David Moyes appears to be convinced that Jermaine Beckford is best used as a super-sub, with Anichebe surprisingly getting the start in his place as the lone striker upfront in place of the injured Saha. Tim Cahill returns finally after his Asian Cup sojourn in Qatar, just in time to replace Jack Rodwell, who got injured playing for England U-21s midweek.
It was fairly disjointed kick-and-rush stuff from both sides early on, with some strongish tackles breaking things up. Bolton did advance well, Cahill giving them the first corner, headed wide, then but Heitinga made a key intervention to deny Kevin Davies. Another Bolton corner was farcically overhit.
When Everton did get the ball, the ploy of aerial crosses to the lone Anichebe looked futle and Bolton were on the attack again, getting a free-kick for a nothing collision where Robinson fell over out wide that ended up in the Everton net off Heitinga's arm from Cahill's glancing header, with less than 10 mins gone. It looked far too easy a goal to give away.
Elamander was booked for scything down Baines but Arteta's delivery was shockingly poor. Anichebe was starting to win the odd lofted ball but the second ball was going nowhere. And on the ground, his style seemed to repel rather than attract the the ball to his feet, defenders always getting theirs in first.
But a fantastic ball in from Baines was taken completely wrong by Cahill, who got into the perfect position but incredibly tried ot control the high ball with his foot rather than executing a trademark header that would have been a nailed on goal for him. Shocking decision.. Better Everton pressure followed from a free-kick, a Baines shot being blocked, and a poor cross defended behind for a corner that was poorly executed by Arteta.
Everton were getting forward but a good driven cross just bounced back off the hulk of Anichebe. A through ball seemed to set Anichebe free but Knight accelerated and stuck his foot in just as Anichebe belatedly pulled the trigger. Both players collapsed but Anichebe, was up after some attention, though Knight's game was up, despite the attempted denial to waste time and allow his sub, Wheater to be made ready. Baines's corner meanwhile was delivered straight to the head of the first defender.
Bolton were strong and physical in denying Everton space, but in possession, they collapsed lie paper tigers at the slightest touch, and Everton were struggling to play with any rhythm or cohesion. Bily looked to release Anichebe but the timing was wrong amd he had moved offside.
Heitinga got sucked in to a clear Sturridge dive and earned a dangerous free-kick that Taylor drove low and Howard saved easily. Bily got himself into acres of space centrally but had no idea what to do as Anichebe' could not get free in front of him, a classic cameo of the difficulty Everton were having to make anything of this visually unappealing spectacle.
Everton tried the longer ball and Cahill 's header down for Anichebe was just too far in front of him. Bily got called for a foul that was curled in well but Howard punched it . A better move finally saw Arteta put in a shot but it was not good enough. At the other end, Fellaini again made an awful giveaway and Bolton had another corner that Anichebe headed away. Mark Davies's shot was deflected for another corner.
A great breakaway from the corner by Everton suddenly opened up with Arteta crossing and Bily clipping a great ball out for Coleman but his touch was poor and Wheater steamrollered him easily. Fellaini then put in an inviting ball for Coleman to attack but it was just too close to the keeper, who slid the ball out of his area on the greasy turf.
It had been a horrible half for Everton, who where perhaps unjustly a goal down and being outmarked and perhaps outwitted by a difficult Bolton side.
No changes after half-time... and there were no appreciable change in the pattern of play, Everton still struggling to get any freedom from the tight shackles of Bolton. Fellaini sucked in by another Sturridge dive that won a dangerous free-kick but the wall did it's job.
Everton got a free-kick and the looping delivery that led to a corner and a spell of Everton pressure around and in the Bolton area but the ball never broke to anyone in a shooting position, and it was horribly s crappy formless stuff. Moyes decided, 5 mins ahead of schedule, that it was time to prep a double-switch but he was beaten to it by Owen Coyle. Lee on for Taylor.
Anichebe used his strength to finally win a good free-kick off Wheater that Baines curled in well but no-one went for it. Cometh the hour... Osman and Beckford on for Bily and Coleman. Cahill, surprisingly left on, turned and shot over from the edge of the area. Osman put in a good cross, but it was defended away as nothing seemed to be working for the Blues...
And just to underline things, Everton failed to clear a free-kick that eventually came to the cheating Sturridge, who lashed it past Howard with 25 mins remaining. Just horrible.
Osman was lively in a forward role, but his link play just wasn't working, and was not helped by a useless free-kick lobbed up by Heitinga straight to the goalkeeper. Osman tried to cross from a difficult position and again, the goalie collected far too easily. Anichebe had been poor all game and was looking increasingly poor, worse than a passenger.
