USP entered the club’s first-ever final aiming to become the maiden second tier winners of the silverware.
But Tim Sills’ Hamworthy United scored twice inside the opening 14 minutes en route to a thoroughly deserved 3-1 victory at AFC Portchester’s Crest Finance Stadium.
James Franklyn hauled the underdogs back into contention 20 minutes from time, and defender Tom Cain was close to a leveller when he headed wide from close range shortly after.
Sub Oli Davis’ late deflected effort, when USP were down to 10 men following defender Sonny Harnett-Balkwill’s sin-binning for swearing at referee Tom Berry, ensured there would be no repeat of USP’s semi-final comeback against Bemerton when they won on penalties after being two goals in arrears.
Turnbull said he had ‘no qualms’ about his history-making two-year spell as first team manager ending the way it did.
‘Lee Mould (USP reserve manager) summed it up well when he said ‘today we played against men’. They were a very clever side, little nudges, leaning in on people at the right times,’ Turnbull declared.
‘We said to the players ‘it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing yellow next season or maroon and blue, you’re going to have to wise up if you want to fulfil your potential.’
That was a reference to the fact the USP squad will soon be broken up, with a handful of players following Turnbull to Moneyfields (yellow) and some no doubt staying on for the club’s first-ever taste of Wessex Premier football under a new manager at USP (maroon and blue).
‘I thought they dominated the first half, we were really poor - right the way through the spine,’ the manager added.
‘Second half I thought we did quite well, got the goal. If Caino (Tom Cain) had got that header … we put them under some pressure when we put some pace out wide.
‘I have no qualms about the result. I thought the ref spoilt it a bit, some of his decisions were strange. Going down to 10 men, we were always going to struggle for the last 10 minutes and I wasn’t surprised when they got their third goal.’
Hamworthy midfielder Steve Devlin, who scored his side’s fourth minute opener direct from a free-kick, was voted man of the match. It was hard to argue with that choice.
‘Devlin was outstanding, he was very good,’ said Turnbull. ‘Their No 10 (Dan Cann) was decent too, he was very worldly wise. He imposed himself on us in a way that the likes of Franko (Franklyn) and Dec (Seiden) couldn’t impose themselves on Hamworthy.
‘I don’t think we did ourselves justice, no not at all.
‘I don’t think we’ve done ourselves justice since the Vase semi-final.
‘It’s been hard work since then, for the players as well (as the management).
‘There’s a case of ‘what if?’ that has been hard to get over. It wasn’t brilliant against Bemerton apart from the two late goals, we got lucky there.’
Turnbull, speaking on Sunday afternoon, remarked: ‘I feel a little bit flat, that we’ve let ourselves down a bit.
‘I don’t feel a sense of achievement. I know when reality kicks in I’ll see what we’ve done as a massive achievement, but today I feel a little bit flat and a bit rubbish.
‘I’m going away for a week. I’ve promised my wife I’ll turn the phone off and there’ll be no football talk. That probably won’t happen, but at least I’ve made the promise!
‘Next Saturday I’ll sit down with Pete (Seiden, Moneyfields chairman) and we’ll have a chat about the budget, who’s agreed to come and targets we’d like.’
Turnbull had agreed to replace Dave Carter at Dover Road prior to USP’s fourth round Vase tie against Wessex Premier club Christchurch on April 17. Since then, he oversaw a remarkable run to the semi-finals, a Wessex League Cup final, and last week’s FA announcement that USP had been ‘promoted’ to the Premier as part of the governing body’s non-league restructuring.
Despite all that, he remains adamant he has made the right move to swapping USP for Moneyfields - even though both clubs will be playing in the same division in 2020/21 after the latter’s voluntary relegation from the Southern League.
‘I haven’t had second thoughts as such,’ he explained.
‘I do know that if I hadn’t made the decision the team would almost certainly have been broken up this summer.
‘Baffins are always sniffing, offering some money, I’m sure Horndean would have done the same - Chichester have shown interest before.
‘The squad would have broken up.
‘I’m sad to leave, but it’s the right thing to do in terms of progression for some of the lads.’
A chunk of the USP squad are expected to report for Moneyfields pre-season training on June 19 - Franklyn, Seiden, Cain, Harry Birmingham, Elliott Turnbull, Callum Glen and Jordan Pile.
Others could yet join them, but Turnbull knows some of his USP squad would have more chance of regular Wessex Premier football by staying put.
‘Someone like George Root, for example, could think ‘I’m not getting in here (USP) ahead of Sweeney (Andrew Todd) and Dec, if I go to Moneyfields I’m not going to get in ahead of Steve Hutchings.’
‘John Cass said to me at the weekend ‘I don’t care about the colour of the shirt, I just want to play football.’ That should be the same for everyone.’