Bolton Wanderers Logo Bolton Wanderers 0 - 0 Everton 
Half-time: 0 - 0
Everton Logo
FA Carling Premiership 97/98 - Game 4
Monday 1 September 1997
Reebok Stadium, Horwich
Att: 23,131
Manchester United (h) Ref: Stephen Lodge Derby County (a)
1997-98 Fixtures & Results League Position: 14th Premiership Results & Table
Bolton Wanderers: --
LINEUPS Subs Not Used
Bolton Wanderers: Branagan, Elliott (McAnespie 61), Frandsen (Johansen 78), Taggart, Pollock, Sellars, Blake, Thompson, Bergsson, Beardsley (McGinlay 81), Phillips. Ward, Todd.
EVERTON: Southall, Thomas (Hinchcliffe 67), Phelan, Williamson, Watson (Short 45), Bilic, Stuart, Barmby (Branch 87), Ferguson, Speed, Oster.
Unavailable: Parkinson (Long-term Injury)
Gerrard, Farrelly.
Yellow Cards Red Cards
Bolton Wanderers: Blake --
EVERTON: -- --

Guy McEvoy Stadium of Rip-Offs
Lyndon Lloyd Almost a Perfect Riposte
Pete Sharps Chances by the yard
THE TIMES Bolton draw blank as Blake denied
by Oliver Holt
Bolton unable to find the target in frustrating start to life in new home
by William Johnson
EVERTON WEBSITE Link to Official Match Report
SOCCERNET Link to SoccerNet Match Report
CARLINGNET Link to CarlingNet Match Report

Stadium of Rip-Offs
Guy McEvoy

It took me about 27 minutes to do the 35-odd miles to Bolton's new ground in Horwich. Despite the ground seeming to have been placed as close to the Motorway as planning permission would allow, it still took me a further 27 minutes to travel the few hundred yards from the motorway junction to the car park. You have to go to the club car park -- not being in a town there are no handy side streets, no entrepreneurial landowners, no multi-stories within walking distance, so you don't get any choice. Five pounds.

From the outside the ground looks the business. Anyone who has seen the MacAlpine Stadium at Huddersfield should picture what you'd likely get if you said to the architect 'Can I have the Model up from that please'. The roof of the structure seems a bit of an engineering triumph and how it stays up seems to defy the law of physics.

I made my way into the ground, I guessed by the way people were staggering away from the programme sellers with vacant, lost expressions that the things may well be overpriced. Despite having braced myself for the shock I was still staggered when the bloke said they were four pounds. Four Pounds for a program!

Programless, I decided I was hungry and would try and get something to eat. This was the biggest shock yet. I thought the whole point of these new out-of-town stadiums was to build a 'customer' (subtlety different from 'fan') orientated area where they can extract the 'customers' money from them like iron filings to a magnet. They'd not done badly so far, but in the away-end catering department they missed out big style. It is 1997, it was the opening day of a state-of-the-art stadium, and yet you had to queue for 20 minutes to get to the kiosk window and then when you get there you realise with utter disbelief that the only food they served was pies. Meat and potato, cheese and onion, chicken and mushroom; a fine variety I'm sure, but it was still only pies. Brilliant if you like pies. I don't. No crisps, no Mars bars, no burgers, no donuts, no pizzas, none of the other culinary delights that have found their way into our nations stadia over the past decade. Just pies.

Programless and hungry I trundled off to my seat.

The away fans' perch was high behind the goal, -- try to imagine sitting in the Upper Gwladys without any pillars. A fine view in a ground small enough to keep a sense of intimacy. The carnival atmosphere you would have expected for the inauguration of a new home had understandably had the edge taken off it by the events over the weekend, indeed it was noticeable that there was a surprising number of empty seats. Nevertheless, their inflatable mascot 'Lofty the Lion' did a fair job of warming up their fans with a routine in which the Bolton fans seemed to cheer every time he struck a pose until he showed his backside and then they'd all groan. Heaven forbid 'Dixie' ever returns to Goodison (or 'New Goodison') to inflict that upon us. Come to think of it, what ever did happen to Dixie?

