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Corner, Hull City. Conceded by Séamus Coleman.
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