Moyes reaps reward of loyalty

Everton 1 - Fulham 0
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The Independent Online

One hundred days into the Premiership season and Everton, who have come to know much more about the bottom half of the top table during the 18 seasons since they last won the title, are still dizzily surveying life from third place. Not only that but, after more than two months there, they have a look of permanency.

One hundred days into the Premiership season and Everton, who have come to know much more about the bottom half of the top table during the 18 seasons since they last won the title, are still dizzily surveying life from third place. Not only that but, after more than two months there, they have a look of permanency.

Saturday's result maintained the gap between third and fourth at four points and brought the leaders two points closer. Arsenal, once six points better off, now lead Everton by only two.

And yet David Moyes is nervous. Not so much about their chances of staying there for the whole season, which he accepts may not be realistic, as about upsetting the sensibilities of his players.

Relieved of the company of Wayne Rooney and Tomasz Radzinski, the two individuals who most wanted to be somewhere else after the disappointments of last season, those left in the Everton squad are rewarding their club for being made to feel wanted.

"It is hard to identify what the difference is between this season and last but what you can say is that these players have come back in the summer, rolled up their sleeves and generated a real sense of togetherness," Moyes said. "We have a small squad. It was not devised that way, it has just come about. But it has probably helped them bond."

Indeed, so wary is Moyes of disturbing team spirit he can barely bring himself to talk about bringing in new players, even though he has been told he can spend in January, possibly to the tune of £10m.

"Any manager looks for the opportunity to strengthen his squad but in a way to talk about new players at this stage is a slur on the ones who are here doing so well," he said. "We are playing well and beating good teams. We've won nine games now, which is as many as in the whole of last season. The performance and attitude have been spot on."

The fact that six of those nine wins have been 1-0 is a criticism, for the moment, that Moyes would rather dismiss. "Look at the table," he demands. "We are two points behind Arsenal."

Fulham would gladly swap places. "We are in that position where the season could go either way," their manager, Chris Coleman, said. "We can climb the table or we could end up a few points above the drop, as happened to Everton last year."

He said that the decisive goal had stemmed from one lapse of concentration as Duncan Ferguson, yet to start a Premiership game this season, came off the bench to head home from close range after Mark Crossley had parried an effort from Kevin Kilbane.

"I think we deserved it," Moyes said, and it was hard to disagree. Radzinski had almost given Fulham the lead before half-time, denied only by Nigel Martyn's reactive brilliance, but the excellent Marcus Bent had twice threatened to score moments before the goal.

Goa l: Ferguson (67) 1-0.

Everton (4-5-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Stubbs, Weir, Pistone; Osman (Ferguson 62), Gravesen (McFadden 88), Carsley, Cahill, Kilbane; Bent (Watson 83). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Yobo.

Fulham (4-4-2): Crossley; Volz, Knight, Rehman, Bocanegra; Pembridge, Diop (McBride 81), Malbranque, Boa Morte (Legwinski 54); Radzinski, Cole. Substitutes not used: Van der Sar (gk), Hammond, Pearce.

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

Booked: Fulham: Diop.

Man of the match: Bent.

Attendance: 34,763.

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