Anyway, following an impeccable minute's silence we got on to the real business of the evening. The match.

There were two surprises in the starting line-up, one exciting and the other a worry. The first was that John Oster was on for the start, the worrier for the doubters amongst us was that Thomas had been given the run out at right back.

First Half

In the event, both choices proved to be astute ones. Everton's first half performance was as self-assured a display as we've seen under Kendall so far. The width created by Oster increases our options by some magnitude, and Thomas showed that when his nerves are settled he too is no mean passer of the ball. The midfield anchored by Williamson and Speed were dominant and we settled into a pattern of play which seemed to have us playing a gear above the home team. Patience seemed to be an important new feature of our play but as the time ticked by it became a frustrating one.

Experience tells us all that you can't expect to enjoy that sort of dominance for a full 90 minutes and so you have to capitalise on your good spells whilst you have the chance. Half-chances were proliferate but, with the exception of an effort by Oster that hit the angle of bar and post, there was no real point at which you believed Everton had created a 'clear' chance to put themselves in front. The old chestnut about the need for an 'out-and-out striker' became a popular conversation topic amongst the away faithful and was met without dissent.

For all Everton's pressure, it was Bolton who had got the clearest chance of the half when their only meaningful attack put through Nathan Blake to force an outstanding save from Southall.  Indeed this was the only action that featured a Bolton attack in the five-minute highlight show shown on the big screen at half time.

Second Half

Inevitably, Bolton did start to find themselves a little after the break and, as the game went by, doubts began to creep in. The Home fans had found their voices and filled the arena with noise. One of the odder things about this new stadium is that the 'home end' (by that I mean where the singing starts) seemed to have moved to the side of the pitch. Imagine that -- a home end at the side of the pitch. The sound of chanting in the stadium is impressive, the roof keeps the sound in the ground and magnifies it giving an almost mini-Wembley feel. The away fans took advantage of this acoustic heaven by using it to slag off Andy Gray.

There was mild hysteria in the middle of the half when at the other end of the field all the Bolton fans went mad when Everton seemed to clear the ball off the line, the referee seemed sure in allowing play to continue so we all had a good laugh at them. Only later, watching TV highlights was it apparent that Everton had got away with neither the ref or linesman seeing what every single other person at that end had seen in the ball crossing two foot over the line. That was a point's-worth of a let-off.

Andy Hinchcliffe made his overdue return to first-team action towards the end, coming on for Thomas with Phelan switching competently over to the right. The reorganisation, added to the introduction of Branch, served to create a slightly more open game for the final 10 minutes or so, but ultimately a draw was probably about right, good value even if you count our let-off.

The obvious point to make in summing up the game is that the blues' front-line 'partnership' was simply not up to the task of building on the midfield's competent enough work. Neither Ferguson nor Barmby put in anything like the off-the-ball movement to carve up any openings; consequently we were left with a succession of half-hearted long range efforts.

Once the final whistle had been blown I didn't hang about to applaud the teams off, instead I launched into a Linford Christie type sprint to get to the car and then may well have mowed down several fellow Evertonians (sorry) in my desperate attempt to get out of the car-park before the unavoidable gridlock set in.

So does the Reebok stadium represent the future of football? Does it add to the 'fan experience'? Is that the way Everton should go? I remain unconvinced.

