Portsmouth 2-2 Sunderland (after extra-time, Portsmouth win 5-4 on penalties)
PORTSMOUTH claimed their first silverware since their FA Cup success eleven years ago, winning the Checkatrade Trophy Final on penalties at Wembley in front of more than 40,000 delirious Pompey fans.
Substitute Oli Hawkins converted the winning spot kick as Pompey scored all five of their penalties, Craig MacGillivray saving from Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole.
The game swung Sunderland’s way then Portsmouth’s, a predictably tight contest between the two sides occupying third and fourth spot in League One.
Pompey showed the mental strength that they will need for their run-in in the league, going 2-1 up with five minutes of extra-time left through an excellent Jamal Lowe finish, only to see Sunderland hit back through Aiden McGeady to set up the drama of penalties.
And in front of the Pompey faithful they held their nerve in the shoot-out, with Hawkins and MacGillivray the heroes.
After an awful first-half performance that saw McGeady put the Black Cats one up, Pompey were a different side after the break and forced their way back into the game, Nathan Thompson picking the perfect time to grab his first goal for the club. The right back headed home substitute Gareth Evans’ cross in the 82nd minute with the ball flicking off the head of Tom Flanagan before rippling the roof of the net.
The chat in the build-up to the game was about the Sunderland supporters descending on Trafalgar Square on Saturday night with some, strangely, asking ‘where were the Pompey fans?’. Not sure how good their geography is but maybe they should have been told that Portsmouth is an hour-and-a-half on the train into London or a two-hour car drive at a push.
Portsmouth did have one representative amongst the Sunderland masses in central London – owner Michael Eisner had flown in from the States for the game and tweeted a picture of the Black Cats supporters.
His good mood leading up to the final would have been darkened by an indifferent first-half performance which saw Pompey second best in all departments.
They got an early indication of the Sunderland threat with George Honeyman putting a ball in which just evaded Will Grigg.
Pompey were struggling to get a foothold in the game and there was little to test Black Cats keeper Jon McLaughlin whose first half action was limited to comfortably claiming a Lee Brown free-kick.
There was, however, clear danger in the attacking intent of the likes of McGeady and Honeyman – Tom Naylor lucky to avoid a yellow card when hauling down McGeady halfway through the opening half as the skilful Irishman looked to break into the Pompey box.
Jackett’s men were absorbing a lot of pressure in the opening 45 minutes and Ronan Curtis marked his return to the starting XI after his horrific finger injury by picking up a yellow card for a foul on Luke O’Nien.
Despite Sunderland’s dominance, MacGillivray had to wait until the 34th minute before he was really tested, pushing away Lewis Morgan’s volley.
McGeady was proving a real handful and it was a foul on the tricky winger just outside the box that led to the opening goal. McGeady took the free-kick in the 38thminute and his curling effort on goal deflected off Matt Clarke’s shoulder to fly past MacGillivray.
A deserved lead and Jackett had a big test at the interval – changes clearly needed to be made in tactics, personnel or, more likely, both.
Somewhat amazingly, the same XI came out at the start of the second half with Jackett clearly expecting them to prove the opening 45 was an aberration.
Within two minutes of the restart Omar Bogle looked like he had a great chance to draw the two sides level from a Brown corner, his effort scrambled clear only for referee Dean Whitestone to blow for a foul by the striker.
Despite a clear improvement in effort Jackett had seen enough by the 56th minute with Gareth Evans coming on, perhaps surprisingly, for Curtis.
Brett Pitman appeared the more likely to be substituted but he showed why he was kept on the pitch soon after. Evans hit a long diagonal ball that Jamal Lowe knocked down for Pitman, whose effort from the edge of the box beat McLaughlin but rebounded off the post.
Sunderland were clearly rattled and showed their intent with 13 minutes remaining – taking off striker Will Grigg and bring on midfielder Max Power.
Pompey were well on top but couldn’t find the clinical finish required, Evans firing wide with ten minutes left after good work to create the shooting opportunity for himself.
With the clock ticking down Pompey continued to attack and the equaliser came from the most unlikely of sources.
After fluffing his lines with an earlier chance, Thompson was in the right place with eight minutes left to throw himself at Evans’ cross after good work down the left from Clarke – the right back flashing a header past McLaughlin.
Cue delirium amongst the Pompey faithful, the goal a deserved reward for the second half efforts of both players and supporters in a sell-out crowd of 85,000 – the biggest attendance in the competition’s history, beating the 80,841 that attended what was then the Sherpa Van Trophy Final in 1988 between Wolves and Burnley.
A remarkable effort from two third-tier sides hoping to climb back to the top level of English football and showing they have Premier League support backing them.
Both sides had chances to grab a winner before the final whistle ensured there would be 30 minutes of extra-time.
Pompey were providing the goal threat in the 30 extra minutes and earned their reward in the 115thminute with a superb piece of skill from Lowe – bringing the ball down from a great long pass from Clarke before expertly chipping McLaughlin in the Sunderland goal.
With the cup almost theirs, Portsmouth paid the price for sitting back as McGeady grabbed his and Sunderland’s second with two minutes left – Clarke just unable to keep the effort out.
But the Pompey penalty takers held their nerve in the shoot-out, with MacGillivray’s save from Cattermole the crucial moment.
Portsmouth (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Naylor, Close (Walkes 113mins); Lowe, Pitman, Curtis (Evans 56); Bogle (Hawkins 69). Subs (not used): Bass (gk), Haunstrup, May, Vaughan.
Sunderland (4-2-3-1): McLaughlin; Niem, Flanagan, Baldwin, James (Hume 88mins); Cattermole, Leadbitter (Wyke 95); Morgan (Gooch 73), Honeyman, McGeady; Grigg (Power 77). Subs (not used): Ruiter (gk), Dunne, McGeouch.
Referee: Dean Whitestone