Saturday 20th August 2022.                                                    FA Cup, Preliminary Round.

Walton & Hersham 3    Littlehampton Town 2.

Swans won through to the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup for the second time in a row, after returning to the competition last season, with a hard fought win over difficult opponents Littlehampton Town. The visitors had come with a good recent pedigree, having won promotion to the Isthmian League last season like Swans, and being runners-up in the FA Vase Final at Wembley. They showed at times why they had achieved those things, pushing Swans all the way after leading early, and looking for a while that they would be the ones to go through, but their defence found it difficult to handle the runs of Jordan Adeyemi and Max Blackmore, who forced them into errors at the back, Blackmore sealing the home side’s passage with a second-half brace.

Swans made two changes to the line-up that had started against Chipstead in midweek, with Harry Mills returning and Dominic Ogun playing his first match of the season in a left-side central defence role, Nick Burgess and Eddie Simon both starting on the bench. Ogun made light of his lack of games, picking up Swans’ Man of the Match award.

The visitors made a good start, going close after just three minutes. Aaron Capon got in on the right byline, and when he got the ball over Mills just denied Littlehampton’s player-manager George Gaskin in the 6 yard-box. It only took four more minutes however for Swans to go behind. Littlehampton goalkeeper James Binfield took a free-kick deep in his own half, and launched the ball to pick out Dion Jarvis in the left of the box, and he stepped inside Mills to send a low shot just inside the near-post. The visitors continued to have the better of the opening stages, and they had the opportunity to deliver a free-kick from deep on the right, but Jordan Layton sent the ball into the gloves of home keeper Liam Allen. They won another free-kick 35 yards out, and this time Allen made a comfortable take on his line when Scott Faber drove the ball through.

Swans equalised after 17 minutes with a terrific goal when they were awarded a free-kick out on the left touchline. Taurean Roberts laid the kick off to John Gilbert, and he was ten yards outside the left corner of the box when he struck a sensational shot into the near, top corner

The visitors were awarded another free-kick in a similar position to their previous one, 35 yards out, and the result was the same, with the ball being driven through to Allen on his line.

Swans went close to going ahead with twenty minutes played when Allen sent a clearing kick to the centre-circle, where Blackmore nodded on to Adeyemi, who outpaced both Ashley Hawkes and Marshall Ball to get clear into the box, but Binfield was out to block on the edge of the 6 yard-box.

There had been a clash of heads in the centre-circle in the build-up that led to Littlehampton’s Liam Hendy receiving treatment for five minutes, but he could not continue and Shay Wiggans came on.

Swans had another chance to take the lead when Mills sent a good long ball down the right for Blackmore to outjump Ball, get past Wiggans and into the right of the box, only for Binfield to just get a touch to his low shot to deflect it wide of the far-post for a corner. With just over half an hour played a fine move on the left led to Alex Kelly getting in a cross, but it was just too long. Swans had really come into the game, and Scott Packer picked up a yellow card for a foul on Roberts, the first of the afternoon and of Littlehampton’s eventual five. A fine ball by Gilbert almost got Blackmore in on goal, but Binfield was quickly out to claim.

With seven minutes of normal-time remaining of the half Jarvis was guilty of a poor late challenge on Ollie Twum, who had sped past him on the right, and the scorer of their goal picked up Littlehampton’s second yellow card. After four minutes of treatment for a shoulder injury Twum could not continue, and was replaced by Burgess. The free-kick was driven to the far-post by Gilbert and just failed to pick out Blackmore, sliding in, and the ball went behind for a corner.

Gaskin got in a shot that took a deflection off Hicks to give the visitors a corner on the right, and this led to them almost regaining the lead. The kick was delivered to the far-post, and Ball got in a free header that just cleared the crossbar. Deep into stoppage-time another corner was won on the left after the ball deflected behind off Burgess, but Gaskin’s kick was struck too long.

Swans made the perfect start to the second-half, taking the lead for the first time just a minute in with an untypical, route-one goal. Hicks broke up a Littlehampton attack on the right corner of Swans’ box by volleying the ball down the pitch with his left foot. The ball bounced through, and Blackmore brushed aside the challenge of Packer to get into the right of the box and slot low into the far corner.

Swans quickly had a chance to double their lead when Mills’ through ball got Adeyemi clear into the right of the box, but his cross was blocked by Packer with Blackmore waiting in the middle. Gilbert followed up, but drove his shot over the goal.

The visitors soon had an opportunity when Layton’s ball in from the right picked out Gaskin, but his header was weak and straight at Allen.

