Swans end with a win

Saturday 27th April 2024.                          Southern League, Premier Division South.

Walton & Hersham 3    Poole Town 0.

Swans completed their first season in the Southern League, Premier Division South and back at Step 3 with a surprisingly comfortable win that gave them the double over the Dorset side, their fourth of the campaign, resulting in a highly creditable seventh place finish. There was a somewhat end of season feel about the game, although it certainly wasn’t incident free, particularly in the first-half. The match was only two minutes old when the referee had to retire with an injury. This resulted in a 17 minute delay before play resumed with one of the assistants in the middle and a volunteer qualified official from the crowd running the line. Then, after 51 minutes of a first-half extended to 64 due to stoppages, Dolphins’ goalkeeper Max Evans was sent off for bringing down Cameron Thompson after coming yards outside his area to the front edge of the centre-circle.

Swans’ small playing squad was depleted still further by Josh Tobin being suspended following his late red card picked up at Plymouth Parkway, Maliq Morris starting in his place to be the only change.

Before the referee’s injury occurred the visitors had forced a corner on the left, with home keeper Tyla Dickinson making a good catch from Alefe Santos’s kick.

A bumper crowd had turned out at The Sports Hub for the final game, and after the lengthy delay they only had to wait a minute to see Swans take the lead. Mitchal Gough knocked the ball forward from the centre-circle to try to find Joe Garcia on the left. The Poole defence got in an awful tangle, and Josh Staunton in an attempt to knock the ball back to his keeper could only send it into the path of Garcia. The Swans’ U18 player got to the corner of the 6 yard-box before calmly beating Evans into the bottom, right corner for his first senior goal in just his second start.

Thompson was soon breaking down the left to cross low into the box, but Stan Flaherty was just closed out. Eoin Bolger then sent a ball down the left to send Anis Nuur driving through to the corner of the 6 yard-box to bring a good tip-over save from Evans at his near-post with a left foot shot. Bolger played the right-side corner short to Flaherty, who cut into the box to send a left foot shot dipping just over.

Poole had been under the cosh, but they had a break on the right for Kyran Samadi to drive the ball in low, but Dickinson took it comfortably.

Swans built up a fine move leading to Thompson finding Garcia on the left, and when his ball into the box was cleared Flaherty drove in a shot that brought a fine save from Evans.

The visitors built up an attack on the left, and although Morris looked to be fouled by Harvey Slade, Santos was allowed to open up a chance 25 yards out, but he dragged his shot well wide of the left post.

Swans doubled their lead with 34 minutes on the watch, but with only 17 actually having been played, and it involved more slack defending by Poole. Thompson found Nana Owusu wide on the right, and he played the ball square into the box. Jamie Whisken could only half clear, and further dwelling on the ball by Santos in the right of the box allowed Owusu to nick it off him, and Nuur was there to drive low into the far corner, with Evans getting a touch but unable to prevent the goal.

Poole soon had an opportunity with a free-kick 35 yards out on the right, and Santos’s delivery picked out Staunton on the edge of the 6 yard-box, but he put a free header straight at Dickinson. The visitors were awarded another free-kick, this time 5 yards outside the edge of the box on the left, but Declan Rose sent the ball over the near, top corner.

Swans soon had chances to increase their lead when Flaherty popped up in the centre-circle before sending a fine ball to Owusu in clear space on the right. Owusu drove into the box to get in a low shot that brought a fine save from Evans, who blocked the ball away with his right leg. The ball was recycled and Flaherty was on the edge of the box to find Owusu in a similar position as previously, but Evans again kept out his shot, beating the ball away. Swans again kept the move alive, and Johl Powell stole the ball off Santos to get into the right of the box, but Whisken just managed to block his shot behind for a corner. Swans continued to press for a third goal, and Garcia was played clear on the left, but his cross went over the goal.

The afternoon then got considerably worse for the visitors. They had just taken a corner from the right when Cameron Murray played the ball back to Rose in the centre-circle, only for Thompson to burst forward and nick it off him. The Swans’ striker was then clear, but after getting just past the front edge of the centre-circle he was clattered by Evans, who had charged out but failed to get anywhere near making contact with ball. The stand-in referee had little option but to send the Poole keeper off, with defender Staunton taking over his position between the posts. Flaherty was blocked in the box after Gough took the free-kick and sent him through.

Staunton was soon being put under pressure by Nuur, who blocked an attempted clearance by the stand-in keeper close in at his right post, but he just managed to gather the ball. Staunton was then quickly out to claim the ball when Nuur was sent clear.

Swans made a slow start to the second-half, and some casual defending allowed Toby Holmes to make a determined run into the right of the box, but Bolger forced him to shoot high and wide of the near-post.

Nuur and Garcia combined on the left for Swans, and Nuur laid the ball across to Morris 30 yards out, but although his shot was fumbled by Staunton it lacked the power to beat the stand-in keeper. Bolger then got the ball forward to Nuur on the left, and he threaded it though to open up a chance for Thompson on the edge of the box, but he dragged his shot well wide of the far-post.

The ten men of Poole continued to have a good share of the play, and Harry Hutchinson’s free-kick delivered from out on the left forced a corner on the right, which led to the ball being put wide of the far-post.

Midway through the half Swans brought on Shaun Joash for Garcia.

The visitors again threatened when they broke from a Swans’ attack, and it took a terrific tackle by Gough to deny Holmes in the left of the box.

Swans finally made it 3-0 however with ten minutes of normal-time remaining. Flaherty forced a corner on the right, and Staunton did well to punch clear from Bolger’s kick. Swans retained possession and Gough clipped the ball out to Flaherty on the right, and when he drove into the box Hutchinson stuck out a leg to bring him down. Flaherty took the penalty himself, and made no mistake with a shot into the bottom, left corner.

Aundé Todd then came on for Morris.

Flaherty continued to torment the Poole defenders, and he was again fouled ten yards outside the right of the box by Harvey Wright, who was shown a yellow card, the same fate befalling the Swans’ player for a show of dissent. Flaherty sent the free-kick dipping just over. It was now a question of whether Swans could add to their score, and Powell put a clear chance well over from close to the penalty-spot following clever play by Nuur on the left. With stoppage-time being played Alex Kelly sent Flaherty on another run down the right, and his ball driven low into the box just failed to pick out Joash, sliding in on the penalty-spot. Thompson collected on the left, and he found Powell in the box, whose shot was blocked on the edge of the 6 yard-box.

The final whistle then blew on another impressive season for Swans.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Nana Owusu, Eoin Bolger, Alex Kelly, Mitchal Gough, Maliq Morris (Aundé Todd 82’), Stan Flaherty, Johl Powell, Cameron Thompson, Anis Nuur, Joe Garcia (Shaun Joash 67’). Scorers: Garcia (18’), Nuur (34’), Flaherty, penalty (80’). Sub. not used: John Gilbert. Caution: Flaherty, dissent (85’).

Poole Town Team: Evans, Rose, Staunton, Whisken, Wright, Slade, Samadi (Lowes 46’), Holmes, Murray, Santos (Hutchinson 46’), Fogden (Scrimshaw 76’). Subs. not used: Tshaka, Zouma. Caution: Wright, foul (85’). Dismissal: Evans, denied goal-scoring opportunity (45+6’).