Portsmouth 0 Everton 1: Osman provides test of Gaydamak's heart

Everton midfielder shows Pompey's new joint chief the darker side of football ownership

Gaydamak has made great play of having fallen in love with the club after hearing the home support against West Ham on Boxing Day, and, as he sat alongside Milan Mandaric yesterday, looking like an elongated Pat Nevin, he was greeted with chants of "Sacha, Sacha give us a wave". Aside for that, though - and the fact that the Milton Stand had changed its name thanks to a new sponsor - there was little else to suggest this was a new dawn.

The sky was leaden, the drizzle incessant and the pitch looked like the battle of the Somme had just been re-enacted on a surface already churned up by the Horse of the Year show. There were, admittedly, five new players on show, acquired at a total cost of £12 million, but it summed up their contribution when Pedro Mendes collapsed with cramp just after the hour.

"It's not ideal trying to sort the team out in the middle of the season," Harry Redknapp acknowledged. "We'd have liked to have done it in the summer, but it wasn't possible. You either sit back and do nothing, or you have a go, and we've had a go."

The most expensive of the five, the Zimbabwe forward Benjani Mwaruwari, brought in from Auxerre at a cost of £4.1m, showed the odd classy touch without ever really imposing himself, but given Portsmouth have the worst home goalscoring record in the Premiership, it is perhaps unfair to expect him to do too much just yet. The more damaging problem yesterday was at the back, as Everton, not exactly prolific themselves, created chance after chance with aerial balls.

It was from a long Joseph Yobo free-kick that the game's only goal arrived after 31 minutes. Kevin Kilbane headed down, and, as Leon Osman and Richard Hughes challenged for the loose ball, it squirted goalwards and was deflected past Jamie Ashdown by Andy O'Brien. Osman presumably will claim it, if only because he had missed a sitter in the first minute, heading well over the bar having been left unmarked at the back post.

"When you're in our position," the Everton manager, David Moyes, said, "you try to build on every positive. That was a seven out of 10 performance, very solid, and I can start to see players returning to form. Joseph Yobo was the best player out there by a mile." Yesterday was the Nigeria defender's last game before departing for the African Nations' Cup and Moyes admitted he would be a loss. "We've got centre-halves," he said, "but when you have a player who can play as well as that it's always going to be a problem."

Generally, though, the problems seem to be receding at Goodison. Three wins in a row have carried them nine points clear of the relegation zone, and Moyes is now talking of a top-half finish. "It's a result that has us looking up rather than down," he said.

Portsmouth, meanwhile, are struggling to raise their heads, struggling even to raise their feet from an awful pitch. The new players must be given time to settle, but after eight defeats in 11 League games, time is running out. Gaydamak's affection looks like being sorely tested.

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