Everton made 3 changes to the team which drew with Blackpool on Saturday, with Saha, Fellaini and Bilyaledtinov coming in for Yakubu, Heitinga and Coleman. The three replacements were all like for like so the Blues retained a fluid 4-5-1 setup. Bolton opened up with a more orthodox 4-4-2 system, with Lee and Taylor providing decent width for the bruise brothers forward line of Davies/Elmander.
Everton were in dominant form early on, with a stranglehold of possession leading to a flurry of early corners as the Blues looked to press home their advantage. Firstly Saha went close and then Bilyaletdinov chose to cut in on his better left foot when put clear on his right by the industrious Piennar. A lot was expected from the Russian this campaign after impressive cameo’s last season, but thus far he has endured a wretched campaign. Everton simply do not have the resources to have a £9m winger with limited pace and no right foot sit on the bench week in week out. For their part, despite creating little going forward Bolton are a much more aesthetically pleasing team to watch under Owen Coyle. The Scot has harnessed the bruising capabilities of the Allardyce/Megson stalwarts such as Davies with players like Lee and Holden who can provide enterprise without having to resort to unnecessary gamesmanship. The early misses continued for the Blues in the second half as the game continued the early season trend of high level possession (65% v 35%) yielding 27 shots. However, with just 5 shots on target (Diagram A below) It was a case of déjà vu after a similar poor return of 4 on target from 21 at Bloomfield on Saturday. Clearly, Everton’s 5 offensive minded players are adept at creating chances, but failure to take these opportunities and kill off unglamorous opposition is a glaring issue which is undermining the Blues season.
Changes make an impact
Coleman’s introduction for the hapless Bilyaletdinov on the hour mark gave Everton a renewed attacking impetus. The pace and traction of the Irishman was clearly unnerving Robinson who had looked more comfortable with the Russian who prefers to cut inside to make things happen. The introduction of Klasnic and Beckford late in the second half would have a significant impetus in the balance of power in this game first one way and then the other. Whilst looking dangerous going forward, Seamus Coleman is still something of a work in progress defensively and he was caught out twice in quick succession by Bolton’s Taylor. First the former Pompey winger escaped his marker to head onto the bar from a corner, and then after Jagielka’s woeful control following an Everton corner, the American Holden fed Taylor who powered past Coleman to put in an unmissable cross which Klasnic duly converted. Luckily for the Blues, Jermaine Beckford picked an ideal time to lay down his claim as the potential solution to Everton’s striking woes with a superb solo effort following great industry in the corner from Baines. The rangy striker has often looked out of his depth at this level, but this was a great strike and will hopefully give the forward the confidence he has looked in short supply of in recent run-outs. Sandwiched between the two goals was a stupid red card for Fellaini, given his marching orders for kicking out at Paul Robinson. The chunky Bolton fullback was booked also for his troubles, and on close inspection he bears a striking resemblance to Desperate Dan or a fat Brian Laws. For Fellaini it was a blight on what was an assured all action midfield display in which he had marginalised his midfield opponent Holden well throughout.
Everton stretched their unbeaten run to 7 games in the EPL but, as with Saturday’s game against Blackpool, the chances the Blues missed will mean this is very much 2 points dropped than a point gained. Including the run in to last season it is now 10 draws from 19 games. Clearly, the difference between draws and victories is goals but these are a commodity in short supply for the Blues. Yakubu and Beckford have both scored in recent weeks but Louis Saha is still to register this season in a goal drought which has seen him register just 4 goals in open play in the last 12 months. If Everton are to start turning these 1 points into 3’s and thus putting pressure on the teams above them they desperately need to improve their conversion rate in front of goal.