Individual Performances

  • Southall 8 - We had a corking view of the save against Blake and for me it was the moment of the game. Keep on going Nev!
  • Thomas 7 - Much, much more impressed with him. Composed, decent enough passer, good positional play. Still see nothing in him that isn't offered by O'Connor but then it isn't Tony's fault that he is picked, is it?
  • Phelan 7 - Competent. Fitted in very well when he went over and played on the right too.
  • Watson 6 - I feel like I'm watching him die slowly week by week. This bloke has so much respect from us all, it would be a tragedy if he went on too long.
  • Bilic 7 - He is a class above.
  • Williamson 7 - A good link and anchor. Quick passing playing men on. Looks to have a good football brain.
  • Speed 7 - Seems to be getting himself back together. Partnered Williamson well, the midfield battle was won.
  • Stuart 7 - A good game. Held his wing well (though not in the way that Oster did!)
  • Oster 8 - I'm made up that the exiles have finally got a glimpse via TV of what we've been going on about all pre-season. This lad oozes talent. He was by far the most influential Everton player on the course of the match. Deserved the man of the match award.
  • Barmby 6 - All the criticisms people lay onto Stuart as far as I can see also apply to Barmby. Except Barmby probably costs the club four times as much in wages. When he came he looked like a square peg for a square hole. Now I'm no longer sure. Just doesn't fit in with the way we are playing at the moment.
  • Ferguson 6 - Unimpressive.
  • Short 7 - In control. Looks to be forcing Dave out.
  • Hinchcliffe 7 - Wasn't our major criticism of him that he used to be crap at the more defensive side of things? Looks to have been working on that during his absence. A very encouraging glimpse.
  • Branch 6 - Only a cameo appearance at the end.

Almost a Perfect Riposte
Lyndon Lloyd

After the slating the team took in midweek following a dismal defeat at the hands of Manchester United, there was only one way Everton could reply to their detractors and redeem themselves. And they certainly delivered an emphatic signal to the gathered Evertonians that Howard Kendall's magic is starting to re-emerge from the doom and gloom that has surrounded the club he loves so much since he first left 10 years ago. Tonight, the Blues were at times magnificent, almost always comfortable and only occasionally did the costly errors threaten to ruin what was almost a fantastic performance.

The stage had been set, you felt, for Bolton to record a glorious victory. Not only were Everton coming off the back of a disappointing start to the new season, but the Lancashire side were playing their first ever match in the new Reebok Stadium on their return to the top flight after a brief year's absence in the Nationwide League First Division. Peter Beardsley was making his home debut for his new team and John McGinlay was looking to score the first goal on Wanderers' new turf, having scored the last ever goal at Burnden Park. Thankfully, he was to only feature for the last ten minutes and by that stage you sensed the game was destined to end as a draw.

After what was without doubt the most impeccably observed minute's silence I have ever witnessed at a sporting fixture, the footballing world was ready to kick off again following the sombre events of the previous 36 hours [the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales]. Everton lined up with two changes from the team that started against Manchester United: John Oster replaced Craig Short as Slaven Bilic returned to defensive duties and Tony Thomas came in for Earl Barrett at right back. Gary Speed and Danny Williamson patrolled the midfield and Barmby and Ferguson continued in attack.

First Half

The opening five minutes were littered with loose passes by both sides as they tested each other out but it was the home side that showed first in attack. Alan Thompson threaded a superb ball through the visiting defence but Nathan Blake was adjudged to have been off-side. Graham Stuart then fizzed a shot a couple of yards wide at the other end as Everton began testing the resolve of their hosts early on. Before 10 minutes had expired, though, Kendall's men could have been 1-0 up, and surely would have been had ill-fortune not intervened. A swinging Thomas cross was won by Ferguson and cruelly Oster's goalbound shot ricocheted of the back of a prostrate Bolton defender leaving Gary Speed to sky the rebound into the stands.

The travelling Toffee contingent came to life and the team kicked into gear. Tenacious, biting tackles by all four midfielders restricted Bolton to a stream of errors in the middle of the park which allowed Everton to impose some style on the proceedings. Williamson and Speed linked up lucidly with Stuart and Oster alike; Barmby was alert and adventurous behind Ferguson up front. The impish Johninho was involved in everything that didn't go down the right -- yet more evidence that we have a real star for the [near] future on our hands with Oster. And Everton also met up with an old friend tonight: space. Thomas, Stuart and Williamson found themselves in acres of the stuff along Wanderers' left flank and Everton's No. 20 was able to ping in an encouraging number of crosses from precisely the zone that Andy Gray had outlined in the pre-match build-up. Yes, folks, those were crosses from the by-line you saw out there tonight!

