Swans back to winning ways

Saturday 9th December 2023.                                Southern League, Premier Division South.

Walton & Hersham 1    Salisbury 0.

Swans ended their losing run with an excellent win over second placed visitors Salisbury, reversing the score of the earlier match in Wiltshire. A superbly disciplined performance saw them record just their third clean sheet of the season as they inflicted the third league defeat on their opponents. It was a game of few chances with Salisbury having the bulk of the possession, but being unable to get a shot on target all match, never seriously troubling home goalkeeper Tyla Dickinson.

The win was all the more creditable as Swans were missing a host of regulars. Stan Flaherty and captain Joe Hicks still had to serve one match bans, while Trae Cook-Appiah was the latest to join the injury list that includes Harry Mills and Joe Pratley-Jones, who is still not ready to start. 18 year-old Eoin Bolger, who has been playing on dual-registration at Cobham, finally made his debut after playing in the abandoned match at Sholing, and along with Harry Pointing, Mitchal Gough and Arsen Ujkaj, barely put a foot wrong in defence.

With the gusty wind in their favour the visitors soon won a free-kick deep on the right when Eddie Simon was penalised for a foul, but when Charlie Gunson delivered the ball into the box it was put behind for a goal-kick.

Swans soon broke from a Salisbury attack and Ibrahim Olutade made a strong run down the left, but after getting to the byeline his ball across the box just failed to find either Alex Kelly or John Gilbert, both free in the middle.

Salisbury went close when Noah Coppin was found on the left, and he laid back to Gunson, whose high cross sent the ball dipping just wide of the far post.

Good play by Kelly for Swans led to him finding Gilbert on the right, and his low ball into the box found Simon, but he was just closed out. Anis Nuur forced a corner on the right, and from Gilbert’s kick Gough got in a header at the far-post, but the ball was cleared.

The visitors got in a high cross from the right and Dickinson, under pressure at the far-post, could not hold on and the ball was cleared away from the line, the Swans’ keeper then needing treatment.

Just before the half-hour Kelly was brought down on the left, but although Simon was breaking clear the referee blew for the free-kick. Nuur sent the kick into the box and Gough got in a header that was straight at Salisbury keeper Joshua Gould, but the flag went up for offside anyway.

Swans then took the lead after 34 minutes. Kelly challenged Harry Williams deep in Swans’ half on the right, and when the ball ran loose Harry Pointing sent a long, first-time pass through the middle to pick up the run of Olutade, and he got clear into the box to send a low shot into the right corner.

Swans lost the ball in midfield and Salisbury’s Ryan Penny drove in a low shot from outside the right edge of the box that Dickinson was able to watch pass harmlessly outside the left post. Joshua Hedges then did well on the right byeline, but his high cross was comfortably taken by Dickinson on his line.

Swans went close to doubling their lead eight minutes after the resumption. Pointing took a throw-in quickly on the right and Gilbert hooked the ball over from the byeline to find Simon in the box. Simon turned to drive in a shot that Gould blocked with his legs in the 6 yard-box.

The visitors then dominated possession, but Swans continued to deny them any clear openings, and they had another chance after 66 minutes. Nuur did well to win the ball on the right before playing it in to Simon, who turned to have a shot blocked. A foul on the left byeline immediately gave Swans a free-kick, and from Nuur’s delivery Pointing was at the far-post to glance a header wide.

Salisbury forced a corner on the right, and from the kick a header went across goal and wide. As the game entered the final five minutes of normal-time Hedges was set up in the right of the box, but he could only send a shot into the side-netting.

Swans were then able to see out five minutes of added-on time to record a fine and important win.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Harry Pointing, Eoin Bolger, Jake Frailing, Mitchal Gough, Arsen Ujkaj, Anis Nuur, Alex Kelly, Ibrahim Olutade, John Gilbert, Eddie Simon (Olly Allen 83’). Subs. not used: Aundé Todd, Rylee Wright, Joe Pratley-Jones. Scorer: Olutade (34’). Cautions: Nuur, foul (30’), Gilbert, foul (65’), Simon, foul (76’).

Salisbury Team: Gould, Simpson (Smith 45+1’), Sommerton, Leggett, Jombati, Hedges, Gunson, Perry, Penny (Robinson 75’), Williams, Coppin (Fitchett 56’). Subs. not used: McCreadie, Osei. Cautions: Hedges, Jambati.