City roll over to give Portsmouth breathing space

Portsmouth 2 Manchester City 0
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The Independent Football

A change of manager often results in a change of fortune, to start with at least. But a word of caution. Portsmouth will face far less compliant opponents than Manchester City as they grapple to move into a position of safety at the business end of the season.

Yet however sorry one might feel for the now unemployed Tony Adams, whoever ends up taking charge full-time at Fratton Park will inherit a squad that has been punching below its weight and is more than capable of preserving its top-flight status.

That person is unlikely to be Paul Hart, judging by reports linking the club with a host of higher profile figures. But full marks to the self-effacing 55-year old who may not have managed at senior level for the last three years but provided an experienced head just when it was most needed to end the worst run of results in the Premier League.

"I was brought here to do the youth development programme and I really enjoy that," said Hart. "Working with the [senior] players for just a day you wonder, 'Have you got this right?' Because I've not been around management for a few years it was a day of not really knowing what to expect. But I saw it in the players' eyes that they were determined. Now we plan for next week."

Saturday's opening goal came from the tireless Glen Johnson (below), a beacon of light during the dark days of the Adams regime. The England full-back netted with a wonderful solo effort after 70 minutes, with Hermann Hreidarsson finishing City off by heading home a corner five minutes later.

The result was especially memorable for David James who marked his record-breaking 536th Premier League game with his first clean league sheet since mid-November, preserved only by one of the saves of the season, a point-blank reflex stop with six minutes remaining.

Mark Hughes, conversely, must be tearing his hair out. Hughes rarely expresses his anger in front of the media but what he must have said in the dressing room hardly bears thinking about. Full value at home, City's team of multi-national superstars too often fail to turn up when on the road.

How come, Hughes was asked, that Brazilians Robinho and Elano performed with such breathtaking skill for their country a few days earlier but were virtually unrecognisable in a light blue shirt?

"International friendlies are completely different from Premier League games," answered Hughes, not altogether convincingly. "But yes we have found it really difficult to get the job done away from home. We did not really deserve anything from the match. We did not have a determination and a willingness to chase lost causes."

Goals: Johnson 1-0 (70), Hreidarsson 2-0 (75).

Portsmouth (4-5-1) James; Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson; Pennant (Belhadj, 86), Basinas (Mullins, 67), Davis, Kranjcar, Nugent; Crouch. Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Pamarot, Utaka, Kanu, Gekas.

Manchester City (4-2-3-1) Given; Logan, Kompany, Onuoha, Bridge; Zabaleta (Evans, 78), De Jong; Ireland, Elano, Robinho (Caicedo, 66); Bellamy. Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Garrido, Fernandes, Berti, Weiss.

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).

Booked: Portsmouth: Hreidarsson. Manchester City: De Jong, Ireland, Bellamy.

Man of the match: Johnson

Attendance: 20,018