Huseklepp double spoils Cotterill's day

Portsmouth 3 Nottingham Forest 0: Former Pompey manager haunted by last signing but still claims that Forest were 'the better team'

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The Independent Football

The match programme contained this advert from the club sponsors, Jobsite: "Someone you work with leaves for a new job. Are you happy for them or envious?" Steve Cotterill, of course, had done just that only 22 days before, swapping the deprivations of Fratton Park and Pompey's limitations for a club with a glorious past and the potential to rise again.

No doubt some in the Pompey camp, staff as well as players, would have conceded a pang or two of envy as Cotterill headed north, unable to say no to the opportunity of replacing Steve McClaren at Nottingham Forest and relieved to be free of the constraints that had tied him up in frustration for the past year.

He was back, however, quicker than either club would have wanted and it did not turn into a day he will remember fondly. His old charges, finding an extra yard in the way players do when facing their former manager, emerged as comfortable victors in a third successive home win which would surely be enough to give the caretaker Guy Whittingham the keys to the manager's office, if it wasn't for the fact that it seems the vacancy is to be filled by West Brom's assistant head coach, Michael Appleton.

A three-goal defeat was harsh on Cotterill, who accepted most of the banter coming his way with good grace. He knows that the views of the vast majority of Portsmouth supporters were expressed by those Pompey fans he bumped into at a service station on Friday afternoon, who wished him good luck and promised him a warm reception.

What made the day worse was that two of the goals arrived from his last signing here, Erik Huseklepp. The other was supplied by Dave Kitson, who had broken ranks by claiming the spirit in the home changing room had improved post-Cotterill. Then there was the save from Stephen Henderson, another of his signings last summer, that denied Robbie Findley an equaliser.

"The keeper has not done bad for £100,000, has he," said Cotterill. "I thought we were the better team and the lads are hurting. The Pompey fans wanted their moment in the second half [after they had gone 2-0 ahead] and I have no problem with that at all. There was no abuse at all and I thank them for that." Manager and supporters went through too much together last season as Pompey struggled on in administration for there to be real vitriol yesterday.

Not that the fans didn't savour the revenge that began as Huseklepp curled one into the top corner after Hayden Mullins had struck the woodwork. Forest came on strong after the break but their fire was extinguished when Kitson headed in a corner from Huseklepp, the Norwegian swept in the third in the dying minutes.

"The turning point was the Henderson save," said Whittingham. "The game would have been so much harder for us if he hadn't pulled that off. Erik's first goal is something he does in training and he was practising those on Friday. But I also enjoyed his second because he was in the right place to score."

Portsmouth (4-4-2): Henderson; Rocha, Pearce, Halford, Ben-Haim; Mullins, Huseklepp (Benjani, 89), Razak (Ward 63), Norris; Varney, Kitson.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Camp; Cunningham, Chambers, Morgan, Gunter; Lynch (McGoldrick, 81), McGugan (Reid, 85), Greening, Moussi; Tudgay, Findley (Moloney, 90).

Referee: Tony Bates

Man of the match: Huseklepp (Portsmouth)