A hard-won point on the south-coast

Saturday 26th August 2023.                        Southern League, Premier Division South.

Gosport Borough 2    Walton & Hersham 2.

Playing away against a side that had won their opening four matches, and with a goal tally of ten scored and just one conceded, Swans would normally be content to come away with a share of the spoils. Having taken a two goal lead just ten minutes into the second-half however, they will feel disappointed that defensive errors led to the home side salvaging a draw. This should not detract however from what was overall a fine performance by a Swans’ side that stretched their own unbeaten record to 25 matches. Playing in front of a large home crowd they played well for an hour, creating several openings, but they allowed a Borough side, that were undoubtedly the best they have encountered so far this season, to take a hold of the game for the rest of the match.

For their visit to the south coast Swans kept an unchanged starting line-up, Sam Tutt retaining the left-back spot with Joe Pratley-Jones unavailable.

With just five minutes played a good move led to Stan Flaherty and Stefan Ilic combining on the right, and Flaherty cutting inside to the corner of the box to get in a strong, left foot shot that home goalkeeper Toby Steward pushed away with a good save. The ball came out to John Gilbert in the box, but in shifting the ball onto his left foot to avoid the challenge of Harry Kavanagh he lost his balance and sent his shot wide of the left post. Borough soon broke, and a long ball over the top sent Gerson Ramos into the left of the box, but his shot was well blocked round his near-post by Swans’ keeper Liam Allen. Eddie Simon got Gilbert to the byline on the left, but his low cross was cleared, with Borough responding by Jonathan Efedje driving the ball across the goal-face from the left. The home side then had a free-kick deep on the left, and when Harvey Rew delivered the ball to the far-post it was scrambled behind for a corner. The kick from the left sent the ball across the 6 yard-box.

With a quarter of an hour played Swans had a fine chance to take the lead. Ilic forced Corey Jordan to lose the ball on the left edge of the box, and it ran to Trae Cook-Appiah, but after cutting to his right and opening up a clear chance by the penalty-spot, he drove his shot just wide of the left post.

Gosport’s Kavanagh got down the right, and his cross carried in the wind to pick out Ramos beyond the far-post, but he sent his header over.

It had been a very open start to the game, and Swans took the lead after 18 minutes. A misplaced pass by the home side’s Charlie Wassmer sent the ball straight to Simon deep in Swans’ half, and he played it through to find Cook-Appiah. Cook-Appiah drove into clear space down the left and into the box, but as he prepared to find the far corner Steward came out to block, and was judged to have brought the Swans’ player down. A penalty was awarded, and Harry Mills made no mistake, finding the bottom, left corner for his third spot-kick success in four games.

Swans were guilty of giving the ball away and Dan Wooden was left with a chance outside the box, but Allen was on his line to get behind a low shot.

Swans continued to create openings however, and Simon got down the left to cross to Gilbert in the box, but after a bit of ball juggling he hooked his shot wide of the left post. Just before the half hour mark Cook-Appiah found Flaherty on the right, and he cut past Wassmer and into the corner of the box to strike a left foot shot that Steward just managed to block away. Arsen Ujkaj was fouled on the left touchline giving Swans a free kick, and Ilic’s delivery into the box found Joe Hicks, who laid off to Flaherty on the right, but his cross was hit too long.

Borough had a free-kick of their own deep on the left touchline, but Rew’s ball into the box was well taken by Allen. The Swans’ keeper did even better when a soft free-kick was awarded for Gilbert’s challenge on Alexandr Barsa. Following the kick, Kavanagh’s cross from the right found Ramos in the left of the box, and his shot was superbly turned round the near-post by Allen, saving with his legs. Following the corner from the left a cross came in from the right and a close-in header cleared the bar.

In the final minute of normal-time of the half Mills made a fine run forward, surging inside from deep on the right before playing Cook-Appiah to the byline. Cook-Appiah did well to keep the ball in, and his low cross had to be cleared behind at the near-post by Hollands to deny Simon.

