Bolton 1, Everton 2: Yakubu gives Everton confidence to strike out for summit

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The Independent Football

Everton and Bolton head into their two-week break with contrasting fortunes, one consolidating at the top of the Premier League and the other digging in at the bottom, but both with something from this game on Saturday to encourage them.

For David Moyes, the Everton manager, there was the obvious – another three points to keep them stride for stride with Liverpool and a debut goal from Ayegbeni Yakubu. The former Middlesbrough man's 11th-minute strike might have looked straightforward, but only thanks to his reading of Andy Johnson's cross.

The early signs were that this could be a partnership that flourishes, with Yakubu ticking two boxes, as an ideal foil for Johnson and a proven goalscorer in his own right. Not that Yakubu was the only relative newcomer to create a favourable impression. This was a much-changed Everton line-up, with Steven Pienaar and Phil Jagielka making their first starts, Leighton Baines only his second and Thomas Gravesen marking his return to the club with an effective cameo off the bench.

That left several players who might have expected to be involved cooling their heels for all or part of the match. "That may be the way it's going to be this season," said Moyes, clearly savouring the wider range of options available to him.

The Bolton manager, Sammy Lee is not quite in that fortunate position, but he has a different reason for feeling fairly sanguine about the closing of the transfer window.

For him, the danger has passed without Nicolas Anelka or El Hadji Diouf acting on their heavy hints that they might be compelled to go and scratch a living elsewhere. Lee referred to these as "malignant rumours," which rather sidesteps the fact that most of them begin with the players and their advisors. For now, however, they are publicly committed to the cause of lifting Bolton from their unaccustomed position among the relegation fodder.

There was no faulting their conviction here, when both worked hard and intelligently and Anelka volleyed a splendid equaliser – his fourth goal of the season. Something else Lee liked the look of was an energetic contribution in midfield from Mikel Alonso, who was inches from a spectacular goal worthy of his brother when he shook the angle of the woodwork.

Less encouraging was the state of the defence, such an established strength under Sam Allardyce. The new centre-back, Gerald Cid, is young and athletic, but far too impetuous, and it was his rash lunge that allowed Johnson to get away and set up the opening goal.

Worse than that, Bolton were hoist by their own petard for the winning goal, when the excellent Joleon Lescott, a barrier to them at the opposite end, got between two defenders to head home Gravesen's corner. Lee was particularly disappointed by that way of losing the game.

He knows that the team that so often lived by the set-piece can just as easily die by the set-piece unless they can tighten up that aspect of their play.

"But the big thing is the dressing room," said Lee. "It's been questioned, but today they showed that their commitment is total. If we keep showing that, we'll get out of the position we're in."

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