Portsmouth heading back to Wembley after rip-roaring 3-2 win over Exeter in EFL Trophy
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The touchpaper was lit with a flurry of all five goals inside the closing stages, with the Blues twice coming from behind.
Jake Taylor’s opening goal was cancelled out by Marcus Harness before a Christian Burgess own goal appeared to be sending the Grecians to the final.
Yet stoppage-time strikes from Cameron McGeehan and John Marquis ensured Kenny Jackett’s men will be going back to the national stadium to defend the trophy they won last season.
Jackett named a strong side, making two change from Saturday’s League One victory over Exeter.
That was Ross McCrorie starting in a right-back role in place of James Bolton, while Ben Close replaced Gareth Evans in central midfield.
Pompey made a bright start to the game and perhaps should have been ahead after eighth minutes. Harrison couldn’t quite make contact with Ronan Curtis’ cutback from the byline before Joel Randall made an important clearance with Cameron McGeehan ready to pull the trigger.
Five minutes later, the roles were reversed when Harrison slid in Curtis, but he blazed his effort high and wide.
That was to be Harrison’s last real contribution as he limped off in the 24th minute and was replaced by John Marquis.
Alex Bass was having a comfortable evening in the home net. The closest danger that came his way was when Jayden Richardson latched on to a long ball but Ben Close made an important challenge to curtail the danger.
While Pompey were enjoying more of the ball, both sides failed to light the touchpaper to the game and they went into half-time goalless.
The Blues gradually started getting on top after the restart and forced the Grecians to scramble Steve Seddon’s delivery away following a fumble from Ward.
In an attacking move, Jackett replaced Close with Oli Hawkins.
In the 55th minute McGeehan got his header all wrong when teed-up by Marcus Harness before Tom Naylor’s subsequent effort went narrowly wide.
Exeter had a rare spell on top when Lee Martin threatened, only for Naylor to throw himself at the effort and concede a corner.
The set-piece was flicked on at the near post and it fell to Tom Parkes, whose effort flew into the travelling Grecian fans behind the goal.
Hawkins started to make his presence felt and in the 65th minute fed in Marquis, but he couldn’t steer his right-footed attempt on target.
Then the substitute couldn’t believe he’d been denied the breakthrough with 19 minutes left. Harness sent in a low cross and Hawkins got plenty of purchase on his first-time effort, but Ward made a flying stop to his left.
Pompey continued to apply the pressure and on 75 minutes Harness was a whisker away when his stinging effort flew just the wrong side of the post.
The game certainly opened up – and it was Exeter who grabbed the lead with 11 minutes left.
Bass failed to collect a corner properly and the ball bounced for Taylor, who emphatically lashed home from 12 yards.
It was a blow for Jackett’s men, as they had little time to snatch an equaliser.
Curtis went close to quickly levelling parity but his low shot went wide of the right-hand post.
The home side continues to push forward, though,m and got their rewards in the 86th minute. Marquis slid in Curtis and his shot was blocked on the line, leaving Harness with an easy finish from close range.
That set up a frenetic final few minutes as both sides looked to avoid penalties.
There was to another moment of drama, which went the way of Exeter’s way as they thought they’d won it.
Ben Seymour slid in a low cross four minutes from the end, with Burgess’ flailing leg taking it beyond Bass and into his own net.
Yet the action didn’t stop there and Pompey would again get themselves back on level terms. In added-time, McGeehan picked up the ball outside the area, turned one man before nestling a left-footed effort into the top corner.
And unbelievably, there was to be one last bit of drama – going to Pompey in the 96th minute.
Curtis’ excellent cross pinpointed Marquis at the back post and he kept his composure to head home and send the Blues back to Wembley.
That effort caused Fratton Park to erupt, with wild celebrations ensuing among the fans and players.