Swans held in Plymouth

Saturday 20th April 2024.                          Southern League, Premier Division South.

Plymouth Parkway 2 Walton & Hersham 2.

Back in November the Devon side had ended Swans’ long standing unbeaten home record by scoring a stoppage-time winner. Swans had looked to be well on the way to avenging that home defeat as they led 2-0 with eight minutes of normal-time remaining, only for relegation threatened Parkway to hit back with two goals to equalise. It was ironic that the equaliser was scored by Dylan Jones, the highly-talented young player having notched that late winner in the first match. Although before the game Swans’ still had a mathematical chance of reaching the play-offs, the loss of two points became irrelevant in that respect with other results not going their way. The major highlight of Swans’ performance was Josh Tobin’s opening goal, the second in the space of two matches by him to be a Goal of the Season contender. Another excellent performance by the young defender/midfielder was somewhat spoilt however by him being shown a red card following the final whistle.

Selection of a Swans’ squad was extremely restricted, with just thirteen players making their longest trip of the season. Both Jake Frailing and John Gilbert look to be out for the rest of the season, with knee and ankle injuries respectively, while Caelan Avenell has been recalled by Fulham following his work-experience loan spell Nana Owusu, who has made all his appearances up-front since arriving from Bracknell Town, dropped to right-back, and put on a fine display in that position. U18 player Joe Garcia made his full debut following him coming on in the previous match.

The home side took the game to Swans in the early stages and had their first opening after five minutes when they got in on the left byline, the ball being cleared behind at the near-post for the game’s first corner.

Swans soon posed their first threat and forced their first corner when Eoin Bolger’s pass down the left sent Anis Nuur through to the byline.

The first yellow card of the afternoon was shown after ten minutes to Parkway’s Tom Purrington for fouling Tobin on the halfway line on the right.

The home side soon had a free-kick of their own in a more dangerous position when Mitchal Gough was judged to have fouled Jack Crago just outside the right corner of the box. Rio Garside delivered the ball to the edge of the 6 yard-box, where it glanced off the head of Crago and wide of the far-post. Bolger forced another corner on the left for Swans before the home side went close again. A long ball over the top down the right sent Garside to the corner, and he crossed to the penalty-spot, where Reece Thomson got in an excellent overhead kick that sent the ball just wide of the far-post.

Swans created chances of their own, Stan Flaherty cutting in from the right to have a low shot blocked, and some clever play by Cameron Thompson getting him into the right of the box, but his square pass failing to find a teammate.

Midway through the half Parkway had another good free-kick opportunity when Owusu was judged to have fouled when they got in on the left. The kick from on the byline just outside the box was delivered by Purrington to the far-post, where the ball glanced off the head of Shane White and went wide.

With half an hour played Johl Powell was just denied in the box following fine play by Flaherty on the right. Bolger then again got Nuur to the byline with a ball over the top down the left, and when he found Garcia in the box he went down under a challenge, but claims for a penalty always looked optimistic.

With four minutes of normal-time left of the half Swans took the lead with a remarkable goal. A move starting deep in Swans’ half on the right led to Tobin making clever passage into the home half. After getting to 45 yards out he looked up to spot goalkeeper Adam Parkes off his line, and sent the ball sailing over him and into the goal.

Parkway’s Thomson was played through into the left of the box, but Swans’ keeper Tyla Dickinson was quickly across to make a fine gather of the ball.

With added-on time being played Alex Kelly won the ball 25 yards out and almost got through, and Nuur followed up to have a shot blocked.

The home side had two free-kicks soon after the resumption. The first from deep on the left taken by Purrington was cleared, but the second was in a dangerous position just outside the corner of the box on the right, only for Garside to send the ball well wide of the far-post. Swans then had Dickinson to thank for preserving their lead. Gough passed the ball out to Kelly on the right edge of the box, and he appeared to be fouled as Alex Cairo nipped in to dispossess him. Matt Wright was left with just Dickinson to beat on the edge of the 6 yard-box, but the Swans’ keeper reacted superbly to grab the ball at the Parkway substitute’s feet. The home side had started the second-half well, putting pressure on Swans’ goal, and Purrington delivered another free-kick into the box from 35 yards out on the left. The ball was cleared at the far-post, but a follow-up led to the ball being scrambled off the line.

With an hour played Swans brought on Aundé Todd to replace Garcia.

Parkway soon had another free-kick 40 yards out on the right, and when Garside sent the ball to the far-post Callum Rose leapt to head it back across the goal-face. Garside delivered the ball back in from the right, and it was scrambled away by Todd to wide on the left, where Mikey Williams sent it back in again. Dickinson did well to come out and punch away under pressure, and when Toby Down got his head to the ball just outside the box it ran through a crowd of players into the gloves of the Swans’ keeper.

Swans had withstood the home side’s pressure, and twenty minutes into the second-half they doubled their lead. Flaherty won the ball on the right touchline on halfway, and played it forward to Nuur, who found Todd on the left edge of the box. The young Bermudan international set up Flaherty to his right, and he drove in a low, left foot shot that Parkes just prevented from going into the bottom, right corner, but the keeper was at full stretch and could only push the ball into the path of the incoming Powell, who forced it over the line from a tight angle.

Shaun Joash came on to replace Thompson, to make his first Swans’ appearance since late December 2021. Powell and Flaherty combined deep on the right, leading to Powell making a good run to the edge of the box. He then set up Flaherty on the corner, but after making room he drove a left foot shot over.

With just under ten minutes of normal-time remaining the home side’s Jones got clear on the right, and his cross led to Wright just being denied at the near-post as the ball was put behind for a corner. From Garside’s kick Jack Bray-Evans headed over at the far-post.

Parkway’s pressure soon paid off when they halved the deficit. White switched the ball from deep on the right to find Jones on the left, and when he laid the ball inside first-time, Callum Hall was by the penalty-spot to pass it inside the left post.

The home side were now fired up, and with two minutes of normal-time remaining they tied the match up at 2-2. Jones had a shot blocked for a corner on the left, and when Garside sent the kick in to the edge of the 6 yard-box Wright headed the ball down, and Jones drove it past Dickinson.

Swans were stung into response, and Parkway had both Hall and Garside booked in quick succession for fouls. Two minutes into added-on time Swans had the opportunity to regain the lead and win the match when another foul on Flaherty gave them a free-kick in the ‘D’ just outside the box. Flaherty and Owusu were the possible takers, but it was left to Flaherty. He struck his left foot shot well, but the ball curled just wide of the right post.

With the final of the five declared extra minutes being played Swans thought they had won the match when Owusu played Powell through into the right of the box to drive a fine shot into the far, top corner, only for the flag to go up for what must have been a highly marginal offside decision. The final whistle immediately blew, and amid protests by the Swans’ players Tobin was shown a red card.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Nana Owusu, Eoin Bolger, Alex Kelly, Mitchal Gough, Josh Tobin, Stan Flaherty, Johl Powell, Cameron Thompson (Shaun Joash 71’), Anis Nuur, Joe Garcia (Aundé Todd 60’). Scorers: Tobin (41’), Powell (65’). Cautions: Kelly (51’), Todd (76’), Powell (80’). Dismissal: Tobin (90+6’).

Plymouth Parkway Team: Parkes, White, Purrington, Rose (Hall 67’), Down, Williams, Cairo, Thomson (Wright 46’), Garside, Crago (Bray-Evans 46’), Jones. Scorers: Hall (82’), Jones (88’). Cautions: Purrington (10’), Hall (89’), Garside (90+1’).