Profit fails to solve Moyes' striker deficit

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He had just made a potential profit of £2m on a striker with seven Premiership starts and one goal to his name this season but the prospect of facing the rest of the campaign with only two fit forwards ensured David Moyes was not in the mood to toast Everton's transfer business yesterday.

Though his forward line lacks pace and penetration (Everton rank alongside Sunderland and Birmingham for the lowest number of goals scored this season) and an established goalscorer has been a transfer priority since last summer, Moyes allowed Marcus Bent to join Charlton Athletic after receiving an offer that represented the Premiership equivalent of a horse's head in the bed.

A fee of £2.5m, depending on appearances, for a player who cost £450,000 in June 2004 and has been out of favour all season was simply too good for Everton to refuse, although it does leave them severely depleted in attack as they attempt to climb away from relegation trouble.

The Everton manager has been forced to lower his sights since he almost landed Robbie Keane from Tottenham on the final day of the last transfer window in August, with Preston's David Nugent, Robert Earnshaw of West Bromwich Albion and Peter Lovenkrands of Rangers now more realistic options in January. However, Moyes, his transfer fund swelled to almost £5m by Bent's departure, insists he would rather face the final 16 League games of the season with a reduced squad than resort to panic measures before the end of the month.

"We were short of a striker and needed one with pace even before Marcus left," admitted the Scot, who will have only James Beattie and James McFadden available to face Millwall in tonight's FA Cup third-round replay with Duncan Ferguson absent. "There have been a lot of names thrown about and we have enquired and talked about every one of them a long time ago, but there isn't the availability or quality we were hoping to find so we may have to continue with what we've got."

Moyes yesterday ruled out a move for Nicolas Anelka, with the unsettled Fenerbahce star keen to return to the Premiership with Newcastle, and his hopes of nurturing teenager James Vaughan have hit a setback with the 17-year-old forced to undergo a second knee operation in six months.

One alternative available to Moyes is to deploy Tim Cahill as a second striker, and the Australian international's former club Millwall may witness that new role tonight as Goodison hosts a contest that will determine Chelsea's next opponents in the FA Cup. "The prospect of playing Chelsea in the fourth round is a big incentive and we are looking forward to that," said Moyes. "But I'm sure Millwall are saying the same."

The Everton manager added: "We are feeling confident after winning our last three Premiership games, which is never easy, and I feel some of our players are ready to put on some big performances. You need things to turn for you in football and maybe that has happened to us lately."