US Portsmouth ‘underdogs again’ as Gosport Borough legend Justin Bennett has ‘point to prove’ in Wessex League Cup semi-final
US Portsmouth boss Glenn Turnbull believes his club are again the underdogs for their second cup semi-final in eight days.
In almost every round of their sensational run to the last eight of the FA Vase, USP were considered second favourites.
Now they are preparing to host divisional rivals Bemerton Heath Harlequins for a place in the Wessex League Cup final against Hamworthy United on May 22.
USP were above the Salisbury-based club in both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons, and have also beaten them twice in league action since Turnbull took over.
But he still feels Bemerton will walk out a near deserted Victory Stadium this weekend as favourites.
‘I would still say we are the slight underdogs. They are the big boys of our league, the Portchester of our league,’ Turnbull remarked.
‘I wouldn’t say they’ve tried to buy it (success) because that would be disrespectful, but they have put a lot of effort and money into trying to get themselves back to where they feel they rightly belong.’
Both teams have a goalscoring talisman. For US it is attacking midfielder James Franklyn, while Bemerton possess Gosport Borough’s record goalscorer Justin Bennett
Bennett, who had trials with Pompey as far back as the 2002/03 season, struck 47 goals in the null and voided 2019/20 season. He has also netted 19 times this term, including one in Wednesday’s 3-0 Hampshire Invitational Supplementary Cup quarter-final win at Fawley.
Bennett, who netted 263 goals in nine seasons at Privett Park, will have poor memories of his last game at US - he was sent off in the second half for violent conduct in his side’s 3-0 loss in October 2019.
Franklyn fired a stunning hat-trick that night, and he netted twice in a 4-1 Wessex victory in Wiltshire last October.
Harlequins ended both games with 10 men - Brandon Mundy was sent off for kicking out at Josh Hazell in the most recent encounter.
‘Bemerton will be coming with a point to prove after the way we beat them up there,’ said Turnbull
‘It was 4-1 but it could have been a lot more to be fair.
‘Bennett was sent off here last season, so he will have a point to prove.’
Turnbull was delighted with the reaction of his players at training on Tuesday - just over 72 hours after their Wembley dream had been shattered on penalties by Binfield.
Cam Quirke and Jack Chandler both saw spot-kicks saved by Chris Grace as US, who had been within 10 minutes of winning in normal time, let a 3-2 shoot-out lead slip to crash out 4-3.
‘I was really pleased with how they trained,’ the manager said. ‘There was some brutal banter and they made Jack Chandler take a penalty - of course he scored!
‘It was good because I didn’t know how they would respond.’
The raw emotion of losing on penalties to Binfield was all too apparent - keeper Tom Price pictured red-eyed sitting alone on a grass bank and other players in tears as well.
‘I thought Pricey would be ok, but the two I was really worried about were Jeffers (captain Tom Jeffes) and Sweeney (Andrew Todd),’ Turnbull remarked.
‘I know they are the most experienced, but they also probably realise they’re not going to get another chance.
‘You would have expected them to be the ones putting their arms around shoulders and saying ‘let’s go again’, and to an extent they did.
‘But Jeffers was struggling - even when I phoned him on Tuesday he said he was still feeling so down.’