BOLTON //Repetition can be a damaging process. Before they were booed off again, Bolton Wanderers contrived to repeat past failings to cement their position in the relegation zone.
For the eighth time in nine games at the Reebok Stadium, they were beaten. For the fourth time in the league this season, they had a player dismissed. For the 30th and 31st times, their defence was breached.
Each is an unwanted landmark, Owen Coyle's men heading the leader boards for home defeats, dismissals and concessions.
The consequence is inevitable. They are deep in trouble and, if a demanding early-season fixture list initially accounted for their struggles, now problems have become entrenched. Losing seems less a habit than an addiction.
"There's no getting away from the stigma of being in the bottom three," Coyle said. "It's been a horrible couple of months."
Everton, in comparison, have had a terrific couple of games. They have traded a relegation struggle for eighth place in the space of eight days that have brought back-to-back wins. The latest was sealed by goals from Marouane Fellaini and the substitute Apostolos Vellios.
It was a victory they thoroughly deserved. The marauding Leighton Baines was the game's outstanding individual, a constant presence in everything his side did on the left flank. Fellaini, now the club's best-paid player, illustrated why Everton rewarded him with a five-year contract last week.
David Moyes's men played with conviction and determination, rendering the absence of six injured players an irrelevance.
Yet the game altered irrevocably in the 20th minute. "A huge turning point," Coyle said.
He had made David Wheater his makeshift right-back, a decision that backfired when the central defender illustrated his technical failings. His inability to retain the ball prompted a reckless, if scarcely malicious, challenge.
Having controlled the ball with his first touch, his second was poor, sending the ball squirming away towards Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. Wheater lunged in, his studs landing in the Russian's foot. Wheater had to go.
"In my day, it would have been a yellow card," Coyle said. "The rules are if your studs are showing, you leave yourself open to a red card. I can't say it surprised me."
While Bilyaletdinov spurned a fine opening, Bolton held on until half time. But they have proved unable to keep clean sheets in close games.
"We have lost two soft goals from our point of view," Coyle said. "The [one at the] start of the second half, to me, was avoidable."
From Everton's perspective, it was excellent. "A really good goal, a well-worked goal," enthused Moyes. Leon Osman linked up with Baines, the latter guiding his low cross into the path of Fellaini. He finished emphatically.
Baines played a part in the second, too. His deep cross was met on the volley by Tim Cahill, sliding in to set up Vellios. Four minutes after his arrival, the young Greek scored his third of the season.
Sandwiching the goals, Ivan Klasnic could have equalised, Tim Howard saving well, while at the other end Baines arrowed a shot over the bar and Cahill had a header brilliantly saved by Jussi Jaaskelainen, with Louis Saha unable to convert the rebound. It mattered not.
Everton have long proved themselves able to extricate themselves from problematic positions. It is a skill Bolton now need to display.