Kenny Jackett’s side provided a nail-biting end to the otherwise dull affair on Tuesday night against League 2 Exeter City. The Blue’s manager made two changes to the starting line-up from Saturday’s win against Shrewsbury, in the form of Ben Close and Ross McCrorie who replaced James Bolton and Gareth Evans.
Up to the 80th minute, the match looked to be destined for penalty kicks until Alex Bass made a mistake when reaching out for the ball during an Exeter corner, allowing Taylor to get on the end of a volley in the box, and fire in the opener in the 79th minute of the game.
Jackett’s side however showed great determination to resurrect their chances of back-to-back visits to Wembley Stadium for the final of the very trophy they lifted last March in a penalty shoot-out against League 1 rivals Sunderland.
With 4 minutes left on the clock, Ross McCrorie played the ball through to John Marquis, who replaced Ellis Harrison after the Welshman suffered a knock and was forced to limp off. Marquis set up Ronan Curtis who was in heaps of space on the edge of the area, putting the ball past the keeper, only to be cleared off the line by Tom Parkes. The Grecians’ defender only managed to knock the ball into the path of Marcus Harness who swept in and tapped the ball into the empty net to lift Fratton Park in high spirit.
Less than 3 minutes after Harness’ equaliser however, Joe Randall found space inside the Pompey defending half and put a low ball into the box where much to Fratton Park’s despair, Christian Burgess tapped the ball past Alex Bass and into his own net in a bid to clear it away from the path of Ben Seymour waiting at the back post.
Referee Craig Hicks decided that 5 additional minutes are in order, which allowed Pompey to power on and look for another equaliser. This time Cameron McGeehan was the one to once again lift the spirits of the 14,000 Fratton Faithful when he received the ball from McCrorie in the centre of the pitch just outside the box. The Barnsley loanee switched the ball to his weaker left foot and took the Exeter keeper by surprise when his shot sailed over him and into the net to send Fratton Park wild.
With the scores once again level, and added time technically over, the Pompey players really showed the quality and determination and pushed forward with the momentum of two comebacks to form one last attack.
Ross McCrorie, who has been priceless down the right side all game, dispossessed the Exeter attack which allowed Tom Naylor to push forward towards the Fratton End. The skipper spotted Curtis in space on the left flank and distributed the ball perfectly for the Irishman to take a touch with his chest to control it and later smash it across goal to the far post. With the whole of Fratton Park on the edge of their seats, John Marquis rose highest to meet Curtis’ last ditch attempt and headed the ball past Ward to make it 3 – 2 and conclude the 5 goal 15 minute thriller which sends Pompey to Wembley for the second year running.
Portsmouth will face Salford City in the final of the Leasing.com Trophy on the 5th of April at Wembley Stadium.
Man of the Match: My Man of the Match goes to Ronan Curtis. The Irishman was involved in two of the three goals and showed determination and persistence going forward to claim to comebacks.
Photo of the Match: