Gary Cahill stunned by Bolton defeat

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The Independent Football

Gary Cahill has revealed Bolton's players were left dumbstruck by their wretched performance in the club's FA Cup semi-final thrashing by Stoke.

Wanderers were crushed 5-0 at Wembley yesterday to end their dream of a first cup final appearance for more than half a century.

Defender Cahill, one of several Bolton players who simply failed to turn up, claimed Owen Coyle's men were too shell-shocked to speak after what was one of the most devastating defeats in the club's history.

He said: "You could hear a pin drop. The lads just couldn't believe what happened.

"I would never have predicted that.

"And the most disappointing thing is we never gave a good account of ourselves.

"We went out there and played terribly - not terribly, but people were not wanting to show for the ball.

"We did things that were out of character."

England defender Cahill added: "I don't know if it is the occasion or what but, at this level, you can't afford to carry one or two players, never mind a whole bunch of us.

"A lot of players will look at that and reflect and try and move on.

"There's nothing we can do now except be massively disappointed.

"It's not something that you will look back on fondly."

There appeared to be an element of destiny about Bolton's cup run this year, with the legendary Nat Lofthouse passing away in January.

Lofthouse scored twice in the 1958 final against Manchester United, the last time Wanderers won a major trophy.

They were favourites yesterday against a Stoke side struggling at the wrong end of the Barclays Premier League and who had never been to an FA Cup final.

But they were swept aside by a combination of brilliant attacking football from their opponents and their own defensive ineptitude, with Cahill and Zat Knight all over the place at times.

"We didn't do ourselves credit and are massively disappointed, as you could imagine," Cahill said.

"We had a great following here with the fans and we didn't perform for them.

"We haven't played like that all season so to save it for a day like this is unbelievably disappointing."

Stoke arrived at Wembley as the team with a reputation for long-ball tactics, but it was Bolton who struggled to string two passes together.

"We played too many long balls and didn't create anywhere near as much as we had been doing," Cahill said.

"To save that performance for a day like that, words can't describe it."

Yesterday's defeat was the first major setback for manager Coyle, who has transformed Bolton from relegation fodder into a top-10 side in little over a year.

With Wanderers comfortably in midtable, there is a danger they could now allow their season to peter out.

Coyle questioned yesterday whether his side had frozen on the big stage and the next six games will tell him a great deal about their ability to recover from such a setback.

First up for Bolton is Sunday's home meeting with Arsenal and Cahill said: "It's important we finish the season strongly.

"We've worked so hard this season to get to where we are now. That's why we're so disappointed.

"The league form, we're still looking to continue.

"You get knockbacks in your career and this is definitely one of them. It's just how people bounce back."

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