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Hampton’s Greatest Sporting Moments, Semi-final One: First XI win ESFA Cup

Coming up against the First VIII’s victory at Henley in 1985 is an equally spectacular triumph: the First XI’s ESFA Cup win last year. Have your say on Twitter at @SportsHampton.

Semi-final One: First VIII win Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup vs First XI win ESFA

Reminiscing on a day that will live long in the memory for Hamptonians past and present, it seems almost futile to even be looking back – there can be few details that will have escaped from the memory of those in attendance on that wonderful day in Shrewsbury last April.

Despite three ISFA First XI triumphs – in 1999, 2007 and 2012 – Hampton had never won the ESFA U18 Cup. Under the inspired leadership of George Maxwell, however, in 2018/19 the First XI launched a triple-pronged assault on silverware: first, the ISFA Cup, then the ESFA Cup, and finally the London IS Cup.

It is said that one can learn the most about a team by how they recover from adversity, how they revitalise after falling. And after a devastating defeat at home to Ardingly in the ISFA quarter-final in December, in which Hampton were within inches from scoring through a Shaun-Chris Joash free-kick before losing on penalties, it appeared that it would be extremely difficult for Maxwell’s team to pick themselves up.

But a week later, Hampton’s burgeoning ESFA campaign continued with a 5-0 victory at the Palmer Catholic Academy, with QPR midfielder Stathis Kalathias getting on the scoresheet. Any demons from the ISFA heartbreak were well and truly vanquished within seven days of its occurrence – quite the achievement.

With ISFA out of the way, all attention could shift to the national ESFA Cup, where the 364 teams who entered were quickly being sifted out. Hampton’s campaign was building relentlessly, though, despite numerous away trips (the First XI eventually played their final seven games of the cup run away from home).

After a dominant 6-0 win at Bishop’s Stortford High School in the quarter-final, Hampton secured a semi-final place, becoming the first team in the school’s history to do so. Awaiting them was local boarding school Gordon’s, who had reached the last four for the second consecutive year.

What ensued was an enthralling, high-quality match – Hampton responded to Gordon’s going ahead twice, before scoring two in two second-half minutes to take a 4-2 lead. But Gordon’s weren’t going down without a fight, and hit back to equalise with only seconds remaining.

Eager to avoid more late heartbreak, Hampton looked revitalised in extra time, and attacking-midfielder Harry Short’s headed goal was enough to send the First XI to Shrewsbury with a thrilling 5-4 win, where defending champions Repton would await.

Travelling up North with the team were 700 boisterous Hamptonians, whose unwavering support would prove essential in the final.

It was a tense encounter at Montgomery Water’s Meadow, with Hampton’s midfield control being rivalled by Repton’s attacking fullbacks. On the stroke of half-time, Hampton fell behind, as Tom Buffin scored Repton’s opener.

Roared on by their faithful fans, in the second half Hampton were rejuvenated, hitting the post through star striker Shaun-Chris Joash, but with only minutes remaining, the scoreline was still 1-0 in Repton’s favour.

But Hampton’s unyielding persistence was eventually rewarded, as Rohan Hobbs was fouled inside the area on 88 minutes, and midfielder Louis Instrall was handed the opportunity to level proceedings from the penalty spot. He needed no second invitation.

An uneventful extra time period meant one thing: penalties. After every training session last season, the Hampton team practised spot kicks, and it eventually came to fruition. Far from the heartbreak of the ISFA defeat to Royal Russell, Hampton scored all three spot-kicks; Repton missed all three. The moment when Tim Wallace saved from Repton substitute Max Barnes-Batty is one that will go down in Hampton folklore – in the school’s 463 year history, there have surely been few equivalent instants of pure, unbridled joy as experienced by those present as the 2019 First XI sprinted over to the Hampton stand.

Josh Bartholomew, Hampton Sports Chronicle Editor

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