Clean sheet? Everton could still be playing now and Bolton would not have sullied Everton's linen such was the supine way they performed at Goodison. You expected fight and pride, instead, Frank Bruno-like, they looked beaten before hostilities started. Wanderers were hopeless in action and, presumably, in thought because this was a display of a team that believes they are relegated.
The previous match they had tackled and run like demons, scaring Manchester City witless in the process. Having failed to get three points then, however, appears to have removed the backbone from the side. It was no secret that Bolton are likely to go down; after this you can safely presume they definitely will.
"We never threatened," Colin Todd," admitted. "We expected to make chances but for the first time this season we didn't look like scoring." Was he disappointed in the lack of passion shown by his players? "In the first half, yes.''
A mediocre match littered with bad passing hinged on an injury to Simon Coleman. If Wanderers had hung on until half-time without conceding they might have had reason to believe after the interval. But the centre-back left the field to have a cut below his right eye stitched and by the time he returned Everton has scored. From then, Lord Lucan had more chance of coming back than Bolton.
Indeed the most fascinating aspect was Duncan Ferguson's inability to score. Having caused confusion in the visiting defence for Marc Hottiger to open the scoring, he rampaged round the area like a bull looking for a mate (mad or not) and on another day might have got six goals. A combination of outstanding saves from Gavin Ward and clearances off the line denied him.
Which made it all the more surprising that somehow Everton contrived to finish flattered by the scoreline. Andrei Kanchelskis' jet-propelled heels got them a second with five minutes remaining and Daniel Amokachi got a third in injury time to massage the result into something like what Royle had wanted.
Nevertheless, he was defensive enough to worry about the reviews. "Even the Daily Telegraph will have to say we passed the ball well today," he said which is as well because the Independent will not. For all their many qualities, Everton are not a passing side - very few Premiership sides are - and it is that inability as much as anything that is holding them short of the standards Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle have attained.
Royle can attempt to remedy that this summer; for Bolton the future is less rosy. "I would like them to survive because I have a great affection for the people and Colin Todd ," the Everton manager said. "But it's going to be hard. Very hard.''
The worrying thing is that Bolton still look better than most teams at the top of the First Division. Whoever replaces them in the Premiership next season will struggle.
Goals: Hottiger (20) 1-0; Kanchelskis (85) 2-0; Amokachi (90) 3-0.
Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Hottiger, Watson, Unsworth, Hinchcliffe; Kanchelskis, Grant (Ebbrell, 79), Horne, Parkinson; Amokachi, Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Limpar, Speare (gk).
Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Ward; Bergsson, Fairclough, Coleman, Phillips; Green (De Freitas, 58), Stubbs, Curcic, Sellars, Paatelainen (Blake, 72); McGinlay. Substitute not used: Thompson.
Bookings: Bolton: Phillips, Sellars, McGinlay.
Referee: M Bodenham (East Looe)
Man of the match: Ferguson.
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