A determined second-half comeback from two goals down proved to be in vain for the U14B side as they were cruelly denied on penalties in the ESFA U14B Cup Final versus Sandbach School. The gripping game was watched by Lower Sixth reporter: James Dowden
Coaches of boys, teachers and parents made the pilgrimage north to Stoke City FC, in anticipation of what would prove one of the all-time, Hampton cup classics. The U14B side had already successfully progressed through several rounds, dispatching sides such as Kingsdale School and St Luke’s Science and Sports Collage on the road to Stoke City’s stadium.
No sooner had Hampton got the final underway, then they had a fantastic chance to take the lead. Billy Atkinson slid a ball down the channel for Rohan Sahtoa, who jinxed through the defence and unleashed a powerful shot that was well-saved by the Sandbach keeper, before the ball was scrambled away by their defence.
Although Hampton started brightly, Sandbach began to take control of the game in the first-half, piling on pressure for large periods of the half. However, this did not stop the Hampton fans from singing and drumming their hearts out from the stands made it sound more like the Maracanã in Brazil. However, Sandbach began to grow into the game and it was only thanks to a superb recovery tackle by Olly Coles on the Sandbach striker, that kept the scores level. Sandbach broke the deadlock and took the lead following a darting run by their right-winger, Sandy Mitchell came across to cover, but the winger managed to block his clearance and fortuitously for him, it ended up in the top corner of the goal. Goalkeeper Arthur Bothamley had no chance.
Sandbach then extended their lead further as the sides approached half-time, as their tricky left winger fired in a ball across the goalmouth, before the Sandbach striker ruthlessly dispatched the ball to give them a two-goal advantage.
A speculative chipped effort from Nat Woolagan had the Sandbach keeper scrambling, although ultimately Hampton could not bounce back before half-time.
Minutes after the second-half had kicked off, Hampton reduced the deficit with a goal from Rohan Sahota. Luca Parrish showed superb close control to take the ball down from a Sandbach flick on, before firing a ball over the top towards Rohan Sahota. Sahota then glided in between two Sandbach defenders and fired the ball into the net to send the travelling Hampton fans into scenes of jubilation.
It was a much rejuvenated Hampton in the second-half and it was their turn to place Sandbach under sustained periods of pressure.
A corner from Hampton exerted further pressure, as the delivery from Woolagan into the penalty area dropped invitingly to Fergus MacEacham, whose reflex attempt just grazed the crossbar.
Theo Back was enjoying a brilliant spell down the left-hand side a was a constant threat, taking on and beating the opposition full-back on numerous occasions. It was now all Hampton and a long-distance curling effort from Fergus Briston cracked off the upper stanchion of the goal. Still trailing, a Sandy Mitchell pass was picked up by Theo Back who laid the ball into the path of Rohan Sahota, who sent the ball out wide to Finlo Cowley who broke into the box and crossed into the path of Sahota again, who superbly finished with the outside of his right boot to level the game at two all and signifying a penalty shootout.
Hampton’s keeper, Arthur Bothomly played superbly and kept Hampton in the shootout by saving efforts from the Sandbach players and was unfortunate not to get more saves, as he guessed correctly with a number of the penalties.
It all came down to the last penalty for Hampton, which they had to score to stay in the final. A harsh turn of events saw a fantastic penalty cruelly rebound off the inner corner of the crossbar and post before agonisingly bouncing the wrong way, from a Hampton perspective, along the goal-line.
Overall the U14s can be immensely proud of their achievement and to get to the final of a national competition is something I’m sure they look back on with pride. The team navigated six rounds of competition and some 734 miles of travelling during their cup run and to have had the chance to play at Stoke City’s ground is one they will never forget!
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