Balham 0 Swans 0

Saturday 4th December 2021.   Cherry Red Combined Counties League Premier Division South.

Balham 0    Walton & Hersham 0.

Swans were left frustrated at the loss of two points as they failed to make the breakthrough against a dogged and determined Balham defence. There was no lack of chances created, including another penalty, but the home goal somehow survived all that was thrown at them, with a series of last ditch clearances and not a little good fortune as they got bodies in the box.

Had a goal come early for them it is likely Swans would have gone on to the win, but as the game progressed it began to look more and more like one of those days that whatever they tried would not come off. The penalty, awarded deep into first-half stoppage-time, would surely have provided that impetus for Swans to go on and secure the three points, but yet another failure from the spot was to cost them dear. After a long spell, during which they failed to get several penalty awards they deserved, Swans have now had nine spot-kick opportunities in their last twelve matches, but only three have been converted. Most of those failures have proved to be inconsequential, but the last two have been result defining, so it is a problem Swans have to remedy, particularly as their clever players and style of play will invariably commit defenders to rash challenges in the box.

Top scorer Palace Francis had been successful with their last spot-kick, but he had to sit out this game, serving a one game suspension, and his ability to open up chances in the box was undoubtedly missed.

On a playing surface rather less ideal than they have become accustomed to, Swans had an early chance when Harry Mills put Alex Kelly through into the left of the box, but his low shot was blocked at the near-post by Balham goalkeeper Sam Riley.

The home side soon forced the first corner of the match on the right, but following Tom Read’s kick Dominic Ogun was able to bring the ball clear.

Ogun was soon involved in Swans going close to taking the lead after ten minutes as he played the ball inside from the right to Kelly in the middle. Kelly found Mills on the left, and when he got the ball over Riley just managed to tip it onto his crossbar and over. Mills took the corner on the right, and when the ball came to Reece Brewster outside the box he struck a low shot that Riley just kept out down by his right post. Ogun and Kelly then worked a good move on the left, but after being played in Ogun was judged to be just offside.

The home side posed their first threat when Kojo Kyei crossed from the left and Cameron Gordon was at the far-post to glance a header wide. Gordon was soon being played into the box to make room and have a shot blocked. Balham continued to have a good spell, and after a quarter of an hour won a free-kick on the right that led to them going close to taking the lead. Read delivered the kick into the box, and Sam Pagano was at the far-post to send a header against the crossbar.

Kelly was fouled out on the left touchline for Swans, and when Mills swung the free-kick in the ball dipped just wide of the far-post with Riley struggling to get across, and although the keeper had appeared to get a touch no corner was given. Joe Hicks then got Louis Collins away on the left, and his dangerous, low ball in was cleared away from the 6 yard-box.

Balham forced another corner on the right, and when the ball was headed away from Read’s kick it fell to Pagano on the left, who drove well over the goal.

Mills was found on the left by a cross-field ball from Brewster on the right, and he got in a shot that was blocked away for a corner. When Mills swung in the kick from the left the ball was headed away from under the crossbar. Swans continued to probe away, trying to open up the home defence, and an excellent move got Mills into the left of the box. Mills made space, and although he had his ankle clipped did not go down, a penalty surely being the outcome if he had done so. A fine ball from Collins then got Kelly into the left of the box, but his lob over the keeper could only find the side-netting.

Balham’s Gordon set up Herculano Biague 25 yards out, but he shot low well wide of the left post.

Swans immediately got forward, and Eddie Simon combined with Mills to force a corner on the right, with Mills’ kick being cleared away at the near-post. Another terrific move on the edge of the box got Ogun through, and he looked to be fouled before the ball was cleared. With just over five minutes left of the half, yet another corner was won when Hicks’ long ball found Mills on the left. Mills’ left-side kick was headed away at the near-post, and following a scramble the ball was eventually cleared. Swans continued to open up the home defence, and another fine build-up on the edge of the box got Ogun in, but keeper Riley was out to scramble the ball away. In the final minute of normal-time Jacob Munting made a run in on the left byline to get the ball over, and it was just too high for Ogun, waiting to head home on the goal-line. The ball was put behind for another corner on the right, and this led to Swans going desperately close to taking a deserved lead. Hicks leapt to meet Mills’ kick at the far-post, and his header went across goal before the ball struck the inside of the right post and spun clear. Brewster forced yet another corner on the left, and from Mills’ kick Hicks’ volley was blocked on the line at the far-post.

As a result of an earlier cut head sustained by Balham’s Gordon there was a lengthy period of added-on time, in the fifth minute of which Swans should have seen their intense pressure on the home goal finally pay-off. Ogun got possession in the box before laying the ball back to Simon, who was fouled. Simon himself elected to be Swans’ latest penalty taker, but he fared no better than others this season as Riley saved his kick.

The tall target man Gordon had been an out for the home side in the first-half, but following his head injury he had to be replaced for the second.

Swans were guilty of giving the ball away in the middle of the pitch soon after the resumption, allowing Balham’s Laurie Goddard to get forward, but he shot well over from 25 yards. Dan David then got to the edge of the box, and his shot was closer but also cleared the bar.

Swans’ first effort of the second-half came when Brewster got the ball to Mills 25 yards out, but his shot lacked power and was straight at keeper Riley. Just before the hour another super move ended with Kelly getting Ogun clear into the box, but he dwelt slightly took long and Riley was quickly down to save at his feet.

Balham substitute Innocent Waziri was somewhat fortunate to escape with just a booking as he cynically brought Mills down with a scything tackle just outside the left corner of the box. Mills sent the free-kick into the box, and when the ball came to Brewster 22 yards out he sent a terrific volley just wide of the left post.

Kelly worked the ball to Ogun on the left, but his shot was straight at the keeper. It seemed only a matter of time before Swans made the breakthrough, and when Collins got Ogun to the left byline to drive the ball in, Riley was just able to keep it out on his line. Simon followed up with a shot, but the ball was again blocked on the line. Kelly was then sent through into the right of the box by Simon and appeared to be pushed in the back to deny him getting in a shot. Swans’ pressure on the home goal was incessant, and Ogun forced another corner on the left. Mills swung the kick in and the ball was again cleared off the goal-line. Mills then got to the right edge of the box, but there was an element of frustration as his left-foot effort went well over. Joe Pratley-Jones was next to force a corner, and this time Collins took the kick from the right to win another on the left. Mills’ kick resulted in yet another clearance off the goal-line as the ball was hooked away.

Swans’ keeper Liam Allen had not been seriously troubled throughout the match, and the only fear he would be beaten is if he was left exposed as his side pushed for the winning goal that had somehow eluded them. As the match entered stoppage-time a chance did come Balham’s way as they got in on the left, but the ball was cleared away at the near-post.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Joe Pratley-Jones, Louis Collins, Reece Brewster (Darren Simpson 85’), Max Hustwick, Joe Hicks, Harry Mills, Jacob Munting, Eddie Simon, Alex Kelly, Dominic Ogun. Subs. not used: Harry Pointing, Alec Fiddes, Billy Rowley, Stuart Baldwin. Caution: Kelly, foul (88’).  

Balham Team: Riley, Arias, Kyei, David, Palmer, Henry, Biague (Cruz-Rosa 87’), Goddard, C. Gordon (Waziri 45’), T. Read, Pagano (Hughes 63’). Subs. not used: Savage, H. Read. Caution: Waziri, foul (61’).