Dream start for Claridge

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The Independent Online

Steve Claridge, send your CV in now to Lancaster Gate. Given two days' notice to prepare his team, the new Portsmouth player-manager's record reads played one, won one. The tall striker indeed made his managerial debut look like the ideal job he claimed it was when he was put in charge on Thursday.

Steve Claridge, send your CV in now to Lancaster Gate. Given two days' notice to prepare his team, the new Portsmouth player-manager's record reads played one, won one. The tall striker indeed made his managerial debut look like the ideal job he claimed it was when he was put in charge on Thursday.

No doubt one of the first things Claridge did when appointed was to check who his first opponents were, and then he must have let loose a sigh of relief: Sheffield Wednesday were dream opponents for Claridge's dream job. They came to Fratton Park having lost six consecutive league games and left equalling a 107-year club record in the shape of their seventh.

The rejuvenating effects on a team that changes manager are not always immediately obvious - look at England in midweek - but maybe, after Claridge's exploits, what the national team were missing was that Howard Wilkinson did not pick himself.

A bouncing ball was enough to unsettle the Wednesday defence, who have been running scared of such things all season, Claridge laid the ball back to Thomas Thogersen and the Dane side-footed his effort home with the minimum of fuss. The Portsmouth press officer had a bet on Thogersen to score first, something that Claridge, who is not averse to a punt himself, would haveappreciated.

Claridge, who was put in charge when the previous manager, Tony Pulis, was given four months' leave of absence to sort out his legal differences with Gillingham, whom he managed until last year, had only two days to sort out team affairs was even less than Wilkinson had for the Finland game, but Portsmouth did not seem too affected by the upheavals. He made three changes from Pulis's last selection and Portsmouth dominated the first half. Wednesday, bottom of the First Division, could only manage one half-hearted long-range shot from Aaron Lescott before the break.

Wednesday's manager, Paul Jewell, made one change at half-time, bringing on Kevin Pressman for the teenage goalkeeper Chris Stringer and within three minutes of the re-start Pressman was picking the ball out of his net. A ball to the far post was flicked across goal by Darren Moore and Claridge was there to head home from close range.

Despite a limp performance from Jewell's men, with 67 minutes gone they gave themselves some hope by pulling a goal back. Owen Morrison, another teenager, curled in a shot from the edge of the area that beat Russell Hoult and gave the Owls some hope of avoiding defeat.

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