Bury 0 Portsmouth 3: Neil Allen’s match report 

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So the cup competition many Pompey fans refuse to acknowledge has yielded a Wembley visit.

The Checkatrade Trophy, that often-cursed tournament, could now earn Fratton Park silverware.

Ronan Curtis fires home Pompey's third goal at Bury. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

Ronan Curtis fires home Pompey's third goal at Bury. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

Suddenly the fixture presence long unpalatable is looking considerably more attractive to Blues followers.

Perhaps not all, yet a definitive indication will be available on March 31 with the opposition either Bristol Rovers or Sunderland.

Not since the 2010 FA Cup final have Pompey graced Wembley.

Following a nine-year absence, they are booked in for another visit.

Gareth Evans opens the scoring at Gigg Lane. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

Gareth Evans opens the scoring at Gigg Lane. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

At Gigg Lane last night, Kenny Jackett’s desire to reach the final of the Checkatrade Trophy noticeably hardened.

Pompey’s boss had opted for full strength for the semi-final stage in a change of policy to earlier rounds, when selection relied on youth and fringe players.

And the outcome was a 3-0 victory over Bury – with all three goals arriving in the second half.

Gareth Evans, Oli Hawkins and Ronan Curtis, pivotal players in the charge to the top of League One in the first half of the season, rediscovered their scoring touch in timely fashion.

Oliver Hawkins, hidden, stretches to make it 2-0 against Bury. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

Oliver Hawkins, hidden, stretches to make it 2-0 against Bury. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

Injury and lack of form have hampered the attacking trio since Christmas but they roared back to fire Pompey to Wembley.

Their goal-scoring contribution arrived within a 16-minute spell – a harsh outcome on impressive Bury granted – but their ruthlessness in front of goal was the difference.

In contrast, the Blues had not impressed in the opening half – second best to their League Two hosts and looking more likely to concede out of the teams on display.

Then skipper Evans opened the scoring direct from a free-kick on 61 minutes – and soon the 452 away supporters were singing of Wembley.

Pompey celebrate making it to Wembley. Photo by Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

Pompey celebrate making it to Wembley. Photo by Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

There were casualties, however, with Christian Burgess – on his 150th Pompey outing – limping off two minutes before full-time to be replaced by Anton Walkes.

For the time being, though, the Blues can bask in a Wembley return – and the commencement of an inevitable debate over which supporters desire to follow them there.

Jackett made three changes to the side which collected a draw in encouraging fashion against Barnsley at the weekend.

With Omar Bogle sidelined by a hamstring injury and Bryn Morris cup-tied, there were recalls for Gareth Evans and Oli Hawkins.

The third switch was Nathan Thompson marking his return from injury – coming in at right-back for Walkes, who dropped to the bench.

There was also a return for Brett Pitman, albeit in a substitute role at Gigg Lane.

The striker had been omitted from the previous four squads, all league encounters, but was back on the bench.

Lloyd Isgrove was again missing, although on this occasion through being cup-tied, having turned out for Barnsley previously in the competition this season.

The hosts carved out the game’s first opportunity on five minutes through 17-goal Nicky Maynard.

The striker delivered a right-footed shot from the edge of the area which forced Craig MacGillivray into a sprawling stop.

Lee Brown was then on hand to complete the clearance as Bury bodies raced in to pounce on the loose ball.

A moment later, at the other end, Curtis spun outside the box to fire a low shot which Joe Murphy gathered comfortably at his near post.

Then Viv Solomon-Otabor found the overlapping Brown down the left and, when the defender pulled the ball back from the byline, Hawkins was crowded out as he attempted to capitalise.

Former Pompey loanee Caolan Lavery earned the first corner of the game on 15 minutes.

The set-piece was cleared as far as Jay O’Shea, whose shot from outside the box flew well over the bar.

Bury were dominating as the first half wore on, looking a real threat when bursting forward with pace and purpose.

Although, on the half-hour mark, Curtis fired a shot-cum-cross across the face of goal to harmlessly run for a goal-kick.

Then Brown’s cross from the left was met with a Hawkins header which flew narrowly over the bar.

Curtis won a free-kick down the right. Evans delivered it into the box and the Irishman got on the end of it but couldn’t get the ball under control.

The interval saw Jamal Lowe introduced for Solomon-Otabor, with Curtis switching to the left flank.

Almost immediately after the second half got under way, Hawkins flicked the ball into Lowe’s path down the right but the winger’s attempted square ball to the unmarked Evans was wastefully overhit.

On 53 minutes, the ball fell invitingly for Ben Close inside Bury’s penalty area, yet Will Aimson flung himself bravely in front to block the resulting right-footed strike.

In the Blues’ next attack, Lowe cut in from the right and whipped off a low left-footed shot from outside the box straight at Murphy, who gathered without discomfort.

Burgess’ errant backpass in the 60th minute almost let in Lavery but MacGillivray was swiftly off his line to crash the ball clear and the visitors breathed a sigh of relief.

The deadlock was broken on 61 minutes after Callum McFadzean had felled Close just outside the box.

A throng of four Pompey players gathered around the deadball, clearly a rehearsed tactic, with Evans emerging as the taker, curling a wonderful right-footed shot into the net.

Keeper Murphy remained rooted to the spot, clearly taken by surprise and the visitors had the lead.

The advantage was doubled three minutes later, with both Blues full-backs involved.

Brown delivered a cross from the left which was headed back at the far post by Thompson, with Hawkins on hand to hammer the ball home from close range.

Suddenly the visiting supporters were singing about Wembley in the comfort of a 2-0 lead over the Shakers.

Yet the hosts almost pulled one back straightaway, Matt Clarke caught in possession by Maynard before the striker lost him completely to receive a pass and fire narrowly past the far post.

Bury made a double substitution on 70 minutes with Nicky Adams and Maynard replaced by Ryan Cooney and Dom Telford.

Again Ryan Lowe’s side went close when O’Shea pounced to rattle off a shot inside the box, yet his attempt picked out the arms of a grateful MacGillivray.

Pompey’s Wembley presence was sealed on 77 minutes following a brutish finish from Curtis.

The Irishman lashed a powerful right-footed effort into the far corner of the net to make it 3-0.

There was still time for MacGillivray to produce a wonderful save to beat away O’Shea’s free-kick.

And despite some late Bury pressure, the Blues stood firm to see out victory and book a Wembley date on March 31.