By Josh Bartholomew
In reaching the ESFA final the 1st XI were already record breakers, but with this thrilling victory over Repton they have ensured their place in the annals of Hampton history. Roared on by a 700-strong travelling support, the team showed resilience to bounce back from behind to win the school’s inaugural ESFA Cup.
With four minutes to go, it looked as if Hampton’s efforts were in vain as Repton clung on to their 1-0 lead, but Louis Instrall drove home from the penalty spot to force extra-time.
As the tension rose with the prospect of a national trophy drawing ever nearer, the game became more and more tight, and penalties were needed to separate the sides.
Three missed Repton penalties later, and Hampton were victorious.
After nine rounds, seven away trips, a pulsating extra-time victory over Gordon’s in the semi-final and now this plucky victory, there is little doubt that this Hampton side are thoroughly deserving of their national triumph.
After a tightly-fought opening with the tension of the occasion translating into both teams’ play, Hampton began to gain control midway through the first half.
Shaun-Chris Joash was proving to be a particularly dangerous threat upfront, spraying the ball from side to side, often playing in wingers Louis Rhodes and Freddy Hodgson.
But Hampton couldn’t make the most of first-half possession, and next it was Repton’s turn to move into the ascendency. Dominating the midfield, the team from Derbyshire were having success playing the ball wide to right-winger Eno Nito who often found space in behind the Hampton defence.
The South-West Londoners were coping admirably with the onslaught, but with only minutes to go until half-time, Repton opened the scoring through Tom Buffin, finding the back of the net after a fortuitous bounce past a Hampton defender on the line.
Repton had broken down the right, before shooting at goal. It looked as if Tim Wallace’s spectacular reaction save had prevented the deadlock being broken, but from the rebound Buffin slid the ball home in between Wallace and Instrall, who had taken up position on the line.
Hampton responded with typical tenacity, and chants of ‘Hampton ‘til I die’ were bouncing around Montgomery Waters Meadow within seconds of Repton’s goal.
Half-time came and went, and Hampton looked a new team after the interval. They looked far more threatening, attacking with intensity and controlling possession. Joash was in particularly resplendent form as he fizzed the ball cross-field for Freddy Hodgson to sprint onto, before minutes later manufacturing an opening, dribbling past three Repton defenders and firing against the post.
Though they were now dominating, time was ticking away and Repton were finding a way back into the game, taking advantage of more space at the back as the Hampton full-backs bombed forward in search of an equaliser.
Mr Mills made a tactical change, moving central midfielder Louis Instrall to the wing and bringing on QPR Academy representative Stathis Kalathias into the middle of the park.
Hampton’s defence was still prospering, and were cutting out Repton’s attacks before they could shoot on goal as the travelling support from South-West London roared in the stands.
As time ran out, Mr Mills opted for one last throw of the dice with three minutes remaining, bringing on powerful striker Rohan Hobbs for defensive-midfielder Tom Hudson. It paid dividends immediately, as Harry Short’s long free-kick caused havoc in the Repton box.
The ball was headed away, and after Instrall struggled to control the ball, a Repton defender slid in, attempting to clatter the ball but instead caught Hampton centre-back Noah Hanley. To the delight of the Hampton fans, the referee awarded a penalty.
Instrall stepped forward and smashed the ball into the left corner, despite the despairing dive of Repton’s goalkeeper Milan Stanojevic.
The closing stages were largely uneventful, meaning extra-time was needed to find a winner for this tight final.
As both teams fought against fatigue, pressure and each other, the game grew even more tense, with the two defences coming out on top.
Extra-time was largely without chances, and penalties were to be taken in front of the Hampton supporters.
Instrall took the first, repeating his success from earlier in the match, before Repton skied their first penalty. Eventual man-of-the-match Shaun-Chris Joash made Hampton’s lead 2-0, and goalkeeper Tim Wallace kept his clean sheet with a capable save.
Stathis Kalathias came forward with the knowledge that a successful penalty would almost guarantee Hampton’s success. He glided the ball into the left corner.
Repton had to score all of their remaining three penalties and hope Hampton missed their final two, but winger Max Barnes-Batty’s strike was saved heroically by Wallace, who was enveloped by his jubilant, champion team.