However, despite their growing supremacy, the Toffees made few genuinely dangerous chances and this appeared to be down to a lack of pace up front and a lack of confidence on the part of Stuart when running at goal. It is a credit to Diamond that his level of effort never falls much below 100% but you sense that he would prefer to look for Barmby or Duncan rather than have a go himself. Meanwhile, Ferguson's comparative lack of mobility meant that once the lovely interchanges had reached the opposition penalty area, moves tended to break down.

Nevertheless, the visitors had another near-miss in the 16th minute when Speed's challenge on keeper Branagan caused the Bolton keeper to spill the ball but when it broke to Barmby and then Ferguson, the Scot could only deliver a tame chip from a tight angle that was mopped up by the home defence. Four minutes later and Everton's best chance of the game was denied by the intersection of crossbar and post as Johninho came within inches of opening his goalscoring account for the Blues. Barmby's reverse ball to the 18 year-old winger was poetry in motion and while Branagan parried Oster's first shot, he could only find the woodwork from an acute angle on his second attempt.

Bolton threatened the Everton goal only briefly in a first half hour utterly dominated by the Blues. However, Southall was at his very best on 28 minutes to deny Blake when his compatriot had been sent clean through by Frandsen and the 39-year-old keeper saved a certain goal with his knees. Beardsley then went on one of his trademark jinking runs but he too was denied by Neville, this time a nonchalant one-handed save.

The final 10 minutes of the half seemed to me to betray the fact that after much effort and artistry, Everton's ideas were starting to petter out. Blake went close for Bolton with a header that flew just over from a Sellars cross and Speed planted a header from a corner in much the same spot at the other end as the half fizzled out somewhat.

Second Half

In a way, it was difficult to imagine how Everton could keep up such a high standard of play in the second half and their solidity at the back was compromised by the loss of Dave Watson during the interval with a turned ankle. Craig Short came on for the second period but made some uncharacteristically needless errors before eventually settling down alongside the dominant Bilic.

Although the Merseysiders retained a large percentage of the possession, there was still little in the way of genuine chances. Oster curled a couple of shots well wide and the ball held up agonisingly in promising situations to frustrate the rest of the Blues' attack. Bolton meanwhile produced the match's big talking point in the 53rd minute. A long ball to the back post saw Southall apparently impeded by Blake's hefty challenge and with most of the players expecting the whistle, the ball was cleared out of the goalmouth by Terry Phelan, but not before it had crossed the goal-line by a clear foot. A corner was given, Blake missed a sitter from 8 yards and the debating began. Evertonians will feel that it was a foul on the goalkeeper while Bolton fans will be cursing the linesman for denying them an obvious goal.

The 66th minute was an especially rewarding moment for Everton fans, players and Andy Hinchcliffe alike. Nine months after rupturing his cruciate knee ligaments in a freak collision with an advertising hoarding at Goodison, Everton's England representative and dead-ball specialist returned to Premiership action to tumultuous applause from the travelling Blue army. His immediate free kick from 25 yards may have ended up in Bolton's defensive wall but it did not remove the sense of satisfaction at seeing a Goodison hero back in the fold.

In terms of chances, the remainder of the game was fairly even. Blake got away from Short with 15 minutes to go but blasted over, Barmby skewed a shot-cum-cross that whistled agonisingly across the six yard line without a Blue shirt in sight and Gary Speed looped a header inches over from Williamson's floated pass with nine left on the watch. Sadly for Everton, it was to end all square.

The result was not so much important tonight as the way the team responded to the manner of their defeat 5 days ago. Tonight they produced pleasingly strong evidence that the team as a unit is very definitely heading in the right direction. There seems to be a growing understanding between the players, they are finding plenty of room and some of the interplays, one-twos and triangles evoke memories of Everton under Kendall of old. If this is the beginning of an upward curve, we are in for a promising season ahead. We deserved the win tonight but a draw was still mightily pleasing. Quite a change from Wednesday's post-mortem.

