Hampton’s U15B Team finished a magnificent run in the ESFA Cup watched by our Fourth Year reporter: Josh Bartholomew

The final against Thomas Telford School at Stoke City’s Stadium was the last game of a marvellous campaign which spanned eight months, seven matches, and 30 goals. Sadly, the team’s run of success came to an end as the final match ended 2-1 to Thomas Telford.

Notwithstanding the result, the Hampton side are to be congratulated after competing valiantly against a team renowned for its form in winning national finals, and for providing a wonderful day of football for the Hampton community.

Few things unite a school like a cup-final, let alone two, and several coach loads of boys travelled to Stoke last Friday. The mood on the journey up to the Midlands was one of expectation with Hamptonians anticipating an exciting afternoon.

The match began with a nervous roar from the Hampton faithful, but fears were dispelled after five minutes as their team gained an early advantage. The ball broke free just outside the box after a defensive mix-up, and midfielder Matthew Groves calmly placed the ball into the back of the net to send the supporters into raptures.

The joy was short-lived however, as Thomas Telford equalised following a break down the left side, a cross-cum-shot managing to squeeze past the goalkeeper, Sam Hussey, into the far corner. Albert Cloud showed commendable defensive heroism in attempting to keep the ball out, but agonisingly it was already over the line.

With the scores level, Hampton continued to pile on the pressure. Wingers Mikey Ford and Haris Williams looked increasingly threatening, but their efforts were to no avail as their opponents defended resolutely. The game itself was becoming increasingly cagey as both sides attempted to deal with the pressure of a national final in a Premier League stadium. The atmosphere was rocking, largely due to Hampton’s loyal and loud collection of fans.

Half-time came and went, and Hampton continued to look steady in defence, and threatening in attack as the final neared its conclusion.

It took Thomas Telford over 30 minutes of the second-half to threaten Hampton’s steady back four.  A chipped cross from the right wing found its way to an open striker in the box, and it took an incredible reflex save from Hampton substitute goalkeeper, Callum Ruse, to maintain the deadlock. But in a cruel twist of fate, the rebound fell to Thomas Telford who put the ball in the back of the net. Hampton’s seemingly impenetrable iron curtain had been breached.

The goal was initially met by a stunned silence amongst the black and gold fans, but this changed to a roar as they came to the realisation that there was still time to clinch an equaliser.

The Hamptonians kept pushing and it was only minutes before they had the ball in the net through a header from Dylan Dyson-Holland. Luck simply wasn’t on Hampton’s side, and the goal was ruled out after Dyson-Holland was judged to be offside when the ball came in.

As the referee’s final whistle blew, the Hampton fans on the terraces rose to their feet to applaud their team.

Hampton Captain Josh Culshaw praised the Hampton players:

I’m incredibly proud of the team for getting as far as we did. Although we couldn’t win on the day, it was a great effort to reach the final. We were unfortunate with both goals and could have put the ball in the other net if luck had been on our side.

Goalkeeper, Callum Ruse, shared these sentiments.

It’s a shame we couldn’t get over the line, but we did so well to get to the final, and the experience of playing at a top-level stadium will stay with me for a long time. As a team, we were really appreciative of the Hampton fans who came to watch.

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