Although he denied having been critical of the way his star man was deployed by England in midweek, Everton manager David Moyes would have urged Andy Johnson to deliver an appropriate rebuke to Steve McClaren by ending his eight-match scoring drought here yesterday. It did not happen - and frankly seldom looked likely to - but Moyes could be thankful that Mikel Arteta remembered how to do it.
The Spaniard's third goal of the season, a venomous strike on the hour, gave Everton an edge they probably felt they just about merited. Bolton emphatically disagreed but none of the chances they created in dominating the second half was converted and manager Sam Allardyce was left to reflect on a yield of one point only from his side's last four matches, not to mention the fact that record signing Nicolas Anelka's wait for a first Premiership goal for his new team now stands at 10 matches.
"We probably played as well as we have - away or even at home - all season yet we failed to do the one thing you have to do to win football matches, which is score goals," he said. "Arteta's goal was a fine one but it should have been only a consolation, really."
He had a point, up to a point. Before and after Arteta hit the target with his 20-yard rocket, Bolton - even without Kevin Nolan who was excused after becoming a father yesterday morning - looked as if they would surely put behind them the disappointment of throwing away a two-goal lead at Sheffield United a week before.
Everton scored during Bolton's best spell of the game, highlighted ahead of the decisive moment by testing efforts from Idan Tal and El-Hadji Diouf, and after it when Ivan Campo's header skimmed the top of the bar, another good effort from Tal hit a post and Gary Speed drew a diving save from Tim Howard.
Yet it did not really add up to the control of the game Allardyce claimed. In a first half in which Arteta was the outstanding figure, they scarcely stretched the home side. Anelka might have done something with a low cross by Diouf that was blocked in front of goal but the cross-cum-shot that Howard had to palm over the bar could not be described as a proper chance.
Moyes responded to the loss through injury of Tim Cahill, who had been playing effectively off Andy Johnson, by recalling James Beattie and returning to 4-4-2. The height and strength of the 28-year-old striker helped Everton offer a physical counter to the power of their opponents and might have produced an opening goal in the 22nd minute had Kevin Davies not been on hand to make a timely defensive header.
That chance came from Arteta's cross and given the quality of his work, it came as no surprise that it should be the Spaniard who gave the match a goal after 59 minutes as Everton broke quickly following a Bolton corner. Receiving Lee Carsley's pass, Arteta cut inside two Bolton defenders before beating Jussi Jaaskelainen with a 20-yard left-foot shot that arrowed fast and true into the right-hand corner of the goal.
The afternoon had begun with a silent tribute, poignantly observed, to Corporal Ben Novak, the Royal Marine who had helped physically train Everton's youth team players before he was killed by the Basra boat bomb a week ago.Reuse content