Player Ratings

  • Southall: 8 - Two superb saves spring to mind as well as a series comfortable aerial takes and the usual arrogant chest-downs and ball traps we know so well.
  • Thomas: 8 - Unlucky to leave the field with a calf strain after an excellent display, not least with his bombardment of the Bolton area with some accurate crosses. I fear Earl may have to wait before he sees first team action again at right back.
  • Phelan: 7 - Energetic and enthusiastic as ever and far better defensively than I have seen him play. Displayed a growing understanding with Oster and Speed and has lost none of his pace, obviously!
  • Watson: 8 - Looked rejuvenated and pacey for once as well as confident in the air. Looked to me like the Waggy of old and it was sad to hear he had to sit out the second half with an ankle strain.
  • Bilic: 9 - We're running out of superlatives to ascribe to this man. Quite simply the best defender in the country and I'm not just saying that. Made 3 crucial interceptions of genuine class as well as some nice passes whilst in offensive mode.
  • Stuart: 7 - Had a better game than he has had for a long while by all accounts but faded slightly towards the end. He will certainly do on the right wing until we find someone better if he keeps playing like this.
  • Williamson: 8 - Looks like an astute buy by HK. You forget he is there at times (but maybe that's because he looks like Speed from a distance) but showed a willingness to tackle anything that moved and acted as a confident link man in the midfield.
  • Speed: 7 - Gary showed touches of the player he was last season but he seems to me to be holding back and not getting into attacking areas enough. He seems to be taking the captain's role to mean making the play and hanging back to let others get on with it up front. GS is more effective as an attacking midfielder but I do understand that we have no defensive midfield as such at the moment, so maybe Howard told Gary to improvise.
  • Oster: 8 - Johninho was everywhere tonight and easily our most creative influence. The more experience he gains the better he gets and I think we are in for a treat. Unlucky not to score his first Everton goal.
  • Barmby: 7 - Would benefit from a bit more movement up front from Dunc the Pillar. He is bristling with ideas but it all goes to pot on the 18 yard line because he has so few options. There was significant evidence tonight though of the player he can become when the team sorts itself out for the long term.
  • Ferguson: 7 - Had a frustrating night by his standards. You wish he would run with the ball a bit more. I will say that his overall contribution in terms of flick-ons was greatly improved; ie dropping back to win goal kicks for the likes of Oster and Barmby to pick up the knock-downs.
  • Short: 6 - A bit clumsy at times and almost let Blake in on more than one occasion. Hopefully just a bad game from Craig.
  • Hinchcliffe: 9 - For the 24 minutes he was on, Bruce looked eager, fit and back to his best already. Made some excellent sliding tackles as well as some vital interceptions late on.
  • Branch: Came on too late in the day to warrant a rating really although I was surprised to see Barmby come off. Perhaps Stuart should have made way earlier for Twiggy to bring some pace to the attack.

Team: 8 - A vastly improved performance by the Blues and, as already mentioned, some very encouraging indications of what's in store under HKIII. We never played such attractive football under Royle. Long may Howard's Way continue.

Chances by the yard
Pete Sharps

Everton started the game as the dominant force and had should have taken the lead on numerous occasions, with Oster impressing greatly. The young welsh international had his first chance on 7 mins when the 'keeper, under pressure from Ferguson, palmed out a Thomas cross to the feet of Oster. The volleyed shot hit Phillips' butt on the line and when the ball fell to Speed he volleyed well over.

Everton's next chance came when Watson's deep cross was nodded down by Ferguson to the feet of Speed who, under pressure from the Bolton 'keeper, squeezed the ball back out to Oster. Oster's shot hit a defender and the ball fell to Ferguson, who's chip was headed off the line.

