Saturday 11th December 2021. Cherry Red Combined Counties League Premier Division South.
Walton & Hersham 3 Badshot Lea 3.
Following the clash between the sides occupying first and second spots in the table it was probably the visitors who came away the happier of the two as they had been the first to deny Swans full points at home this season. For the home side it was possibly more a feeling of relief, as with less than twenty minutes remaining a point looked out of the question as they trailed 3-1. But you cannot rule this Swans’ side out easily and they have the quality to turn a score round, and they found the two goals required in those remaining minutes to salvage a draw. So although they will feel disappointed at not getting the win, instead of having their lead over their opponents cut to one point, the status quo is maintained. It will only be the coming weeks to establish the significance of this result, as in a fine game both sides showed why they are where they are in the table and that they have the qualities to maintain a challenge for the top spots.
Swans had the first opportunity when Alex Kelly made a run on the left before laying the ball in to Harry Mills, who put a low, left foot shot wide of the near-post from the corner of the box.
The visitors soon went close when former Swan Malachi Thomas was found on the right, and when he got to the byline to drive the ball across the goal-face, Joe Pratley-Jones was at the far-post to just deflect it behind Macauley Ford’s corner was confidently cut out by Liam Allen. A free-kick taken by Ford from out on the right touchline also found the gloves of the Swans’ goalkeeper.
Swans’ first corner was won on the right by Eddie Simon, but the ball was cleared away following Mills’ kick.
With ten minutes played Thomas again did well on the right for Badshot Lea, and when he played the ball across Tane Caubo was well-placed at the near-post, but he failed to get a clean touch and Swans were able to clear. James Smith was soon getting in a strong shot from the right that Allen beat down at his near-post.
Swans immediately went close when a fine diagonal ball from the left by Palace Francis picked out Mills on the right. Mills drove past Joe Blanch to strike a low, left foot shot that almost squeezed in at the near-post, but clipped the base of it and went behind.
The visitors had another free-kick out on the touchline close to the left corner-flag, but Kelly was at the near-post to head away when Ford sent the ball in.
At the other end a fine move by Swans on the left led to Francis almost getting through as he drove in on the byline. A terrific ball from Francis then got Louis Collins away on the left to play the ball low across and pick out Mills, whose shot was blocked in the 6 yard-box.
Joe Hicks was shown a yellow card for a foul, giving the visitors a free-kick out on the right touchline, and from Ford’s delivery Caubo was on the edge of the box to get in an overhead kick that took a deflection to go over. Ford’s left-side corner was only cleared to Kane Fitzgerald, whose ball into the box was cut out by Allen.
Badshot Lea had looked dangerous, but it was Swans who went ahead after nineteen minutes with a terrific goal. Jacob Munting clipped a superb ball forward into the box for Mills to knock down and Simon to score with a left-footed overhead kick that beat keeper George Rose inside his right post. Francis was soon driving into the left of the box to force a corner.
The visitors won a corner of their own on the left, but Ford’s kick was headed away at the near-post by Reece Brewster.
Just before the half hour Simon put Francis away on the right for Swans, and he burst past his markers to drive in a shot that Rose beat down at his near-post. The Baggies’ keeper was again beating the ball down on his line when Brewster got in a fine strike from 25 yards following some clever play between Simon and Mills. With just under ten minutes remaining of the half Mills made a great run in on the left byline to get in a shot that was blocked behind at the near-post. Mills’ corner from the left failed to produce as the referee spotted a foul by Swans in the box.
Thomas sent a shot over the goal from the right of the box for the visitors, and this was a precursor to them equalising after 38 minutes with a goal needlessly conceded by Swans. Allen tried to remedy a situation where Max Hustwick had been caught in possession in the right of Swans’ 6 yard-box, but only succeeded in fouling the Badshot Lea player. The keeper was shown a yellow card before Fitzgerald sent the penalty-kick into his bottom left corner.
The Baggies soon forced a corner on the right, but Allen was fouled when Ford took the kick, and Caubo got in a shot from the left edge of the box that was straight at the Swans’ keeper. The equaliser had given the visitors impetus, and a lead by Swans was quickly turned into a deficit before the break. With a minute of normal-time of the half remaining Rose’s kick-out was helped on by Caubo to Dean Rule on the edge of the box, and he sent the ball first-time over Allen and into the top of the net.
