Having previously been unsuccessful in their ISFA cup semi-final only a month ago, Hampton looked to bounce back in the English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA) cup semi-final against Forest School on Wednesday.
Anticipation filled the corridors of Hampton, as students eagerly awaited finding out if they would be getting the chance to see our 1st XI under the bright lights of the Hawthorns in the final.
Adam Coombs’ brace, in addition to Toby North chipping in with a goal, gave Hampton a historic 3-2 win, which saw them battle fiercely to hold out a strong Forest side, to whom they had lost to in September.
The all-important match started out as a cagey affair, with neither side threatening too much on goal, although Forest saw the majority of the possession in the early stages.
However, captain Matt Moffat stepped up to the plate, whipping in a dangerous free-kick from the left-hand side, which was expertly diverted into the net by Toby North at the far post: the centre-back’s fifth consecutive goal in Hampton’s extraordinary ESFA cup campaign so far. For the first time in the match, momentum switched in Hampton’s favour, giving tangible hope of a second final appearance in four years.
Set-pieces seemed to be Forest’s weakness throughout the game, with Hampton, yet again, capitalising on this, for the second time in quick succession.
Jamie Wilson, who was missing for the ISFA cup semi-final, had an undeniable impact on the flow of the game. This was cemented by his threatening corner from the right-hand side, which picked out the knee of talismanic striker, Adam Coombs, who poked the ball home through the goalkeeper’s legs.
Going into half-time, Hampton held a 2-0 advantage, and were seemingly solid favourites to play in the final at the Hawthorns.
The first XI started the second half brightly, with good link up play between Ben Robinson and Coombs resulting in the latter firing one just over the bar.
However, Forest were not to be underestimated, as they had proved back in September, when they emerged victorious in the reverse fixture.
Again, set-pieces provided an opening in the game, with a Forest corner taking countless ricochets before eventually creeping over the line, despite Conrad Knight and the crossbar’s best efforts to prevent it.
Forest drew level ten minutes later, through a free-kick from just outside the box, which took a fortuitous deflection off a Hampton player and found the bottom corner.
With the game now all even at 2-2, Forest seemed to be in high spirits, being spurred on by a home crowd, with the momentum behind them. However, typically, Hampton showed impressive resilience and vigour to keep themselves in with a shot until the very end. They persevered with their own football, searching for a potential winner in the dying embers of the game.
And when the chance came – they took it.
For the second time of the game, Matt Moffat turned provider again from a free-kick, this time from just inside the attacking half. His free-kick was slightly skewed high into the air, and was taken by the wind towards the Forest goal. The bright sun caused the Forest keeper to fumble it straight into the path of Adam Coombs, who was on hand to slot the ball home and give Hampton a late lead in the game.
Ten minutes left. The finish line was in sight, but the game was not over. Nonetheless, despite relentless pressing from Forest, Hampton’s defence held strong and dug deep enough to hold on until the final whistle. The game finished with Hampton victorious again, replicating the achievement of the 2019 1st XI team and reaching the final of the ESFA cup.
The victory sparked wild celebrations on the touch line which were carried into the changing room after the game. Hampton’s final opponents are yet to be decided, however it is undeniable that the team’s focus will now switch to the big game in early May.
Director of Football at Hampton, Mr David Burke, praised the team’s “fantastic achievement” and says that “we are looking forward to the prospect of a great ESFA cup final in May, when we know we will have the support of the whole school. Hopefully we can create another memorable occasion for the Hampton community”.