Portsmouth 0 Fulham 1: Hodgson keeps his cool as Fulham sweat their way to survival

When Mark Clattenburg finally blew his whistle to confirm Fulham's remarkable escape, the visitors' dugout erupted in joy, spilling substitutes, coaches and physios across Fratton Park to hug and kiss the players. Several minutes later a 60-year-old man emerged. He shook hands with the officials and went to the Portsmouth players one by one. Eventually, Roy Hodgson walked slowly towards his team as they celebrated in front of the travelling support.

Hodgson has worked in eight countries and with 15 teams in a 32-year career. That is one reason why, despite wearing a black suit, he can retain his cool on an afternoon like this, when the tension is as high as the mercury.

Against a Portsmouth side whose game has fallen to pieces as they await Saturday's FA Cup final, Fulham were paralysed by nerves. Though gifted enough possession to play their passing game they lacked the zip necessary to break down Portsmouth's defence. Reading racked up the goals at Pride Park and the drop loomed.

Then, with 14 minutes of this 3,420-minute season left, came that rarest of goals, a Danny Murphy header. Rising to a free-kick from his midfield sidekick Jimmy Bullard, he steered the ball inside the far post. Although Niko Krancjar and Jermain Defoe always carried menace Fulham held on, without real alarm, to complete a fourth win in five games, three away. Considering they had won four of their first 33, and not won on the road in more than a year, it is a revival to match West Ham's last season.

"We left it late and had a mountain to climb in the last two months," said Hodgson. "I'm delighted for everyone at the club."

Hodgson, who took charge at the turn of the year following the sacking of Lawrie Sanchez, added: "We were aware the other results were not going our way and only a win would suffice. I always thought, 'If we can make sure they don't score maybe something will come our way,' but I was worried we might go gung-ho too early, start doing things individually, start flying forward. It was important we kept playing the right way."

Fulham did, though their goal was a product of one of many solo runs by Diomansy Kamara who, for all his skills, looks too much of an individualist to fit into Hodgson's plans long-term. That can wait. For now Fulham are savouring the moment, none more so than Mohamed Al Fayed, the ebullient chairman, who was rather keener than Hodgson to party with the supporters.

Portsmouth go to Wembley on four successive defeats and one goal in five matches. Harry Redknapp said he was unconcerned, but his demeanour suggested otherwise. "I get the hump when we lose, like other managers," he said. "We've finished eighth in the league and are in the FA Cup final; it won't get any better than that."

Redknapp said he could not see Fulham scoring, until they did. In truth neither side much looked like breaking the deadlock. Krancjar and Defoe peppered Kasey Keller but only occasionally stretched him. Simon Davies tested Jamie Ashdown in the fourth minute, but Portsmouth's stand-in goalkeeper did not make another save. David James, who received a cabinet-full of player of the season awards before the game, intimated afterwards he would be fit for Wembley.

The final word went to Hodgson. Was it his greatest achievement? "I'd better say it is," said the man who won a string of championships and took Switzerland to their first World Cup in 28 years. "Whenever I talk about the other things they get ignored."

That is English football's insularity – nevertheless it may not be an exaggeration to suggest Fulham could have experienced the traumas of clubs like Coventry and QPR had Hodgson not preserved their Premier League status and their annual £30m bail-out.

Goal: Murphy (76) 0-1.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): Ashdown; Johnson, Pamarot, Distin, Hreidarsson; Utaka, Mendes (Davis, 72), Diarra (Muntari, 83), Kranjcar; Defoe, Kanu (Baros, 72). Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Wilson.

Fulham (4-4-2): Keller; Stalteri, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Davies, Murphy, Bullard, Dempsey (Nevland, 72); McBride, Kamara (Andreasen, 82). Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Bocanegra, Healy.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Man of the match: Murphy

Attendance: 29,532.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor