By Josh Bartholomew, Online Editor
Photos by Toby Booker
364 teams packed with the nation’s brightest young footballers entered this ESFA Cup competition in September, and now only two remain. Hampton
In reaching a national semi-final, Mr Mills’ 2018/19 squad were already school-record breakers, but they will now be written into Hampton folklore after winning a tumultuous, nervy encounter 4-5 after extra-time.
Hampton looked to be through to next month’s final with room to spare after a second-half surge left Gordon’s with a 2-4 deficit to overcome, but a spectacular free-kick goal and headed finish meant an extra 30 minutes was needed to separate the two teams.
Conceding a last-minute equalizer has been the downfall of many a side in extra-time, but this plucky, pugnacious Hampton side are a force to be reckoned with. After dealing with Gordon’s attacking threat well, Denil Manuel supplied a tantalising ball for Harry Short to head home and ensure Hampton’s place in next month’s final in Shrewsbury.
An uneven pitch and fearsome wind meant that the opening stages were tightly-fought, with both teams misplacing passes. Before this match, Gordon’s had lost only two games on their home turf all season, and it showed. They coped admirably with the conditions, and went ahead after 11 minutes, with their central midfielder taking advantage of a bouncing ball outside the area to hammer his side ahead.
Hampton were growing into the game, and began to threaten the Gordon’s defence, with Shaun-Chris Joash looking particularly dangerous with the ball at his feet. It was Joash who won the vital free-kick which led to Hampton’s opener, drawing a foul with his trademark silky footwork.
Attacking-midfielder Harry Short took the subsequent set-piece and delivered it perfectly to Freddy Hodgson, whose fantastic turn-and-finish left the home goalkeeper stunned.
Though Hampton were now dominating possession, Gordon’s were admirably clinical, and scored their second goal from their second opportunity, as they headed home from a corner to reinstate their lead only minutes from half-time.
With Mr Mills and Mr Burke in typically rousing form during the half-time interval, Hampton came out after the break a different side – more precise, more energetic and more tenacious in dealing with Gordons’ threat.
It took only a minute for Gordons’ lead to be eradicated, as centre-back Noah Hanley headed home from a free-kick.
The game became noticeably tighter as the second-half continued and the stakes became ever-higher, and both sides could boast impressive attacking verve.
Gordon’s could easily have been ahead after an hour, as the referee adjudged Hampton goalkeeper Tim Wallace to have committed a foul inside the box. But Hampton’s blushes were spared, as Gordons’ penalty flew over the crossbar.
Fifteen minutes later, Hampton had a penalty of their own. Picking up the ball in midfield, Joash drove forward with typical pace and skill, only missing out on a shooting opportunity after an opposition foul. Midfielder Louis
Almost instantly, Hampton’s lead was doubled. Fifth-year Sami Omaar span brilliantly past an opposition defender, scythed into the box and crossed to Instrall, who finished simply.
At this point, it looked as if Hampton’s victory was secured, especially with centre-backs Hanley and captain George Maxwell looking so assured at the back.
But Gordon’s, buoyed by their rapturous home crowd, were throwing everything at the Hampton defence, and soon they needed only one more goal to force extra-time. From a free-kick outside the box, the ball was swung into the box, and the wind powered it past Wallace’s stretching arm.
Gordon’s were now intensely energetic, screaming forward with potency as Hampton sought to protect their lead. As they broke on the right, Omaar brilliantly stopped the cross at source, but an unfortunate deflection flew straight up in the air, and Gordon’s could head the ball in and force extra-time.
Understandably, the extra-time period was hard-fought and fervent, but Short found space in the box to head Hampton to Shrewsbury and send the faithful travelling support into delirium.