By Sam Colvine
Hampton’s U16 footballers fought valiantly to qualify for the national U16 ESFA final, beating Ark Alexandra Academy by the odd goal in five to join their B-team counterparts in a national final.
Ark Alexandra took the initiative from the kick off, pressing Hampton onto the back foot early on.
Frequently, they threatened to find their way behind the home defence and, eventually, they succeeded: incisive dribbling from an Ark Alexandra midfielder enabled him to carve out some space on the edge of the area. A subtle through-ball split the Hampton defence, sending the opposition winger goal-bound. Quickly, he squared it across the face of goal where his striker turned the ball into the empty net.
However, the U16As responded resolutely with Alex Dinan orchestrating play. After the opposition keeper saved from a Patrick Helm shot from close range, Jack Da Costa found himself on the right wing. With no real passing options available, he clipped a cross into the box, yet, with the wind blasting across the pitch, the ball was blown towards the goal and looped over the hapless keeper into the far corner.
This goal, almost from nowhere, spurred the home team on and a second soon came. Following a goal-mouth scramble, the ball trickled out beyond the edge of the box where captain Sam Evans was waiting: he drove a barn-storming shot into the top corner, hit with such power that the keeper had no chance.
Hampton were dominating now and, as half-time loomed, the net rippled again as winger Patrick Helm struck a rasping half-volley home to make the score 3-1.
Into the second half and Hampton resumed their supremacy with numerous goal attempts challenging the opposition keeper. However, their commanding performance was slightly tainted by an Ark Alexandra goal where a wind assisted corner found its way into the Hampton net in similar fashion to Da Costa’s goal.
Yet, the U16As did not let this dent their morale and they pushed on with Theo Back, Dinan and Rohan Sahota all coming desperately close. Nonetheless, the game finished 3-2 and the team find themselves in a national final after an excellent collective performance.