By Harry McLusky
Fortune did not favour the Hampton 1st XI on Wednesday, as their magnificent ISFA cup run sadly came to an end at the semi-final stage, against a strong Royal Russell side, coming out on the wrong end of a 3-1 score line on the 3G.
Previous meetings between the two sides positioned Hampton as underdogs going into the game, with the home side losing three out of the last four matchups. Their status as underdogs was reinforced by the absence of Jamie Wilson, prolific forward, being suspended due to a red card in his prior game.
Despite the bleak and overcast weather, Hampton started brightly, with Josh King immediately showing his explosiveness and flair in the opening minutes, darting through the Royal Russell defence and flashing a threatening shot across the face of goal.
Alas, the opposition quickly broke down our own back line with a creative lob over the top, being vollied in from close range, immediately putting Royal Russell on top within the opening minutes.
Things went from bad to worse for Hampton as their deficit was doubled soon afterwards in unfortunate circumstances. A great save from Conrad Knight unfortunately ricocheted off defender Harley Mackenzie into his own net, giving Hampton a mountain to climb going into half time.
Hampton started the second half with the same vigour and determination as the first, pressing high and creating half-chances in order to claw themselves back into the game and the competition as a whole.
Their efforts paid off within 15 minutes of the restart, crafting a brilliant goal in the process to put them back within touching distance of the opposition. An under-hit free kick from right side from Zain Suterwalla ended up being a blessing in disguise. Suterwalla disguised a brilliant run in behind the defensive line, and was picked out with class by Matthew Sedgewick, with the former slotting home coolly to make it 2-1 to Royal Russell.
Conrad Knight continued to impress in goal, confidently claiming countless crosses and making some domineering saves from close range to keep Hampton in the game.
However, Royal Russell restored their two-goal cushion soon afterwards, capitalising on some scrappy defending from a corner. The ball fell to the opposition’s centre-back who expertly found the bottom corner, with a well-timed volley from close range.
A standout performance, yet again, was carried out by young starlet Josh King, who made his debut for the 1st XI earlier this year. Playing in an attacking midfield role, King’s skill, pace and confidence on the ball was a spectacle to behold for the masses of pupils, teachers and parents crowded on the sidelines to watch the game. King is undeniably a great prospect and is one to watch for the future.
Midfielder Johnny Evans-Hutchinson came close late on with a stunning bicycle kick from 10 yards, which was saved by an outstretched keeper, diving to his right.
Unfortunately, the referee’s whistle brought an end to Hampton’s ISFA cup run, after well-fought and closely-matched game. However, the 1st XI’s desire for silverware is still not over, with the team now focussed on their ESFA cup quarter-final on Tuesday, against St Thomas More High School. We wish them good luck.