Jeffers gives Curbishley strike-force problem

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The Independent Football

Alan Curbishley must decide whether to keep to a winning formula when he takes Charlton to Everton this weekend. The Addicks could move into the top six of the Premiership with a victory at Goodison Park, while reducing their deficit on David Moyes' side to single figures.

Much of Charlton's recent improvement - seven wins from their last nine games - has been down to a switch in formation and playing five men across the midfield. They did, however, lose their first two Premiership games of the new year and were heading for a draw against Birmingham until Curbishley reverted to a two-pronged strike force by bringing on Francis Jeffers.

Jeffers, playing alongside Shaun Bartlett in attack, helped the Addicks finally wrestle control of the match, which they won 3-1.

Curbishley admits he has given himself a selection poser for the trip to Merseyside. "Whenever a team plays our shape and it is not quite working, then it has got to change," he reflected.

"We went to 4-4-2 against Birmingham and it suddenly happened for us. I will think about that during the week."

With Kevin Lisbie set to resume training and Bartlett fit again and back among the goals following his hamstring problem, Curbishley will not be short of attacking options as he prepares for a tough run of fixtures.

Liverpool, Newcastle, Tottenham and Middlesbrough lie in wait after the meeting at Goodison Park as Curbishley attempts to guide his side into European competition next season.

Ironically, it is the excellent performance delivered by Jeffers, who came off the bench to set up Charlton's second-half goals on Saturday, that is likely to prove a dilemma for Curbishley.

The Charlton manager admitted he had been impressed by the work-rate of his £2.6m summer signing. "I think he appreciates with this shape that it can be a little bit difficult playing one up front, but he also appreciates my problems," said Curbishley of the former Arsenal and Everton striker.

"He is a great finisher and is looking ever so sharp and has just been caught up in a little bit of a mess over the last 18 months.

"At Everton, it didn't really happen and he couldn't get the games and prove to everybody what he could do, and he feels the same way now. We have no doubt he will score goals. I have a lot of faith in him, and there is a third of the season left, so let's see what happens."

Bartlett for one would certainly welcome the extra support a second striker would bring. "Any striker prefers playing with somebody next to him as it can get quite lonely up there," said the South African, who is now in talks with the club over a new contract.

"It lessens the workload as well, so I would welcome playing alongside Franny. I am good in the air and he reads the game well, so it is a good combination.

"We have a good understanding in training but have not had much time together on the pitch. I am hoping this could be the start of things to come."