Swans will then feel they had a good claim for a penalty rejected when Mills made a terrific run on the right that took him into the box and to the byline. When the ball was played in Kelly got in a fine strike from 25 yards that Rose beat down on his line, but Mills looked to have been fouled after delivering the cross.
What should have been a half-time lead for Swans had been turned into a deficit by two pieces of slack defending, but they had a chance to get back on level terms straight after the resumption. Mills was found clear as the ball was knocked forward, and he will feel disappointed as his first-time effort cleared the bar by some distance.
Unfortunately the momentum was not maintained as Swans struggled to settle as the second-half progressed. It was past the hour before they again threatened the visitors’ goal, and that came from the long throw-ins of Pratley-Jones. He took three in quick succession from the right, and following the third a shot was blocked close to the line.
The visitors continued to prove a stiff challenge, and Thomas caused problems with a good run on the right and a driven cross into the box. Hustwick was then booked for a foul out on the left, but Ford’s free-kick went harmlessly wide of the far-post. But the visitors doubled their lead after 66 minutes to seemingly seal the win, Caubo driving in a shot from the left corner of the box that Allen got a hand on but could not keep out of the far corner.
It could have got worse for Swans, as following a free-kick from the left, a shot forced Allen into a smart save down by his right post. It was the home side however who were to score the next goal after 71 minutes to get them back into the game. Simon forced a corner on the left, and from Mills’ kick Pratley-Jones was at the far-post to head powerfully home.
Allen had to push a low shot from the left round his near-post as Badshot Lea threatened to regain their two goal lead with Swans pushing for an equaliser. Mills was put down the right by Pratley-Jones, and when he hooked the ball over into the box substitute Will Kouadio, on for Brewster, got in a header that was cleared away. Swans continued to live dangerously at the back however, and when Ford sent in a free-kick from the right Badshot Lea got in on the left byline and a driven cross was kept out at his near-post by Allen. Swans then struggled to clear following a corner on the right, and the ball was finally driven across goal from the left.
The visitors had proved worthy of their high placing in the league, and Swans had been denied much in the way of chances, but with seven minutes of normal-time remaining they had the opportunity to create the opening for an equaliser as they were awarded a free-kick deep on the left. Collins delivered the ball into the box and Mills was on the left edge with his back to goal as he got possession, but he went down as he was judged to have had his heels clipped and the referee pointed to the penalty-spot. This was certainly not the time for Swans to add to their recent poor spot-kick record, but Francis confidently drove the ball into the bottom, right corner to tie the score up at 3-3.
To their credit Badshot Lea did not look like settling for a point and they won a corner on the right, but the kick was well cut out by Allen. Swans had also not settled for a draw, and Francis drove into the left of the box for Simon to make a fine turn and get in a shot that was blocked by keeper Rose. With a minute of normal-time remaining Collins forced a corner on the left. Substitute Alec Fiddes took the kick, and Pratley-Jones was in the right of the box to get in a first-time shot that was blocked away. Hicks followed up, but drove the ball just wide. In stoppage-time Caubo got forward for Badshot Lea, but Allen was well placed to take his low effort.
Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Joe Pratley-Jones, Louis Collins, Reece Brewster (Will Kouadio 69’), Max Hustwick, Joe Hicks, Harry Mills, Jacob Munting (Alec Fiddes 81’), Eddie Simon, Alex Kelly, Palace Francis. Subs. not used: Darren Simpson, Harry Pointing, Stuart Baldwin. Scorers: Simon (19’), Pratley-Jones (71’), Francis, penalty (84’). Cautions: Hicks, Allen, Hustwick, Kelly.
Badshot Lea Team: Rose, J. Smith, Blanch, Hedley, Ocansey, Ford, Whiting, Fitzgerald, Rule, Caubo, Thomas. Subs. not used: Lindsay, Cadete, G. Smith. Scorers: Fitzgerald, penalty (38’), Rule (44’), Caubo (66’). Cautions: Blanch, Caubo.