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COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Bolton (A) — Down in the dumps

By Paul Traill :  26/10/2009 :  Comments (5) :

Match Report: Bolton Wanderers vs Everton

I elected to drive to this one so after that extra hour in bed was down the M62 and then M61 with Gary and outside the Reebok Stadium a little after 12pm. Rather than paying £6 to park in the Reebok it made economic sense to park in the Tesco car park…tough financial times and all that.

I remembered from my last visit to the Reebok Stadium that there was only one pub available for away fans in and around the ground, that being The Beehive, a pleasant little pub a 10 minute walk from the stadium. Unfortunately they had some darts competition on in there so we had to queue for a few minutes before finally getting into the pub for a welcome couple of beers.

Outside the weather just couldn’t make its mind up. Leaving Wirral we had glorious sunshine, upon arrival in Bolton pissy rain and then on the way to the pub swirly winds. You didn’t really sense this was going to be a good day.

As we were leaving the pub somebody said we had no Yobo and no Pienaar. I didn’t know if this meant we therefore had Osman, Bilyaletdinov and Baines available but as we got to the ground it appeared not and we’re still stretched to the max with injuries with Yakubu also now fallen foul of injury following the demolition in Lisbon.

Cahill lead the team out, we now thankfully had Neill and Heitinga available at least, with both coming into the side but Hibbert placed as an emergency left back and Lucas Neill on the right hand side.

A glance at the midfield line up highlighted, as if it was needed, the injury problems we have. Cahill played on the left hand side with Gosling coming into his more favored position on the right, with Fellaini and Rodwell in the middle. Jo and Saha partnered in attack.

On the bench – I’ve just got no idea. The match announcer didn’t bother to read out our team, though given the problems we had I didn’t foresee us having much on there whom could influence the game. We won the toss, Cahill forcing them to switch ends.

We started the game badly with Bolton having two excellent headed opportunities within the first five minutes both of which missed the target. Despite seemingly settling into the game after this it wasn’t long before we were behind with Chung-Yong Lee finishing well having not been picked up by his runner in the box to put Bolton one ahead.

This seemed to alert Everton a bit who began to put a few things together. A few balls into the boss just wouldn’t fall for the right player as Bolton got lucky, whilst Jo’s looping cross into the box bounced off the top of the crossbar and away. Just as you felt that if Everton kept this up they’d be soon on the scoresheet Bolton only went and scored another one themselves.

Just before a dubious free kick was launched into the box the referee Phil Dowd went over to Moyes to give him a ticking off. This seemed to be Everton’s signal to switch off completely as the ball into the box was comfortably headed home virtually unchallenged by Gary Cahill. The task now looked daunting.

Enter Saha with one of his magical moments. Just prior to his thunderbolt of a goal he’d warned Bolton by forcing Jaaskelainen into a save so when he’d created a little space for himself he didn’t hesitate to let fly and get Everton back into this one. We pressed without breakthrough until the break but you felt that with Bolton defending almost as bad as we were, we had a chance to get something from this game.

With no changes at the break Everton pressed early in the second half and almost scored straight away when Cahill’s effort was well smothered by Jaaskelainen. The equalizer did come when Fellaini received a pass took it on a bit and buried the ball high into the roof of the net. Back to 2-2, we felt that with Bolton generally not all that impressive thus far we could go on to win it.

Unfortunately once we got level we took the foot off the gas a bit and invited more pressure from Bolton. Regardless, we dealt with the onslaught pretty well, all without forcing Howard into too much work. We had a great opportunity to win it when Gosling broke into the box and with opportunities to square the ball for what would surely have been a comfortable goal for Saha, he hesitated a bit and was stopped by a combination of defender and goalkeeper.

The real key moment was when Heitinga was forced off with injury, throwing Coleman into the fray. Immediately the ball was put towards him and he stupidly handled. Pressure grew from Bolton but still, you felt we were escaping with something until a nothing free kick was launched high and long into the box. Neill’s clearance bounced back of a Bolton defender and invitingly into the path of Klasniã who half-volleyed low under Howard and in.

With just four minutes to go all that work in the second half was undone. We tried to force the ball forward a few times after that but you never felt we’d score. I lost my rag a bit when a combination of steward and ball girl kept the ball from Distin as he tried to get the ball back to get us going again. We left a few moments before the end and the loud cheers from the Bolton fans confirmed the result.

Our original plan was to get back to the pub for the end of the Liverpool vs Man Utd game and let the traffic go but we were so pissed off we just wanted out of there so shot down the motorway and home. It was just as well. The sound of John Aldridge’s commentary on Radio City was bad enough.

We did hear a bit of a David Moyes post-match interview though and boy, did he sound peeved, citing, and I quote, “crap defending” as the reason we lost the game. It’s hard to argue. Defending for the first two goals was just plain awful, the second in particular, whilst the third was a bit unlucky but if you invite that much pressure you’re always going to give away goals. Give away goals and you’re always going to lose games.

The way the last two games have gone, the fact we’ve got Spurs away the day after tomorrow and the growing, endless injury crisis we seem to have been infected by has put me down in the dumps. I don’t expect anything but a defeat on Tuesday and just hope for a few bodies back so we can start again next Saturday at home to Aston Villa.

Thankfully we haven’t lost too much ground on Villa, Spurs and Man City (our main rivals this season in my opinion) this weekend so next weekend could be ideal for getting back on track and injecting some confidence back into the season.

