Salford City held their nerve to beat Portsmouth 4-2 on penalties in the delayed 2020 Papa John’s Trophy final.
Neither side could find a goal in normal time or extra time as both goalkeepers produced a series of fine saves to keep the game scoreless.
Salford keeper Vaclav Hladky made the most crucial stop of the game as he helped the Ammies to victory by denying Ronan Curtis in the shootout.
Ryan Williams had also missed with Pompey’s first attempt, while Salford scored all four of their spot-kicks with midfielder Jason Lowe tucking home the winner.
The final was delayed by 342 days from its original date last April after the first coronavirus lockdown curtailed the 2019-20 season.
Salford will hold the trophy for less than 24 hours before Sunderland and Tranmere Rovers face each other in this season’s final on Sunday.
Victory means Salford have won on both of their appearances at Wembley Stadium after they secured promotion to League Two by beating AFC Fylde in the National League promotion final in 2019.
Their first honour as a Football League club, witnessed from the stands by co-owners Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, ensured they became the first side since Hull City in 2014 to win their first two matches at the stadium.
Portsmouth, on the other hand, were denied the opportunity to become the first club to retain the trophy after they beat Sunderland on penalties in the 2019 final.
Hladky prevails in battle of the shot-stoppers
League Two side Salford will argue they more than deserved victory over their League One opponents after they created the majority of the chances during the 120 minutes.
Portsmouth goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray could not repeat his penalty shootout heroics from 2019 but did keep Salford at bay with some superb saves, including three in the first half to deny James Wilson.
Brandon Asante-Thomas and Jordan Turnbull also went close to scoring an opener only for MacGillivray to pull off further impressive one-handed stops.
His high-quality performance continued in the second half as Ashley Eastham and Bruno Andrade both had powerful headers saved from close range.
While Hladky was not as busy as his opposite number, he still had to produce some impressive saves of his own.
First, early in the second half, he stopped Curtis from scoring with his first touch and, then, in the first period of extra time, he blocked a powerfully-struck half-volley from Williams.
Salford also skimmed the woodwork in extra time when substitute Mani Dieseruvwe showed some brilliant control and power with a volley from the edge of the penalty area that MacGillivray would not have been able to stop had it been on target.
No shootout repeat for Pompey
While Salford seemed to tire in the closing stages against their loftier opponents, they were faultless when it came to the decisive penalty shootout.
Luke Burgess, Dieseruvwe, Thomas-Asante and Lowe all converted from 12 yards while Lee Brown and Sean Raggett’s successful penalties were not enough for Portsmouth as Williams sent his opening effort way off target and Curtis was denied by Hladky’s left hand as the keeper dived to his right.
Reaction – Pompey ‘must move on quickly’
Salford boss Richie Wellens:
“I spoke before about this game being a hindrance, it can get misinterpreted.
“It was the timing of the game but it may have been a godsend because we are hoping to see it as a springboard now.
“The players now should take a hell of a lot of confidence and we should use the momentum for Colchester on Tuesday, we don’t want a Lord Mayor’s show, and then kick on for the remainder of the season.”
Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett told BBC Radio Solent:
“I felt Salford had the first half but, from half-time on, we were on top.
“It was good to create some chances in and around their box, but that’s hurting us at the moment, we need to score when we’re on top.
“If we show that type of intent going forward in the games ahead, it will come. We have to concentrate hard now, with a very big week ahead, that our season doesn’t slip away.
“If we can repeat that intent we showed in the second half and in extra time, we will win games.
“We have to get over this quickly and move on. It’s not been a good run of results for us, but generally in games we haven’t been creative enough or scored enough goals.”
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