After 20 mins Bolton had their first chance of the game when Elliott made a late run through the midfield onto a through ball, and only a superb challenge from Slaven Bilic stopped him shooting. Everton then attacked and Oster almost gave the Blues the lead. Oster attacked down the left and a superb reverse ball back from Barmby put him through on goal. From just inside the area Oster's shot was parried out by Branagan back to the Welsh International, who's second attempt hit the angle of post and bar with the 'keeper stranded.

After 28 mins Bolton got back into the game when Blake got one on one with Southall, from a Frandsen through ball, which the ageless Blues number 1 saved brilliantly. This inspired Bolton and the rest of the half was tight with a number a half chances fall to both teams. The best of Everton's being a Ferguson header which looped over the 'keeper but just wide of the post.

At half time Watson was substituted, after picking up an ankle knock, for Craig Short.

Bolton started the second half far better than they had played the first half and created a few chances.

After 53 mins a Sellars corner was headed towards goal by Taggart and on the line Blake clashed with Southall. The ball was kicked away by Phelan, and even though replays showed the ball had crossed the line the ref waved play on. Amid frantic appeals from both sets of players, Bolton for the goal and Everton for the foul on Southall, the ball was cleared. This proved to be the major talking point of the match with replays clearly showing that Southall was fouled and the ball crossed the line.

After 58 mins Bolton's An innocuous challenge from Tony Thomas on Robbie Elliott resulted in the Bolton leftback being stretchered off the pitch, the injury was later revealed to be a serious double brake of the left leg.

Ironically after 66 mins Everton's long term injury victim, Andy Hinchcliffe, returned to play his first competitive match for 9 months. He replaced Tony Thomas (thigh strain), with Terry Phelan switching from left to rightback. Hinchcliffe's first touch was from a free-kick 30 yards out that he drilled into the wall.

The next big chance fell to Bolton after 76 mins when Blake slipped clear of Short to fire his shot over the bar from 12 yards. This signalled a flurry of chances for both teams before the full time. Everton had a good chance one minute later when Oster fed the ball through to Ferguson who's shot was deflected to Barmby. His shot fizzed across the 6 yard box but no-one was waiting to tap the ball home.

On 80 minutes Williamson picked the ball up from Speed in midfield, then fired a 40 yard ball through for the rampaging Speed the just head over. Everton had the better of the last 10 minutes as both teams pressed for the winning goal, with Branch replacing Barmby with 3 minutes left.

After the game Everton Boss Howard Kendall said "There were a lot of good things to take from this game, but we overdid it a little at times and over-elaborated" "When you get to a certain point you should kill teams off. We should have tested the keeper more, but I am not going to stop our players wanting the ball. We just needed one pass sometimes when we took three or four."

Bolton draw blank as Blake denied
by Oliver Holt, The Times

THEY had the chances to christen their magnificent new Reebok Stadium with the goal it deserved but, one after another, they blew their opportunities. After more than a century at Burnden Park, Bolton Wanderers took to a fine new stage last night in the FA Carling Premiership but the first-night nerves of Nathan Blake, a controversial refereeing decision and a sickening injury to Robbie Elliott turned the occasion into 90 minutes of ill-omen.

Elliott, Bolton's record signing from Newcastle United, was carried off on a stretcher and taken to hospital with a double fracture of his right leg after a tackle with Tony Thomas early in the second half. By then, though, Bolton should have been a goal ahead after Blake appeared to force Gerry Taggart's header over the line in the 54th minute, only to see Stephen Lodge wave play on.

Either side of his misfortune, Blake missed three clear-cut chances to seal the game, but it was a bitter-sweet evening from start to finish. The atmosphere before the game had been a curious mix of celebration and solemnity. First, the supporters danced to the strains of a New Orleans jazz band as they arrived at the ground and marvelled at a new stadium that looked like a futuristic cross between the Olympic Stadium in Munich and the Alfred McAlpine Stadium in Huddersfield.

