Boss Glenn Turnbull hoping US Portsmouth’s fairytale FA Vase run will act as ‘impetus’ for Moneyfields to avoid banana skin tie
Back in early May, Glenn Turnbull and his US Portsmouth squad were agonisingly close to writing one of the most remarkable non-league stories of modern times.
Having beaten SIX higher division clubs to reach the last four, US were on the brink of reaching the FA Vase final.
Wembley was beckoning twice in the semi-final at home to Binfield - first, when US led 1-0 with 10 minutes to go, and then 3-2 in the shoot-out when Tom Price kept out Sean Moore’s effort.
Had Cam Quirke converted his spot-kick, US would have led by two goals. But his effort was also saved and the dream was quickly shattered, Binfield winning 4-3.
Now at Moneyfields, Turnbull and most of that US squad – Price, Josh Hazell, Elliott Turnbull, Tom Cain, Harry Birmingham, Callum Glen, Jordan Pile and James Franklyn – begin another Vase campaign this weekend.
While they were 10 minutes from the final a few months ago, now they are nine rounds - 810 minutes, plus stoppage time - away from the national stadium. Same year, same tournament, a very different mindset.
Turnbull knows the US Vase success story will give opponents extra motivation in this season’s tournament - starting with first qualifying round visitors Totton & Eling.
T & E are third bottom of Wessex 1 - the tier below Moneys - having not won in seven league and cup games since beating Petersfield 3-2 in the curtain-raiser over a month ago.
‘I talk to the players quite a lot about the fact there is a target on our backs this season because of our name,’ said Turnbull.
‘People have said we should do well because we’ve come down from the Southern League.
‘But this isn’t a Moneyfields Southern League side, these are mainly players who were Wessex Division 1 champions plus a few others.
‘There is a lot of added pressure on us because we were semi-finalists last season. I like talking about that (the Vase run), it’s good, but it does bring added pressure.
‘Sides will want to embarrass the team that reached the semi-final. If their (Totton & Eling) manager has anything about him, that’s what he’ll be saying.
‘It’s my proudest achievement, to take a Portsmouth team that far. Nobody can take that away from us.
‘It was galling to lose, but I was immensely proud of the boys. I’ve got a framed shirt in my office and a copy of the pennant we gave Binfield.
‘The players have all got a shirt and that should be impetus for them to want to try and go one better - not just this season, but every season they’re in the competition.’
Having been the underdog last season, the boot is firmly on the other foot now; where US faced players brought in from steps 3 and 4 during their Vase odyssey, so Totton & Eling are now facing a Southern League standard striker in Steve Hutchings.
‘From our first game at Portchester to the semi-final, we were always the underdogs, no-one fancied us in seven or eight rounds,’ Turnbull recalled.
‘That was a big help because there were no expectations, we had a bit of freedom to play.
‘I’ve always thought with an underdog it can go one of two ways - they will over-perform and win or they’ll get pumped.
‘The underdog can fold if you have a good start, but if you let them settle they can win.’
Hutchings is only around 60 per cent match fit following an ankle injury. He will be rested for forthcoming cup ties, but will definitely play in the Vase.
He lasted 72 minutes of Tuesday’s Wessex League loss at Horndean, and Turnbull stated: ‘The only way Steve will get fit is by playing games.
‘He’s currently working on a big job in King’s Lynn, so there’s no point bringing him back for the Wessex League Cup or Hants (Senior) Cup.
‘He’s been driving back for games from King’s Lynn where he’s working. We’re not Manchester City who can pay to put him up in a hotel.
‘Hopefully against Totton he will do his job in an hour, then we can take him off and get some ice on his ankle.’
Moneys haven’t got too many strike options at present as Andrew Todd (unavailable) and Dec Seiden (quad injury) - the US forward line during their Vase run - are unlikely to face Totton.
Another forward, Mig Dark, will play for the reserves at Locks Heath in the Hampshire Premier League.
*If Moneyfields and AFC Portchester both progress past Wessex 1 opposition this weekend - the Royals host Romsey - the pair will meet in a mouthwatering Dover Road tie in the second qualifying round.