Chances continued to come for Swans however, and when Allen’s kick down the left glanced off the head of Littlehampton’s Hawkes, Adeyemi got into the left of the box, but he shot well wide of the near-post under pressure from Packer.

It was the visitors who were to score again however as they equalised seven minutes into the second-half with a disappointing goal from Swans’ view point. Allen was under pressure from Littlehampton’s Josh Short as Ogun passed back to him, and his kick clear only reached Layton, who found Capon in the box. Capon set up Jarvis on the left, where he was tripped by Hicks, the Swans’ skipper conceding a penalty and picking up a booking. Layton placed the spot-kick into the bottom, right corner.

Swans soon went desperately close to regaining the lead when a good move on the left led to Blackmore forcing a corner. Gilbert played a one-two with Roberts from the kick, before crossing to the far-post. Mills nodded the ball back across, and Burgess was on the edge of the 6 yard-box to get in a diving header that was superbly tipped over by keeper Binfield. Gilbert took the corner from the right, and the ball was headed out to Hicks ten yards from goal, but his left foot volley cleared the bar. Another great chance came when Kelly, from his own half on the left, knocked a fine ball through to get Blackmore clear into the left of the box, but in trying to dink the ball with his left foot over the advancing Binfield, and with Ball closing him down, he could only find the gloves of the keeper. Blackmore then got the ball to Gilbert, who ghosted past Layton, and then beat Tarun Rohilla to cut in on the left byline, but his low ball in was cut out by Binfield at his near-post.

The visitors were still in the game however, for a while looking like they could still win it, and Swans’ goal had a remarkable escape. Jarvis was played clear into the left of the box by Gaskin, and he drove in a low shot that brought a fine save by Allen at his near-post. Capon followed up to get in a shot that Ogun kept out with a block in the 6 yard-box, and he and Allen then just scrambled the ball away by the right post to deny Gaskin. A good move on the left then led to the ball being played low across Swans’ 6 yard-box, and Ogun just prevented Gaskin scoring at the far-post.

But it was Swans who were to score what proved to be the winner with 18 minutes remaining. Hawkes passed back to Ball on Swans’ left, but Adeyemi nicked the ball off him and got clear into the box, and spotting Blackmore supporting unmarked to his right, laid the ball off to his teammate, who had the simple task of scoring into an empty net from the edge of the 6 yard-box.

Littlehampton won a free-kick on the front edge of the centre-circle, and before it could be taken Swans brought on Simon for Molloy. Layton eventually sent the kick into the box, and the ball was cleared away.

Simon worked the ball to Gilbert on the right, but Binfield cut out his low cross into the box. Allen’s clearing kick then found Blackmore on the right, and he laid the ball in to Adeyemi, who got in a shot that was blocked for a corner on the left. Gilbert and Roberts again played a one-two from the kick, resulting in a second corner on the left. The same play was used, and Gilbert crossed to the far-post, but the ball was hit just too long to pick out Blackmore. The visitors began to show their frustration, and both Gaskin and substitute Jamie Carrol added to their yellow card count, Carrol’s coming for a foul on Kelly. In the final minute of normal-time Allen’s goal-kick found Adeyemi on the left, and he forced a corner.

Swans tried to keep the ball in attacking positions to see the match out, but two minutes into added-on time they conceded a corner when Ogun was forced to head over his own goal when Jarvis sent in a dangerous cross from the left. Fortunately Gaskin’s kick from the left went across goal and Ogun was able to bring the ball clear at the far-post, and the rest of the time was seen out without further threat.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Mills, Jude Molloy (Eddie Simon 74’), Alex Kelly, Dominic Ogun, Joe Hicks, Ollie Twum (Nick Burgess 42’), Taurean Roberts (Reece Brewster 84’), Max Blackmore, John Gilbert, Jordan Adeyemi. Subs. not used: Will Kouadio, Seb Karczewski, Arsen Ujkaj, Harvey Sellers. Scorers: Gilbert (17’), Blackmore (46’ & 72’). Cautions: Hicks (51’), Roberts (75’).  

Littlehampton Team: Binfield, Hawkes, Packer (Rohilla 53’), Faber, Hendy (Wiggans 25’), Ball, Capon (Carroll 77’), Layton, Gaskin, Short, Jarvis. Subs. not used: Berry, Kirkwood. Scorers: Jarvis (7’), Layton, penalty (52’). Cautions: Packer (32’), Jarvis (38’), Gaskin (50’), Faber (82’), Carroll (87’).