Saturday 5th September 2020. Cherry Red Combined Counties League, Division One.
Walton & Hersham 6 Ash United 0.
A completely rebuilt Swans’ squad got new manager Scott Harris’s season off to a great start with the Division’s biggest win of the opening weekend of league action, If this performance is any gauge of what can be expected in the coming truncated season, home supporters can look forward with optimism and expectations of some fine football from their team in the weeks ahead. With three former Swans, Jack Battie, Joe Hicks and Harry Mills, not yet fit to start the season, the first two still recovering from long-term injuries and Mills disappointingly picking-up a hamstring injury in training, Harris and coach Billy Rowley’s pre-season plans were somewhat disrupted. Three other players who have previously pulled on the Swans’ shirt were however in the squad, joining a mixture of youth and experience in the completely revamped line-up. Not surprisingly, after short and fairly limited pre-season preparations for a completely re-assembled squad, due in no small-part to the Covid-19 pandemic, there were patches in the game where players were not quite on the same wavelength, and despite their overall superiority it took until the hour mark to make the points safe with a third goal. But they finally doubled that lead in the final ten minutes when they had really hit the straps. With the highly-experienced Max Hustwick, another former Swan who came through the youth ranks, superbly marshalling the defence, they seldom looked like conceding, and Alex Kelly was arguably the man of the match with a fine performance in midfield.
It was the visitors who had the first opportunity after four minutes with a corner on the left, but a header dipped harmlessly wide from Neil Hardy’s kick. Ash keeper Jamie Cunningham then twice had to cut out dangerous crosses, firstly from Yucef Azzouz, after he had done well on the right, and then from Darren Simpson on the left. The visitors again threatened when home goalkeeper Liam Allen had to come out and head away following a through-ball, leaving Cameron Bradbury with an opportunity outside the box, but his shot cleared the bar.
Swans took the lead after eleven minutes when Dan Taylor delivered a high ball from the right, but this time keeper Cunningham failed to gather the ball when challenged by Simpson. Jamie Byatt has long been a thorn in the side of Swans, punishing them with his goal-scoring prowess, but this time the experienced striker was on the side of his new club as he gathered the loose ball and poked it home.
Azzouz made a clever run across the box from the right, but shot weakly wide, and when Simpson played a fine through ball to send Sean McCormack clear, Cunningham committed himself by dashing out of his box. McCormack got past the Ash keeper, but was finally closed out and the ball ran behind. McCormack and Stuart Baldwin then combined well on the left to set up Simpson in space on the right, and his cross was forced behind for a corner.
Swans immediately doubled their lead after eighteen minutes when a shot was judged to have been handled, and a penalty awarded, that McCormack unerringly despatched.
Ash threatened when they made inroads into the box on the left, but good tracking by Taylor snuffed out the chance.
McCormack and Tom Henzi combined on the left for Swans to set up a chance, but McCormack shot wide of the far-post from the edge of the box. With half-an-hour played some terrific play by McCormack on the left ended with a cross that had to be headed behind for a corner.
The visitors had an opportunity when a free-kick was awarded for a foul five yards outside the box, but after Jordan Devanney drove his effort into the wall, a follow-up shot took a deflection and the ball looped harmlessly into the gloves of Allen.
Taylor got free for Swans on the right to play Byatt into the box, but after Cunningham blocked his shot Henzi just failed to force the loose ball home.
The visitors forced two successive corners, Stan Staines putting a header over from the second taken from the right, and in the final minute of the half Allen was well-placed to comfortably save on his line when Luke Cairns dove in a low shot from outside the box.
Early in the second-half Swans’ left-back Owen Coleman got in a fine cross from the left that was just too high for Simpson, unmarked at the far-post, and Byatt just failed to get a touch when a free-kick out by the right corner flag was driven low into the 6-yard box by Azzouz.
Ash were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position just outside the right-corner of the box, but the shot was charged down by McCormack, who then broke before sending Byatt away on the right. He then found Coleman by the left-corner of the box, and he struck a fine shot that came back off the crossbar. A corner was won on the right, and Byatt glanced his header wide at the far-post from Azzouz’s kick. Azzouz then played the ball in from the right to McCormack, who was unlucky to see his goal-bound strike deflected behind for a corner.
Swans made it 3-0 after an hour when Baldwin was in front of goal to powerfully head past keeper Cunningham when Azzouz delivered a corner from the right into the 6-yard box.
Dominic Ogun made over sixty appearances for Swans as a left-sided defender and wing-back, but on his return to the club he was brought on up-front to replace Byatt after 65 minutes, and he was soon almost put through by Coleman, but Cunningham was out to save at his feet.
With a quarter of an hour remaining the visitors had a free-kick 35 yards out that Bradbury drove straight through to Allen.
Swans were well on top however, and they made it 4-0 ten minutes from time. McCormack made a terrific burst down the left that took him past a couple of defenders, and with keeper Cunningham also committing himself, the ball was laid across the 6-yard box for the unmarked Simpson to tap home.
Michael Cayford came on to replace Coleman, and with the match entering the final five minutes he struck a fine shot from outside the box that Cunningham just managed to push away, the keeper then blocking Azzouz’s follow-up.
But in the final minute of normal-time Azzouz got down the right before delivering the ball into the 6-yard box, where Ogun scored with an outrageous back-heel flick.
Swans did not leave it there, and just a minute later some terrific footwork by Ogun in the box led to him having his shot blocked by Cunningham, and when the ball ran to Simpson in the right of the 6-yard box he neatly drove it in to make it 6-0.
Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Dan Taylor, Owen Coleman (Michael Cayford 81’), Alex Kelly, Max Hustwick, Stuart Baldwin, Yucef Azzouz, Tom Henzi (Reece Brewster 68’), Jamie Byatt (Dominic Ogun 65’), Darren Simpson, Sean McCormack. Subs. not used: Max Lohmeier, Sonny Stiller. Scorers: Byatt (11’), McCormack, penalty (18’), Baldwin (60’), Simpson (80’ & 90’), Ogun (89’). Caution: Kelly, foul (74’).
Ash United Team: Cunningham, Nwaubani, R. Green, Jangeer Khan, Devanney, Samad, Hardy, Wyatt, Bradbury, Staines, Cairns. Subs. used: Kipping, Bushell, Barnett. Subs. not used: C. Robertson, Bale. Caution: Cairns, foul (64’).