Saturday 26th November 2022.                              Isthmian League, South-Central Division.

Walton & Hersham 3    Thatcham Town 2.

Swans once again showed terrific resilience to come from behind and beat first time opponents Thatcham Town. This time they were 2-0 down with just 27 minutes on the watch, but two goals in the final 12 minutes of normal-time won them the three points. The second of those two goals, and the winner, came from U23 player Brian Garzon just 17 minutes into his Swans’ debut after coming on from the bench, and he took the chance superbly. The win was all the more commendable as the squad was hit by illness and injury. Captain Joe Hicks was confined to his sickbed, while fellow central defender Mitchal Gough had to drop out during the warm-up, after not being well enough to start. Both Harry Mills and Taurean Roberts started, but had to be replaced during the second-half, being not well enough to continue. A further blow was Dominic Ogun coming off after just eight minutes, having suffered a side injury. Joe Pratley-Jones formed a new central defensive partnership with Charlie Nicholas, while John Gilbert was still not fit enough to return.

The visitors took the lead with under two minutes played following a throw-in on the left. Cameron Rohart-Brown crossed from the left corner flag for Simeon Weekes to get in front of goalkeeper Liam Allen and Pratley-Jones at the near-post to flick the ball on. Nicholas could only head out to Mo Ceesay on the edge of the 6 yard-box, and he nodded in.

Pratley-Jones had to head behind at the far-post when Levi Heholt sent in a free-kick from deep on the right, and Allen punched away from Michael Hill’s corner-kick.

Ogun then went down injured and had to come off, to be replaced by Jude Molloy.

Thatcham continued to look threatening, and Rohart-Brown was played down the left and past Pratley-Jones, but after he got to the edge of the box Nicholas came across and forced him to shoot over. Swans had made a sluggish start, and with a quarter of an hour played Thatcham keeper Toby Fisher kicked downfield, and when the ball came to Ceesay on the right edge of the box he drove a shot just wide of the right-post. More slack play by Swans led to Kiye Martin being found on the left edge of the box, and he sent a shot just wide of the far-post.

Swans then put together their best move so far, building-up on the left, and Arsen Ujkaj had a shot blocked when Roberts played him in.

The visitors doubled their lead after 27 minutes however. Alex Kelly was clearly pushed in the back, but play was allowed to continue and Ashley Howell was found on the left. He cut inside across the edge of the box before curling a fine shot into the near, top corner.

Swans only took two minutes to halve the deficit with an excellent goal. Mills played a good long ball down the left to Palace Francis, and he drove past Heholt and in on the byline. Eddie Simon was found on the edge of the 6 yard-box, and he struck the ball first-time back into the left corner of the goal.

Simon played a good ball to Ujkaj on the right, and from his low ball in Jordan Adeyemi had a shot blocked in the 6 yard-box to go behind for a corner. Pratley-Jones played an excellent diagonal ball from the right to the left of the box, but both Kelly and Adeyemi were closed out.

As the half entered the final five minutes Thatcham had a free-kick close to the centre-circle, and Heholt picked out the head of Weekes at the far-post, but Allen claimed the ball. Another deep free-kick quickly followed, and this time Rohart-Brown’s ball into the box was cleared.

Swans had a great chance to equalise in the tenth minute of the second-half. Adeyemi chased a terrific long ball down the right from deep in his own half by Mills, forcing a back-pass by Ramarni Bedford-Smith. Keeper Fisher’s attempted clearing kick only sent the ball looping to the edge of the box, where it fell to Francis. The goal opened up for him, but he drove his shot wide of the left post.

Thatcham immediately went close to capitalising on their escape as they broke down the left. The ball was laid inside to Ceesay on the edge of the box, but his good low strike brought a great save from Allen, diving down to his right to push wide of the post. Following the corner on the left the ball fell to Ceesay by the penalty-spot, but his shot was blocked by Allen, and Simon cleared for another kick on the right. A header was then glanced wide as a cross came in from the left. Allen had to go down to save another low shot as the visitors again found space on the left.

Swans came through a difficult spell, and on the hour mark had a chance to equalise. A long ball down the right found Adeyemi, and he did well before laying back to Simon inside the corner of the box, and he struck a first-time low shot that Fisher went down to save.

Roberts then went off, to be replaced by Maliq Morris, and Garzon shortly came on for Mills.

With just under a quarter of an hour remaining some fine play by Adeyemi won a corner on the left as his low ball-in was cleared behind. Morris took the kick, and Ujkaj, Francis and Garzon all got their heads to the ball before it fell to Simon, who was sent tumbling by Medford-Smith, and a penalty was awarded. With regular penalty taker Mills off the pitch the task was given to Francis, and he scored his first goal since his return by emphatically finding the bottom, left corner, with keeper Fisher diving the wrong way.

Having equalised, Swans immediately went close to taking the lead. Simon won another corner on the left, and from Morris’s kick Pratley-Jones was beyond the far-post to power a terrific header across goal and just wide. Swans were now dominating, and Garzon forced a corner on the right, but this time Pratley-Jones’s far-post header from Morris’s kick was straight at Fisher.

With just over five minutes of normal-time remaining Swans took the lead. Nicholas’s long diagonal ball found Adeyemi on the right edge of the box, and after firstly being closed out he won the ball back. He laid off to Garzon, who cut inside onto his left-foot and drove a great shot into the far corner.

Allen had to save on his line as Thatcham got away to get in a low shot, but Swans replied with Francis driving a shot over from the right of the box. With 90 minutes on the watch Swans went close to confirming the win. Adeyemi played a neat one-two with Simon on the left, and then drove to the corner of the 6 yard-box, but with just the keeper to beat he stroked the ball just wide of the near-post. Deep into stoppage-time the visitors won a free-kick deep on the right that Fisher elected to take. When the ball was cleared, Pratley-Jones was in his own half on the right and tried to catch the keeper out of his goal, but Fisher just got back.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Mills (Brian Garzon 67’), Dominic Ogun (Jude Molloy 8’), Arsen Ujkaj, Joe Pratley-Jones, Charlie Nicholas, Palace Francis, Taurean Roberts (Maliq Morris 62’), Eddie Simon, Alex Kelly, Jordan Adeyemi. Sub. not used: Finlay Lovatt. Scorer: Simon (29’), Francis, penalty (78’), Garzon (84’). Caution: Morris, foul (90+5’).

Thatcham Team: Fisher, Heholt, Rohart-Brown, Hill (Nvumba 67’), Bourne, Medford-Smith, Ceesay, Martin, Weekes, Howell (Hathaway 67’), Jones. Sub. also used: Harry. Subs. not used: Coates, Allen. Scorers: Ceesay (2’), Howell (27’). Caution: Jones, foul (57’).