Merstham 1 Swans 1

Saturday 28 March 2015.                           Ryman League, Division One South.

Merstham 1   Walton & Hersham 1.

A goal scored in the fifth and final minute of stoppage-time denied Swans a deserved win at the high-flying Moatsiders. The home side needed just one point to clinch a spot in the play-offs, but that last-gasp equaliser turned out to be their only shot on target as Swans’ goalkeeper Gary Ross had not been forced into a save throughout the match. There was just time to kick-off again before the referee blew the final whistle to signal the end of a hard-working, battling performance by Tony Reid’s side that deserved more than a single point.

André Scarlett was beginning a two match suspension, while Anthony Oaks’ injured ankle meant he was again not risked from the start, Jack Battie coming into midfield. With Andrew Mensah still not fit, 17 year-old youth player Jake Bedford was given a start, and with Ed Mason coming in at left-back it was a young Swans’ side that took the field, with five of the starting line-up being 20 or under. Martin Beard was unavailable, while Dylan Cascoe joined Mensah, Louis Clark and Dominic Ogun on the unfit list.

Swans started with a strong wind blowing mainly in their favour, and they went close to taking the lead after just two minutes. Tarome Hemmings took a free-kick from close to the right touchline for James Cottee to get in a close-range header at the far-post, and the ball was blocked on the line amid claims for handball. Hemmings was immediately taking a corner from the left, but this time Cottee’s header was well off target. With five minutes played Nathan Daly sent in a long throw from the right, and when Cottee nodded the ball on it was just cleared before Shawn Lyle could get to it.

Swans had dominated the early play with the home side unable to make any significant inroads into their half, so it was deserved when they took the lead with a superb goal after 18 minutes. Bedford laid the ball back to Battie 35 yards out, and he struck a terrific shot past Merstham keeper Brannon Daly.

Soon after the restart Hemmings got the ball forward to Lyle inside the right of the box, and he hooked a first-time shot wide of the far-post. Battie then took a throw-in from the left and Harry Mills got in a flick header at the near-post that the keeper took high up.

Swans had a good chance to double their lead when they broke away following a Merstham free-kick in their half. Battie played a fine diagonal ball to pick out Bedford’s run into space on the right, but keeper Daly was able to block his shot, and only a corner-kick resulted.

There was soon another scare for the home side when Hemmings sent a free-kick into the box from deep, and the ball glanced off the head of former Swan Junior Kaffo and flew just over the top-left corner of the goal. Swans continued to be good value for their lead, and just past the half hour the ball had to be headed behind for a corner when Daly launched a throw from the right, and was then just headed away from Hemming’s kick. Lyle almost got in when Cottee played the ball forward into the right of the box, but he was judged to have fouled keeper Daly as they came together. As the half entered the final five minutes Swans forced two successive corners, and then Lyle made a fine run down the right, but his cross dipped over.

Swans had denied Merstham any clear openings, but in the final minute Omar Folkes played Aaron Rhule clear into the box on the right, but a fine tackle by Vernon Francis put the ball behind for a corner.

The home side now had the advantage of the wind in the second-half, but Swans again threatened early, as five minutes in Cottee got in a good low strike from outside the right of the box that Daly just stopped on his line. The Merstham keeper was soon going down to make another save from Battie, who had driven in a shot after Lyle had made a strong run on the left before laying the ball back to him.

Merstham’s Tommy Hutchings replied with a shot from 35 yards that went over, before Lyle whipped over a cross from the left for Swans that was just too high for Cottee in the middle. Battie then made a good run forward, but with teammates in support he was tackled on the edge of the box.

At the other end Ross had to punch away from under his crossbar when Hutchings swung over a corner from the right, and when Merstham won a free-kick in a dangerous position just outside the left of the box Taurean Roberts could only find the top of the net. The home side had understandably applied more pressure in the second-half, but had seldom looked like breaking through a resolute Swans’ defence. They reshuffled their line-up with Kaffo moving up front from central defence, and Jay Bradley coming on for Peter Adeniyi, who had been injured in a tackle.

Oaks and Josh Cover replaced Battie and Bedford for Swans, and when Oaks laid the ball back to Hemmings 30 yards out he drove a shot over. Lyle then had a shot from the edge of the box that took a deflection off a defender to go narrowly wide. Two minutes into stoppage-time Lyle made a run on the right before playing the ball into the 6-yard box, but no-one was up in support.

Swans had looked like securing a fine win, but with five minutes of stoppage-time played Merstham had one final opportunity when they won a corner on the right. When Hutchings swung the kick over the ball was deflected onto the near-post, and before Swans could react Kaffo drove the ball through a forest of legs and past Ross.

Swans’ Team: Gary Ross, Nathan Daly, Ed Mason, Jack Battie (Anthony Oaks 78’), Jahmahl King, Harry Mills, Tarome Hemmings, Vernon Francis, Jake Bedford (Josh Cover 78’), James Cottee, Shawn Lyle. Subs. not used: Gareth Chendlik, Tony Reid. Scorer: Battie (18’).

Merstham Team: Daly, Gunner, Douglas, Morath-Gibbs, Kaffo, Adeniyi (Bradley 71’), Roberts, Hutchings, Folkes, Rhule, Hall (Quiassaca 60’). Subs. not used: Attwood, Hysai, Makiese. Scorer: Kaffo (90+5’).