Swans 3 Balham 1

Saturday 31st July 2021.   

Cherry Red Combined Counties League Premier Division South.

Walton & Hersham 3    Balham 1.

Swans got their new season, and their return to Premier Division football, off to a winning start with a good performance against a talented Balham side. Both sides contributed to a fine game played out at times in torrential rain showers. There is no doubt Swans will come up against some strong sides in the newly formed Premier Division South, and the visitors indicated that they could well be one of those.

With Sean McCormack having moved to Ascot United due to the difficulty of travelling from his Berkshire home, Alex Kelly injured, and Max Hustwick suspended, Swans gave four new signings debuts, with another coming off the bench.

The match kicked-off in a terrific downpour, and Swans should have taken the lead after just two minutes. Harry Pointing played the ball down the right to Stuart Baldwin, who capitalised on a slip by a Balham defender to get to the byline and cross to the near-post and pick out the unmarked Darren Simpson, but he stabbed the ball wide.

The visitors’ Sirak Negassi got past Pointing on the left, but Swans’ new young defender did well to get back and defend the near-post. Tom Read was next to pose a threat down Swans’ right, cutting in on the byline to get in a low cross that forced home goalkeeper Liam Allen to push the ball round his near-post. From Read’s left-side corner a good chance was headed wide at the far-post.

Balham’s Sam Pagano stopped the experienced Darryl Siaw in his tracks with a tackle that the referee rightly deemed worthy of a yellow card. Siaw got Dominic Ogun away on the right to force the first of two successive corners, the second of which taken by Harry Mills led to Reece Brewster clipping the ball over to the left of the 6 yard-box to pick out Shaun Joash. Swans’ new striker met the ball with a terrific overhead kick, but was denied a spectacular goal by Balham keeper Haydn Read saving at his near-post.

At the other end Allen had to punch the ball away when Kojo Kyei made inroads into the left of the box, but it was Swans who took the lead after 18 minutes.

Brewster sent Ogun through to the edge of the box, and he made room before driving the ball low past Read. Siaw played the ball through to Joash on the left, and when he played the ball in it was cleared behind for a corner, and from Mills’ kick Pointing was in the 6 yard-box to put a header just over the bar.

Balham’s Erick Arias got in a shot from the right corner of the box, but it carried little power and Allen saved easily. Allen then got well behind a low shot from Negassi, when space opened up for the Balham player on the left edge of the box.

But Swans immediately doubled their lead on 26 minutes with a fine goal, Joash sending a terrific shot dipping over the keeper from the left corner of the box.

The visitors hit back immediately when Negassi played the ball across from the right to find Read unmarked in the left of the box, and he had the time and space to shoot past Allen. Allen was soon doing well to cut out a corner taken from the left by Read.

A superb long ball down the middle by Brewster almost got Mills in on goal, but Balham keeper Read was quickly out to clear, before Swans went desperately close to restoring their two goal lead with five minutes remaining of the half. Mills sent over a free-kick from out on the left touchline, and Joe Hicks leapt to power a header against the crossbar. Baldwin followed up to drive in a shot that was blocked on the goal-line, with claims the ball had been kept out by a hand.

Soon after the resumption Mills played a high pass through to Simpson, but he was closed out on the edge of the box.

Balham showed they were still a threat when Tomasz Wocial crossed from the left to pick out Pagano in front of goal, but he badly miscued his header and the ball went well wide. Torrential rain had again set in, and Allen did well to block the ball on his line when Read sent over a free-kick from out on the right touchline.

Just before the hour some terrific play by Ogun almost gave Swans a third goal. He drove into the right of the box, beating several players on the way, but his final shot was blocked on the line at the near-post. Hicks was next to show fine skill in the middle of the pitch before releasing Siaw into the left of the box, but he was just closed out. Balham keeper Read and his defence got into a terrible mix-up when Pointing sent a diagonal pass from the right into the left of the box, and the ball was almost put into their own net, but was finally scrambled behind for a corner.

Midway through the second-half Balham’s Wocial tried a speculative effort from 35 yards that Allen got well behind. Swans then went through a tricky spell, when several pieces of slack defensive play threatened to cost them a goal. Defenders just got back to clear the ball away following a poor back-pass, and Balham substitute Andre Cruz Rosa shot over when the ball fell to him after Read had crossed from the right. Allen then had to come out to deny Balham when they got in on the left. The visitors had gained confidence from Swans’ errors, and with just under ten minutes remaining Cruz Rosa drove the ball low across the goal-face from the right.

Swans began to recover their composure, and substitute Palace Francis was set up just outside the box, and he drove in a strong shot that keeper Read pushed away. As the match entered the final five minutes substitute Will Kouadio got forward to get in a low shot from outside the box, but it went wide of the right post.

Swans finally made the points safe in the final minute of normal-time. Brewster hit a superb diagonal pass from the left to pick out Mills on the right, and he showed instant control before driving to the byline, and when he cut the ball back it ran to Joash, who set himself before driving it home.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Stuart Baldwin, Jordayne Henry, Reece Brewster, Joe Hicks, Harry Pointing, Harry Mills, Darryl Siaw (Will Kouadio 79’), Shaun Joash, Darren Simpson (Zach Dainkeh 64’), Dominic Ogun (Palace Francis 68’). Subs. not used: Youcef Azzouz, Louis Collins. Scorers: Ogun (18’), Joash (26’ & 89’).   

Balham Team: H. Read, McCrea, Wocial, Erriu, Hedges, Henry, Arias, Negassi, T. Read, Pagano (Cruz Rosa 75’), Kyei. Subs. not used: Waite, Fuller, Hunt. Scorer: T. Read (27’). Caution: Pagano, foul (9’).