The rhetoric from David Moyes in the last few days has been all about not dwelling on the injuries; instead he prefers to concentrate on the players who are available. There's no getting away from it though, Everton have been hit HARD this season and the writing was on the wall as soon as that patched up team was announced at Benfica. I think they'd have caused us a lot of problems with a full strength side but a back four of Gosling, Hibbert, Distin and Coleman were always going to struggle. The young fullback was certainly thrown in at the deep end there, out of position too.
Having said that, the performance in the second half wasn't good enough, with Fellaini in particular giving the ball away far too cheaply against quality opposition and being punished on both occasions by goals. It was a depressing half of football, the only glimmer of a positive from it was how much Jack Rodwell was still prepared to demand the ball and keep playing football even at four or five nil down. It's games like this though that make you realise how much we miss Phil Neville. His leadership is invaluable and plays a huge part in the spirit and determination the club has shown in the past to continue getting results when the chips are down.
At least against Bolton we could call on Lucas Neill and Johnny Heitinga to add some much needed experience to the back four. Unfortunately it didn't make a big difference in the first half hour as the blues conceded two more cheap goals to give themselves a mountain to climb. But climb it they did. Louis Saha latched onto a great through ball from Lucas Neill (who played at right back) before turning, shimmying and then absolutely lashing a left foot shot from 25 yards into the top corner. Cracking stuff.
Just after half time were level. The much maligned Marouane Fellaini was picked out by Neill before turning the last defender and firing an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net. 2-2, game on.
Everton looked the most likely to win a cracking encounter after that, and Dan Gosling looked set to give them the lead when he went clean through after running from the half way line. He did the right thing and cut across the last defender but momentarily lost control and allowed the ball to be nicked away at the last minute.
Bolton then struck a late winner with Ivan Klasnic slotting a loose ball home from the edge of the box. Added to that, Heitinga went off injured so that leaves an injury list of Jagielka, Heitinga, Yobo, Baines, Neville, Osman, Pienaar, Arteta, Vaughan, Anichebe, Yakubu.. did I miss any?! Amazing to think that Liverpool's "injury crisis" was one of the biggest football stories of last week. They were missing what, two or three players?
More glimmers of hope from this game then.. well Lucas Neill should be an excellent right back for us. And as we already knew, Louis Saha is a top quality striker. We've got a lot of good players at the club, with even three quarters of a squad fit, we'll do alright.
Tomorrow night's trip to White Hart Lane looks ominous though and I wouldn't be surprised by another cricket score. The odds are now stacked so much against Everton it would be nothing short of amazing if our "strongest" side (ie those who finished against Bolton) could avoid defeat in that game. Personally, I think it's time to cut our losses, send the reserves and save those who are fit for Saturday against Aston Villa. The club have already expressed their disgust at the Carling Cup organisers for sending them to Spurs on a tuesday night after away games on Thursday and Sunday - so why not treat the competition with the same contempt they've been shown? The obvious answer is that it's another chance for a trophy. But imagine how short we'd be if we lost another couple of players with injuries in that game.
The flipside is that we could turn in the performance of the season, win the game and avoid injuries. It could galvanise our season. Over to Moyes then, but let's be honest, the Villa game is a whole lot bigger than this fixture.