US Portsmouth’s Wembley dream ended in FA Vase semi-final penalty shoot-out heartbreak
US Portsmouth’s dream of booking a sensational Wembley appearance ended with penalty shoot-out heartache this afternoon.
Glenn Turnbull’s underdogs were cruelly beaten 4-3 on penalties by Binfield in the FA Vase semi-final at the Victory Stadium.
US had come within 10 minutes of claiming a seventh higher division scalp in eight rounds, and also led on spot-kicks.
After James Franklyn had fired the hosts into a 21st minute lead, the hosts were forced to withstand ferocious pressure in both halves.
The footballing Gods seemed to be beckoning them towards a Wembley date when Binfield struck the woodwork twice in the space of a few minutes midway through the second period.
Amazingly, US looked on course for a trip to the national stadium after claiming their seventh higher division scalp in eight record-breaking, history-shredding rounds.
But the Hellenic League Premier Division club, unbeaten in 19 league games stretching back to November 2019, eventually levelled when Liam Ferdinand rounded Tom Price to slot home an 80th minute leveller.
Ferdinand had spent the first half of the campaign with Southern League Premier club Harrow Borough, who play three levels higher in the pyramid than USP. He had been signed on by Binfield purely to boost their chances of winning the Vase.
With no extra time in this season’s tournament, the tie went straight to spot-kicks.
For US, it was the second time during their memorable run that they had faced the lottery of penalties.
For Binfield, however, it was their fourth shoot-out in five rounds - and yet again keeper Chris Grace proved to be their hero.
Grace had saved five penalties in the previous three shoot-outs, and he pulled off two more saves after US had taken a 3-2 lead.
The first five efforts were all converted - Andrew Todd, Tom Jeffes and Price on target for US and Josh Howell and Oliver Harris replying.
It was advantage US when Price - who had saved a Christchurch penalty in his side’s fourth round spot-kick success - dived to his left to stop Binfield skipper Sean Moore’s effort.
But Cameron Quirke - brought on as a late sub specifically to take a penalty - saw his spot-kick superbly kept one handed by Grace.
After Binfield player-boss Jamie McClurg had made it 3-3, Grace dived to his left to stop Jack Chandler’s penalty.
That just set the scene for Jack Broome to fire past Price from 12 yards and condemn brave US to defeat in the most heart-rendering of fashions.
Turnbull announced an unchanged XI from the side that had stunned Binfield’s Hellenic League rivals Flackwell Heath the previous week.
Binfield made one change from the team that had hammered fellow step 5 club Long Eaton 5-0 in their quarter-final - Kensley Maloney, another dual signed from Harrow especially for the Vase, replacing suspended midfielder George Short.
Binfield forced four corners inside the opening 13 minutes but US took the lead with their first shot on goal when Franklyn received a delightful pass from Callum Glen and fired a low shot past Grace.
Binfield dominated possession - as well they might, given their higher status - but US restricted them to few clear openings.
Ferdinand, who had scored a hat-trick at Long Eaton, was a peripheral figure, though he did turn Jeffes well before dragging a shot well wide.
US could have expected Binfield to come out strong in the second half, but it was the hosts who had two good chances to extend their lead.
First, a lovely move down the right between Jeffes and Todd ended with Franklyn seeing a shot saved; as the ball rebounded into the air, the US talisman rose highest but his header from eight yards out drifted just wide.
Then Todd, getting on the end of a cross at the back post, saw a header just tipped over by the back-pedalling Grace.
US brought in Sonny Harnett-Balkwill in place of Tom Cain, before Binfield twice struck the post in the space of four minutes.
Ferdinand shrugged off a challenge before firing a low angled shot across Price which rebounded off the foot of a post.
If that was a major let-off, there was another one straight away when Moore - unmarked in the six-yard box - sent a header against the woodwork.
It seemed then that Lady Luck was smiling on US and a dream date under the Wembley arch on May 22 was on the cards.
But sadly no, Ferdinand eventually levelling with a goal that Binfield’s pressure certainly deserved on the balance of play.
The penalty specialists - who lest we forget had hammered AFC Totton, Moneyfields’ step 4 rivals, 5-1 in the FA Cup last September - then kept their cool to advance to their first Vase final.
Turnbull’s side might have been defeated, but they could hold their heads up high.
As the last surviving club from step 6 left in the tournament, they had represented their level of the non-league pyramid with pride.
They had flown the flag for the Wessex League with pride, and they had represented Portsea Island with pride.
They had represented United Services Portsmouth were pride, and deserve to hold their heads high.
There was certainly no disgrace in defeat, just the crushing heartache of having come so far, and against all the odds.
USP: Price, Chandler, Hazell, Birmingham, Cain (Harnett-Balkwill, 56), Jeffes, Sergeant, Glen, Todd, Seiden (Pile, 73), Franklyn (Quirke, 89).
Binfield: Grace, Hancock, Legg, Valentin (Broome, 52), Willment, Gavin, Harris, McClurg, Ferdinand, Maloney (Howell, 67), Moore.