15 mins left and this was possibly the most rubbish display imaginable from Everton, epitomised by the utterly useless Anichebe. Fellaini looked to release Beckford into space but the ball went straight through his legs... just horrible horrible stuff.
Anichebe was fouled by Robinson and Anichebe was finally removed, allowing Jose Baxter to come on. More aerial balls into the Bolton area coming to nothing amidst plenty of tugging and shoving. At the other end, it looked like Bolton's third but Sturridge was wrongly deemed to have allowed the ball to cross the byeline before his very clever backheel was smacked into the Everton net by Holden.
Baxter was lively and he had a shot that was going wide touched around. From the corner, he tried to lash in a first-time volley that went horribly wide, while later at the other end, a Davies strike curled wide of Howard and just wide of the post before Baxter played in Sturridge who so nearly did make it three for a horrible Bolton side.
In many ways this summed up an awful day in a very wet and miserable office for the relegation-bound Blues.
From the never-say-die fightback against Blackpool to abject surrender against Bolton, it's hard to know which Everton will turn up these days. A performance as bad — arguably worse — as any served up to date this season got the result it deserved at the Reebok Stadium as David Moyes's Blues went down without a fight to a 2-0 defeat.
Yes, this was a changed line-up from the one that started last weekend but this horror show went far beyond the loss of the on-fire Louis Saha or the increasingly settled Jack Rodwell. This was a collective failure on an angering scale, one bereft by the end of any real desire or spirit and as the flurries of infighting between some of the players emerged on the pitch, the fixed glare of resignation on the countenance of the manager perhaps said it all. Things are very wrong at Goodison Park and on this evidence they're likely to get a lot worse.
From the outset, things didn't bode all that well for Everton. Presumably planning to match Bolton's physical presence at the back, Moyes opted to deploy Victor Anichebe as the lone striker in Saha's absence ahead of the returning Tim Cahill. But it became apparent very quickly that the home defence was going to lap up everything thrown at them in the air and that the Blues would have been far better served trying to open then up on the ground.
Unfortunately, exacerbated by a shortage of confidence, that has been a big problem for this team all season long and it was telling that they managed just two shots on target all game. One came from Mikel Arteta late in the first half, the other came from substitute Jose Baxter as equally belatedely in the second. Otherwise, Everton's best chance of the game fell to Tim Cahill after 16 minutes from one of the few crosses that threatened to open Bolton up but he couldn't steer the ball home and the ball bounced a couple of feet wide of Jussi Jaaskeleinen's left-hand post.
Had that chance been converted, it would have leveled the scores and the game might have been very different because though they'd conceded a sloppy goal seven minutes earlier, the Blues were arguably the better side in the early going despite the fact that an over-reliance on the long ball meant that they were making little headway against a resolute Bolton rearguard.
By contrast, Owen Coyle's men scored with their first meaningful ball in the box, albeit from a free kick that should never been awarded in a month of Sundays. Paul Robinson appeared to impede Anichebe as the two challenged for the ball on the Bolton left but the Everton striker was penalised for reasons known only to referr Lee Probert who amply demonstrated that he's not getting any better with experience.
The free kick was swung in towards the six-yard box, Gary Cahill easily lost his namesake Tim to meet the flight of the ball and headed the Trotters into the lead off the arm of John Heitinga. 1-0 to Bolton but plenty of time for Everton to get back into it.
Their first opportunity was a carbon copy of the set piece that Bolton converted just two minutes previously but Leighton Baines' free kick was too low and easily cleared and after Cahill had knocked his good chance wide, the Blues wouldn't create another scoring chance until four minutes before the break when Arteta finally took up the invitation to have a shot but his curling effort was caught by the 'keeper.
That was followed by a terrific counter-attack opportunity and some impressive awareness by Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to sweep the ball on to Seamus Coleman but the Irishman's first touch got away from him and so dod the chance. He almost atoned for his sloppiness in first-half injury time, though, but his left-footed cross-cum-shot flashed across the face of goal in front of Anichebe and Cahill.
The second half kicked off with no obvious sign of anything having been changed by Moyes and the fact that nothing happened worth describing between the restart and his first substitutions on the hour mark told it's own story. Everton were creating absolutely nothing. Arteta was busy but not able to inspire much, Marouane Fellaini could barely find a Blue shirt all afternoon, Coleman betrayed signs of a hangover from his international exploits for Ireland, Bilyaletdinov looked every bit the clumsy and error-prone player whose ability to make it in the Premier League has looked so questionable, and Cahill was well shackled by Bolton, though he did try with a turn and shot from the edge of the box in the 62nd minute but his shot ballooned over.
