The battle at the bottom of the Premier League was the focus this weekend, with four of the five teams cut adrift at the foot of the table playing a relegation rival.
First up was Bolton Wanderers' 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers. In a relatively balanced game in terms of possession, territory and controversial decisions, it was the marginally tidier football of the home side which eventually prevailed. Nigel Reo-Coker and Joey Barton both attempted 49 passes, yet while the Bolton midfielder completed 84% by keeping things 'ticking over' - playing it short and maintaining possession, Barton too often looked for longer, 'Hollywood' passes and ultimately saw his completion rate dip to 63%.
As the game continued, QPR began to seize control and Bolton became more and more entrenched in their own half (with the exception of Arsenal loanee Ryo Miyaichi, as can be seen on the player influence chalkboard below). Owen Coyle has had success in taking youngsters on loan from top clubs before, with Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge's previous loan stints proving mutually benefitial, and the latest temporary Trotter secured the three points for Bolton with a piece of deft play in front of the back four to release Ivan Klasnic.
The other drop-zone face-off also saw the points heading to Lancashire, as Blackburn Rovers eased past Wolverhampton Wanderers. A total of 23 interceptions across the pitch helped Blackburn seize control of the game - a dispirited Wolves side could only manage three - and two goals from David Hoilett secured the victory. The emergence of the Canadian has been one of the few positives for Blackburn this season, and they will need a few more match-winning performances such as this to drag themselves clear of the relegation battle.
The fifth team fighting for survival, Wigan Athletic, travelled to Norwich on Sunday knowing that a loss would open up a three point gap between themselves and Bolton in 17th place. Perhaps spurred by this, they had the better of the game with 55% possession, 53% territory and seven shots on target to Norwich's two, despite falling behind after just ten minutes. It was a well-earned point at Carrow Road, as the likes of Chelsea and Newcastle will testify.
Finally, Everton completed a home hat-trick of wins to nil with a backs-to-the-wall victory over Tottenham Hotspur. The away side dominated after the break as they searched for the equaliser, restricting Everton to only 50 passes in the second half as they created 17 shots. However, shooting inaccuracy cost Spurs as they could only find the target with three of these attempts. That's three losses in a row for Harry Redknapp's side, as Everton continue climbing the table with back-to-back home wins over Manchester City, Chelsea and now Tottenham - a fantastic way to celebrate David Moyes' decade in charge.
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