US Portsmouth seek historic Wessex League Cup final victory as unforgettable era comes to an end

Glenn Turnbull will aim to bring the curtain down on his memorable US Portsmouth career by becoming the first Division 1 manager to win the Wessex League Cup.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 10:52 am
US Portsmouth celebrate beating Bemerton on penalties to reach the Wessex League Cup final for the first time. Picture: Martyn White.

Not for the first time in recent weeks, USP will be the underdogs as they take on Premier Division heavyweights Hamworthy United at AFC Portchester’s Crest Finance Stadium on Saturday.

The Hammers will provide seriously tough opposition - they stood top of their table at the time of February’s step 5 curtailment having belted 50 goals in 14 games (12 of which they had won).

But the Dorset club can’t afford to be complacent given USP’s astonishing record against higher division clubs in the past 12 months.

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Incredibly, Turnbull’s men have won 13 matches against teams above them in the non-league pyramid since last August.

En route to the FA Vase semi-finals they dumped out Portchester, Bournemouth Poppies, Brockenhurst, Christchurch, Tavistock and Flackwell Heath.

In the Wessex Cup they scalped Tadley Calleva and Brockenhurst again.

In pre-season friendlies they defeated Baffins, Horndean and Cowes Sports, and in post-lockdown friendlies last month they beat Moneyfields and Portchester.

Turnbull knows a 14th scalp would be a superb end to a two-year stint as USP boss that has helped put the club on the national non-league map.

‘Arguably, Hamworthy are one of the best, if not the best, teams in the Wessex Premier,’ he said.

‘They are physical at the back and will be quick up front.

‘Naturally, we will be underdogs again.

‘As usual, we’ll just try to focus on what we can do. Barto (coach Paul Barton) has looked at some videos but there’s nothing obvious I’m aware of that he’s picked up on.

‘They can score goals and so can we - it should be a good game. It’ll be a fitting occasion to end on.’

USP secretary Bob Brady spoke to the squad and management at training on Tuesday ahead of the club’s most successful era coming to an end - Turnbull takes over as Moneyfields boss next week and will take the cream of his squad with him to Dover Road.

‘Bob gave a speech, he just thanked everyone for all their hard work, said how grateful he was from the bottom of his heart.

‘It would be nice for the lads to win on Saturday and be able to hand Bob the silverware.’

Turnbull has a few selection dilemmas to mull over ahead of USP’s first-ever Wessex League Cup final.

The main one will be whether to start with Tyler Moret up front, instead of Andrew Todd, after the striker came off the bench to net twice in the last two minutes to take last Saturday’s Wessex semi-final with Bemerton to penalties.

‘I have the usual headaches,’ the manager said. ‘Harry Sargeant or Jordan Pile in midfield, Josh Hazell or Elliott Turnbull at left wing-back, Sweeney (Todd) or Mozzer (Moret) up front.

‘I don’t really relish those decisions, but they have to be made.’

One easy decision is to bring Tom Cain back into the three-man central defensive unit. Cain was an unused sub against Bemerton but returns to the starting XI as Harry Birmingham is suspended for his red card last weekend.

USP, meanwhile, are the fifth Division 1 club to reach the Wessex Cup final.

The others were Brockenhurst (2012/13, lost 4-1 to Alresford), Petersfield (2013/14, lost 7-2 to Alresford), Baffins Milton Rovers (2016/17, lost 2-1 to Sholing) and Fawley (2017/18, lost 4-0 to AFC Portchester).