Portsmouth 3 Sheffield Utd 1: Warnock in teapot mode as Pompey come nicely to the boil

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The Independent Football

Harry Redknapp was, predict-ably, deadpan and Neil Warnock was, predictably, incandescent with rage after seeing Ports-mouth, aided by Sol Campbell's first goal for the club, recover from a half-time deficit to sweep aside Sheffield United at Fratton Park yesterday.

A year on from being the whipping boys of the Premiership, stranded at the foot of the table, Pompey confirmed their new lofty place among the elite - an achievement that would inspire most men to smile. Not Redknapp, though. "Yeah, the boys showed their character," he said without a flicker.

Warnock, who earlier in the day had said that he and the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, had swapped their temperaments in explanation of his recent serenity on the touchlines, was back to his arm-waving, excitable old self, and looked stunned as he stood, arms akimbo, as the winner went in.

For this defeat, during which Portsmouth scored three times in 20 minutes early in the second half to wipe out a strike by Rob Hulse, Warnock blamed the referee, Graham Poll, while also accusing Portsmouth of using deliberate blocking tactics as Campbell headed in Matthew Taylor's inswinging corner for their second goal.

"I've had problems with Graham Poll before and I think this time it wasn't a corner in the first place. Then, secondly, our defenders were blocked from defending the ball," said Warnock. "I'm not at all happy about it."

Redknapp preferred to dwell on the training preparation that led to the execution of the routine which led to this goal. "We did it [on Friday]," he said. "It was one of the set-plays we worked on and Matty's ball in was perfect. So was Sol's run and the blocking. It worked a treat."

It was Campbell's first goal since his headed effort for Arsenal in the European Cup final in Paris last May, and went some way to make up for his failure to challenge Hulse when he rose between two defenders to head United ahead from Derek Geary's early cross. "He has been great for us, really tremendous," said Redknapp, who refused to be drawn into discussing the prospects of qualifying for European football next season.

"No, I am just glad we are past 30 points already and it has been just such a great run by the players," he said. "That's all we can hope for - that they can keep it going and steer clear of injuries."

After suffering that early setback, Portsmouth took their time to recover before taking control after the interval. "No, I didn't give them any hairdryer stuff," said Redknapp of his half-time team talk. "I just told them to concentrate on their passing, movement and football. To keep playing. To step it up."

Commendably, they did just that. They drew level when the luckless Rob Kozluk diverted the ball into his own net from a cross by the lively Benjani, and took the lead from Taylor's disputed flag-kick, which was headed diagonally down and in by the running Campbell. The third came courtesy of another set-piece, a corner on the left, taken by Pedro Mendes and nodded in by the unmarked Noé Paramot.

"He is a right-footed defender and he has done brilliantly for us on the left these last four games," said Redknapp. "That sums up how we are doing. The spirit is great, but we just have to avoid injuries to stay up there. But, yes, at least I can enjoy my Christmas." And still no smiles.

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