BOLTON ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 13: Daniel Sturridge of Bolton Wanderers celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Everton at the Reebok Stadium on February 13 2011 in Bolton England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Not for the first time this season Everton’s David Moyes looked a beaten man, who has lost all hope and run dry of ideas after his side put in an insipid performance in the soggy Premier League match against Bolton.
He was right in assessment that the game was the worst in his nine-year reign at the club, but his confidence in the players’ ability to keep Everton in the division looks wildly mis-placed on the evidence of Sunday.
It isn’t the first time Everton have put in a poor performance this season but their display at the Reebok was especially spineless, gutless and one totally at odds with the exorbitant wages the players take home every week.
Straight from kick-off Bolton pushed us back with barely much effort. True the free-kick that led to the goal shouldn’t have been given but the defending once again was woeful, the players dropping far too deep and allowing Gary Cahill the time and space to run onto the cross unchallenged. It is the third game in a row we have conceded a goal from a set piece and have kept just one clean sheet in our last 18 games. Not good enough.
We tried to keep possession of the ball but too often we were forced into corners by Bolton’s pressing style of play and starved of space we panicked and ended up booting it long towards the ineffectual Anichebe. who perhaps symbolised our chronic lack of a goal threat with yet another thoroughly ineffective showing.
A Tim Cahill effort that should have been attacked with his head was the sum total of our efforts in the first-half as the horribly bland Reebok Stadium began to resemble a morgue such was the dour atmosphere – not helped by the pouring rain I admit.
The players must have been given a rollicking at the break as they were out a good five minutes before Bolton. But the same pattern continued and with the Toffees never even coming close to scoring a second Wanderers goal seemed only a matter of time.
When it inevitably came - from the sort of loan player we needed but were unable to afford in January - Moyes collapsed back into his chair and not for the first time this season looked a beaten man devoid of inspiration and bereft of any hope and passion – things his tenure as boss have been renowned for.
My recent blog looking back at Everton in the early 90s gave me a chill reminder of how bad things actually got in that period and this performance brought back memories of those grim days.
We looked every inch a team capable of sleep walking into the relegation zone. The fact every side below us – bar bottom side Wolves – picked up at least a point shows there is still some fight within those side in around the bottom three. And with just three points separating us from that dreaded dotted line-up those ‘two or three wins’ we have been looking for all season look further away than ever.
Moyes somehow has to raise his players for the cup game at Chelsea next week but such is our predicament I’m sure he would swap a win there for three points in the league.
Nine year’s ago Everton made it to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, a run that masked a downward slide in league form. An ugly performance against Middlesbrough in that quarter-final resulted in a humiliating 3-0 defeat on a par with Sunday’s game at the Reebok. With the cup gone our true plight was belatedly realised and we only escaped thanks to the arrival of Moyes – then a young, fresh faced manager full of ideas and enthusiasm.
Moyes now looks like he carries the World’s burdens on his shoulders and his side looks increasingly stale.
I only hope this result makes the players realised what a predicament they find themselves in while they still have time to dig themselves out of it.
Otherwise we will continue stumble blindly on, heading dangerously close to the edge of the Premier League precipice.