Swans 1 North Greenford United 3

Saturday 27 January 2018.     Cherry Red Combined Counties League, Premier Division.

Walton & Hersham 1   North Greenford United 3.

Swans’ promotion hopes suffered another blow as they lost in controversial circumstances to a side that picked up their first points against them in four meetings. They were well in control in the early stages, but despite peppering the visitors’ goal could not add to their single goal lead gained after eleven minutes. The complexion of the game then changed with the award of a highly controversial penalty to the Middlesex side after seventeen minutes that allowed them to equalise, and from then on Swans seemed to largely lose their grip on the match. If there were questions to be asked about the penalty award, they seemed minor compared to those surrounding the straight red card shown to Jake Newton just before the hour that reduced Swans to ten men. With the importance of still going for the win despite being a man short, they were then twice caught short at the back and conceded two more goals.

With Julian Hornby having suffered a broken foot in the previous game, he joined Chris Onoufriou on the injured list, and with Abdeen Abdul and the suspended Elliott Simpson also absent, the loss of four key players left Swans’ resources stretched. To bolster the squad former Wycombe Wanderers’ midfielder Jesse Kewley-Graham has been signed on dual-registration from Hanwell Town, and he came in for his debut.

Kewley-Graham was soon playing a good pass to Howard Newton on the right, and he got Flo Bojaj through to the byline, but his ball-in went low across the goal-face and just wide of the far-post. Sam Shaban then put a far-post header over when TJ Nkoma got the ball over from the left. Nkoma was soon getting past Carl Bower on the left to drive the ball low across, but Shaban could not force it in.

The visitors’ first threat came when Bower struck a shot from 30 yards that took a deflection to go behind for a corner-kick, and another corner resulted from another deflection when a shot came in from the left. United continued to press, and when the ball was knocked back following a left-side cross Danny Vincent struck a volley from outside the box that home goalkeeper Brendan Norris got well behind.

Swans’ lead came when Billy Jeffreys’ fine pass picked out Athan Smith-Joseph for a run on the right, and when he drove the ball low across Kamel Akel, aware of the presence of Shaban behind him, put the ball into his own goal.

Straight from the restart Smith-Joseph had a great chance to double the lead when he was played into the left of the 6-yard box, but he could not beat keeper Bailey Mulhall. Bojaj was then just denied at the expense of a corner when Nkoma played the ball in low from the left. Swans continued to batter the visitors’ goal, and Jake Newton was also just denied when Nkoma got past Sean Hillier on the left to get the ball across.

But it was United who were to score the next goal with the award of a penalty-kick. Hillier found space on the right to send the ball into the box and the referee pointed to the spot, apparently for a push by Howard Newton, although there seemed little contact between him and the opposition player. Vincent beat Norris from the spot.

Swans tried to hit back, and Nkoma again left Hillier trailing on the left to get in a cross that dipped just over. With just over a half an hour played a remarkable passage of play saw Swans somehow prevented from regaining the lead. It started with Bojaj having a shot from inside the box deflected wide after the ball had been crossed from the left. Kewley-Graham took the corner from the left, and when Jeffreys got in a towering header at the far-post the ball was going under the crossbar until it was headed off the goal-line. Bojaj followed up with a volley that again took a deflection to go over. Kewley-Graham again took the corner from the left, and this time Jim Fenlon had a shot from outside the box deflected over. This time the third corner was taken from the right by Kewley-Graham, but Jeffreys could not get his header on target.

The referee was already unpopular with both home players and supporters, and he did little to enamour them with eight minutes of the half remaining. His assistant was already flagging for offside against the visitors, but he failed to see this and play continued, resulting in Swans’ keeper Norris taking a blow to the head and the ball being deflected behind. With the referee intent on indicating a corner, there was a hiatus before Norris was allowed a lengthy spell of treatment and the offside decision was finally made.

Smith-Joseph was soon again doing well on the left for Swans, and Jake Newton was just closed out at the near-post when the ball was played low across.

Norris was then tested after his injury, but he got behind Leius Sinclair’s shot from inside the box.

In the final minute of the half Smith-Joseph should have restored Swans’ lead when Fenlon did well before playing him clear in on the left, but faced with just keeper Mulhall he slid his low shot just wide of the far-post.

The visitors had the final chance of the first-half however when Nathaniel Mensah was played in on the left, but he also shot wide of the far-post.

Just two minutes after the resumption Swans spurned another gilt-edged chance. Smith-Joseph made a fine, surging run down the left before playing the ball low across to Shaban eight yards out, but with just the keeper to beat he put his shot over the bar.

Shaban was then almost played in, but keeper Mulhall was quickly out to kick clear. Bojaj’s clever pass then sent Nkoma away on the left, but his cross went straight to Mulhall.

Swans’ chances of pushing on for the win were then drastically reduced thirteen minutes into the half. Jake Newton clearly won the ball in the tackle, and it was difficult to see how the challenge could be interpreted in any way as dangerous, but after appearing to be going to book the Swans’ defender the referee brandished a red card.

The visitors were now the favourites to go on for the win, and Mensah put a chance at the far-post straight at Norris after the ball had been crossed from the right.

But, midway through the half, Swans had a chance to go ahead when Smith-Joseph made a good run on the left before picking out Nkoma with a low cross to the far-post, but Mulhall just managed to block his close-in shot, and the ball went behind for a corner.

The visitors thought they had gone ahead when they put the ball in from a right-side cross, but the flag was up for offside. But, with just under a quarter of an hour left, they did make it 2-1 as Swans were caught short at the back. Substitute Kyle Beggs was found in space on the left, and he was somewhat fortunate when his shot took a big deflection off Kewley-Graham and the ball then hit the post before going in past a stranded Norris.

Swans then threw both central defenders, Jeffreys and Jamie Thoroughgood, forward in a desperate attempt to equalise, and it was no surprise when they were caught on the break. A long ball sent Beggs clear, and he ran on to beat Norris.

A consolation goal was now Swans’ best hope, and in the final minute of normal-time substitute Cameron Gyeabour couldn’t force the ball in following Smith-Joseph’s ball in from the right.

Swans’ Team: Brendan Norris, Howard Newton (Charlie Holmes 80’), Jim Fenlon, Jake Newton, Billy Jeffreys, Jamie Thoroughgood, Athan Smith-Joseph, Jesse Kewley-Graham, Sam Shaban (Cameron Gyeabour 57’), Flo Bojaj, TJ Nkoma. Scorer: Akel, own goal (11’). Cautions: Jeffreys, dissent (27’), Kewley-Graham, dissent (29’), Thoroughgood, dissent (58’). Dismissal: J. Newton, foul (58’). .

North Greenford Team: Mulhall, Hillier (Testolin 67’), Murphy, Connor, Akel, Ansah-Palmer, Bower, Vincent, Sinclair (Ellis 84’), Muldrew, Mensah (Beggs 74’). Subs. not used: Adams, Jones. Scorers: Vincent, penalty (17’), Beggs (76’ & 83’). Caution: Mensah (61’).