Portsmouth 1 Fulham 1

Last updated : 01 May 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp saluted his team's effort after they had all but secured their Premiership status for another season with a precious point against Fulham.

Nigerian striker Yakubu Ayegbeni's sixth goal in seven games ten minutes from time was enough to earn them the draw they needed to leave them certain of staying up, barring some freak results between now and the end of the season.

Yakubu had been in scintillating form over the last six weeks alongside new strike partner Lomana LuaLua and he was in the right place at the right time to lash the ball home from close range after goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar had failed to gather full-back Matt Taylor's cross from the right.

A relieved Redknapp said: "It's fantastic news that we are safe for another year.

"I honestly thought it would go down to the final game of the season against Middlesbrough and to get enough points to be clear with three games left is just brilliant.

"The last two years have gone great and couldn't have been better because before that the club had finished close to First Division relegation six years on the trot.

"A lot of credit should go to my assistant Jim Smith and the rest of the coaching staff and the players have been fantastic to work with. I've never had a cross word with anyone." The result stretched Portsmouth's unbeaten run to seven matches and delivered a serious setback to Fulham's hopes of finishing in the top six and claiming a place in Europe.

Chris Coleman's side had recorded clean sheets in five of their previous six games, but they offered little in attack in the first half and only seriously threatened the Portsmouth goal after they had fallen behind in the 80th minute.

Coleman said: "We were poor in the first half but we had a chat about things at half-time and we started the better team after the break.

"It would have been a fantastic goal if Sean Davis had scored when he hit the underside of the bar from a good move, but I thought the draw was the fair result.

"Portsmouth are the form team at the moment and their fans are fantastic and really get behind them.

"We have two games left and if you had told me we would be in seventh position at the start of the season, I would have bitten your hand off but we're disappointed to have dropped two points, especially with Newcastle having lost against Manchester City." Van der Sar almost cost his side a goal in only the seventh minute of a poor first half when he failed to hold a hopeful long ball from Nigel Quashie, but team-mate Alain Goma was on hand to save his blushes and clear with LuaLua closing fast on the edge of the area.

But Portsmouth should have found themselves in front nine minutes later when Yakubu wasted the best chance of the opening 45 minutes when unmarked just eight yards out.

LuaLua was the architect as he burst down the right before crossing invitingly, but the Nigerian could only head over with the goal at his mercy and Van der Sar stranded.

Redknapp was forced into an early change on 22 minutes when right-back Linvoy Primus limped off with a hamstring problem and was replaced by teenager Richard Duffy, who was making his Premiership debut, but the change did little to halt the home side's momentum and they went close again nine minutes before the interval.

LuaLua again found room on the right and attempted to cross but his centre sliced off his foot and almost caught Van der Sar out at his near post, but the ball rebounded off the upright to safety.

Fulham came out fired up immediately after the interval and were unlucky not to be in front within 20 seconds of the restart through Davis.

Steed Malbranque and Junichi Inamoto combined to set the midfielder up to unleash a thumping 20-yard drive which flew past goalkeeper Shaka Hislop only to hit the woodwork.

Davis' midfield colleagues Sylvain Legwinski and Inamoto also went close from 12 yards out, but Van der Sar gifted Pompey the lead when the ball squirmed under his body to fall invitingly at Yakubu's feet.

Fulham threw players forward in search of at least a point after falling behind and they earned a deserved draw when substitute Brian McBride produced a clinical finish with six minutes remaining.

McBride, who had only been on the pitch seven minutes, was allowed time and space by Portsmouth defence to give Hislop no chance with a low left-foot shot from the edge of the area.

Man of the Match - Alexei Smertin: The on-loan Russian midfielder gave a solid display at the heart of the Pompey midfield to drive his side on towards Premiership safety.