By Alex Watson
Round 1- Hampton School 6 v Forest School 0
The Hampton U13A team were looking to begin their ESFA campaign with a bang, travelling to Walthamstow with a somewhat depleted side to take on Forest School in the opening round of the English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA) Cup for U13s.
Despite many players playing out of position, Hampton seized control of the game early and rarely took their foot off the gas, with three goals in both the first and second half.
Alessandro Cardinale opened the scoring with a curling effort that dipped over the keeper from outside the box, before Jasper Bird bundled home to double the Hampton advantage.
On the brink of half-time, Hampton had their third, Cardinale once again netting as he slotted home a defence-splitting through ball.
It took a while for the U13As to grab a fourth after the break, though they rarely looked threatened when Forest came forward. Eventually, they scored goal number four as Caspar Strouts pounced on a sloppy pass from a Forest defender and smashed home.
Two late stunners from full backs Felix Burt and Freddie Thwaite respectively sealed an impressive win for Hampton, with Thwaite’s goal in particular really catching the eye. The right-back’s first time effort seeming to gather speed as it crashed into the crossbar and then into the roof of the net.
Round 2- Hampton School 5 v Carshalton Boys Sports College 4
After a fairly routine encounter in the first round of the ESFA Cup, Hampton U13As were faced with a much sterner test as they took on Carshalton Boys Sports College, in what would turn out to be one of the most dramatic games of the season.
It took a while for the Hampton boys to come to terms with the tight, AstroTurf pitch they were playing on, and Carshalton pounced on this factor, scoring an early goal as the striker scooped the ball past a helpless Seb Rautenberg.
However, Hampton responded urgently however, with two goals being scored in quick succession before the break- Marcus Solomon lobbing the desperate Carshalton goalkeeper before Rio Felonov-Tzanev bundled home a typical striker’s finish. However, it has to be said that without the brilliance of goalkeeper Rautenberg the score line may have been a whole lot different going into half-time.
Much to Hampton’s dismay, Carshalton struck back in the second half, with a fierce shot from outside of the box finding its way into the top left corner to make it 2-2.
The U13As remained unruffled however, and took the lead again when a deflected shot from Solomon dribbled over the line.
With fine application in defence, it looked as though Hampton would secure the victory until a late set piece was hooked in by a Carshalton winger to send the game to extra time.
Though the U13As tried to pick their heads up, their opponents now had the psychological advantage and took the lead early into extra time after a defensive mix up.
Despite this setback, the Hampton boys showed great calmness of mind to continue to pass the ball in a controlled, orderly fashion, and were rewarded when a fantastic strike from Felix Burt flew into the top corner.
And as the game’s final minutes ebbed away, with the tired players’ minds turning to thoughts of penalties, Felonov-Tzanev pounced on a miscommunication between the Carshalton centre back and goalkeeper to bundle home and send Hampton through in the dying seconds.
Though it was a much tougher fixture than Hampton’s previous encounter, the end result was the same- Hampton through to the next round of the ESFA Cup.
Round 3- Hampton School 12 v Royal Docks Community School 0
After the stress and anxiety of the previous round of ESFA, Hampton faced a much more straightforward challenge in round three, facing Royal Docks Community School.
A well-oiled Hampton unit proved to be too strong for Royal Docks, with the first goal being scored in the first few minutes of the game.
There were six scorers for Hampton on the day, with Marcus Solomon scoring a fine solo goal and Finley Milner a controlled finish into the bottom left corner.
Balti Birts (on return from injury), Alessandro Cardinale and Alex Watson all scored braces, while Rio Felonov-Tzanev netted an impressive four times.
Overall, a routine victory for the Hampton U13As, as they marched on to round four of ESFA.
Round 4- Hampton School 3 v St Thomas More High School 1
The team’s next outing in the cup, against St Thomas More High School, promised to be a different encounter, as it certainly wasn’t the pitch nor the conditions suited to playing tiki taka- instead the most popular method of build up play seemed to be long balls.
But as usual, Hampton rose to the challenge, playing with that same style and flair that has been encouraged throughout their time at the School, and adding grit, determination and strength that they may have acquired through their Sunday League experiences!
Nevertheless, Hampton were still immensely impressive on the day, as they came into the break 3-0 up, after a cleverly directed header from Rio Felonov-Tzanev and two fine finishes from Alessandro Cardinale.
However, their coaches encouraged them to be wary after the break, and rightly so, as St Thomas More attacked Hampton with everything they had. However, in what proved to be an infinitely trickier second half, the U13As stood firm and held onto their lead, managing to concede only one goal in a fiery and throughly physical second half.
After a long, tiring, hard-fought encounter, in which the ‘big men’ shone, Hampton came away with what they wanted- progression into the next round of the ESFA cup.
Special mention goes to Sooho Jin, whose man marking of St Thomas More’s frankly terrifying striker was absolutely superb.