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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 March, 2003, 17:24 GMT
Portsmouth 1-0 Wolves
Steve Stone (left) celebrates his winner at Fratton Park, with the help of Paul Merson
Stone celebrates his vital early strike

Steve Stone scored within four minutes of his return to the Portsmouth side to take Harry Redknapp's side a step nearer the Premiership.

Stone had been sidelined since the 1-1 draw at Brighton on January 18 but was soon back on the goal trail to seal Portsmouth a deserved win.

Wolves boss Dave Jones was forced to ring the changes, with five players missing from the side that beat Reading on Wednesday.

Defenders Joleon Lescott (groin), Paul Butler (head injury) and Lee Naylor (virus) were all ruled out of the starting line-up, while Nathan Blake was sidelined with concussion.

Shaun Newton also made way for captain Paul Ince, who returned from suspension.

It was little surprise that Wolves were slow to settle and Stone marked his return from injury when he put the home side ahead in only the fourth minute.

The former England midfielder was put through by Svetoslav Todorov and beat Matt Murray despite the Wolves goalkeeper getting a fingertip to his right-footed shot.

The visitors created their first decent opening in the 10th minute when Mark Kennedy's free-kick was flicked on by Colin Cameron but Mark Clyde's shot sailed high over the crossbar.

Portsmouth dominated for much of the first half with Paul Merson and Tim Sherwood controlling the midfield.

Merson produced a fierce 20-yard drive after a mazy run but saw his effort held by Murray.

At the other end Portsmouth keeper Shaka Hislop had to be alert to cut out an Alex Rae cross and he kept out a Denis Irwin free-kick just before the break.

Merson could have doubled Portsmouth's lead early in the second half when a cross by the impressive Gary O'Neil was knocked down by Stone but he shot wide.

Wolves, who brought on Newton for Cameron at the break, improved as the game went on and dominated possession in the closing stages.

But they struggled to create chances, with headers wide by Clyde and Ince the closest they came to an equaliser.

Portsmouth: Hislop, De Zeeuw, Foxe, Festa, Stone, Sherwood, Merson, O'Neil, Primus, Todorov, Ayegbini. Subs: Kawaguchi, Harper, Diabate, Burton, Pericard.

Wolverhampton: Murray, Irwin, Pollet, Clyde, Edworthy, Rae, Ince, Cameron, Sturridge, Miller, Kennedy. Subs: Oakes, Newton, Cooper, Proudlock, Naylor.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire)

Pompey boss Harry Redknapp
"A tough game against a great Wolves team"

Portsmouth's Gianluca Festa
"The whole team played very well today"



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