Magnificent US Portsmouth just 90 minutes from Wembley after reaching semi-final of the FA Vase
US Portsmouth stand just 90 minutes from Wembley after writing another extraordinary chapter in their barely-believable FA Vase story.
Glenn Turnbull’s men claimed another higher division scalp when they defeated Flackwell Heath 2-0 at the Victory Stadium this afternoon.
Top scorer James Franklyn lobbed the hosts into a half-time lead and, after withstanding almost relentless second half pressure, Harry Sargeant headed in Franklyn’s late cross to seal victory.
Remarkably, it was USP’s sixth win against a higher tier club in seven Vase rounds this season.
USP will now host Binfield next Saturday for the right to walk out at the national stadium on May 22.
The hosts, from Division 1 of the Wessex League, went into the tie with seven players walking a disciplinary tightrope, knowing a booking would rule them out of the semi-final.
Despite that, every single player produced a phenomenal performance in the wake of sustained Flackwell pressure.
‘They gave me everything,’ said Turnbull afterwards.
‘The first half was a good game of football, and we said at half-time just to keep it tight and not concede - if we didn’t concede we’d win.
‘I don’t think they had too many clear cut chances in the second half.
‘They had a lot of the ball, but they’re a very good step 5 club - they’re going to have a lot of the ball.
‘We did a lot of work in training on keeping it tight in defence, closing them down, squeezing the play, and the plan worked.’
Turnbull had words of praise for midfielder Sargeant, who capped another superb display with a rare goal - his first of the season.
‘Harry only got in the team because JP (Jordan Pile) was suspended,’ the boss revealed, ‘but I’d say he’s probably been our best player in the last three weeks.’
US made just one change from the side that had produced a shock 3-1 win in the fifth round at Tavistock the week before - Josh Hazell - available again after a one-game suspension - replacing manager’s son Elliott Turnbull at left wing-back.
The early exchanges were end-to-end with few clear openings before Franklyn gave USP a 31st minute lead.
At Tavistock Franklyn had continually caused problems by breaking through from midfield, and the same tactic worked again. Franklyn latched onto a lofted pass from right wing-back Jack Chandler and produced a deft lob over keeper Aaron Watkins.
Flackwell immediately stepped up a gear, with US keeper Tom Price pushing aside a shot from skipper James Essex for a corner.
Heath should have levelled on 37 minutes but striker Mitchell Parker failed to hit the target from eight yards.
Skipper Tom Jeffes was then involved at either end - producing a great block from Heath right-back Josh Edwards before seeing a header from a corner rebound off the bar in time added on at the end of the first half.
The second half began in the same fashion it was to continue - with Flackwell on the attack and US defending magnificently, heroically.
The lively Khalid Simmo got on the end of a through ball to lift his shot over the onrushing Price, but Jeffes was there to clear.
Simmo fired an angled shot across the face of the six-yard box with Price then saving low down from Ash Howell.
Though Flackwell dominated possession - winning a host of corners - US still had their moments.
Dec Seiden saw a shot saved low down at his near post by Watkins and Chandler found himself in two good positions on the right but was unable to pick out a colleague.
As the tie opened up, Turnbull sent on Pile to bolster central midfield, sacrificing a forward in Seiden.
Franklyn burst clear on the left, but shot high and wide, before Elliott Turnbull was introduced for Hazell.
Heath sub Devontae Romeo fired an effort straight at Price as Heath searched for a way back into the tie.
Yet it was US who grabbed a second goal in the 87th minute, Franklyn dinking a cross to the back post for the unmarked Sargeant to head past Watkins and spark wild celebrations.
The celebrations were even more wild - and prolonged, and noisier - once Dorset referee James Durkin blew for full-time shortly after.
Now only Flackwell’s Hellenic League Premier rivals Binfield - who caned Long Eaton 5-0 away this afternoon - stand between USP and an unforgettable Wembley occasion.
‘It would be scandalous to get this far and throw it away now,’ said Glenn Turnbull.
USP: Price, Chandler, Hazell (Turnbull, 83), Birmingham, Cain, Jeffes, Sergeant, Glen, Todd, Seiden (Pile, 68), Franklyn (Sibley, 89).
Flackwell: Watkins, Edwards, Pryor, Bayley (Bains, 70), Ceesay, Essex, Mansfield (Soares, 59), Taylor, Parker, Howell (Romeo, 59), Simmo.
For the best coverage of US Portsmouth’s remarkable Vase win against Flackwell, don’t miss Monday’s edition of The News.