Guernsey 1 Swans 2

Saturday 29 March 2014.                               Ryman League, Division One South.

Guernsey 1    Walton & Hersham 2.

The loyal band of Swans’ supporters who made the trip out to the Channel Islands, most combining a long weekend break with following their team, were rewarded with seeing their favourites put on a superb performance against the high flying Green Lions. With an early morning start for the long trip to Guernsey for an evening kick-off, and taking into account their recent dip in form, the odds were stacked against Swans getting a positive result against the play-off contenders. But they put on an excellent, disciplined performance against highly accomplished opponents, and although they had a few narrow escapes in the second-half, they fully deserved the win that gave them the double over the home side.

With Sacha Mbaye unable to make the trip Louis Clark was available again to take his place, while new signing Nathan Daly came in at right-back. Carl Gibbs, who has scored 43 goals for the club, came in up front, having returned to Swans after last playing for them over nine years ago.

Watched by a crowd of just under a thousand, Swans threatened inside the first minute when they were awarded a free-kick deep on the right. Daly sent the kick into the box and Swans got in two headers before the referee blew for a free-kick. A fine piece of play then won a corner on the left and Sean Bradley’s kick was just cleared away.

Swans had made a fine start, settling immediately, and they were rewarded with an early lead, the goal coming after just six minutes. André Scarlett was fouled on the left, and following Bradley’s free-kick the ball was crossed in from the right and Vernon Francis got in a header that home goalkeeper Chris Tardif got his hands to but could not keep out.

The lead only lasted two minutes however as Swans were guilty of switching off. The ball was threaded through by Ryan-Zico Black to the prolific Ross Allen on the left, and he finished with a fine, first-time, left-foot shot low into the far-corner.

Swans had a chance to reclaim the lead following another good build-up, Daly crossing from the right for Gibbs to send a glancing header wide of the far-post. Then another terrific move down the left got Andy Lomas into the box, but he was just denied.

The home side were also playing some excellent football, and midway through the half the ball was laid back from the left to Tom De La Mare, who tried a lob from 25 yards that drifted wide. The dangerous Allen was then again played in on the left, but this time his first-time shot was pushed away by Swans’ keeper Dan Coles.

Swans immediately broke, and when Louis Glace-Palmer stole the ball from Angus MacKay inside the left of the box he got in a shot that Tardif did well to deflect wide of his far-post.

Guernsey’s De La Mare tried another shot from distance, and the ball took a big deflection to loop into the gloves of Cole.

With ten minutes left to the break Swans had another great chance to regain the lead. They built up another fine move on the left, and when Bradley’s cross picked out Glace-Palmer at the far-post he put a glancing header just wide.

Allen continued to be Guernsey’s main threat with his ghosting runs into the box, and when he again got in on the left he sent a first-time half-volley just wide of the far-post. The ball was then driven in low from the left and Coles just kept it from going in at the near-post.

With the half inside the final five minutes Scarlett almost got Glace-Palmer in on the home goal, but a corner was won on the left. From Bradley’s kick Francis got his head to the ball close-in at the far-post, but the ball was blocked.

But in the final minute of the first 45 Swans regained the lead with a terrific goal. Francis’s ball to pick out Lomas on the left was superb, and he got forward before striking a great cross that Glace-Palmer launched himself at to power a sensational header past keeper Tardif.

The home side made a change for the second-half, bringing on Dave Rihoy for Rhys Jordan, but they were soon forced into another substitution when Dominic Heaume could not continue after three minutes of treatment following a tackle by Daly that earned the Swans’ right-back the first yellow card of the match. Before substitute Joe Alvarez could come on Allen again caused Swans problems with more tricky play inside the left of the box, but his final cross went over.

Black’s speculative effort from 35 yards out was well wide of Swans’ goal, before Guernsey went close to equalising nine minutes into the second-half. It was again Allen who carved out the chance with a fine cross from the left that was met on the volley by Rihoy close to the penalty spot, but Coles made a great block with his legs.

At the other end Bradley almost got Glace-Palmer in on the right, but Tardif was quickly out to save at his feet.

It was end-to-end stuff, and Guernsey’s Matt Loaring twisted and turned on the edge of the box before shooting straight at Coles, who was looking secure in Swans’ goal. Rihoy got in a shot from the right that Coles just got a touch on to deflect the ball wide of the far-post, and the keeper was then quickly out to prevent Allen getting in on the right.

Glace-Palmer had caused Guernsey problems all evening, and with just under a quarter of the match left he again got the better of the defenders when a high ball was played to him and he was able to set up Gibbs to his left, but he sliced his shot wide. Andrew Mensah replaced the tiring Gibbs, and when he laid the ball back to Francis he drove a shot over from 25 yards.

Francis immediately gave a free-kick away in a dangerous position on the edge of the box, and was duly booked. Fortunately Allen’s kick was driven low straight through to the grateful Coles.

Bradley was soon doing well 25 yards out to send a shot drifting wide of the home goal, but Swans were now having to battle to hold onto their precious lead, and with ten minutes remaining the ball was somehow smuggled behind when Black took a corner from the left, and Guernsey were denied anything from the second kick.

The match had been played in good spirit, but Bradley and Black were both shown yellow cards following a minor flare-up. Black was soon taking a free-kick from 25 yards out, but Coles showed good handling to take a well-struck shot high up.

It was not all defending for Swans however, and some great play by Lomas on the left culminated in him cutting inside and getting in a low shot that brought a good save from Tardif to win a corner.

Guernsey’s De La Mare made space outside the box to put a low shot wide, but it was in the final minute of normal-time that Swans looked like being denied a fine win. Loaring got into the left of the box before rolling the ball in from a tight angle, but just as it was creeping inside the near-post Clark got there just in time to clear it off the line.

That was the last real scare as Swans played out four minutes of stoppage-time, and they had a half-chance to score again when Mensah almost got in as he latched onto a poor back-header from Sam Cochrane. The gathered band of Swans’ supporters could then celebrate with the players after a nerve-jangling second-half.

Swans’ Team: Dan Coles, Nathan Daly (Yinka Salami 64’), Andy Lomas, André Scarlett, Tom Mudge, Louis Clark, Sean Bradley, Vernon Francis, Carl Gibbs (Andrew Mensah 73’), Louis Glace-Palmer (Tarome Hemmings 80’), Peter Wedgeworth. Subs. not used: Jack Battie, Ross Nunn. Scorers: Francis (6’), Glace-Palmer (44’). Cautions: Daly (47’), Francis (75’), Bradley (83’).                          

Guernsey Team: Tardif, Isabelle, Dodd, Cochrane, MacKay, De La Mare, Jordan (Rihoy 45’), Black, Heaume (Alvarez 51’), Allen, Loaring. Subs. not used: Geall, Cread. Scorer: Allen (8’). Caution: Black (83’).