Monday 26th December 2022.                                Isthmian League, South-Central Division.

Walton & Hersham 0    Leatherhead 2.

Swans put on a flat, lack-lustre performance in front of a bumper Boxing Day crowd against a new-look Leatherhead side that deservedly went away with the three points. Although both the visitors’ goals came from the penalty-spot, they dominated most of the attacking play, and Swans can have little argument to justify that they deserved to get anything from the game. They failed to score at home for the first time since last February, and seldom looked like doing so, with moves constantly breaking down in the final third.

The Tanners named a starting line-up that contained only three survivors from the elevens that had initially taken the field for either of the two previous meetings between the clubs this season, both of which Swans had deservedly won, as they continue to build a fresh squad under their new team management. They certainly showed great signs of improvement, and Swans needed to be close to their best, but unfortunately on the day they fell well short of that.

With Palace Francis and Taurean Roberts both starting three-match bans, Swans were glad to bring back John Gilbert following the injury he sustained back in November.

The visitors threatened after just two minutes when Max Mullins was found on the right, and his ball driven across the goal-face just failed to pick out Omar Lawson at the far-post.

Swans went close to taking the lead after eight minutes with their first serious attack. Jordan Adeyemi stole the ball off Mullins on halfway to get forward down the left before laying back to Maliq Morris 25 yards out. Morris has been on fine form with his shooting, and he sent another good effort dipping just over. Gilbert was soon winning the ball off Kenny Beaney on the edge of the ‘D’, and when the ball ran to Morris he got in another shot, but this time he dragged the ball wide of the left post.

Swans were unable to maintain their momentum however, and the Tanners soon began to dominate. Chikanele Elechi got down the left to drive the ball across and force a good block from Swans’ goalkeeper Liam Allen at his near-post. A corner from the left taken by Beaney went across goal and wide, and Archie Burnett got in on the left to have a cross just cleared away. Leatherhead patiently built up another move, leading to Beaney getting in a left-foot shot from 35 yards that Allen got behind on his line. Burnett then played Elechi in on the left to have a low cross just cleared in the 6 yard-box. Swans continued to be a distinct second-best, lacking sharpness in all departments, and with just over half an hour played they again went close to going behind. They failed to get the ball clear, leading to Keane Anderson having a shot from the edge of the ‘D’ well blocked. The ball ran to Lawson in the right of the box, but he drove it into the side-netting.

However, some more slack defending by Swans soon led to Leatherhead taking the lead. Anderson was found on the left edge of box by Ollie Allen before getting just inside. Mitchal Gough appeared to just stand his ground, but the Tanners’ No.10 went over his legs and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Beaney, on his Tanners’ debut, beat Allen low into the left corner.

Swans were spurred into putting some attacking play together, and Harry Mills got Gilbert to the byline on the right to get the ball over into the box, but there was no-one there to capitalise. Adeyemi then made a good run on the left to get in a cross, but again the ball was cleared away.

It was the visitors however who had the last opportunity of the half in the final minute. Gough, playing against his former club, fouled Elechi just outside the left corner of the box, picking up a yellow card and conceding a free-kick in a dangerous position. Allen however failed to trouble his namesake in the Swans’ goal by sending the ball over the bar.

Swans started the second-half by changing their shape, with Joe Pratley-Jones replacing Gough. They made a promising start, straight away putting together a good attack that almost brought an equaliser. The move began deep on the left in their own half, and Simon drove forward to halfway before sending Dominic Ogun on a run that took him to the byline. Adeyemi just failed to get to Ogun’s cross at the near-post, and when the ball came to Simon on the right, he drove in a shot that Tanners’ keeper Slavomir Huk blocked in the 6 yard-box. Simon was then fouled just outside the box on the left byline, but Gilbert’s free-kick was cleared.

The visitors forced a couple of corners, but Swans continued to have a better second-half, and a move started by a fine diagonal ball from deep on the right by Pratley-Jones led to some clever play by Ogun, and Mills driving a shot over from just outside the right corner of the box.

With twenty minutes remaining the Tanners had a corner on the left, and Allen got in a header before following up to net, but there had been a foul on the Swans’ keeper.

With just over a quarter of an hour remaining Leatherhead were awarded a second penalty, leaving Swans a mountain to climb to salvage a result. Daniel Hector was played down the left, and after getting past Arsen Ujkaj and into the box he went down, judged to have had his heel clipped from behind by the Swans’ midfielder. Having converted his first penalty right-footed, Beaney this time elected to go with his left, but the outcome was the same, Allen being beaten with a shot down the middle.

Swans almost gave themselves some hope however, going close to getting a goal back. Ujkaj’s fine diagonal ball from deep on the right found Ogun on the left, and after some excellent control he drove the ball in to the near-post, where Huk spilled it and Jerry Puemo cleared behind for a corner. From Morris’s kick from the left, Joe Hicks was by the right corner of the 6 yard-box to power in a great header that Huk tipped over with a fine save.

With just under ten minutes remaining the visitors were almost gifted a third goal when a poor back-pass attempt on the left only found Hector, who was left with a free run into the box, but Allen made a fine block with his feet at the near-post. Elechi was soon making a clever run in on the left byline, but after getting past Pratley-Jones he went down as Morris went in to tackle him. However, instead of the Tanners being awarded a third penalty, Elechi was shown a yellow card, the referee judging he had dived. Having been booked earlier Elechi was sent-off, leaving Leatherhead to play out the remaining few minutes a player down. Swans were unable to capitalise however, and they went down to their second home defeat of the season.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Mills, Dominic Ogun, Arsen Ujkaj, Mitchal Gough (Joe Pratley-Jones 46’), Joe Hicks, John Gilbert, Maliq Morris, Eddie Simon (Brian Garzon 71’), Alex Kelly, Jordan Adeyemi. Subs. not used: Jude Molloy, Charlie Nicholas, Jonathan Gjoshe. Cautions: Gough (45’), Morris (65’), Kelly (71’), Ujkaj (72’).

Leatherhead Team: Huk, Mullins, Elechi, Atewolugun, Puemo, Allen (Collins 83’), Lawson (Diallo 83’), Beaney, Hector (Pearch 89’), Anderson, Burnett. Subs. not used: Phair, Neal. Scorer: Beaney (33’ [pen] & 73’ [pen.]). Cautions: Puemo (59’), Mullins (66’), Burnett (79’), Anderson (90+2’). Dismissal (2 cautions): Elechi (68’ & 82’).