Saturday 12th November 2022.                              Isthmian League, South-Central Division.

Sutton Common Rovers 1    Walton & Hersham 0.

Swans slipped to their fourth league defeat of the season following a lack-lustre performance at Whyteleafe against Sutton Common Rovers. After going behind from the penalty-spot twenty minutes into the game they soon lost John Gilbert through injury, and seldom looked convincing that they could salvage anything from the match They had chances, but looked indecisive when they came, and the home goalkeeper was only seriously tested on a couple of occasions. Most attacks however were snuffed out by a hard-working, powerful home side who quickly closed them down. With Alex Kelly serving a one match ban and Harry Mills still injured, the loss of Gilbert left Swans without the spark and touch of quality that could open up a resolute Rovers’ defence.

The home side soon won a corner on the right, and Bertie Lloyd could well have done better with a far-post header, but he sent the ball over. Swans’ keeper Liam Allen then had to take the ball down at his near-post when Rovers got in on the left. Joe Pratley-Jones was then shown a yellow card for what looked no more than a legal shoulder charge, but Swans were left to deal with a free-kick awarded out on the left touchline. The ball was delivered into the box, but former Swan Shawn Lyle put a header over.

Swans had not settled at all, with Rovers bossing the play, but they were almost gifted a goal after ten minutes. Rhamar Garrett-Douglas passed back to his keeper Endurance Johnson on Swans’ right, but he cleared the ball straight to Gilbert. The Swans’ midfielder could not get in a clean shot however, and the ball was cleared away from the line at the far-post.

Taurean Roberts laid the ball off to Dominic Ogun on the left, and his shot was blocked for a corner on the left. Following Devan Tanton’s kick Pratley-Jones put the ball wide. Swans had begun to create openings, and Ogun sent a long ball down the left for Jordan Adeyemi to head inside to Gilbert. Gilbert laid the ball back to Adeyemi, and he sent a low shot just inches wide of the far-post.

Rovers had another free-kick deep on the right, but Pratley-Jones headed away at the far-post. Swans looked to have withstood the home side’s early pressure, but with twenty minutes played they went behind. Rovers built up a move on the left, and when the ball was swung in to the near-post Allen could not hold on, and in trying to regain control he caught the heels of Lyle, who went down. A penalty was awarded that Lyle expertly despatched low into the left corner.

Gilbert soon went down, having sustained a leg injury off the ball, and after trying to carry on he was replaced by Eddie Simon. Swans twice went close to equalising in quick succession. Pratley-Jones took a long throw from the right, and when Rovers could only clear to Finlay Lovatt in the right corner of the box, he drove in a low, left-foot shot that Johnson did well to turn round his near-post. Tanton played the corner on the right short to Lovatt, and he made a clever run across the box to get in a left-foot shot that Johnson kept out of his top, right corner with another smart save. With just under ten minutes left of the half Swans spurned another chance to equalise. Pratley-Jones sent in another long throw, this time from the left, and the ball ran to Arsen Ujkaj free at the far-post, but he poked it wide.

Swans made a change for the second-half, Josh Millo replacing Pratley-Jones as the switch was made to a back four.

Straight from the restart Jephte Tanga got in on the left for Rovers, but he shot low wide of the near-post.

Swans again went close to equalising when Tanton and Adeyemi combined to get Millo away on the right. He laid the ball inside to Ujkaj, who set up Lovatt on the left, but his low shot took a deflection to go just wide of the far-post.

The home side continued to look dangerous on the break however, and they shot across the goal-face after getting in on the left. Tyler Cox was then played down the left to cut inside and drive a shot over. They then had a free-kick deep on the right touchline, and when the ball was sent into the 6 yard-box Lyle got a touch to force a fine save from Allen on his line.

Tanton did well on the right for Swans, but his cross into the box was just too high for Lovatt. Tanton then set up Lovatt in the right corner of the box, but he sent a shot dipping over. With just under a quarter of an hour remaining Ujkaj got into the box, and when the ball came to Lovatt on his left he had a shot blocked from a yard out, and the ball was cleared.

The referee finally decided to clamp down on Rovers’ time-wasting, that had started in the first-half, by showing a yellow card to Tanga, who had carried on to have a shot after being ruled offside.

There was a suspicion of handball when a long ball into the box was knocked down by Adeyemi to Millo, but the referee did not concur. With five minutes of normal-time remaining Tanton took a throw-in on the right, and when Millo played the ball back to him he laid it across to Simon by the penalty-spot, but he mishit his shot. Ujkaj followed up on the right, but his shot was kept out of the far corner by a diving, clearing header.

Rovers broke, and Cox got into the left of the box, but his shot lacked the power to beat Allen. Lovatt almost got Adeyemi in for Swans, but keeper Johnson was quickly out to clear. The home side were allowed to build up around Swans’ box, and Lyle got in a low shot that Allen saved on his line.

The referee indicated a minimum of seven minutes additional time, presumably accrued as a result of Rovers’ blatant time-wasting, and three minutes into it he sent off Tanga, who was cautioned for a second time after clearly simulating a foul when challenged by Tanton. Those seven minutes were up when Charlie Nicholas sent a fine ball from the centre-circle to find Joe Hicks in the right of the box, and he went down under Garrett-Douglas’s challenge, but hopes of a penalty looked optimistic. Millo was on the right to drive the ball back in, but it was blocked behind at the near-post. Play continued into a ninth minute of stoppage-time, and Swans’ had one last opportunity when Nicholas was found on the left, but his cross was too long and the ball went behind.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Joe Pratley-Jones (Josh Millo 46’), Dominic Ogun, Arsen Ujkaj, Charlie Nicholas, Joe Hicks, Devan Tanton, Taurean Roberts, Jordan Adeyemi, John Gilbert (Eddie Simon 23’), Finlay Lovatt. Subs. not used: Jude Molloy, Maliq Morris, Mitchal Gough. Cautions: Pratley-Jones, foul (5’), Roberts, foul (40’), Hicks, dissent (56’).

Sutton Common Rovers’ Team: Johnson, Diomande, Garrett-Douglas, Surmon, Lloyd, Odogwu-Atkinson, Tanga, Lyle, Halsey (Coulibaly 75’), Richards (Nzeh 90+6’), Cox (Tanton 90+4’). Subs. not used: Swaby, Dougan. Scorer: Lyle, penalty (20’). Caution: Halsey, did not retire (70’). Dismissal:  Tanga, 2 cautions; kicked ball away (77’), simulation (90+3’).