Hughes targets a Brucie bonus

Charlton midfielder Bryan Hughes is desperate for his old club Birmingham to stay up, and if they do he thinks Blues boss Steve Bruce will owe him a drink.

Charlton midfielder Bryan Hughes is desperate for his old club Birmingham to stay up, and if they do he thinks Blues boss Steve Bruce will owe him a drink.

Hughes and Darren Bent fired the late goals that sent Portsmouth tumbling to a 2-1 defeat yesterday and threw Birmingham a Barclays Premiership lifeline.

Had Portsmouth held out to secure the win, they would have been six points clear of the relegation zone and virtually safe.

But Birmingham now have a game in hand and victory over Blackburn tomorrow night will lift them above Portsmouth on goal difference and out of the bottom three.

“I was there so long, nearly eight years, and I hope they stay up,” said Hughes.

“Hopefully our win will give them a bit of confidence going into their game. I think it will (do Birmingham a favour).

“Portsmouth were beating us so Brucie maybe owes me a drink in the future.”

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp admitted to feeling “sick” immediately after the game, but having masterminded a spirited survival bid since his return to the club he refuses to give up the ghost.

“I think the relegation battle would have been all over if we had won. We’d have been six points clear and it would have killed the other teams,” said Redknapp.

“But we’ve got to keep going. We’ve still got a big chance. You can’t get too low when you don’t win.

“We’ve got to move on to Sunderland on Saturday. It’ll be a massive game for us at Fratton Park, a game we must win.

“I won’t have any trouble lifting the players and those fans always give you a lift.”

Portsmouth were eight points from safety until they embarked on a six game unbeaten run, which yielded 14 points from a possible 18.

Their goal difference is now competitive and victory over Middlesbrough on Easter Saturday lifted them out of the relegation zone for the first time in five months.

Despite defeat to Charlton, Portsmouth remain in the box seat, and goalkeeper Dean Kiely insists it is fully deserved.

He hit back at suggestions that Pompey have been given an easy ride because the likes of West Ham and Middlesbrough, who are both concentrating on their cup exploits, did not field full-strength sides against them.

Kiely told Sky Sports: “We deserve a lot of credit.

“I’ve heard all about West Ham put out a weakened side and Middlesbrough this and that, but we put six games together in a short space of time.

“It’s not by default. It’s totally deserving and we need to get something on Saturday.”

Charlton have other issues to address as they look to end another mixed season on a bright note.

They were booed off at half-time against Portsmouth after a woeful first 45 minutes and only sparked into action when Curbishley made a bold tactical change.

Charlton are hardly known for chancing their arm, six goalless draws in their last 12 games are testament to that, but Curbishley went to three at the back and thrust Herman Hreidarsson up front.

It paid off as Bent latched on to Darren Ambrose’s through-ball to set up the first for Hughes before rifling in the winner.

Bent has now scored 21 goals for Charlton in his first season in the Premiership and a place in England’s World Cup is highly possible.

“This year, Charlton have been the Darren Bent show,” said Kiely.

It was only the Addicks’ third win in 12 games, during which time Curbishley has been involved in the Football Association’s search for a new England coach.

Curbishley admits the whole affair has been a distraction but Hughes insists the Charlton players remain determined to end a season of mixed fortunes on a bright note.

“We want to prove we can mix it a bit and finish in the top 10,” said Hughes.

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