Football: Campbell's class makes the difference

Everton 4 Charlton Athletic 1: Struggle for survival: Everton elated as Blackburn move dangerously close to drop and Southampton draw blank
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The Independent Online
FOR A moment it seemed the Everton move must break down. The ball ran a yard away from Kevin Campbell and two Charlton defenders shaped to clear. Suddenly, however, the muscular striker thrust his frame in front of them like a shield and swept the ball to a colleague.

Eventually Charlton did repel this attack, just another skirmish in another tense struggle. Yet it served to encapsulate an essential difference between the two sides, and perhaps the difference between survival and relegation.

Campbell's physical presence has not merely enabled Everton to retain possession in situations against the odds, but also provided them with a rush of goals that promise to whisk them off to safety with fixtures to spare.

He has scored two goals in each of the last three matches, all of which Everton have won. Their Premiership status is all but assured.

Charlton's manager, Alan Curbishley, was conscious that Everton's power, both in attack, courtesy of Campbell, and at the back. He endeavoured to counter that strength and height by recalling Eddie Youds in defence and Mark Bright up front. It proved no more than a token gesture.

Youds' lack of mobility ultimately betrayed him and Bright's legs can no longer respond to what remains one of the most cunning minds in the business.

Some of Charlton's midfield play has been a joy to behold through much of this nerve shredding campaign and so it was for considerable periods at Goodison Park, but deficiency in the penalty area continued to undermine their cause.

"We have to believe we can stay up," Curbishley said, "but if we can't beat Blackburn and Sheffield Wednesday at home, it will be our fault if we go down."

Everton's prospects looked equally gloomy three matches back. And then Campbell began putting his weight about in the most productive and acceptable manner. Now he is the club's top scorer and awaiting the offer of a full- time contract.

"If we'd had his physical presence from the start of the season we wouldn't have had such a difficult time of it," Walter Smith, the Everton manager, reasoned.

They have, in Don Hutchison, a man who combines brain and brawn. The Scotland international again played a defining role, probing and guiding with subtlety, tackling and hounding with a warrior's commitment.

His goal, midway through the first half, was a savage blow in every sense for Charlton. When Campbell scored twice the self-belief drained from the Charlton players. Francis Jeffers scored the fourth, but by then the points had been put out of Charlton's reach and Graham Stuart's converted penalty against his former club came too late to matter.

Goals: Hutchison (24) 1-0; Campbell (31) 2-0; Campbell (60) 3-0; Jeffers (75) 4-0; Stuart (81pen) 4-1.

Everton (3-5-2): Myhre; Short, Watson, Unsworth; Weir, Gemmill, Dacourt, Hutchison, Ball; Jeffers, Campbell. Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Barmby, Bakayoko, Materazzi, Cadamarteri.

Charlton Athletic (3-5-2): Petterson; Rufus (Barnes 68), Youds, Tiler; Mills, Stuart, K Jones, Kinsella, Powell (Bowen 87), Pringle, Bright (Hunt 68). Substitutes not used: Brown, Salmon (gk).

Referee: Mr P Alcock (Kent).

Bookings: Everton: Dacourt, Weir, Ball. Charlton: Stuart.

Man of the Match: Hutchison.

Attendance: 40,089.

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