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I'm Not Fooled... Is Anyone?

By Paul Traill   ::  26/01/2013 Friday evening and there’s snow everywhere according to several Twitter sources. A look outside and this is confirmed with a blanket of snow covering the streets. I went to sleep in some serious doubt as to if the match would go ahead.

Fast forward to Saturday morning and at 8am it’s confirmed the game is going ahead. My next problem then was that the tickets ordered on Monday still hadn’t arrived. Quite unsure of what to do, I called the Box Office and, just as I was talking the operative through my quandary, my better half yelled “Paul, their here!”, the Postman dropping them off just as I was on the phone to explore another avenue of getting my tickets. Phew!

Next up was the journey and with all the snow we felt leaving ourselves plenty of time was the best option. Instead of the usual M62 route via Liverpool we instead met Gaz just outside Chester and so via a combination of M53, M56, M6, M61, M60 we arrived by the Reebok Stadium in plenty of time… Simon’s plethora of drinks and snacks keeping us fulfilled for the journey.

We parked up in Tesco but thought twice once we’d seen a threatening sign regarding maximum three hour parking time and possibility of a £75 fine we felt the £4 parking a little further down the road represented a sounder investment at just £1 each.

The level of snow which had been shifted in Bolton was quite extraordinary and full credit to the groundsmen, stewards and general public for ensuring the roads were safe and the pitch playable. I was seriously fearing the worst on Friday evening.

I was disappointed Bolton were relegated last season as it always makes for a nice, easy away trip. The pub, The Beehive, is nice and easy going and, a long wait at the bar aside, it was the same again. The wait at the bar came around because the gent in front of me ordered 10 pints of lager. I was mortified.

Moving onto the ground was fun also. Gaz could barely walk and kept slipping such was the lack of grip on his soles, whilst Simon returned to his youth, throwing snowballs around just like a kid. It was all good natured as we made our way into the Reebok Stadium.

There was so many things pointing towards a ‘Giant Killing’ leading up the game. The weather; that it was Moyes's 500th fixture as Everton manager; that Bolton had already dispensed with a Premier League team in the previous round; Martin Atkinson being the referee; a Liverpool player on loan in Bolton’s starting XI… the best I could be was cautiously optimistic as we kicked off.

Mirallas was in for Naismith on the right wing; Neville dropping into right back to replace the injured Coleman, and Anichebe given an opportunity up front alongside Jelavic. The Everton end was full, the rest of the stadium littered with empty seats. It made you wonder why they didn’t offer Everton a larger allocation. The top tear of the opposite end and the top tear of the stand to our right were both practically deserted… the opposite end completely so.

Everton started at a bright tempo though Bolton soon settled and there was little to pick between the sides in the opening exchanges. Mirallas had looked clever in flashes but soon faded and limped off the pitch yet again on just 18 minutes. It’s a real shame we’ve lost Mirallas with injury this season… he was doing just fine until Suarez kicked him off the pitch back in October and he’s hardly featured since. Regardless, the goal came as soon as he left the field and a strange one it was too. Anichebe’s shot blocked and ricocheting off Pienaar and into the back of the net. 1-0 to Everton in the most fortuitous circumstances imaginable.

You hoped this would spur the players on to get a grip of the game but this wasn’t the case… in fact it was pretty much the opposite as Bolton, perhaps feeling a sense of injustice at going behind, instead thought back and were deservedly level within 10 minutes when Great Britain Olympic striker Marvin Sordell swept home after Baines and then Fellaini had both failed to cut out either the run or the ball from Pratley.

For the remainder of the half, there was only one team who looked like scoring again — and it wasn’t Everton. Tim Howard had to save efforts on goal from both Pratley and Alonso before the interval and it was probably Everton who were happier to see half-time than their hosts.

Into the second half and a few of the players had a bit more zip about them though as a team performance it just wasn’t good enough. Far from it in fact. Pienaar stung the fingers of Lonergan with a great effort that was tipped around the post but generally the Bolton goalkeeper and one-time Everton target was very much untested. We did dominate the half for long periods and kept Bolton camped in their half at times but overall we needed more though were unable to find anything else in the locker.

With 11 minutes to play and the score still 1 - 1, Moyes made the unpopular decision of substituting Jelavic and replacing him with Heitinga. In fairness to Moyes, if you looked at the bench, the options were so limited anyhow, but a striker off and a defender on wasn’t quite what anyone had in mind... though of course many of us had momentarily overlooked the usual option of playing Fellaini further forward with Heitinga taking his place in defensive midfield. As the clock ticked down, it didn’t look as though it had worked and it seemed we were set for a replay back at Goodison… but then we won a corner. The away crowd roared…

Gueye played the corner in deep. I forget exactly what happened though I think it was half-cleared and played back in again. I think Osman got under it and seemed to get nudged a little though our meek appeals were never going to result in a penalty. The ball looked to be drifting harmlessly out of play but Fellaini did well to keep it alive and hook it back into play. Eventually, and I couldn’t tell you how, but the ball came back to Heitinga who drilled it home brilliantly to fire Everton into the 5th Round. Incredible! Talk about unlikely heroes…incredulous to the tactical decision, the away supporters were booing his arrival onto the pitch barely 10 minutes earlier. It was an incredible scene with the players all going berserk, the Bolton supporters trying to fight with Everton fans and a blue flare being lit in the away end. It was all a bit unreal.

