US Portsmouth handed another home tie as they bid to reach Wessex League Cup final for first time

US Portsmouth have maintained their remarkable record of being drawn at home in cup competitions this season.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 11:50 am
US Portsmouth will need to keep Gosport Borough legend Justin Bennett quiet as they bid to reach the Wessex League Cup final for the first time. Pic: Dave Haines

Glenn Turnbull’s men have been given a home tie against Division 1 rivals Bemerton Heath Harlequins in the semi-finals of the Wessex League Cup.

It is the club’s EIGHTH home tie in nine rounds in 2020/21 competitions and gives them a great chance of reaching the showpiece final for the first time in their history.

US had previously been drawn at home in the competition to higher division pair Tadley Calleva and Brockenhurst, before a quarter-final win at Andover Town.

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In the FA Vase, US have had five successive home draws - against AFC Portchester Bournemouth, Brockenhurst, Millbrook and Christchurch. They did switch the first two of those games, though, to Portchester.

The club also enjoyed the luck of the draw in the FA Youth Cup - handed three successive home ties before losing at Didcot.

US will enter the tie as favourites having already thrashed Bemerton 4-1 away in the league at the end of October.

James Franklyn (2), Tom Jeffes and Liam Kyle netted after Jack Smith had given Bemerton an early lead in Salisbury.

That display was one of eight successive league and cup wins US rattled off prior to the last local football lockdown which started just before Christmas.

‘That was one of the best performances since I’ve been managing US,’ recalled Turnbull.

‘It was 4-1, but it could have been 8-1 - we hit the bar, we hit the post twice, their keeper played well.

‘Andrew Todd was on the bench that night, so you can see the calibre of the side we had out.

‘It’s a nice draw for us, but Bemerton will want to avenge that defeat.

‘They’ve got a fantastic side, and it just depends how they come back after lockdown - they might have signed some new players.’

Turnbull holds a 100 per cent record against Bemerton as US manager, after a Franklyn hat-trick had given the Portsmouth side a 3-0 Victory Stadium win in the clubs’ only meeting in 2019/20.

That was a night where Bemerton goal ace Justin Bennett was red-carded in the second half for violent conduct.

The Gosport Borough legend topped the Wessex Division 1 goal charts in 2019/20 with a staggering 47 in just 33 appearances.

He is top again this term, with 17 goals in 16 league and cup matches - one more than US playmaker Franklyn.

Both men have scored in every Wessex League Cup round this term.

Bennett struck doubles in wins against higher division pair Shaftesbury (6-1) and Christchurch (3-1) and was also on target in a 4-0 quarter-final romp at Romsey.

No date has yet been set for the semi-final, though the provisional final date is Saturday, May 22.

AFC Portchester have hosted a few recent finals and it could be that The Crest Finance Stadium is again chosen.

US or Bemerton are the only two clubs through to the last four at the moment.

Hamworthy United - who were top of the Premier when the season was curtailed - face lower division Whitchurch in one of the outstanding quarter-finals, while top flight Bashley face Division 1 outfit Folland in the other.

No Division 1 club has ever won the Wessex League Cup, though several have reached the final.

The last was Fawley, who were drubbed 4-0 by a Portchester side including current US defender Harry Birmingham in 2017/18.