Five minutes after that, Bolton doubled their lead and killed the game. Another ball lofted into the box wasn't dealt with, Gary Cahill out-muscling Heitinga and Lee beating Baines to the bounce with a header that dropped to Daniel Sturridge and the on-loan striker finished well with a crisp shot inside the far post.
There was plenty of time left but any fight Everton had had — which wasn't much — was draining away fast, exemplified in the shocking body language of Anichebe whose infamous petulance raised its head as he wandered around the pitch in a sulk before being hauled off by Moyes with 12 minutes to go. Hopefully that will be the last time he ever pulls on the Royal Blue Jersey but the manager's striking options being as slim as they are, we're probably stuck with the miserable sod until at least the end of the season.
Anichebe's replacement, Baxter, at least showed some effort and pride while around him players were bellowing at each other for not reading their minds and Moyes sat stone-faced and dejected in the dugout with no one, not even Steve Round sat within five seats of him. After Holden had had what television replays would prove was a perfectly good goal disallowed, Baxter forced the only real save Jaaskeleined had to make in the entire 90 minutes with a smart turn and low shot with eight minutes to go.
But it was the last time the visitors would show any sign of threatening the Bolton goal and it was Tim Howard at the other end who had be alert as first a fizzing effort by Johann Elmander flew past his post and then a curled shot by Sturridge narrowly missed on the other side of the goal in the closing stages.
Any optimism that was generated by the rollercoaster victory over Blackpool was emphatically washed away by a horrendous display today, one that casts grave doubts on this team's ability to ever compete in the right half of the table again without an injection of new talent, a serious attitude adjustment, and some fresh ideas from the management.
The fact that fault lines started to appear in the relationships between the players and that Moyes's posture by the end was one of an utterly defeated and helpless man is a major cause for concern because with just three points separating Everton from the relegation zone — not to mention a crucial FA Cup replay coming up next weekend — this is not the time for the team to start falling apart at the seams.
Moyes has lots of work to do but perhaps for the first time it's valid to question whether he has the stomach for it. Admittedly he seemed to have gathered his thoughts and shed some of that dejection by the time of his post-match interview with the BBC but his demeanour in the last quarter of the game was revealing and he pulled no punches in other quotes after the. Next Saturday at Stamford Bridge will be a massive test of his team's character...
Player Ratings: Howard 5, Neville 5, Heitinga 5, Distin 6, Baines 6, Coleman 5 (Beckford 6), Arteta 6*, Fellaini 5, Bilyaletdinov 5 (Osman 5), Cahill 6, Anichebe 4 (Baxter 7)
It was hoped that the stirring home win over Tottenham last month would be the catalyst that belatedly ignited Everton's season but it proved to something of a false dawn as the Blues failed to register another Premier League win until last weekend's thrilling victory over Blackpool at Goodison Park.
Again, there are hopes that that 5-3 triumpnh might end up being the spark for an end-of-season run but the momentum could be compromised at the outset by the loss to injury once more of Louis Saha. The Frenchman has been in razor-sharp form, scoring eight goals in his last six games, but he's now been ruled out for at least two weeks with a hamstring strain sustained in training this week.
That means he misses this Sunday's televised clash with Bolton Wanderers and, perhaps more concerningly given his record against the Champions, the FA Cup Fourth Round replay against Chelsea.
And with Yakubu and James Vaughan on loan, that leaves David Moyes with precious few options in the striker department. Victor Anichebe has been struggling with an injury of his own but is expected to be fit for the trip to the Reebok Stadium but he's shown little so far to suggest that he is an answer to lead the line.
Likewise Jermaine Beckford who has done well when partnered with another out-and-out striker but less so when played as the lone striker but there are many who'd like to see him given the nod to see how he fares now that he's got the confidence from having banged in a few goals.
Another player whose good run in the side, Jack Rodwell, is also an injury casualty having picked up a groin strain on international duty for England U-21 and is expected to miss at least a month. Moyes does at least have a straight replacement for the 19 year-old in Tim Cahill who will surely start for the first time since New Year's Day after recovering from his exploits for Australia in the Asia Cup.
Elsewhere in the side, fitness permitting, the manager will probably leave things unchanged for what is always a tricky fixture, though the Blues have come away from Bolton unbeaten in four of the last five games at the Reebok. Last season's agonising 3-2 defeat was Everton's first loss at Bolton since the 2004/05 season and a return to winning ways there this weekend would lift Moyes's side over the Trotters and into eighth place.
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|2010-11 Reports Index|
|When Skies Are Grey||Report|
|Everton fans' reports|
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|4 the Game||Report|
|Knight (27' Wheater)|
|Taylor (58' Lee)|
|Sturridge (90' Muamba)|
|Subs not used|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||27|
|19||West Ham United||25|