Drama in Devon

Saturday 14th October 2023.                                 Southern League, Premier Division South.

Tiverton Town 2    Walton & Hersham 2.

Having gone 2-0 down after 36 minutes, and with Mitchal Gough suffering from chest pains after playing less than a quarter of an hour, Swans could feel relatively satisfied to come away with a draw from their first visit to Tiverton. Their almost total domination of the second-half and the chances they created however, warranted something more. They came up against a home side that looked determined to make a point, and turn their season around under new team management, but on a slow pitch not suited to their passing game, they stuck to their beliefs and played some fine football, particularly in that second-half.

Harry Mills had picked up an injury against Hungerford in midweek, but Joe Pratley-Jones and Gough both returned after serving one match suspensions.

Swans still seemed to be recovering from the four hour trip down to Devon as they went behind after just three minutes. They were employing a high press, but Tiverton won the ball in their own half, and River Allen was on the front edge of the centre-circle to deliver a long ball over the top to pick out the run of Niall Thompson. Thompson took the ball to the left of goalkeeper Tyla Dickinson before sending it low into the far-corner, with Pratley-Jones just unable to get back.

Swans built up a move on the right leading to Trae Cook-Appiah forcing a corner, and from Stan Flaherty’s kick, Gough was at the far-post to have a low shot blocked.

The game was then halted for ten minutes when Gough received treatment on the pitch after feeling unwell, and he was then replaced by Arsen Ujkaj.

The delay seemed to help Swans regroup, and they began to pressurise the home goal. After half an hour Pratley-Jones set up John Gilbert 30 yards out to drive in a low shot, but it lacked power, and home keeper Lewis Williams made a comfortable save.

A Swans’ attack broke down in the home box, and Tiverton’s Allen was able to send Cameron Salmon away on the right, and he got into the box to get in a shot that Dickinson beat down at his near-post.

It was against the general run of play however when Tiverton made it 2-0 after 36 minutes. Another long ball down the left found Thompson, and he set up Bailey Kempster to cross to the far-post. Salmon was on the right corner of the 6 yard-box to strike a left foot volley into the pitch, and although not cleanly hit the ball bounced over Dickinson and into the top of the net.

Swans responded with Cook-Appiah being played into the right of the box, but he shot over. Williams then had to be quickly out to clear when Gilbert almost got Flaherty in. Joe Hicks got forward before finding Gilbert on the left, and he cut inside past a couple of defenders and across the edge of the box to drive in a low shot, but again he could not generate much power, and Williams went down at the far-post to make a comfortable save.

As the match entered the lengthy added-on time Tiverton’s Jack Veale forced a corner on the right. Olly Allen headed out to Gilbert, who skipped past a home player and drove to the front edge of the centre-circle before finding Cook-Appiah on the left. Cook-Appiah got into the left of the box past Kempster to send the ball low into the far-corner for his fifth goal in three games.

Dickinson was brought into action at the other end, blocking at his near-post when Thompson again got in on the left.

The first-half was extended even further when home keeper Williams received lengthy treatment.

Thompson continued to be a problem on Swans’ right, and a shot was blocked behind, but as the corner was played short the referee blew his whistle to end a half that had lasted over an hour.

Straight after the redemption Gilbert’s fine ball got Cook-Appiah through on the left, but Josh Jones got in a tackle and cleared. Olly Allen found Sam Tutt on the left to force a corner, and from Gilbert’s kick keeper Williams punched away. Gilbert exchanged passes with Allen by the left corner of the box, and he had a shot blocked. Hicks was on the edge of the box to lay the ball to Flaherty on his right, and he cleverly flicked it up before striking a left foot volley that Williams did well to go down and push round his left post. Pratley-Jones took a long throw from the right to force another corner, and from Flaherty’s kick from the right Pratley-Jones was at the far-post to get his head to the ball, which clearly deflected behind off a home player, only for the referee to give a goal-kick. A patient build up led to Pratley-Jones getting Cook-Appiah into the right of the box, but with Jones closing him down he could not quite wrap his foot around the ball and he shot just inches wide of the near-post. Swans continued to pressurise the home goal, and Williams was quickly out to clear when Anis Nuur almost got through.

Tiverton posed a couple of threats, Pratley-Jones having to clear behind for a corner, and getting in on the right byeline to have a shot blocked at the near-post.

Midway through the second-half Swans went desperately close to equalising. Nuur won the ball deep on the left and Gilbert played a terrific through pass to send Cook-Appiah clear into the left of the box. Cook-Appiah took the ball round Williams to roll it towards an open goal, but home skipper Jamie Richards did superbly to get back and hook it away.

Following the corner on the left Tiverton were able to clear to Thompson on the left, and Nuur was unable to prevent him driving forward into the box to get in a shot that Dickinson blocked. Thompson unnecessarily followed through on Dickinson and was shown a yellow card, with the Swans’ keeper needing treatment.

Swans again went close to getting the equaliser they deserved with just under twenty minutes remaining. Gilbert and Nuur combined to find Tutt on the left, and he drove the ball low into the 6 yard-box for Cook-Appiah to send it against the underside of the crossbar. A fine move started by Jake Frailing in the centre-circle led to Cook-Appiah and Gilbert combining on the edge of the box, and when the ball broke to Flaherty on the right, he drove in a left foot shot that Williams pushed away on his line.

With a quarter of an hour remaining Swans brought on Stefan Ilic and Eddie Simon for Olly Allen and Gilbert.

As the match entered the final ten minutes of normal-time Swans finally got the equaliser they deserved. Ujkaj found Flaherty in the middle of the pitch, and he slid a great ball through to send Simon driving clear into the box. Williams came out to block, but not before Jones had gone down and grabbed Simon’s ankle. A penalty was awarded, and with both Mills and Gilbert unavailable, Simon took responsibility, and drove the ball past Williams.

With stoppage-time being played Nuur showed great persistence on the left to drive the ball in and Williams to claim at his near-post. This almost led to Tiverton regaining the lead as Williams threw the ball out to Allen, and he sent Thompson driving down the left, past Ujkaj and into the box, but his shot was kept out by Dickinson making a terrific left-handed save at his near-post. From the left-side corner the ball was headed behind for another on the right, but Swans were able to clear.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Joe Pratley-Jones, Sam Tutt, Olly Allen (Stefan Ilic 75’), Mitchal Gough (Arsen Ujkaj 24’), Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty, Jake Frailing, Trae Cook-Appiah, John Gilbert (Eddie Simon 75’), Anis Nuur. Subs. not used: Rylee Wright. Liam Allen. Scorers: Cook-Appiah (45’ + 4’), Simon, penalty (82’). Caution: Flaherty, foul (87’).

Tiverton Town Team: Williams, Veale, Kempster, Russell, Richards, Jones, Allen, Smith, Thompson, Salmon (Collins 83’), Garside. Subs. not used: Rice-Lethaby, Sloan. Scorers: Thompson (3’), Salmon (36’). Cautions: Thompson (67’), Allen (72’), Garside (77’), Jones (81’).