Knaphill 0 Swans 4

Tuesday 7th December 2021.   Cherry Red Records Premier Challenge Cup, 2nd Round.

Knaphill 0    Walton & Hersham 4.

Four second-half goals put Swans through into the 3rd Round, and a home meeting with Division One championship contenders Hilltop FC. Despite dominating the opening 45 minutes, limiting the home side to a few spasmodic attacks, they created few opportunities to make a breakthrough. After making a triple substitution for the second-half they upped the tempo and began to open up the home defence and create the chances that finally led to a comfortable win.

Alec Fiddes and Darren Simpson came into the starting line-up, and Palace Francis returned after a one match suspension. Alex Kelly was not in the squad, while Dominic Ogun and Eddie Simon started on the bench.

On a pitch that had held up remarkably well considering the heavy rain earlier in the day, Swans dominated early possession and soon forced a corner on the right, with Harry Mills heading over from Fiddes’s kick. Mills was then fouled 30 yards out by Knaphill’s Lloyd Connelly, but drove the resultant free-kick into the defensive wall. Francis made a run in on the left byline before laying the ball back to Mills by the corner of the 6 yard-box, but his shot was only half-hit and home goalkeeper Jos Barker made a comfortable save.

With just under ten minutes played Swans were almost gifted an opening goal when Mark Primett’s attempted back-pass beat his advancing keeper, but fortunately for the Knappers’ defender the ball rolled wide of the left-post. Fiddes player the corner-kick short, but was caught offside as the ball was played back to him.

Swans continued to dominate possession, but most of the play was confined to the middle third of the pitch, and they struggled to find the final pass or piece of play that would open up the Knaphill defence. They had an opportunity with a free-kick on the right with twenty minutes left of the half, but Barker just got to the ball when Fiddes sent it into the box. Some clever play by Fiddes on the right ended with him getting the ball over, but it was just too high to pick out Simpson in the middle. Another right-side cross from Fiddes led to Swans going the closest so far to opening the scoring, Mills’ far-post header being kept out by Barker, who made a good save down to his right to push the ball round the post.

Swans finally had to go into the break having gone three halves of football without scoring, an unusual experience for them of late. They came out for the second-half having made three changes, Ogun, Will Kouadio and Simon coming on for Fiddes, Simpson and Jacob Munting.

The home side soon made a rare attack, winning their first corner of the match on the left, but the kick went unchallenged across goal.

Swans went close when fine play by Francis on the left got him past his marker to cross to the far-post, where Mills drove in a shot that was blocked behind for a corner. Another corner was won when a fine move led to Louis Collins getting in a strong shot from 25 yards that took a deflection to go over.

Swans had looked far sharper in the second-half, moving the ball around quickly, and they finally made the breakthrough after 58 minutes. A slick passing move just outside the box resulted in Francis being played in and being brought down by Primett. Swans’ record of late from the penalty-spot has left a lot to be desired, but Francis made no mistake in beating Barker with a confident strike to the keeper’s right.

It was almost 2-0 when Mills drove into the right of the box to strike a low, left foot shot that Barker did well to push round his far-post. Knaphill were now struggling to keep Swans out, and after 62 minutes they conceded for the second time. Ogun got into the right of the box before finding Francis on the left. Francis teased his markers before driving to the right, and with the home defenders wary of giving away another penalty, he drove the ball low past the keeper.

After 72 minutes Stuart Baldwin came on for Joe Pratley-Jones to make a welcome return, having missed the last 13 matches with an ankle injury.

Mills cut in from the right to almost play Ogun in, before Swans went close to making it 3-0 with a quarter of an hour remaining. After a relatively quiet first-half Francis was now causing real problems on the left, and he again made a great run in on the byline before laying the ball across for Simon to drive it against the crossbar from the edge of the 6 yard-box.

Knaphill had barely threatened throughout the match, so it came completely out of the blue when, immediately after Swans had hit the woodwork, they got in a shot from the left that rattled the near-post.

But it was Swans who looked like extending their lead, and with ten minutes remaining Francis played Simon clear into the left of the box, but he drove a left foot shot over from the corner of the 6 yard-box. Two minutes later Simon was sent surging forward through the middle before being cynically brought down by Matt Kellett-Smith, who was shown a straight red card. It proved to be a double blow for the home side, as the free-kick awarded 25 yards out was superbly driven into the top, right corner by Mills.

In the final minute of normal-time Mills made a good run forward, but shot wide of the left post from 22 yards.

With stoppage-time being played the home side made a rare foray into Swans’ territory when Marlon Pinder found space on the right, but he failed to trouble his former club by over-hitting his cross.

It was Swans however who had the last say when Collins got down the left to deliver a fine cross to the far-post, and Simon to plant a downward header into the far corner and make it 4-0.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Joe Pratley-Jones (Stuart Baldwin 72’), Louis Collins, Reece Brewster, Max Hustwick, Joe Hicks, Alec Fiddes (Dominic Ogun 45’), Jacob Munting (Eddie Simon 45’), Harry Mills, Darren Simpson (Will Kouadio 45’), Palace Francis. Sub. not used: Harry Pointing. Scorers: Francis (58’ [pen.] & 62’), Mills (83’), Simon (90+3’). Caution: Collins, foul (78’).  

Knaphill Team: Barker, Primett, Connelly, Rumble, De St. Croix, Tanner, T. Taylor, Warren, Holland, Kellett-Smith, Pinder. Subs. used: Ridgeley (67’), Williamson (67’), L. Taylor (77’). Sub. not used: Mohssine. Cautions:  De St. Croix, foul (43’), Primett, foul (57’), T. Taylor. Dismissal: Kellett-Smith, foul (82’).