Sheringham veers off-target as Wolves hold firm

Portsmouth 0 Wolves 0
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The Independent Football

Wolves' inability to win away from home continues to jeopardise their Premiership future. A victory yesterday would have lifted them level with Portsmouth in the table but Pompey overwhelmed them in everything but goals.

Wolves had known all along that it was imperative to claw back the improving form that had ended with defeat by West Ham in the FA Cup. Up until then everything pointed to a revival, with wins over Manchester United and Leeds and a draw with Liverpool, but there was still that psychological barrier of no victories away from Molineux.

Meanwhile, Harry Redknapp, the Portsmouth manager, had again been scouring Europe to relieve Teddy Sheringham of his lonely vigil as Pompey's only available striker and, at last, came up with Ivica Mornar, a Croatian international from Anderlecht for £400,000.

An unpredictable, swirling gale clutched at the ball in the air. Sheringham quickly realised that it was an occasion when the best of play was likely to come on the ground, but it never was his day anyway and Portsmouth relied on others, not least Eyal Berkovic, who slammed a low cross from Matthew Taylor on to a post after two minutes. Soon after, Wolves' new goalkeeper, Paul Jones, tried to clear and hit the ball straight at Sheringham who, in his surprise, wastefully shot wide. Jones recovered his composure to have a splendid match.

Despite the conditions, Portsmouth's Amdy Fayé contrived to create some delightful midfield work and from one of his impressive passes to Mornar on the right, a deep cross again saw Sheringham drive a shot off-target. Portsmouth's chances kept coming and kept being negated. A superb touch on to the bar by Jones from Linvoy Primus's header was just one more.

Wolves' other new signing, Carl Cort, had few opportunities to win the ball in the air and when, occasionally, receiving it on the ground he showed his frailty and was well subdued by Portsmouth's central defenders.

The need to turn chances into positive action persuaded Redknapp to replace Mornar with Yakubu Ayegbeni for the second half. Yakubu only arrived back at Fratton Park once the game had begun after being thrown out of the Nigerian squad at the African Cup of Nations for a late night out.

Yakubu almost immediately forced a crucial save from Jones from only five yards. His pace and determination became infectious, Pompey lifted themselves and Wolves rarely got into the last third of the pitch. Patrik Berger linked well with Fayé and Alexei Smertin but still Portsmouth could not finish what they started.

As for Wolves, they ended much the way they started - on the back foot, desperately fending off the barrage and with their travelling fans standing in the rain and buffeted by the wind. There was little to cheer their spirits and in the last two minutes they saw Lee Naylor almost concede an own goal, clipping the ball on to the post.

Portsmouth 0 Wolves 0

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