The home side had a couple of opportunities in stoppage-time, a header being put over from inside the 6 yard-box when Kavanagh crossed high from the right, and the ball again clearing the goal when Rew delivered a free-kick from deep right.

Swans’ Mitchal Gough was the first to be shown a yellow card for a foul on Borough’s right, and Allen made a good take down on his line when Kavanagh sent the free-kick into the box.

The second-half started with Cook-Appiah soon doing well in the left of the box before laying inside to Simon, but he couldn’t make room for a shot. There were then claims for handball in the box before the ball ran to Simon, but he scuffed his shot straight to keeper Steward.

Swans were fortunate following a corner on the right. Wassmer headed back at the far-post, and when Harry Medway stabbed in a shot that was blocked, Wooden was in the right of the 6 yard-box to strike a shot against the crossbar.

Swans immediately capitalised on their escape, going 2-0 up with ten minutes played of the second-half. A build-up on the right led to Mills finding Flaherty, and he cut past Medway and into the box before sending a fine, left foot shot in-off the base of the far-post to register his first goal for Swans.

Borough continued to look dangerous however, and when substitute Bradley Tarbuck crossed from the left, Hollands was outside the box to drive in a low, left foot shot that took a deflection off Ujkaj to go just wide of the right post. From the corner, Jordan got his head to the ball and Allen made a save on his line, leading to a scramble by the right post before a clearance off the line.

Swans made a couple of substitutions, with Jordan Adeyemi coming on for Cook-Appiah, and Ollie Allen then replacing Ilic.

The home side continued to press however, and when Medway crossed into the box from the left the ball was headed down for Antonio Diaz to drive a chance wide of the left post. Swans were not keeping possession in the home half, and it came as little surprise when the lead was halved with just over twenty minutes remaining. Borough pressed Swans deep into their final third, and when Medway crossed from the left, the ball was not cleared in the right of the box, and Wooden sent a fine left foot shot into the far corner. Allen then had to take the ball down at his near-post when the home side got to the right byline.

Swans had posed little threat since going 2-0 up, but they had a chance to clinch the win when Ollie Allen won the ball off Hollands, and Adeyemi and Gilbert combined to set him up in the left of the box, but Steward was able to save his shot down at the near-post.

With ten minutes of normal-time remaining Anis Nuur came on for his debut, replacing Simon.

Swans were struggling to see the game out, and in the 87th minute they conceded a crazy equaliser. Allen passed the ball out from a goal-kick to Hicks on the right edge of the 6 yard-box, but with Barsa putting him under pressure he tried to pass back to his keeper.

Allen was too central in his goal however, and although he just got across to the near-post to hook the ball away, it was judged to have just crept over the line.

Swans’ travelling fans groaned as 8 minutes of stoppage-time were announced, and they held their breath as Borough had a free-kick deep on the right, but were relieved when Kavanagh delivered the ball too long and behind. A foul by Medway on Gilbert saw out more time, and Swans were able to see out the final moments for a hard won draw.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Mills, Sam Tutt, Arsen Ujkaj, Mitchal Gough, Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty, Stefan Ilic (Ollie Allen 63’), Eddie Simon (Anis Nuur 80’), John Gilbert, Trae Cook-Appiah (Jordan Adeyemi 59’). Sub. not used: Jake Frailing. Scorers: Mills, penalty (18’), Flaherty (55’). Cautions: Gough, foul (45+3’), L. Allen, time-wasting (72’), Adeyemi foul (90+7’).

Gosport Borough Team: Steward, Kavanagh, Jordan (Sharp 67’), Wassmer, Medway, Efedje (Tarbuck 46’), Hollands, Rew, Barsa, Ramos (Diaz 58’), Wooden. Subs. not used: Laidlaw, Cumberbatch. Scorers: Wooden (69’), Hicks, own goal (87’). Cautions: Ramos (49’), Hollands (49’), Rew (71’).