By Omer Olcer
At the end of a long and busy season, the Hampton U13A team travelled to The Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion to play their last and most vital game of their season against Chesterfield High School. Although it was
one of the biggest games in their lives the boys had to sit their Latin assessment in the morning, before travelling to Birmingham.
After a delayed kick off the boys in yellow and black started the game with energy, yet a few minutes in Hampton dropped back playing a low back line with less pressing in the middle third. This allowed Chesterfield’s number 6 and 8 to get much of the ball in the midfield which led to numerous long-distance attempts. However, a back four that had been improved and moulded to perfection throughout the season proved too good for Chesterfield’s attackers. Although the opposition looked like the better team, Hampton drew first blood when Thwaite won the ball from Chesterfield’s winger and played a lovely floating long ball over the back of the back four into Felanov-Tzanev’s stride who saw the ‘keeper run out and coolly lobbed it over him into the empty net, taking the lead against the run of play.
In the second half Hampton changed their playing style and stopped booting the ball up to their captain as it had become too predictable. The U13A team started playing more attractive football, having the lion’s share of possession, yet, despite their improvement in performance, Chesterfield equalised early in the half. Nonetheless, this did not stop Hampton from fighting on as they looked like the stronger side with numerous chances. Unfortunately for Hampton the scoreboard didn’t reflect their hard work in the second 35 minutes as many of their chances failed to find the back of the net. The full 70 minutes of normal time wasn’t enough to decide the winner of the ESFA Cup and so, it went to penalties, which the Hampton side had been practising over the few weeks as well as training how to control their emotions from the spot.
Hampton won the toss and Cardinale, who had scored many pressured spot kicks in the season, powered his attempt into the right-hand corner. Next up was Chesterfield’s number 13 who smashed it into the roof of the net. Casper Strouts then scored a brilliant penalty which ricocheted off the inside of the post into the net. Chesterfield’s second penalty was scored by the man of the match, Noah Roberts, who, unfortunately for Hampton, just squeezed it past the fingertips of the Hampton keeper Sebastian Rautenberg.
Third in line for Hampton was Adam Malik who sent the keeper one direction and then laced it into opposite corner of the net. After Malik’s composed spot kick, Chesterfield’s penalty was denied by Rautenberg who guessed the right
way and gave Hampton the advantage in the penalty shootout. Following Rautenberg’s save was Hampton’s number 10, Faris Salman, who kept his cool from 12 yards and passed the ball into the right corner.
Chesterfield were broken but not beaten as their fourth taker gave his school some hope by powering it past Rautenberg’s reach to make the score 4-3. Last up was Felix Burt who had the chance to win the ESFA Cup for Hampton. Under immense pressure, Burt kept his cool and rolled the ball past the Chesterfield’s ‘keeper to make his team the first U13A team in Hampton’s history to be English Schools’ Champions.