Portsmouth seal penalty shootout win over Sunderland in Checkatrade Trophy final
Pompey celebrated Checkatrade Trophy final success thanks to a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over Sunderland.
With the game deadlocked at 2-2 after 120 minutes of pulsating football at Wembley, the match came down to the final kick – and it was substitute Oli Hawkins who handed Kenny Jackett’s side victory with the coolest of penalties in front of an ecstatic travelling Fratton faithful crowd.
He penalised Lee Cattermole’s missed spot-kick as Pompey secured a superb victory over their League One promotion rivals.
The outcome is one not many Blues fans would have anticipated following the first half.
Aiden McGeady’s 38th-minute free-kick put the Black Cats deservedly in front.
But Pompey responded brilliantly in the second half, equalising through Nathan Thompson on 82 minutes.
The Blues thought they had won it deep into extra-time when Jamal Lowe lobbed keeper Jon McLoughlin with just seven minutes left on the clock.
But somehow Sunderland levelled right at the death through starman McGeady to send the game to penalties.
The Blues had a full house, with Gareth Evans, Brett Pitman, Lee Brown, and Lowe setting Hawkins up for a dramatic moment in Pompey history.
And the former non-league man stepped up to the mark to hand Jackett’s men the sweetest of victories.
Sunderland stamped their authority on the first half with less than one minute of the clock when George Honeyman’s cross from the right caused panic in the Blues defence and Thompson had to divert the ball behind for a corner.
The Blues responded with a Christian Burgess header from a Brown delivery that Black Cats keeper McLoughlin gathered easily.
Then Sunderland really started applying the pressure, with Lewis Morgan and McGeady at the epicentre.
The former had an effort deflected narrowly over on 13 minutes, before space opened up in front of him seven minutes later - yet all he could do was curl this effort straight into the arms of MacGillivray.
A stray Ronan Curtis effort relieved the pressure on the Blues defence.
But it was only a temporary break in the tide Pompey were fighting, with Grant Leadbitter’s free-kick delivery deflected over by Tom Naylor, while Brown could only slice Jack Baldwin’s cross over the bar.
With the Blues struggling to find an outlet when possession was regained, it was only a matter of time before a breakthrough.
Morgan thought he’d found it on 33 minutes when he volleyed goalwards from 20 yards.
MacGillivray was up to the effort - but there was little he could do when Sunderland’s dominance was rewarded five minutes later.
After Thomspon fouled McGeady 25 yards out, the Irishman picked himself up and curled a fantastic effort into the top corner of the net, via a slight deflection off Clarke.
It was a breakthrough they deserved - and one they, unsurprisingly, kept until half-time.
A Pompey improvement was needed for the second half, and Omar Bogle nearly provided the pick-me-up the travelling Fratton faithful desperately needed on 46 minutes.
His header from Brown’s cross - right in front of the Blues fans - was cleared off the line by Luke O’Nien, only for play to be pulled back for a foul on Baldwin.
It was the type of response that was required and there was further proof that Pompey weren’t going to give up without a fight when Lowe fired a dangerous ball across the face of goal, with a finishing touch all that was needed.
Pompey were starting to show their capabilities at the home of football, with Evans now on for Curtis, and again Blues hopes were raised when Pitman’s first-time shot on the hour mark smacked against the beaten McLoughlin’s post.
Minutes later, Thompson found himself unmarked at the back stick, only to see his effort go over the bar.
Then, with Jackett’s men in full flow, Lowe dragged an effort wide after being picked out by Pitman.
Pompey attempted a different approach to their now attacking prowess on 68 minutes, with Hawkins replacing Bogle.
The Black Cats’ response was two substitutions of their own, with the second - midfielder Max Power for striker Grigg - reflecting their need for assistance to protect their now slender lead.
Power was nowhere to be seen, however, when Evans powered forward and shot wide from the edge of the box on 78 minutes.
And that extra defensive cover was found wanting three minutes later when Thompson fired home an equaliser the Blues’ second-half heroics fully deserved.
Surging forward, Clarke picked out Evans on the left, whose first-time cross was headed home by the right-back for his first goal in 70 appearances.
Despairing Sunderland fans were able to lift their heads from their hands when Brown was alert to clear Reece James’ cross at the back post.
But they resumed said position in stoppage-time when Evans’ shot was blocked, before Clarke’s header from the resulting corner was deflected over.
With the game now requiring extra-time, Pompey reasserted control when Lowe fired wide following good work from Ben Close and Hawkins.
Brown’s shot from a move instigated by Pitman provided further proof that the Blues posed the greater threat.
Meanwhile, the skipper, too, was getting in on the act when he volleyed over from the edge of the box immediately after ends were swapped.
His decision to fire over on 108 minutes was the wrong one, with Evans free to his left.
But it didn’t matter as Pompey still had a trick up their sleeve.
With seven minutes of extra-time remaining, Clarke’s ball forward found Lowe.
He turned Baldwin and found himself with just McLoughlin to beat - and he did so in style with a deft chip over the advancing keeper.
The Blues now had one hand on the trophy, but there was still time for late drama - at the other end.
Looking for a lifeline, Sunderland were given just that when substitute Charlie Wyke picked out McGeady, and he did the rest, despite Clarke’s attempt to keep the ball out.
It was a cruel blow, particularly with the Black Cats looking a spent force.
And within minutes of the Irishman finding the back of the net, referee Dean Whitestone blew time on a breathtaking affair to signal the need for penalties.
Cattermole’s missed penalty, which was saved MacGillivray provided the platform for the Blues to take advantage.
And with Evans, Pitman, Brown and Lowe all proving successful before him, Hawkins stepped up to apply the finishing touch to a game, which in the end Pompey deserved to win.
Pompey: MacGillivray, Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Brown, Close (Walkes 112mins), Naylor, Lowe, Pitman, Curtis (Evans 55mins), Bogle (Hawkins 68mins).
Sunderland: McLaughlin, O’Nien, Flanagan, Baldwin, James (Hume 87mins), Cattermole, Honeyman, Leadbitter (Wyke 94), Morgan (Gooch 72mins), McGeady, Grigg (Power 75mins).