Holland stalls Everton march

Everton 0 Charlton Athletic 1
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The Independent Online

Outwardly, David Moyes was terse but calm. Everton were still fourth and there was still a seven-point gap to protect them in the final Champions' League place. Inwardly, however, the Everton manager must have felt the churning frustration that comes from a great lost opportunity.

Outwardly, David Moyes was terse but calm. Everton were still fourth and there was still a seven-point gap to protect them in the final Champions' League place. Inwardly, however, the Everton manager must have felt the churning frustration that comes from a great lost opportunity.

At Southampton, Liverpool had surrendered abjectly while Middlesbrough had somehow lost a three-goal lead at Norwich. Had his team won at Goodison, as Everton had done on every match day since the end of October, the gap would have been 10 points with a third of the season remaining. However, a stunning shot from Matt Holland, one of the few gems in a brutally poor encounter, ensured their sixth defeat of the season - all, incidentally, to London clubs.

For the health of the Premiership, you should hope that Everton, Charlton or Middlesbrough take fourth place. Since 1997, when Uefa decided clubs no longer have to win their own championship to enter the Champions' League, access to this moneyed élite has been more restrictive in England than almost anywhere else. In eight years, six Premiership clubs have entered the Champions' League, compared to nine from France and Germany, eight from Spain and seven from Italy. Even the Netherlands have had five entries.

Sadly for the romantics, Charlton are notorious for fading away at the business end of the season while Everton under Moyes have not exactly been masters of the sprint finish. They won five of their concluding 13 matches in 2002-3 and three of their final 13 last season. Since Moyes plans no more spending this month, the great question is whether the arrival of James Beattie, who struck the post and handled himself competently on his home debut, will compensate for the loss of Thomas Gravesen to Real Madrid.

At roughly the same stage of last season's campaign, Scott Parker left Charlton for Chelsea and Alan Curbishley saw his side fall from fourth to seventh. "We got rocked a little bit with the Parker thing," the Charlton manager reflected. "We were in good shape leading into that but we didn't pick up enough points after the January transfer window - it was one a game, which wasn't good enough."

Curbishley thought that whether Charlton were serious Champions' League contenders would be decided in the coming weeks when they play Liverpool, Newcastle, Tottenham and Middlesbrough. However, after frustrating Evertonians by clearing David Weir's header off the line, Danny Murphy opened the wound a bit wider. "I know I am biased, but I can still see Liverpool sneaking fourth place," he said.

"We knew how we were going to play against Everton and maybe some clubs are getting wise to the way they are playing," he added. "They will need a few more options in the run-in."

Goal: Holland 45 (0-1).

Everton (4-4-1-1): Wright; Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs, Pistone (Yobo, 87); Cahill, Carsley, Osman, Kilbane (McFadden, 65); Bent (Ferguson, h-t); Beattie. Substitutes not used: Turner (gk), Naysmith.

Charlton Athletic (4-5-1): Kiely; Young, El Karkouri, Fortune, Hreidarsson; Thomas, Holland, Murphy, Hughes (Johansson, 87), Konchesky; Bartlett. Substitutes not used: Anderson (gk), Stuart, Fish, Jeffers.

Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).

Booked: Everton Stubbs; Charlton Athletic El Karkouri, Hughes.

Man of the match: Holland.

Attendance: 36,041.

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