Everton were forced to make two changes from the side that romped to victory against Blackpool. Louis Saha and Jack Rodwell dropped out through injury and were replaced by Victor Anichebe and Tim Cahill respectively. Although Cahill has usually supported the lone centre-forward in Everton’s 4-4-1-1 system it was Mikel Arteta who lined up just behind Anichebe initially, but once the Toffees fell behind the two midfielders reverted to their more natural roles. The change brought Everton into the game following a slow start that saw Bolton take the lead thanks to Everton’s inability to defend a set-piece.
When Bolton’s Cahill easily evaded his namesake and nominal marker Tim to go on a leisurely stroll through the Everton defence, meet the cross and, with the aid of a deflection off John Heitinga, beat Tim Howard, Bolton became the third team in as many games to benefit from lax Everton marking in a dead ball situation – both Arsenal and Blackpool had profited in prior games. Conceding in such a sloppy manner only amplifies Everton’s lack of firepower which, despite the five goals that were fired past Blackpool, is still a problem without a cure. The Tangerines make an inaccurate barometer for Everton’s goal scoring prowess given their all-or-nothing approach and, against a more robust side and without the in-form Saha, Everton were familiarly toothless for much of the game and fighting an uphill battle.
Through the first half and into the second Everton worked the ball wide often and arrowed crosses in towards the Bolton backline but had little joy. A dearth of understanding between Anichebe and the raft of midfielders in support brought promising moves to a screeching halt as the play was pushed to the flanks, but with Baines and Seamus Coleman providing width Everton had a spare man wide, who would then deliver only to see Bolton’s pack of physical defenders deal with the cross in relative comfort. It was not due to a lack of blue shirts in the penalty area, however, with sometimes as many as five Everton players on the hunt, but the inexact nature of crossing into a crowded penalty area that rendered the Toffees’ deliveries impotent, bar the devilish ball from Baines that Cahill stabbed wide.
As much as Everton were routinely stifled by Bolton’s defensive solidity, their own misguided passing was as much a culprit. Marouane Fellaini was particularly guilty of over-hitting what seemed simple balls and handing possession back to the home side. Poor decisions, or the failure to make a decision at all, cost Everton when in dangerous positions as a lack of cohesion permeated all in blue. Indeed, Bolton were more organised and efficient throughout, and thoroughly deserving of the three points.
18 Neville – 5 Heitinga – 15 Distin – Baines
23 Coleman – 25 Fellaini – 10 Arteta – 7 Bilyaletdinov
61 – 21 Osman on for 7 Bilyaletdinov
61 – 16 Beckford on for 23 Coleman
78 – 37 Baxter on for 28 Anichebe