Everton saw in the new year at Goodison Park just as they had ushered out the old, with Tim Cahill's rediscovered aerial prowess providing David Moyes with another valuable victory and Ferguson allaying talk of his retirement - Duncan that is, not Sir Alex.
Cahill, an Australian international, followed up his decisive contribution at Sunderland on New Year's Eve with two more headed goals yesterday as Everton delivered a performance that eased their relegation fears while renewing those of Charlton in the process. Just two points now separates Everton from their visitors and, on the basis of this performance, it is Alan Curbishley, the Charlton manager, who has greater cause for concern.
Talk of the fortunate win at Sunderland developing into a defining moment in Everton's season had been expressed in hope, rather than expectation, because the Stadium of Light bore witness to yet another alarming performance from Moyes' side before Tim Cahill scored in injury time. On the evidence of yesterday's display, however, the optimists could be proved right.
There was a confidence and composure about Everton's attacking play that has been lacking of late, albeit with elementary mistakes and a continued vulnerability in defence which showshow far they have to improve to pull clear of the relegation candidates - an accusation that also can be levelled at Charlton.
James Beattie gave the home side the fillip of a ninth-minute lead when Dennis Rommedahl collided with Kevin Kilbane in the Charlton area. Uriah Rennie, the referee, showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot and, although Beattie was denied by Thomas Myhre, the former Everton goalkeeper, the Norwegian could only push the ball back into the path of the £6m striker and his sixth goal of the season was secured from six yards out.
Charlton, who like Everton were far more adept at going forwards than protecting Myhre from several incisive attacks, levelled with their first shot on goal in the 18th minute when Everton were caught sleeping at a quick free-kick. Luke Young's cross was partially cleared by Kilbane's header, but the ball fell to the unmarked Matt Holland on the edge of Everton's penalty area and his fine volley flew into the bottom corner.
Everton continued to hold the upper hand, however, inspired by Ferguson who, despite reports that he is planning to retire this month owing to the cumulative effects ofinjuries, played well as captain.
It was a foul on Ferguson, by Jonathan Fortune, that helped Everton to regain the lead four minutes before the interval when Cahill headed Mikel Arteta's free-kick in at the far post.
Cahill's 12 goals last season played a big part in Everton's success last season and his goal drought up until the Sunderland game partly explains their woes. He headed his second in the 59th minute when he headed another Arteta free-kick beyond Myhre, and would have had a third, but for a strange decision by Rennie, and a bit of bad luck, when his audacious injury time volley struck the post.
Goals: Beattie (9) 1-0; Holland (18) 1-1; Cahill (41) 2-1; Cahill (59) 3-1.
Everton (4-4-2): Martyn; Hibbert, Yobo, Ferrari, Valente; Osman, Arteta, Cahill, Kilbane; Ferguson (Bent, 87), Beattie. Substitutes not used: Wright, Naysmith, Weir, McFadden.
Charlton (4-4-2): Myhre; Young, Fortune, Hreidarsson, Powell; Rommedahl, Murphy (Kishishev, 66), Holland, Hughes (Ambrose, 66); Bartlett, Bent. Substitutes not used: Lisbie, Andersen, Spector.
Referee: Uriah Rennie (S Yorkshire).Reuse content