Fulham 1 Portsmouth 3: Redknapp gives Portsmouth the freedom to plot escape

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The Independent Football

When Harry Redknapp brought in no fewer than eight fresh faces during the January transfer window, he knew it was a gamble. All players take time to find their feet in a new environment yet time was not on Portsmouth's side. They were eight points adrift of safety and Redknapp was aware that to stand any chance of survival, he had to make changes - and fast.

Money talks, however, and while he basks in the Harry Houdini headlines that have greeted Pompey's third straight win in the relegation fight, Redknapp appreciates that without the investment made by the new joint regime at Fratton Park, he would be preparing for a return to the Championship. "In December, I thought we had no chance of staying up," he said. "But I had good support from Milan [Mandaric] and Mr Gaydamak. On the day he bought the club he asked me what I thought and I was honest. I said the squad wasn't good enough."

Although he can see similarities between now and two years ago, when he masterminded another rally and kept Portsmouth up with 21 points from their last 10 games, Redknapp believes it would be his greatest managerial achievement if he could do it again. Yet will he still be at Fratton Park next season, given that he was brought back specifically to try and retain their Premiership status? No clues there. "All I can do is worry about keeping this team up. Whether I stay is up to the owners."

Fulham proved once again what a Jekyll and Hyde side they are. Two weeks ago, Craven Cottage was rocking as they beat Chelsea for the first time in 27 years. On Saturday, as Chris Coleman said, they were back to climbing mountains. "We can beat anybody and we can lose to anybody, that just about sums us up," he said.

It was a disappointing day for Michael Brown, sent off for a two-footed lunge on his former Tottenham team-mate Sean Davis when his side were 3-1 down. "There's history between them," Redknapp said. "They don't like each other."

Wayne Bridge also had a wretched time. The defender was back after injury in front of the watching Sven Goran Eriksson but missed his clearance after just 33 seconds to let Gary O'Neil half hit a shot that beat Mark Crossley to give Pompey the lead.

Steed Malbranque levelled with a drive but by half-time the Pompey Chimes from 5,000 travelling fans were ringing again after Lomana LuaLua set off on a driving run, outpaced both Fulham centrebacks and finished with a sublime flick over the goalkeeper.

Although Fulham had several chances to equalise again, not least when Brian McBride's header came back off the bar, it was easy to see why Redknapp believes his side are in the best shape since he returned to the club he calls his spiritual home. Although their third goal, and O'Neil's second, took a massive deflection, they played with confidence, freedom and adventure. Most importantly of all, they are scoring goals - qualities that may yet save their Premiership status with five of their remaining seven games at home.

Goals: O'Neil 1 (0-1); Malbranque 10 (1-1); LuaLua 24 (1-2); O'Neil 62 (1-3).

Fulham (4-4-2): Crossley; Volz, Knight, Pearce (Christanval, 34),Bridge; Malbranque, Pembridge (Radzinski, 72), Brown, Boa Morte; McBride, John (Helguson, 66). Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Rosenior.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): Kiely; Priske, O'Brien, Primus, Taylor; D'Alessandro (Stefanovic, 66), Davis, Mendes, O'Neil; Benjani (Todorov, 69), LuaLua (Karadas, 89). Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Routledge.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Bookings: Fulham: Malbranque, Helguson. Portsmouth: O'Neil, Mendes. Sent off: Fulham: Brown.

Man of the match: O'Neil.

Attendance: 22,322.

Safety first: Remaining fixtures

* ASTON VILLA

Sun 9 Apr West Brom (h)

Sun 16 Apr Birminghm (h)

Tue 18 Apr Wigan (a)

Tue Apr 25 Man City (h)

Sat 29 Apr Liverpool (a)

Sun 7 May Sunderland (h)

* BIRMINGHAM CITY

Tomorrow Bolton (h)

Sat 8 Apr Wigan (a)

Sun 16 Apr Aston Villa (a)

Wed 19 Apr Blackburn (h)

Sat 22 Apr Everton (a)

Sat 29 Apr Newcastle (h)

Sun 7 May Bolton (a)

* PORTSMOUTH

Sat 8 Apr Blackburn (h)

Sat 15 Apr Middlesbro (h)

Mon 17 Apr Charlton (a)

Sat 22 Apr Sunderlnd (h)

Sat 29 Apr Wigan (a)

Sun 7 May Liverpool (h)

tbc Arsenal (h)

* WEST BROM

Sat 8 Apr Aston Villa (a)

Sat 15 Apr Arsenal (a)

Mon 17 Apr Bolton (h)

Sat 22 Apr Newcastle (a)

Mon 1 May West Ham (h)

Sun 7 May Everton (a)

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