We had our tails up after this and could have scored again when Gueye let fly with a fantastic effort from about 25 yards though his shot cannoned back off the crossbar. Bolton did have one last effort from distance but did nothing with it and somehow, undeservedly, Everton are in the hat for the last 16 — and we’re ball number 16 if that’s any sort of tiny omen.

I guess football is all about moments like that and it was great to enjoy it, though back down to Earth, and I don’t think anyone is fooled by that performance really. I’d love to put it down to a bad day at the office, but that’s three poor performances in a row now and I struggle to see that fluidity coming back into our play at the moment. I think the players look very jaded and that we desperately need reinforcements — a look at our options from the substitutes bench today confirms that. I worry that a failure to add to our squad will really see our competitors steal a march on us and we will miss out on 4th place. Liverpool have already spent £20m, whilst Spurs and Arsenal will both strengthen no doubt before the window shuts… I hope Moyes has something up his sleeve as it would be a crime to let up this chance having come so far.

Still… win every game in the FA Cup this season and we’ll all finish the season happy, regardless of league position.

Player Ratings:

Howard: A few instances when he left balls to his defenders rather than dealing with them but he generally seems to be back to his best. Made some important saves and distributed quickly. 7

Baines: I wonder if he’s still carrying that injury because he doesn’t quite look to be firing on all cylinders at the moment. His crossing isn’t quite what it can be. Let's hope he’s back to his best soon. 6

Distin: Covered well in defence. 7

Jagielka: Defended well, distributed poorly. 6

Neville: Had a solid game. 6

Fellaini: Pretty poor generally. Never really got going though was very instrumental with the goal by keeping the ball alive. 6

Osman: Poor really. Didn’t really get going. Hasn’t quite been at the races these last few games. 5

Pienaar: My Man of the Match. Scored one, could have had another and was easily our most threatening player throughout. 7

Mirallas: Poor Kevin. Just back from injury and injured again. It’s a real shame as we need him playing regularly as soon as possible really. He’s been unavailable for quite a long time now. 4

Anichebe: A bit hit and miss. Certainly didn’t impact on the game as he can do but did put a reasonable shift in and forced some errors from their defence. Will be interesting to see if he stays in the team for West Brom on Wednesday. 6

Jelavic: Worked a bit harder second half but is so low on confidence its tangible. Needs that goal desperately. 5

Gueye (for Mirallas): I thought he did OK. One of the brighter performances from him anyway. Looked a bit more committed and seems to have bulked up a little bit. Put some good corners into the box, was unlucky not to score and seemed to have a bit more awareness about him than I’ve seen previously. I wouldn’t mind another look at him on Wednesday with Mirallas presumably out injured. 6

Heitinga (for Jelavic): Well, when he took to the field nobody could have expected a last minute winner from Jonny. A great strike and good for him as he’s had quite a miserable season this term. I wonder if he’ll now play midfield on Wednesday. 7

Reader Comments

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Martin Mason
000 Posted 27/01/2013 at 04:32:32
I didn't see any of it unfortunately but looking at it dispassionately it seems like a good win. Terrible news concerning KM.
David Barks
001 Posted 27/01/2013 at 04:35:08
Didn't get to watch the match so not going to act like I did. But Osman has been performing poorly for a few matches now, and understandably so. He hasn't had a rest all season. Why not give him a match off and see what Oviedo could do, or anyone really. He needs a rest, Jelavic needs to be sat for a while. Things just need to be changed, the performances are only going backward.
Nick Waters
007 Posted 27/01/2013 at 08:01:34
Central midfield is the issue – hence the scramble for N'Zonzi and then Ofoe on deadline day in August. Now it looks critical, with lame displays in that area in our last 3 matches. Hitz isn't the answer on a regular basis and, given Gibson's regular absences. we're unable to maintain the pre-Christmas domination of games. It HAS to be freshened up with at least one new specialist in CM.

As dozens have said, "Over to you, Bill?"

