Saturday 22nd October 2022.                                 Isthmian League, South-Central Division.

Binfield 0    Walton & Hersham 2.

Swans paid their first visit to Binfield, and came away with a hard won three points, having ended the Berkshire side’s unbeaten home record. They played a more deep-lying game than usual, with quick breaks, and had to soak up periods of pressure from a good home side, but they withstood a few scares to register a clean sheet.

Harry Mills and Ollie Twum were both injured, and Jordan Adeyemi was unavailable, limiting the selection options

Both sides had early opportunities to use their long throw experts. Massimo Giammatei’s from the right for Binfield was put harmlessly behind for a goal-kick, and Joe Pratley-Jones’ delivery from the right for Swans led to Eddie Simon and Josh Millo combining on the left to force the game’s first corner. John Gilbert’s kick was headed clear at the far-post.

Swans had a great opportunity to take the lead after ten minutes. Alex Kelly won the ball off Jonny Denton just outside his own box, and got forward to the centre-circle before playing a great ball through to get Max Blackmore clear into the box.  Blackmore took the ball to the left of home goalkeeper Chris Grace, but with the goal open, could only find the side-netting from the corner of the 6 yard-box.

Binfield built up a move, and when Denton found Lewis Pegg on the left, he drove a shot over from 35 yards.

Blackmore won a corner on the left for Swans, and from Gilbert’s kick Grace did well to claw the ball away at the far-post.

The home side began to build pressure, and good covering by Joe Hicks prevented Jonny Efedje getting through. Dominic Ogun then headed clear at the far-post when Efedje crossed from the left.

But it was Swans who took the lead just before the half hour. A good build up led to Pratley-Jones having a shot from the right deflected for a throw in by the corner-flag. Pratley-Jones took the throw quickly to Taurean Roberts, and he got into the right of the box to drive in a shot that took a deflection off a defender, and the ball went through the legs of keeper Grace and into the net.

Ogun was soon playing a terrific ball over the top from deep on the left to find Roberts, who got to the byline before laying back to Simon, who got into the box. The ball broke to Millo, who drove it into the net, but the referee penalised Simon for an obscure offence.

Binfield had a chance to equalise when Kai Hobbs found space on the right to send a fine cross to the far-post. Efedje was there to send a header over, but in doing so he barged Pratley-Jones into the post. The Swans’ player had struck his head, and received several minutes of treatment before he could resume. The home side continued to press, and Swans’ keeper Liam Allen took the ball well down at his near-post when James Beauchamp drove it in low from the right. The same player then made a clever run in on the left, but was closed out at the near-post for a corner. From Liam Tack’s kick Simon defended the near-post to put behind for another corner.

With three minutes of normal-time of the half remaining Binfield’s pressure almost paid off as they had their best chance so far. They were extremely fortunate to be awarded a free-kick out on the right touchline. Giammattei swung the ball into the 6 yard-box, and Eddie Lee glanced a header just wide of the far-post, where Pegg failed to get a touch. The home side went even closer in the final minute of the half. Pratley-Jones made a fine challenge at the far-post to concede a corner on the left as a cross came in from the right. From Tack’s kick Liam Gavin headed the ball down, and Pegg was in the right of the box to have a shot blocked. Lee then deflected the ball towards goal, and Simon blocked it on the line before Allen claimed it. Binfield’s claims that Simon had used his arm were dismissed by the referee. There was still time left for Efedje to get forward and drive a shot over from 22 yards.

The decision was made not to risk Pratley-Jones for the second-half, and Swans brought on Jude Molloy to replace him.

Binfield soon threatened after the resumption when Pegg’s fine through ball got Lee to the byline on the left, but good pressure from Hicks forced him to cross into the side-netting. Ogun’s clearance was then blocked by Efedje, allowing Beauchamp a chance on the edge of the box, but he scuffed his shot and the ball was comfortably taken by Allen on his line. Swans continued to be put under pressure, and when Beauchamp was played down the right he drove the ball low across the box. The ball bypassed Lee in the middle but came to Efedje at the far-post, where Ogun made a good block from his shot to concede a corner. Tack’s kick went over Allen for Hicks to head away at the far-post, and Ogun to also get his head to the ball.Allen then punched away and Roberts hooked clear.

Kelly got possession and brought the ball clear before playing a superb pass down the right to Millo, who was then barged over by Giammattei, but the referee saw no offence. Millo was then replaced by Arsen Ujkaj.

Binfield had another spell of possession and Gavin played the ball through to Efedje on the left, but faced with Ogun he again wasted the opportunity by shooting over. Midway through the half the home side had a free-kick 35 yards out. Giammattei delivered the kick to the right post, where Hicks headed away, and this led to a moment of controversy.

Swans broke down the left, but Binfield were able to get a pass back to Grace. The keeper passed the ball out to Denton on Swans’ right, where he was immediately put under pressure by Gilbert before going to ground and handling the ball. The Binfield players reacted to Swans’ claims for a handball offence, and a scuffle resulted, the surprising, and only, outcome being a free-kick to the home side. This allowed Binfield to build up play, and Pegg got forward from halfway before getting in a shot from the edge of the box that was straight at Allen. Gilbert picked up the afternoon’s first booking for an innocuous looking challenge that gave the home side a free-kick 35 yards out on the left, but Giammattei’s ball into the box was headed clear.

Some terrific play by Roberts led to him playing the ball through to Blackmore in the left of the box, but he could not get his shot away as he was closed out by Pegg and Hobbs. Swans had withstood Binfield’s pressure well, and began to look like they could increase their lead. They had a free-kick deep on the right, but Gilbert’s delivery went straight through to the keeper. Some fine play by Kelly led to him finding Gilbert on the right, and when his cross came in the home side cleared wildly over their own goal.

Molloy had been excellent after coming on for Pratley-Jones, but he was harshly penalised for a foul on Hobbs, giving Binfield a free-kick on the right touchline, but Denton’s delivery was headed away by Ujkaj.

Swans then went close to doubling their lead when Allen threw the ball out to Gilbert on the right. The midfielder made a terrific run from inside his own half that took him past Giammetti and into the right of the box, but his low shot went just wide of the far-post.

Binfield built up an attack, and Giammattei got in a low shot from outside the left of the box, but Allen took the ball well on his line.

Swans then effectively made the game safe with their second goal with two minutes of normal-time remaining, and it was a superb one. A fine break by Kelly led to him finding Blackmore on the right, and his cross was deflected behind for a corner. Gilbert’s kick was headed back across at the far-post by Hicks, and Simon was in the 6 yard-box to acrobatically find the top of the net with a right-footed overhead kick. As the match entered stoppage-time a fine diagonal ball by Ujkaj found Gilbert on the right, and he cut into the box, but was closed out.

Binfield tried to get a goal back, and Beauchamp found Hobbs on the right, but again the shot cleared the bar, and the points were safe for Swans.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Joe Pratley-Jones (Jude Molloy 46’), Dominic Ogun, Alex Kelly, Charlie Nicholas, Joe Hicks, Josh Millo (Arsen Ujkaj 60’), Taurean Roberts (Maliq Morris 85’), Max Blackmore, Eddie Simon, John Gilbert. Sub. not used: Flynn Bolton. Scorers: Roberts (29’), Simon (88’). Caution: Gilbert, foul (71’).

Binfield Team: Grace, Hobbs, Giamattei, Denton, Gavin, Pegg, Beauchamp, Tack, Lee (Reid 85’), Duncan (Fisher 82’), Efedje (Applegarth 89’). Subs. not used: Mabukwa, Abdulhadi.