Everton named a strong side with Victor Anichebe and Nikica Jelavic have been chosen to lead the line for the Toffees, supported by Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar from the wings.
Everton started confidently, applying pressure to the home side as the Blues started this 4th Round Cup Tie, building their possession game and trying to get the ball forward patiently.
Mirallas held up and he was hauled off after just 17 minutes, a huge disappointment after an attempted shot. Gueye came on, Anichebe hit in a shot off a Baines cross.cross and it flew in to the Bolton net off Pienaar's thigh!
Sordell got free and ran in on Howard but was ruled offside. And a few minutes later Sordell scored after spearing's angle ball powered in to him by Pratley, giving Howard no chance. Fellaini at fault for the goal, letting Pratley go. They nearly scored again, Pratley firing in on Howard after sloppy defence by Everton.
The goal shocked Everton who lost their mojo and struggled to impose themselves as Bolton had a lot more possession. Eagles got past Gueye with ease and ran in to fire at Howard.
Everton mounted a better attack but the build-up was too slow and Bolton had formed their defence effectively by the time Anichebe had a shot, while Howard had to deal with another sharp shot from Bolton.
Another Everton attack broke down and Bolton broke quickly but they were caught offside. But they did get a more dangerous play that Lee threatened to profit from. Everton won a corner a few minutes before the break, taken by Baines, but nothing came of it.
It had not been a good half for Everton since losing Mirallas, with laboured possession producing no end result as poor passing and lack of drive caused moves to break down.
After the break, Baines got in a decent cross that Gueye headed in but it hit Anichebe and deflected wide. It was Gueye's chance to impress David Moyes but he was very poor.
A fierce shot from Alonso needed a good save from Howard as the Blues struggled to impose themselves on the game, despite any harsh words from the manager during the break.
Everton won a corner toward the hour mark but it was headed away; however, the Blues were finally starting to impose themselves a little more, providing some pressure on the Bolton goal. But Baines and Pienaar didn't really seem to be clicking and the incisive balls into the area were not really happening.
Some good work from Pienaar running in but he wanted to go it alone and he fired his trademark curler past the post. Bolton broke rapidly a couple of times as Everton pressed.
Pienaar then forced a really good save off Lonergan, winning a series of Everton corners as the tie entered a more frenetic final phase, both sides with everything to play for and Everton's cup campaign hanging in the balance.
Boos rang out from the Everton fans as Jelavic was hauled off with 15 mins left, replaced by Heitinga in a seemingly negative move, Fellaini being pushed forward to hopefully change things in the ineffective Everton attack.
But Heitinga immediately gave away a free-kick that resulted in Bolton corner that was defended away. Late on, another Bolton corner came close, Zak Knight heading just wide.
Gueye won a late corner in added time, but Fellaini could not get to it, as it pinged around and who should connect with it but Johnny Heitinga who powered a fierce drive into the net to win the game for a Blues side who will be relieved to progress following what was a sub-par showing overall.
Trouble ensued in the main stand as Blues celebrated among the despondent home fans...
Good work by Osman as Everton suddenly looked worth their wages, cracking the ball against the Bolton bar in the final stages of a rather fortuitous win.
Should weather conditions and the state of both the Reebok Stadium and its surroundings permit, Everton will take the next step along the road to Wembley this weekend as they take on Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup Fourth Round.
Steady snowfall on Friday evening has cast doubt on whether the ground staff and the local council will be able to clear the pitch and the streets and pavements outside the stadium in time to stage the tie but, with a midweek game against West Bromwich Albion already on the immediate horizon, David Moyes will no doubt be hoping that the game is given the green light so he can avoid further fixture congestion in the coming fortnight.
The Blues go into a second successive away tie in this competition with relatively few injury worries, although the absence of Irish pair Seamus Coleman and Darron Gibson does rob Moyes of two players who have proven to be very important members of his first team.
Despite enduring a stops-start campaign that has been disrupted by injury, Coleman has shown very encouraging signs that he is the answer to succeed Tony Hibbert as the first-choice option at right back. More and more question marks over the defensive side of his game are being erased with every game and his attacking talents have been providing a welcome alternative to the reliance on the Baines-Pienaar axis down the Blues' left.
Gibson, meanwhile, has quickly grown to become the linchpin of Everton's midfield and it is his absence for what is approaching four months already this season that is being mostly keenly felt. Phil Neville and Thomas Hitzlsperger have deputised with middling results but though he is progressing well from a recurrent thigh strain, the ex-Manchester United midifielder is not expected to be back until Wednesday at the most optmistic.
With Coleman and Hibbert out and Neville required to fill in at right back, the manager will be forced to make a change in central midfield, with Hitzlsperger or Marouane Fellaini the most obvious candidates.
Should he opt for the latter, it may make the Jelavic question a little easier — withdrawn after an hour at Southampton and facing criticism for his lack of goals, the Croatian could potentially be dropped or rested at the Reebok but with Fellaini deployed in the middle, a Jelavic-Victor Anichebe partnership makes more sense.
Kevin Mirallas, who came through half an hour at the St Mary's with no ill-effects on his hamstring, would be an obvious replacement for the struggling Steven Naismith wide on the right.
Moyes has made it clear that this competition is a high priority for him again this season so there is plenty riding on what will be a difficult tie against a team from the Championship who will relish the reminder of what was an annual fixture for them before they were relegated.
As the League Cup tie at Leeds proved earlier in the season, these away ties can be dangerous if any complacency is allowed to creep in but, with two consecutive 0-0 draws in the League, fear and uncertainty could be the Blues' biggest enemies this weekend if they allow them to be.
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