By Josh Hood
In the 2022 ESFA final, the Hampton U16B team narrowly missed out on silverware in a penalty shootout to Thomas Telford School after a 2-2 draw in normal time.
On 10 May, the Hampton U16Bs travelled up to Stoke to play in the ESFA final at the Bet365 Stadium. Having warmed up at the nearby academy training facility, the two teams kicked off in the early afternoon in front of a host of travelling fans.
The early stages brought an understandable nervousness from Hampton, as they struggled to retain the ball in the opposition half. As a result, at the 10 minute mark, Thomas Telford found themselves on the right wing with a sight of goal. After an initial challenge from the Hampton defender, the ball was regained by a forward, who drew a tackle and won a penalty. This was clinically converted in the bottom right hand corner by the Telford number nine.
After this wake-up call, Hampton started to contest more characteristically and were able to make space for some long range efforts on goal. The increased positivity paid dividends as, just after the half hour mark, a loose ball in the Telford penalty area was finished skilfully at the near post by the left foot of Ben Rollason.
However, in yet another twist just before the break, a free kick positioned 25 yards out was conceded by Hampton. To achieve a brace, the Thomas Telford striker stepped up for his second set piece of the game and fired a shot into the bottom left corner.
The absence of goals in the second half could not be pinned on a lack of opportunities created, as both teams continued to attack and challenge their opposing goalkeepers. Felix Von der Geest dealt with Telford’s main attacking outlet of lofted through balls down the right flank competently and Jacques Huet made numerous successful dribbles in the centre of the field to bring Hampton up the pitch.
After a disallowed headed goal by Freddie Hoffman-Becking with less than 5 minutes left on the clock, another ball whipped into the box fell to Captain Sam Spencer on the edge. With the outside of his foot, Spencer hit it low, hard and to the keeper’s left, thereby equalising for Hampton and sending the game to penalties.
Only narrowly missing the first Thomas Telford penalty in the shootout, Keeper Matthew Barkus stepped up and saved the second to give Hampton the upper hand. With one penalty left to win it for Hampton, Zaki Sadiq-Baig attempted his previously successful, trademark panenka but missed over the bar by the finest of margins.
Whilst Thomas Telford scored their sixth penalty, Sam Spencer, who took his penalty to the right, was denied by the keeper to conclude a successful yet painstakingly close ESFA campaign for the U16Bs.