Charlton Athletic 0 Everton 0: Myhre offers small comfort for Charlton

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Charlton had a slight excuse - they have a big Cup game against Middlesbrough ahead. Everton had every reason to press their claim to be a much restored team. However, between them they did nothing more than confirm that they belong where they are in the Premiership.

When a manager starts telling his team's home fans how important they are to the performances of his players, you know that he is partly right, partly a bit desperate. Charlton's Alan Curbishley had been talking about the improved atmosphere at this ground, but at the same time, there is an underlying feeling that the good FA Cup run is not enough. A mid-position is what would have predicted at the start of the season, but fans are wondering whether a new broom would sweep the club upwards.

Curbishley himself said yesterday that with his name being mentioned for the England job and bearing in mind his long service to Charlton it "made sense'' for the club to think about a replacement. "I've got a year left on my contract and the decision is on ice until the summer."

Curbishley made five changes from the side that started the first tie, including resting Darren Bent who has a slight injury. That was some excuse for Charlton to begin like strangers to each other, although Everton were not exactly cohesive.

A quick and positive penalty area tackle on Jason Euell by Joseph Yobo stopped Charlton's first useful attack which followed 15 minutes of frustrated intentions by both sides. The dead hand of mediocrity hung heavily over The Valley.

It would have been appropriate if the stalemate had been broached by an absurd error. Everton's goalkeeper Richard Wright had come off his line as his defence mopped up an attack but the ball came to Matt Holland. He chipped in over Wright who had to scramble back to push it round the post.

Of greater merit was the cause and effect of an even closer attempt that came just before half-time. James Beattie, the Everton striker, had spent much of his time whingeing about being regularly pulled up by the referee for backing into defenders so when he found himself 30 yards from the Charlton goal but at least facing it, he tried a blazing shot that Thomas Myhre spectacularly tipped away.

That Beattie had his first opportunity from such long range was a tribute to the diligence and stout tackling and heading of Gonzalo Sorondo on his full first-team appearance since being injured on Boxing Day.

Slack passing and poverty of imagination continued to keep the game in a state of dreary negativity. Everton's Mikel Arteta had some worthwhile moments in midfield but they failed to be taken up by his colleagues, while Charlton's Holland put a lot of effort into the same area, he also lacked support.

By making three second-half substitutions, Curbishley dug deep into his squad's reserves, and certainly there was a spark of direction that had been previously missing. It culminated in a succession of corners which Everton managed to defy, sometimes more by luck than judgement. Everton brought on Duncan Ferguson, whose judgement is not his prime quality but here all he had to do was spend his time defending in his own penalty area.

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