Player Ratings:

  • Howard: Not a lot to do but helpless with the goals. Not helped by the wind, his distribution was suspect. 6
  • Hibbert: Stuck at the task well, giving a good example to some of his teammates on how we’ve all got to stick together at the moment, regardless of the position you’re asked to play. 7
  • Heitinga: Was doing alright until forced off injured though needs to get more commanding in the air. 6
  • Distin: Thought he was looking good but the last couple of games he hasn’t impressed me at all. Works better alongside Yobo. 5
  • Neill: Had a great game at right back but struggled when we perhaps needed him most when thrusted into centre-back for the late charge at the end of the game. 6
  • Rodwell: Can’t emphasize it enough – needs to be pulled out. Really struggling through games at the moment but we really don’t have much choice. 5
  • Cahill: Wasn’t playing in his position but did what he could do out on the left wing. As skipper this defeat will have hurt him more than most. 6
  • Fellaini: Good goal yes but didn’t get into the game otherwise when we needed him more. 5
  • Gosling: My man of the match. Kept on going and showed a lot more belief than some of his teammates in the second half. 7
  • Saha: Well taken goal but never really got going in the second half. 6
  • Jo: Showed good link up play at times though you never really feel he’s going to capitalize on any opportunity to score. Still, vastly improved from Thursday night. 6
  • Coleman (for Heitinga): Showed panic from his first touch. Not a time to be throwing players like that into games but as we know, Moyes has no choice. 5

Reader Comments

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Kunal Desai
1   Posted 26/10/2009 at 15:00:55

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"Thankfully we haven’t lost too much ground on Villa, Spurs and Man City"...

Sorry, Paul, but I think it will only be a matter of time before it’s impossible to catch all three. It’s really simple, we’ve not capitalised on our chances to improve and kick on to push that top 4 over the last 3 seasons.

Our competitors are far better than last season and have improved their squads with quality and, all equipped to make a decent challenge for 4th.

I believe this season we’ll do well to finish in the top 10, but the key undoubtedly will be next summer, will Moyes have the funds to really push on and add some real quality to the squad that will give us the chance to push for that top 4 or else i’m afraid he may say enough is enough.....

John Sreet
2   Posted 26/10/2009 at 17:02:05

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Couldn’t agree more Kunai
Denis Richardson
3   Posted 26/10/2009 at 20:16:28

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I believe we have have a squad capable of finishing well into the top 10 and possibly top 6 again. Results may not have been great in the last few weeks but the list of injuries we have is ridiculous.

When everyone is fit we have a class side on paper. Defence from Heitinga, Jags, Distin, Baines, Yobo, Neill, midfield from Bily, Arteta, Pienaar, Fellaini, Rodwell, Cahill etc, Yak and Saha up top. That is one hell of a side. Arguably the best squad in the last 10-15 years — just need to get most of the injuries sorted out.

Hopefully we can get trhough the next couple of weeks, scraping some points together, and hope that, by the time the international break is done in November, most of the top players will be back.

Then this season can really begin.
Martin Cutler
4   Posted 26/10/2009 at 23:59:48

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Let’s look on the bright side (that includes MK too)...

We are actually statistically better off at this point than the corresponding point (nine games) last season. Last season we had NINE points and a deficit in goals of -6. we are now on 11 points with a deficit of -3 (heavily influenced by the 1st game of course).

Now obviously, as we are Everton, neither situations are good... BUT last season I seem to remember we finished 4th and just like last season we have a crippling injury situation.

I forgot who it was (it may have been Michael but I could be wrong on that, apologies if I am) but a comment along the lines of we have the experience despite the injuries so why are we playing so badly? Well, having the experience and a side that is consistent and familiar with each other and players in the their correct position is another matter all together!!!

Are we playing poorly? Yes. Could the fit players we have play better? Sure. Should players be able to cope with a different position? For the most part, yes. Do we have we have a terrible, terrible injury list that seems to grow with every match? ... YES!!!

I’m not making excuses for the team or the club (they only have themselves to blame in part) but under the circumstances — and also comparing the nine games thus far to last season’s opening nine games — it actually could be a lot, lot worse.

I certainly would not lower myself to condemn Moyes and the team until such time as they have a fully fit squad; if they are still playing badly then, fair enough, criticize away... but right now the injuries, ineligible players, the inexperience of younger players are major factors that should not be overlooked.
Jim Hourigan
5   Posted 28/10/2009 at 19:11:40

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Ken, I rarely take issue with your observations but I think you and I must have been watching a different game with respect to 2 or 3 players.

Firstly Hibbert was hopeless, yes he chases and runs but his defensive skills were sadly lacking. Bolton had one tactic — put the ball in the box... and the only real way to defend that is stop it at source. Whilst the punts from deep cannot be stopped by defenders they must stop crosses when players are wide. The first goal came from Hibbert and throughout the game he never got close enough to stop crosses. As for his awareness of players behind him, he is worse on the left than on the right and he’s bad on the right.

Cahill was another who ran around and offered little, in fact he allowed Hibbert no cover and support that at times I actually felt sorry for Hibbert. Cahill plays one way and that is forward and looking for goals. As a midfield player he was awful on Sunday and offered us nothing.

Rodwell I felt played very well and after the first 15 mins controlled the centre. For me that was because Bolton by pass their midfield and allowed Rodwell to pick up the pieces. When Saha and Neill tired in the last 15 mins we went long and Rodwell became a passenger. I agree he needs withdrawing but I felt he contributed more than most.

As regards Fellaini I thought he was better than Cahill and contributed as much as Gosling. Like the other youngsters (remember his age) he struggles when we are under pressure. He is not a commanding player, but then I don’t know many 21-year-olds in the Premier League who do.

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