COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL
We got the team news in the boozer and though unsurprised to see Donavon straight into the tram, were surprised to see Moyes go with two up front with Stracqualursi and Saha leading the line. Fellaini, Drenthe and Coleman were the noteable absentees with injury and illness. Bolton had reserve goalkeeper Adam Bogdan in goal with ex-Red Ngog up front and apparent Chelsea-bound Cahill at the back with Zat Knight.
It was a tough start to the game as the wind played a key factor. Sitting in the Lower Gwladys, the wind was in our faces and I thought this was of real benefit to Bolton in the first half. Moreover, I was very confident we?d be just fine if only we got to the break at 0-0. This we did but only whilst making it difficult for ourselves. Tim Howard, after making a hash of a clearance finally saving well from Ngog. Prior to that there?d been all sorts of confusion in the penalty area as the wind played havoc and Everton struggled to clear their lines whilst Bolton looked threatening with the wind-assisted corners. At the other end, Saha got nowhere near the goal with a sitter for the third time in as many games as he stabbed a great chance ridiculously wide when well-placed. You really shudder to think where, when and how our forward line are going to get you any goals this season. Osman also drifted a shot wide from inside the box and clipped another one straight at Bogdan from the edge of the box. All in all, despite a generally poor show, I was satisfied enough and convinced that we?d be fine in the second half with the wind going with us.
This of course wasn?t the case as Everton just couldn?t get to grips with the conditions and just weren?t up for it. Credit to Bolton. They got stuck in, had the good sense (not that it took a genius mind) to keep the ball on the deck and pass it around to create openings. Our midfield didn?t stay with theirs. Our defence struggled with their forwards and our attack?well, what attack? It was absent as usual. Couple all that with three early and forced substitutions and you?ve got trouble. Jagielka was forced off first half to be replaced by Rodwell. Osman trotted off early in the second for Gueye, and then Rodwell our first substitute, had to come off for Cahill. Ridiculous I know.
Our only saving grace I suppose was our goalkeeper. Whilst a little shaky struggling with the conditions in the first half he was excellent in the second. Firstly making two excellent saves to keep out Mark Davies and then Ngog, and then going one better and helping himself to an insane goal. A long kick forward which took a big bounce around 20 yards out of the opposite goal, gathered momentum and flew into the net over Bogdan. Unbelievable and Goodison roared into relief and laughter in one. It was harsh on Bolton, incredibly so and I dared to believe this would be the point where we?d go on and win. You get a gift like that and really have to capitalize on it. Well, you?d think so wouldn?t you?
Things, of course, are never this simple for Everton and we contrived to let in not one, but two soft, albeit well-taken goals from Ngog and then Gary Cahill. It was like watching a nightmare unfold as the wind just would not relent?a Thomas Cook advertise hoarding exemplifying this as it toppled over just by the Lower Bullens.
We did still have one last chance however and it was from the familiar source of a Leighton Baines free kick right at the death. The ball would hardly stand still for him though he was finally able to hit it, and for the third time this season managed to hit the bar with it, though unlike his efforts against Man Utd and QPR this one cannoning back off the face of the crossbar with nobody able to follow up despite God knows how many bodies in the box. We did grab a corner from this though failed to create anything and the full time whistle was blown by Dowd upon clearance. What an insipid defeat and performance from Everton. Just one shot on target all game ? and that not even the goal ? against a bottom of the league reserve goalkeeper.
Positives are few so I?ll attempt to try and excuse the defeat. Fellaini was a big loss today and Moyes was a bit unlucky with losing three players to injury during the game but that?s about all I can offer. Our walk to Kirkdale station after the game provided at least some idea of what playing in them conditions must be like. It was difficult to even walk, let alone judge where a high ball is and where it?s going to land etc. This would be a reasonable excuse of course but is not as it?s the same for both teams. Bolton got to grips with it and we, despite even gaining a ridiculous goal from it, simply did not.
Tamworth up next and it?ll be interesting to see what line-up Moyes goes with. Defeat in this is unbearable to even think about. I?d like to think a chance to chalk up some shooting practice is a more realistic outcome but you just can?t take that for granted with Everton?ever. Confidence restoration is a must however ahead of tough trips to White Hart Lane and Villa Park.
Howard: Even without the goal he?d be Man of the Match by default. Congratulations Tim. Shame it counted for nothing. His teammates let him down tonight for sure. 9
Baines: Tried to get forward and put balls in and really wasn?t helped much at all by Gueye down the left hand side. Unlucky with last ditch free kick. 6
Jagielka: Was struggling a bit with the conditions but was certainly missed once he had to leave the field. Really hope it?s not too serious. Distin and Heitinga together ? I shudder. 6
Distin: Probably one of our better players on the night. Coped with the wind better than most and was pretty solid and also quite positive in attack. 6
Hibbert: Poor. Not great defensively (normally his strong point) and some of his distribution boarded on embarrassing at times, though he was hardly the only one. 4
Heitinga: Awful. Seemed completely lost when he had to switch position to centre-back. You know you?ve had a shocker when you get the run around from Ngog. 3
Neville: Not much he did worked but fair play to him for at least trying to take responsibility and trying to make things happen. Wasn?t for want of trying, I?ll give him that. 6
Osman: Looked our most likely to create something until he had to leave. Was missed for sure. Hope that?s not too serious. 6
Donavon: Really struggled to get into the game. Bet he wishes he?d stayed in L.A given the local weather and team performance. Capable of much more of course. 5
Stracqualursi: Worked yes but is utterly clueless at times. I think if he had a settled run in the side, and by that I mean about 10 games in a row I think you?d see better of him but we can?t afford the bedding in period. You just can?t see where a goal is coming from with him. 3
Saha: Ridiculous miss in the first half. Did a few bright things otherwise in the first period but offered nowhere near enough in the second half when we seriously required a lot more character up front. 4
Rodwell (for Jagielka): Never got going before coming off injured himself. 5
Gueye (for Osman): Poor. Didn?t work ith Baines anything like as effectively as he should have. 4
Cahill (for Rodwell): When he came on I thought it may be useful and may be just what we needed?sadly wasn?t the case and he was more of a passenger for the most part. 5
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1 Posted 05/01/2012 at 08:13:09
I have to disagree with your rating of Neville though - I would give him a 2 at the most. He contributed absolutely nothing - no tackling, no covering in front of the defenders, definitely no creative influence and basically just a watse of the shirt. At least Straq ran himself into a complete standstill.
It's time for Moyes to realise that Saha, Cahill and Neville are all sliding over the hill at an alarming rate!
One of the worst performances by the worst ever Everton side I have seen!
2 Posted 05/01/2012 at 21:11:37
He should hide in the bushes to sneak a look at how other managers train their players. How for instance to work as a team or set up attacks or move at pace into space or cross the ball away from the keepers waiting hands or throw the ball in without waiting for everyone to be marked, or leave at least one player outside our own penalty area at defensive corners and free kicks or have more than a few shots on target or not waiting until far too late to make changes etc etc etc.
3 Posted 05/01/2012 at 21:28:29
He had some nice touches, laid it on for Donovan who should have stayed on his feet to slot past Bogdan.
Let's see if he can get himself a goal or two against lower league opposition.
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