Jamie Tulacz
035 Posted 27/01/2013 at 10:04:49
Paul — I didn't see the game either, but for me based upon the 2 previous and what I heard on the radio, your last paragraph sums things up perfectly. We desperately need to refresh things somehow before the window shuts, somehow, especially in centre-mid and up front, also wide right. I'm just hoping we can pull out a couple of last-minute loans, though I'm not encouraged by the lack of any rumour at all on the transfer front.
Ged Simpson
068 Posted 27/01/2013 at 11:39:31
I think a loan player is important – strangely not necessarily because they may be great, but just to have a new face at training. We just brought a new person to our team at work and it makes you question the things you are used to and try and up your game.
Mike Berry
073 Posted 27/01/2013 at 11:50:27
Johnny in for Captin' Phil. Until we can get a centre midfield loan signing.
Nick Entwistle
081 Posted 27/01/2013 at 12:08:41
6 wins, 3 draws 1 loss in ten games.

What are we supposed to be fooled by Paul?

If every team is due a blip, then let it continue.

Joe Clitherow
085 Posted 27/01/2013 at 12:10:13
We're going through a patch where we're not playing well at the moment and yes the team needs freshening up.

However, all teams go through these patches in a season and if you have money then you have a big squad of first teamers you can rotate to freshen up or you can make a big January signing - but we don't so I don't know what we are being 'fooled' about?

We're still in the mix at the top and went through in the Cup too after a potentially really tricky tie yesterday. That's important until we start playing better again - which we will

Nick Entwistle
086 Posted 27/01/2013 at 12:16:40
I don't even think it needs come to signings. Surely introducing Oviedo and Hitzlsperger to starting roles, and Anichebe in place of Jely would freshen up the team.

Thomas Windsor
097 Posted 27/01/2013 at 12:39:56
Everton are just playing a little bit stale at the moment. Naismith does not seem to offer much so why not play Vellios?

It would be great if we could bring somebody in maybe a midfielder.

Martin Mason
101 Posted 27/01/2013 at 13:03:35
What can we do when with a pretty threadbare squad anyway we lose two of our best players to long term injury? I think it is massively to our credit that we can absorb such a loss and still have such incredible reults.

Look at the positive side, we are doing really well even if we are grinding it out. We had a patch in the 1970 Championship season where we were worse than we are playing now but we recovered and hopefully we will this time.

Bobby Thomas
105 Posted 27/01/2013 at 13:40:10
Moan moan moan...........................
Bobby Thomas
106 Posted 27/01/2013 at 13:40:10
Moan moan moan...........................
Dave Lawley
116 Posted 27/01/2013 at 13:55:27
Jesus Bobby, stop moaning!
David Pearl
369 Posted 27/01/2013 at 20:40:06
So how are those booing fans feeling now about their knowledge of football and indeed our own team. Johnny came into midfield so that Fellaini could push up further (and it worked, albeit a little different to what Moyes thought might happen). Jelavic seems to be treading water at the moment but you can't fault his effort.

I must be one of the fooled ones I guess. A misfiring striker, two of our most influential players missing for the most part of the season... yet we are still into the last 16 of the cup; still in 5th place just 3 points off a CL place. Shame when we were on top of our game we didn't pick up more points. Hopefully a couple of fresh faces come in this window... and hopefully impact players.

Pleased for Johnny Heitinga.

Denis Richardson
388 Posted 27/01/2013 at 21:32:22
DIdn't see the Bolton game and despite the reports of the nor so great performance or substiutions, am just glas we made it through to the next round - all that we can ask for.

After the surprise results of today, I make that 13 of the Premiership sides out of the cup before the 5th round! That must me some sort of record.

Oldham away and desptie the RS result surely its not too much to ask for a QF place.

What a strange day!

Gareth Fieldstead
481 Posted 28/01/2013 at 11:49:32
Didn't someone on here mention that they spoke with Gibson who reported that he was fit for Wednesday? I agree we need a right winger and centre midfielder but it's where Moyes feels we need strengthening that counts.

As for up front I am not so sure, good players don't suddenly become bad ones. He just needs to score in successive games and Jelavic will be off again. I still think he will score around 15 this season.

As for Mirallas, Moyes has stated twice this season that his injuries aren't serious and he has not completed 90 minutes since! I hope my prediction back in December doesn't come true, but I doubt we will see him play another five games this season.

Martin Mason
484 Posted 28/01/2013 at 12:05:54
I never thought I'd say it but I'd like to see Big Vic given a run up front with Jelavic coming on as an impact sub for a while. Vic is looking like the player none of us thought he could ever be and he has a good eye for a goal now. Jelavic is not worth his place at the moment it would seem and Moyes must at some time have a think about alternatives. We can never see how good players could be unless he tries them for at least a decent run.

I understand that we don't have players who we are certain can come in and play well like the rich clubs have and that the price of failure is very high but I believe that Vic's rough gem could be a diamond for us if he can stop the scowling and tutty lipping and just get on with it.

I'm sure Oviedo must also be worth a start to at least try to solve that wide problem. These players need good game time to develop and be useful when called upon when we get injuries but we have such a small squad that Moyes probably feels that he just can't risk it. Would we be happy to see Oviedo have a couple of stinkers that we lost on the hope that he would come good?

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