Football: Taylor focuses on survival as Pompey confidence returns

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MATTHEW TAYLOR believes Portsmouth need no more than three wins from their remaining 13 matches in the Premiership to be certain of survival.

The FA Cup villain turned into a Premiership hero on Tuesday night, with his equaliser that set up a 2-1 home success against Steve McLaren's Middlesbrough. Portsmouth had taken only one point out of a possible 15 since Boxing Day. And piling on the misery was an FA Cup defeat by their south coast rivals, Southampton, at the weekend.

When they fell behind against Boro at Fratton Park, they looked primed to sink into the thick of the relegation struggle. But Taylor, who gave away the contentious stoppage-time penalty that sunk Pompey at St Mary's on Saturday, scored the equaliser with a cracking strike for his first- ever goal in the Premiership.

He then turned on an inspirational performance as the hosts grabbed a deserved second-half winner.

"We just had to take something positive into the game after what happened to us at Southampton," he said. "We were the better side there and deserved to win, but it was not meant to be."

Taylor remains aggrieved about the penalty verdict in the Cup, insisting that he was not guilty of an intentional handball. "What more should I say?" Taylor said. "Maybe I've said too much already about the penalty, but it is good enough to come back with a goal which feels much better."

More good news for Taylor is that he will not face action from the Football Association following his scathing comments about the linesman Mike Tingey and referee, Steve Bennett, after the Southampton match.

He is now free to focus on Portsmouth's survival battle and remarked: "I said before the (Middlesbrough) game we probably needed four more wins to be sure of staying up and that's the perfect start.

"We're disappointed with the way things have gone lately. One win from the Christmas period was not enough but we're not far away from where we need to be. If you don't pick up points, the teams behind you will, and then you start to look behind you."

Portsmouth collected all three against Middlesbrough thanks to a 58th- minute decider - claimed by Aiyegbeni Yakubu, although it has gone down as an own goal from Franck Queudrue in some quarters. Queudrue challenged the Nigerian striker inside the six-yard area as they both stretched to reach a pass from Ricardo Fuller.

Portsmouth fans were, nevertheless, delighted to see that Yakubu was back on form, and that he intended to remain a Portsmouth player. Despite recent speculation linking him with a move away from Fratton Park, Yakubu will remain at Portsmouth at least until the end of the season, when the Portsmouth manager, Velimir Zajec, could face a renewed fight to keep hold of him at the club. They are determined that he should fetch at least pounds 10million, if he has to leave.

Middlesbrough, Chelsea and Birmingham City have all been clubs linked to the powerful striker, but Yakubu said: "I'm happy the transfer window is finally closed because now I can forget all that speculation and concentrate on my form here for the rest of the season. I had no plans to go anywhere in January. I am happy here. I have two years left on my contract here and I am not looking any further ahead than that."