Then, acutely aware that this was the first British match to be played since the tragic events of Sunday morning, the players from both teams gathered round the centre circle as they and the near-capacity crowd in the 25,000-seat arena observed a minute's silence to commemorate the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Everton should have taken the lead in ten minutes. Ferguson's aerial presence forced Phillips into a poor clearance and when Oster pounced his volley thudded into the prone Phillips. When it rebounded to Speed, he lashed it over the bar.

Midway through the half, Oster came desperately close to breaking the deadlock again. He slipped the ball to Barmby, took the reverse pass and hit a fierce shot against Branagan's body. Once again, it bounced out and this time Oster's second effort struck the crossbar.

Gradually Bolton forced their way back into the game and, 15 minutes before the interval, Blake ran on to a through-ball from Frandsen, controlled it perfectly with his chest and advanced on Southall. His shot was sweet and clean but Southall flung himself to the ground to block it and it bounced away to safety.

After the break, Everton escaped when Blake appeared to have forced the ball over the line before Phelan cleared it. A minute later, they were handed another reprieve when Blake swung at Frandsen's mis-hit shot but failed to make contact. The game was petering out into a tame draw and Blake missed the best chance of the match in the 76th minute, when he scooped his shot over the crossbar.

"It would have been nice to start here with a win," Colin Todd, the Bolton manager, said, "but we are pleased with a point."

After the match Howard Kendall, the Everton manager, confirmed that the club had withdrawn from the bidding for Fabrizio Ravanelli, the Middlesbrough striker.

Report Times Newspapers Ltd

Bolton unable to find the target in frustrating start to life in new home
William Johnson, Electronic Telegraph

THE first match at the impressive Reebok Stadium provided an exciting enough spectacle for a near-capacity crowd of 23,131 last night, but both Bolton Wanderers and Everton were left regretting indecisive finishing for failing to secure a welcome victory.

Everton will look back at their inability to profit from a dominant first-half display but Bolton, who began nervously on a verdant pitch which appeared in need of a final cut, finished the stronger and would not have been flattered by an elusive winning goal.

Bolton, rightly proud of their futuristic new stadium, wheeled out a succession of dignitaries on their big opening night, but the most significant newcomer was Mark Fish, the South African captain, who has completed his 2 million move from Lazio.

The big central defender must have felt a pressing need for action as his new team-mates looked anything but at home in their new stadium. Everton, who hitherto had played only at home this season, began impressively and did enough to have led at the end of an entertaining but scoreless first period.

Everton, who coincidentally were the first visitors to Burnden Park 102 years ago, looked nothing like a team who had struggled in three Goodison engagements as their greater use of the pitch's width frequently threatened to produce dividends.

John Oster, their summer signing from Grimsby, was unlucky when breaking through courtesy of a neat one-two with Nick Barmby. The winger's initial shot was blocked and he directed the rebound against the angle of post and crossbar.

An earlier Oster break which was thwarted by goalkeeper Keith Branagan's reaction save should have produced a breakthrough for Gary Speed, but the Everton captain hurried a shot from 15 yards out, while Duncan Ferguson, whose aerial strength was a constant worry to the Bolton defence, saw a chipped shot headed clear by Gerry Taggart.

Although Everton enjoyed the lion's share of first-half opportunities, Bolton carved out two outstanding chances of their own, both of which demanded better finishes.

Nathan Blake, put through by Per Frandsen, allowed Neville Southall to mark becoming the first player to make 200 Premiership appearances by getting down to pull off an excellent low save, while Scott Sellars shot harmlessly over after a Blake break had forced Slaven Bilic to push the ball into his path.

Bolton had finally got into their stride and a well-worked move after 50 minutes culminated in Sellars passing to Alan Thompson, only for his fierce drive to be saved by Southall.

