Yakubu plays on Blackburn's home frailties

Blackburn Rovers 1 Portsmouth 2
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The Independent Football

When it comes to the moment of truth for relegation, it could be the sides looking nervously over their shoulders who have more to fear than those belatedly rediscovering some self-belief.

Nobody is more nervous, particularly at home, than Blackburn, whose ninth Premiership defeat of the season at Ewood Park on Saturday is relegation form in anybody's book.

Even in the afterglow of a morale-boosting victory at Aston Villa last time out, Rovers froze again on their own stage, allowing Portsmouth to record their first-ever away victory in the Premiership. Harry Redknapp, the Portsmouth manager, actually suggested that they had played rather better on their travels and lost. The difference here was that they found opponents who simply cannot perform on home turf and that they took their chances.

As in their recent victory over Southampton, the crucial goal came from Aiyegbeni Yakubu, the 21-year-old Nigerian whose chequered season has included being sent home early from the African Nations Cup. Redknapp believes that was a case of picking out the wrong man.

"He's a fantastic person. He's the last I would have thought would cause anyone any problem," he said, adding that his only criticism of him this season was that he had not scored as often as a player with his strength and speed should.

Perhaps he will be helped by an increasing contribution from Lomana LuaLua, on loan from Newcastle. His introduction, in place of the tiring Teddy Sheringham, was a shrewd move, giving Rovers two aggressive runners to deal with - something they failed to do.

The result was Yakubu's winner and a result that takes Portsmouth out of the bottom three and to within a single point of Blackburn. Worried? You bet they are. Rovers lacked quality in their approach work as well as their more familiar failing of a lack of conviction in front of goal. It was not long before Graeme Souness, wearing one shoe and one trainer because of an injured toe, was making regular shuttle runs across his technical area to the touchline, clearly unimpressed with what he was seeing.

"We played into their hands by playing too many long balls," the Rovers manager said. "We didn't have enough of our good players prepared to be on the ball. They looked nervous, which is understandable, but not acceptable."

Blackburn will need to find some poise in time for their next two home games, which just happen to be against Leeds and Leicester. These are games they should be capable of winning, but then they would have felt the same way about playing Portsmouth.

"We've pulled one or two other teams into it," said Redknapp. Rovers know that they are one of them and it might not be easy, amid their current Ewood Park paralysis, to get themselves out of it.

Goals: Sheringham (17) 0-1; Tugay (37) 1-1; Yakubu (82) 1-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel 5; Neill 5, Short 6, Todd 5, Gray 5 (Gallagher, 82); Andresen 4 (Yorke 4, 70), Tugay 5, Flitcroft 6, Emerton 6; Stead 4 (Reid, 77), Cole 5. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Amoruso.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): Hislop 5; Pasanen 5, Primus 6, De Zeeuw 6, Stefanovic 6; Stone 5, Smertin 5, Faye 6, Taylor 5 (Hughes, 88); Sheringham 6 (LuaLua 6, 70), Yakubu 7. Substitutes not used: Wapenaar (gk), Mornar, Berkovic.

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset) 8.

Bookings: None.

Man of the match: Yakubu.

Attendance: 22,855.