The tide's turning for Pompey fans

Hull City 1 Portsmouth 2: Gaydamak statement released during first half gives club hope as players secure fifth win out of six
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The Independent Online

Portsmouth's long-suffering supporters have seen it all before. On Friday, the club were going bust. Yesterday morning, matters were on a knife-edge. And last night, there was a strong hope that they were on their way out of administration.

The fans arrived here not knowingif they would have a club to support this time next week but went home in buoyant mood, celebrating a fifth win in six games and the news that their club apparently had a future.

On Friday night, the Portsmouth administrator, Andrew Andronikou, said the club would be "liquidated and closed down". He blamed Sacha Gaydamak, one of the club's three major creditors, for "moving the goalposts at the eleventh hour" and said there was a significant risk that Pompey would be liquidated.

But a statement released by Gaydamak's lawyers during the game strongly suggested the future would be secured. Tim Stocks, of Taylor Wessing, said: "I will be talking to Sacha and recommending the documents are signed. My instructions are to work towards trying to get an agreement, and I hope to do so."

No one would give any certainties last night but Steve Cotterill, who took over as manager in the summer, said: "It's been a difficult four months, the last 24 hours have compounded it a bit, but maybe that might get sorted. Thankfully, we can only concentrate on the football."

Gaydamak, the French businessman of Russian descent who owned the club from 2006-09, says he has a secured debt of £2.2 million. Ports-mouth's chances of exiting admin-istration hinged on a deal being reached between Gaydamak and the prospective owner, Balram Chainrai. Negotiations between the two looked to have collapsed on Friday when the club said Gaydamak had demanded an upfront payment that prevented them from exiting administration and hampered their ability to trade.

Cotterill admitted that when the news broke, he and his players feared for their livelihoods. "At the hotel the night before the game I asked the players if they were all in," he said. "If not, they needn't stay for their dinner and we'd make sure we took them back home. They all sat down and we all ate together.

"There were a few worried people. Some of those who have been here last season might be battle-hardened to it. Some of the new lads were perhaps wondering where they were and took a bit more settling down."

Cotterill did a sterling job of settling his players' nerves and their win at Hull was more than comfortable, with goals either side of half-time from David Nugent and Greg Halford. Nick Barmby pulled one back for the hosts with half an hour left.

Hull, themselves plagued by debts, had been the subject of a takeover bid by an East Yorkshire millionaire, Assem Allam, on Tuesday. He was due to meet the current owner, Russell Bartlett, after yesterday's game to discuss the matter, with negotiations likely to continue into next week.

Meanwhile, Paul Duffen, who stood down as Hull's chairman last year, revealed yesterday on a southern radio station that he is interested in rescuing the South Coast club.

The few hundred Portsmouth fans who made the 280-mile trip and sang "Portsmouth till I die" were met with chants of "Portsmouth till next week", the home fans not having heard the news. The statement from Gaydamak came midway through the first half.

Cotterill said: "I don't want to be a hero or a martyr because the players are pretty good. They're a solid bunch of lads. If it wasn't for the character of the players, my job might have been a bit more difficult. The players have heard all this before. They've been banged on the head and things have been said about the club. This is a proper football club with proper fans and proper people working in it.

"It was easy to screw up all the politics and throw that in the bin and get on with the football. It should be a nice bus journey home."

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