Blake thought he had put Bolton in front during a frantic spell of pressure at the start of the second half, the Welsh striker getting the better of Southall in a battle to reach a Gerry Taggart header to the far post. Bolton claimed with some justification that the ball crossed the line before Terry Phelan hacked it clear; Everton could argue with equal conviction that their goalkeeper was unfairly impeded. Another Blake near-miss came from the ensuing corner. Frandsen, given an embarrassing amount of space on the edge of the area, fired in a low shot which Blake unsuccessfully attempted to turn goalwards.

By then Everton had gone off the boil, a curling Oster shot which went close and a speculative effort which did not being their only threats in the opening exchanges of the second period which was interrupted by a knee ligament injury to Robbie Elliott, which resulted in the former Newcastle defender going to hospital with a suspected double fracture of the leg.

Andy Hinchcliffe, his Everton counterpart, knows how serious such problems can be, the England defender having been out of action since last Christmas recovering from a similar blow. The long-awaited return of the England defender came in American football fashion when Barmby won a free-kick 25 yards out. Howard Kendall told his players to wait while he substituted Tony Thomas and Hinchcliffe's first act was to strike a shot against the defensive wall.

Both sides sensed at that stage that a first goal would be decisive and Blake should have snatched it when Beardsley -- in his last contribution before giving way to the crowd's favourite John McGinlay -- diverted a Jimmy Phillips pass into his path. Again the Blake finish was lacking.

Speed, the hard-working Everton captain, thought he had tipped the balance in favour of his team with a determined late run into the area which enabled him to reach a high ball before the advancing Branagan, but the header landed on the top of the netting. As play switched swiftly to the other end, yet another opportunity fell at the feet of Blake and yet another shot went several yards off target.

Report The Electronic Telegraph

RESULTS (Game 5)
Monday 1 September 1997
BOLTON WANDERERS        0-0    EVERTON                   23,131
Sunday 31 August 1997
(Game postponed following the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales) 
Saturday 30 August 1997
ARSENAL                 0-0    TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR         38,102

ASTON VILLA             1-0    LEEDS UNITED              39,027
CHELSEA                 4-2    SOUTHAMPTON               30,008
Petrescu(7) Leboeuf(28)        Davies(25) Monkou(59)
Hughes(31) Wise(34)
CRYSTAL PALACE          1-2    BLACKBURN ROVERS          20,849
Dyer(51)                       Sutton(23) Gallacher(31)
DERBY COUNTY            1-0    BARNSLEY                  27,232
MANCHESTER UNITED       3-0    COVENTRY CITY             55,074
Cole(2) Keane(72) Poborsky(90)
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY     1-0    LEICESTER CITY            24,851
WEST HAM UNITED         3-1    WIMBLEDON                 24,516
Hartson(48) Rieper(54)         Ekoku (81)

LEAGUE TABLE (after 1 September 1997)
Club                          P    W    D    L   GF   GA   GD   Pts
Blackburn Rovers              5    4    1    0   15    4   11   13
Manchester United             5    4    1    0    8    0    8   13
West Ham United               5    3    1    1    9    6    3   10
Chelsea                       4    3    0    1   14    5    9    9
Arsenal                       5    2    3    0    9    5    4    9
Leicester City                5    2    2    1    6    5    1    8
Tottenham Hotspur             5    2    1    2    5    6   -1    7
Newcastle United              2    2    0    0    3    1    2    6
Crystal Palace                5    2    0    3    5    5    0    6
Barnsley                      5    2    0    3    4   10   -6    6
Liverpool                     4    1    2    1    5    4    1    5
Bolton Wanderers              4    1    2    1    4    4    0    5
Coventry City                 5    1    2    2    6   10   -4    5
Everton                       4    1    1    2    3    5   -2    4
Leeds United                  5    1    1    3    4    7   -3    4
Sheffield Wednesday           5    1    1    3    6   13   -7    4
Derby County                  3    1    0    2    1    2   -1    3
Southampton                   5    1    0    4    4    9   -5    3
Aston Villa                   5    1    0    4    3    9   -6    3
Wimbledon                     4    0    2    2    3    7   -4    2

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Michael Kenrick 1997