Saturday 28th January 2023.                                   Isthmian League, South-Central Division.

Walton & Hersham 2    Sutton Common Rovers 0.

After a weather enforced break of three weeks, Swans returned to action with a game against struggling Sutton Common Rovers. They had put on a disappointing performance in the corresponding away fixture in November, going down to the only goal of the game, but the visitors had not picked up a point in the League since, losing eleven games on the spin. So Swans came into the match as firm favourites, but despite numerous opportunities to take the lead they had to go in at the break still level at 0-0. After the breakthrough finally came just past the hour, a second goal followed just two minutes later, and from then on the win was never in doubt, the three points gained taking Swans back into second spot.

Both Palace Francis and Taurean Roberts returned to the starting line-up following three match bans, their absence lasting almost six weeks due to postponements.

Swans had a great chance to take the lead after just three minutes. A clearance by the visitors’ goalkeeper James Dillon was seized on by Alex Kelly 35 yards out, and he surged forward to get down the right before laying the ball inside to John Gilbert on the right edge of the 6 yard-box, but he screwed a first-time shot just inches wide of the far-post. Kelly was then fouled on the left, but play continued for Eddie Simon to find Francis on the right. Francis cut inside Matt Tanton to drive in a left-foot shot that was blocked by Joshua Okpolokpo, and the ball went behind for a corner on the right. Rovers’ Zaid Ouaret-Sorr was then shown a yellow card for the earlier foul on Kelly. Swans soon won two more corners in succession on the right, and from the second taken by Harry Mills the ball found Joe Hicks at the far-post, and he had a shot blocked on the line.

Conan Torpey became the second visiting player to pick up an early booking as he needlessly followed through on home keeper Liam Allen.

Roberts got into the box after being found on the left, but his low shot went across the goal-face. Francis picked up on the right, but after he got into the box the move broke down. With a quarter of an hour played, Simon and Mills combined to again find Francis on the right, but after cutting inside past two defenders he dragged his shot wide of the near-post.

Rovers had a long range shot deflected for a corner on the right, but Swans continued to dominate, and a fine ball by Mills put Francis through, but he was again closed out.

The visitors had an opportunity to take the lead against the run of play after 25 minutes as a long ball was helped on to get Tyler Cox down the left and into the box, but his shot was easily taken by Allen at the near-post.

Allen’s opposite number Dillon soon kept his side level with a good save. His goal-kick was met by Darryl Siaw on the left, and he sent a fine header through to Roberts. Roberts played a neat one-two with Simon by the corner of the box, before getting into the ‘D’ and driving in a shot that Dillon pushed away, diving to his right.

Allen made another comfortable save when the visitors had a rare attack to get in on the left, before Swans again went close to taking the lead with half an hour played. Hicks played the ball long down the left, and Danny Divine, under pressure from Simon, lobbed it back to Dillon. The keeper tried to control the ball, but it bounced off his chest, and Simon, following up, was able to get possession. After working space, Simon got in a shot that beat the keeper, but Okpolokpo was behind him on the right corner of the 6 yard-box to block the ball behind for a corner.

It was Rovers who soon went close to breaking the deadlock however as they were awarded a free-kick just outside the right corner of the box, and Allen had to make a fine save to keep the shot out of his top, left corner.

Despite bossing the half, Swans had to go in at the break frustrated at being held 0-0.

Early in the second-half they forced a corner on the right, and from Mills’ kick Mitchal Gough got his head to the ball, and when it ran to Hicks on the left his shot was saved by Dillon at the near-post, but the referee blew for a foul.

Swans finally made the breakthrough just past the hour. Kelly was on the left inside his own half when he played a terrific long ball to pick out Mills’ run down the middle. Mills got in front of Okpolokpo, and from close to the penalty-spot he poked the ball with his left foot past the oncoming keeper and into the left corner of the goal.

Just two minutes later the lead was doubled. Mills was deep on the right when he looked up and sent a great long ball to pick out the run of Gilbert. Gilbert got clear into the right of the box before beating Dillon with a fine shot into the top of the net.

After all Swans’ excellent build-ups had failed to achieve a breakthrough, both goals had come from the result of long, but superbly executed, passes.

Swans immediately made a double change, with Jordan Adeyemi and Joe Pratley-Jones coming on for Simon and Gough.

There was a remarkable incident when Swans’ keeper Allen came out and was clattered into by a Rovers’ player. The referee surprisingly allowed play to continue, and two shots came in, with Arsen Ujkaj blocking on the line and the ball going behind for a corner. The visiting forward suffered a cut head and had to receive treatment for several minutes before the corner could be taken.

With just under a quarter of an hour remaining Swans almost increased their lead with what would have been a terrific goal. Siaw had moved up to a centre-forward spot when a long ball from deep on the right picked him out. The ball was knocked back to Gilbert, who found Francis on the left. Francis laid the ball inside to Siaw, and he made a great run into the box that took him past Liam Holden, before getting in a shot that Dillon and Okpolokpo combined to deflect just wide for a corner on the right.

Dominic Ogun then came on to replace Mills. A fine diagonal ball from Ujkaj deep on the left found Roberts on the right, and he cut into the box, sidestepped Tanton, but drove his shot over.

As the match entered the final five minutes of normal-time the visitors sent a shot wide of the far-post after cutting in on the right.

Swans then built up a terrific move that ended with Ogun having a shot blocked in the box and the ball going behind for a corner. Francis made a fine run in on the left byline, and the ball was scrambled clear in the box. In the final minute of normal-time a clever ball by Ujkaj got Adeyemi into the right of the box, and he showed some neat footwork to open up the chance, but shot over

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Mills (Dominic Ogun 77’), Darryl Siaw, Arsen Ujkaj, Mitchal Gough (Joe Pratley-Jones 64’), Joe Hicks, Palace Francis, Alex Kelly, Eddie Simon (Jordan Adeyemi 64’), John Gilbert, Taurean Roberts. Subs. not used: Brian Garzon, Jonathan Gjoshe. Scorers: Mills (62’), Gilbert (64’). Cautions: Kelly, foul (50’), Gough, foul (56’), Hicks, foul (90+6’).

Sutton Common Rovers’ Team: Dillon, Divine, Tanton, Swaby, Emovon, Okpolokpo, Cox, Ouaret-Sorr, Torpey, Marku, Morris. Subs. used: Holden (64’), Tehe (74’), Uzon (82’). Subs. not used: Robinson, Blackwood. Cautions: Ouaret-Sorr, foul (9’), Torpey, foul (12’), Cox, foul (53’).