Jason Lowe’s penalty sealed Salford City’s first ever Papa John’s Trophy success in their 81 year history as they saw off Portsmouth at Wembley Stadium on penalties in the rearranged 2020 final.
There was two changes from the side which lost out to Sunderland in midweek for Pompey as Kenny Jackett handed starts to Jordy Hiwula and George Byers in place of the injured Andy Cannon and Ellis Harrison as the South Coast club lined up in a 4-4-2 formation once again in North London.
Meanwhile for the Ammies, Richie Wellens rang the changes with Ash Eastham coming in to captain the side under the famous arch, whilst James Wilson was also handed a start, with Paul Coutts and Ian Henderson dropping out of the starting eleven following the defeat to Crawley Town last Tuesday, with Salford switching back to a 3-4-1-2 system.
Both sides were no strangers to the plush surroundings of Wembley, with Pompey being the current holders of the Papa John’s Trophy after emerging victorious back in 2019, whilst Salford had also tasted success in the same year as they secured promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history with a 3-0 win over AFC Fylde.
The first chance fell the way of Salford as Wilson drove forward before striking from 20 yards out after seizing on a loose ball, however his powerful effort was well matched by Craig MacGillivray in the Pompey goal.
In a frantic start to the game, Salford also had a shout for a penalty with Ibou Touray going tumbling in the area but replays showed there wasn’t much in it as the Ammies enjoyed the best of the action in the opening 15 minutes.
There was then another effort from the Northern outfit as Brandon Thomas-Asante who had a shot from the angle of the box saved well down to his right by MacGillivray.
Portsmouth struggled to get their passing game going in the early stages, with Hiwula and John Marquis cutting frustrated figures up top for the League One side as they became more and more isolated in the first 25 minutes.
Wilson was once again their main tormentor with the lively striker getting on the end of a whipped Touray cross to force MacGillivray into yet another brilliant save.
Pompey created the persona of a very rigid style, whilst the Ammies appeared to be far more expansive and fluid both in and out of possession as the first half progressed.
Jordan Turnbull was then the next to threaten to open the scoring, with the centre back hitting a half volley with power after Pompey failed to deal with a routine corner, however his drive was saved fantastically by MacGillivray.
Wellens will have certainly been the more satisfied party out of the two managers as the sides headed in at half time, with Salford enjoying the best chances of the opening 45.
The second half got underway with Pompey making three changes at the break as Ronan Curtis, Lee Brown and Marcus Harness came on to replace Charlie Daniels, Harvey White and Jordy Hiwula.
And it was Curtis who went on to almost have an immediate impact for his side as the Irishman broke into the box before seeing his low shot saved brilliantly by Vaclav Hladky as the shot stopper was forced into his first notable contribution of the game.
Salford then created their best chance of the second period as we progressed towards the final quarter of the game when a free kick came in from the right hand side, with the delivery being met with a firm header from point blank range by Eastham, but his effort was straight at MacGillivray, much to the angst of the watching Gary Neville.
The swathe of substitutions largely failed to inject some new energy into the game, with both sides appearing to be taking a patient approach as we headed into the final 15 minutes.
It would be Curtis who once again found himself at the centre of one of the second half’s biggest moments as a floated cross came his way, with the forward finding himself with the freedom of the penalty area at the back post, however his acrobatic effort flew miles wide of the goal when it appeared easier to score.
Another substitute was then involved as Bruno Andrade’s downward header was expertly patted away by MacGillivray as he once again denied the Ammies a breakthrough.
In the end 90 minutes wasn’t enough to separate the sides at the famous stadium as the game headed into extra time in a bid to find an opening goal.
Moving into the first period of extra time and the tackles continued to fly in as legs grew tired on both sides.
Portsmouth had the best chance of the opening 15 as the ball fell kindly to Ryan Williams in the area, who saw his half volley well saved by Hladky in the Salford goal as it looked for all the world like the Australian would score.
Salford substitute Mani Dieseruvwe then had a great chance to bag the games opening goal, but his volley on the turn agonisingly stuck the top of the upright and rebounded away to safety.
The second period of extra time largely passed without incident with the game being decided by the drama of penalty kicks.
It was Salford who emerged victorious in the end as successful spot kicks from Luke Burgess, Dieseruvwe, Thomas-Asante and Lowe secured the club’s first Papa John’s Trophy in it’s history after Williams and Curtis missed from 12 yards out for Pompey.
In the end it was despair for Portsmouth and ecstasy for Salford as their momentum continues to build following promotion to the EFL over two years ago, with their sights sure to be firmly set on making the League Two play-offs after tasting success in the capital.
FULL TIME: Portsmouth 0-0 Salford City (AET) – Salford City win 4-2 on penalties.
Congratulations to Salford City from everyone at Football League World!