Phil Neville's first goal for almost a year got Everton back to winning ways yesterday after the end of their 13-game unbeaten run at the weekend. A fortunate long-range effort from the home captain gave his side the edge over a listless Bolton Wanderers, who showed exactly why they have not won away in the League all season.
It might not have started off as a convincing return to form, but by the end Everton were looking much more like their old selves. "Phil's an old pro," said his manager, David Moyes. "He ran straight towards the press box to make sure it was his goal. He was up all night with sickness and did not say until 11 o'clock that he wanted to play, so you've got to give him credit."
The first quarter of the match was a sickly affair, with the only attempt on goal worthy of the name coming when Ricardo Gardner cut in from the left and shot too high.
Everton, still smarting from the late goal at Manchester United that ended their long run, did not begin to show their paces until Steven Pienaar ran down a vacant left flank to allow Joleon Lescott to pull the ball back for Mikel Arteta. His shot could have been on its way to the net, but was deflected off the chest of Danny Guthrie.
Arteta also figured prominently in the next Everton threat, when Gardner twice tried to clear the ball, only to foul the Spaniard on his way into the area. The assistant referee ruled, rightly, that the point of contact was just outside the box, but that still left Arteta with the perfect position for his formidable right foot, although his free-kick was blocked by Gardner. Everton dominated the rest of the half territorially, but the closest they could come was a header just past the post from Aiyegbeni Yakubu.
Pienaar was working hard to rehabilitate himself after his blunder at Old Trafford, and his combination with Lescott again threatened to unlock the Wanderers defence. That same link produced the game's first booking when Andy O'Brien brought down Lescott.
Shortly before half-time, Lescott turned an Arteta corner back into the six-yard box for Yakubu to find the net, but with the flagalready up for offside.
Bolton escaped again straight after the break when Yakubu put Tim Cahill in for a close-range shot which Jussi Jaaskelainen saved instinctively.
From the corner, Lescott almost forced in Phil Jagielka's header at the far post. Lescott, the game's most dangerous attacker as well as its most accomplished defender, had another effort saved before Everton finally made their breakthrough. The goal came in mundane fashion, Neville putting in a speculative ball from the right and Cahill jumping with Jaaskelainen, without either man appearing to get a touch, as it dropped into the net.
That at least coaxed a tactical reshuffle and a little more enterprise out of Bolton, but on 70 minutes they went two down.
Rob Styles played advantage when Gavin McCann fouled Thomas Gravesen, but the Bolton defence hesitated allowing Lescott to pull the ball back with precision for Cahill to score. Bolton's Gary Megson had no complaints about the referee playing the advantage, although he believed there was a question over whether Gravesen had played the ball with his arm.
"But we've not lost because of two contentious decisions," he said. "We played poorly, and until our away form improves, we are running to stand still."
Goals: Neville (51) 1-0; Cahill (70) 2-0.
Everton (4-4-1-1-): Howard; Neville (Hibbert, 86), Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Areta, Gravesen (Johnson, 76), Carsley, Pienaa; Cahill; Yakubu (Vaughan, 79). Substitutes not used: Valente, Wessels (gk).
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen;
Hunt, A O'Brien, Meite, Gardner, Campo (McCann, 57); Campo; Davies, Guthrie (Samuel, 57), Nolan (J O'Brien, 75), Diouf; Anelka. Substitutes not used: Stelios, Al Habsi (gk).
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).
Booked: Bolton A O'Brien, Diouf, Nolan.
Man of the match: Lescott.
Attendance: 38,918.Reuse content