Yakubu hides the Pompey cracks

Portsmouth 5 Middlesbrough 1
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The Independent Online

There have been mixed messages from the management at Portsmouth this week about the future of the club, but the fans showed their opinion during this substantial victory. "We want Milan with Harry and Jim," was their chant, and it now looks as if they will get their wish.

There have been mixed messages from the management at Portsmouth this week about the future of the club, but the fans showed their opinion during this substantial victory. "We want Milan with Harry and Jim," was their chant, and it now looks as if they will get their wish.

It was last Sunday that the Portsmouth chairman, Milan Mandaric, began to make noises about removing the first-team coach, Jim Smith, the trusted assistant to the manager, Harry Redknapp. With Redknapp threatening to leave, things grew nastier as Mandaric claimed Redknapp had criticised Smith's contribution, something which the manager naturally denied.

But Redknapp said last night he was sure that he, and Smith, would still be at the club in August. He said: "I do think I'll be here in August, for sure. Certain people thought I wouldn't, but let's be honest, I wouldn't be out of work long if I wanted a job, would I? I don't want another job, but if I did I know it wouldn't take long. I enjoy being here."

A bout of insults reached an uneasy truce on Friday night when all those concerned agreed in private talks that they should put on a united front for the last game of the season.

Redknapp managed never-theless to inspire his side, as they dominated this game thanks to four goals from Yakubu Ayegbeni. Yet cries of "There's only one Milan" from the faithful summed up how much in debt the locals are to their Serb-born chairman: roughly £25m, in fact.

Mandaric's main gripe has been about the vast wage bill Redknapp has built up in ensuring he had the players to keep Pompey up. Mandaric would like to see a greater emphasis on youth-team development to keep down player costs.

Yakubu cost £1.8m but showed his worth with a hat-trick in 27 minutes. His first came after Eyal Berkovic's defence-splitting pass and his second from the penalty spot after he had been fouled. His third, after 31 minutes, arrived when he pounced on Ugo Ehiogu's failed clearance.

Four minutes earlier, Boro's Dutchman, Bolo Zenden, had reduced the arrears when his low left-foot shot beat Shaka Hislop. But for the most part, Middlesbrough failed to show the sparkling football they have produced this season, which peaked at the end of February, when they won the Carling Cup and qualified for the Uefa Cup in the process. They have not been bad in the League since then, but this result showed that their minds were definitely on their summer holidays.

Yakubu had threatened in the first half to score his fourth goal of a match he will long remember, but instead he had to wait until seven minutes from the end to reach that particular landmark. Having been denied seconds earlier, he made amends with a fine low shot. He finished the season on 19 goals, and one more would have earned him a £20,000 pay-out from Redknapp himself.

Meanwhile, Teddy Sheringham marked his last appearance for Pompey with possibly the easiest goal of his long and illustrious career as he tapped the ball in from all of a foot.

Portsmouth 5
Yakubu 4, pen 14, 31, 83, Sheringham 80

Middlesbrough 1
Zenden 27

Half-time: 3-1 Attendance: 20,134

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