US Portsmouth set for AFC Portchester friendly ahead of FA Vase restart in April

US Portsmouth will warm up for next month’s FA Vase return by playing a friendly against AFC Portchester.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 11:15 am
US Portsmouth beat AFC Portchester in the FA Vase last October - the two teams are set to meet again in a friendly when current lockdown restrictions are eased. Pic: Martyn White.

They could also look to play a second friendly prior to hosting Christchurch in the last 32 of the Vase, depending on the date of the fourth round tie.

With teams able to resume training at the end of this month, the three outstanding third round ties could be played on Saturday, April 10.

Turnbull has heard whispers that the Christchurch game could be played at the Victory Stadium in midweek - either April 13/14.

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If that is the case, US could look to train twice before a friendly on April 3 and then two more training sessions before a second game on the following Saturday.

‘Gavin Spurway (AFC Portchester assistant manager) has been in touch asking if we’d like a game,’ said US boss Glenn Turnbull ‘We said that would be brilliant.’

US are the only Wessex League club who will return to action after lockdown restrictions are eased facing a minimum of two competitive games.

In addition to the Vase tie, they have also reached the semi-final of the Wessex League Cup for the first time in the club’s history.

They and fellow Division 1 side Bemerton are in the last four and will be joined by the winners of the Hamworthy United v Whitchurch and Bashley v Folland ties.

With last season’s tournament cancelled, the winners will lift the trophy last won by Baffins Milton Rovers in May 2019.

Despite their high-profile cup ties, Turnbull said US will probably look to take part in the spring cup competition the Wessex League are running sanctioned by the Hampshire FA.

‘We’ve canvassed the players and they’re all desperate to play,’ he reported.

‘But we would have to fit any cup games around our two main fixtures.

‘If it’s a World Cup style format, we’d have an additional three games - that’s fine.’

At present, clubs don’t know if they will be able to admit supporters to any matches prior to mid-May.

When Wessex games were taking place in September, October and for a fortnight in December, FA regulations stated clubs in the Premier could admit a maximum of 300 spectators and 150 in Division 1.

‘I don’t know if we’ll be able to have fans in,’ said Turnbull. ‘It will be interesting to see if the refs want to do it just for expenses.

‘Playing Christchurch behind closed doors doesn’t worry me - I’d play them up the common with jumpers for goalposts and corners for corner flags!’

While the Vase is a competition for clubs at steps 5 and 6 of the non-league pyramid, the curtailment of the season at steps 3 and 4 has led to fears some clubs still in the tournament could look to strengthen.

Turnbull has no wish to go down that route. ‘I don’t agree with that, I wouldn’t want to do it - it’s disrespectful.

‘Similarly, I’ve had Hampshire Premier League clubs asking if they could dual sign some of my players.

‘I can’t stop them, just as I can’t stop some of them playing Sunday football.

‘I get it with someone like Tyler Moret, as he’s not eligible for the Vase so can only play in the Wessex League Cup.

‘Tyler is the same as everyone else - he just wants to play.

‘Signing for a Hampshire League club could keep him ticking over.’

Turnbull admits he wants to keep all his current squad intact for 2021/22, when US could be playing in the Wessex Premier if the FA follow through with possible restructuring plans.

The only question mark is over veteran striker Andrew Todd, who could get a new Naval posting to Plymouth or Scotland.

Moret was signed from Baffins Milton Rovers last autumn, though, with one eye on Todd possibly not being around in the future.

Turnbull’s son, Elliott, has recovered from injury and should be in contention for the Christchurch tie which puts together the two Wessex League sides with the best points-per-game records over the last two seasons.

The only US absentee will be midfielder Harry Bedford, who is waiting for an operation to repair an ACL tear.