By Alex Watson
Last Thursday, the various members of the Hampton U14A team left lessons early as they headed out to F2 to play their Surrey Cup Round of 16 clash against Woking County High School.
Filled with vigour, Hampton began the match on the front foot. Barely thirty seconds after kickoff, the Woking High goalkeeper had to be alert and was down swiftly to deny a header from Hampton striker Rio Felonov-Tzanev. Woking didn’t seem to wake up after this early warning sign, and Hampton looked to have taken the lead when central midfielder Charlie Moffat slotted home a clever pass from Marcus Solomon. However, the linesman provided Woking with a much-needed reprieve as the goal was ruled offside.
Woking finally began to come into the game and completely against the run of play, managed to take the lead. Their striker broke through with a superb show of pace, cutting inside past a trailing Freddie Thwaite and curling a superb effort into the right hand side of the net past a helpless Max Cooper in the Hampton goal.
The remainder of the first half was a somewhat placid affair, with Woking happy to sit on their narrow lead and Hampton struggling to break through their resolute defensive line. Going into the break, the U14As felt somewhat hard done by to be a goal behind, but would have known a second-half improvement was necessary, giving some much-needed impetus onto a game that was gradually drifting away from them.
After a rousing team talk from the coaches, they came out for the second half with a newound energy and were fairly quick to score a much-needed equaliser. Felonov-Tzanev bundled his way forcefully through the Woking line slotting into the bottom right-hand corner with a composed finish.
However, with Hampton now firmly on the front foot, pushing desperately for an equaliser, Woking suddenly broke forward on the counter, a mere 15 minutes left on the clock. Once again, their striker hurdled the challenges of two defenders and converted cooly from a tight angle to restore Woking’s lead.
However, on this occasion, Hampton did not seem to be perturbed by this setback, as they came straight back at Woking immediately through a brilliant, lofted pass from centre back Thwaite over the defence. Left winger Caspar Strouts managed to take the ball in his stride with an outstanding first touch and, through on goal, was brought down by the Woking High right back. Penalty taker Alessandro Cardinals promptly stepped up and, despite a fingertip from the goalkeeper, slotted the penalty home with great aplomb.
The last 10 minutes of the game saw a flurry of chances, as Hampton almost converted a stunning team move; the foot of striker Felonov-Tzanev not quite managing to reach a low, drilled ball across the face of goal from Burt. At the other end, Woking almost managed to snatch a goal late on from a corner, if it wasn’t for the heroics of Cooper who dramatically prevented the ball from crossing the line and keeping the score at two apiece. And there would be no extra time; instead, the game would be going straight to penalties.
After winning the toss, Hampton left back Burt stepped up first for the U14As. Unfortunately, his right-sided shot was denied by a strong parry from the Woking High goalkeeper. Fortunately, Hampton goalkeeper Cooper was on hand to replicate the Woking keeper’s heroics, as he saved both of Woking’s first two penalties, whilst Moffat and Cardinals both converted to put Hampton 2-0 up with one more penalty taken than Woking. After their third penalty was dramatically blasted wide by their striker, it was Felonov-Tzanev who had the duty to step up and take the potentially winning penalty. He made no mistake, emphatically slamming the ball home off the crossbar to send Hampton through to a quarter final against Harrodian School in the next round of the Surrey Cup. Credit to Woking County High School for playing their part in a great game of football.