Saturday 15th April 2023.                          Isthmian League, South-Central Division.

Walton & Hersham 3    Southall 0.

Swans finished their scheduled home programme with a vital win over a well organised Southall side to stay top of the table on goal difference over Basingstoke Town, who duly picked up three points of their own with a 3-2 win at Guernsey the following day. It now all comes down to the final day of the season, with Swans needing to win at Thatcham Town to be certain of the Championship and automatic promotion. In front of their third four figure crowd of the season they led through John Gilbert’s stunning 21st minute strike, but spurned several good chances to seal the win, leaving the game in the balance against very capable opponents. A second goal was needed, and when it came with twelve minutes remaining, it was almost inevitable it would come through Eddie Simon, who scored his 40th League goal of the season, and 43rd in all competitions. A last minute Harry Mills’ penalty then provided the icing on the cake as the unbeaten run was stretched to eighteen.

A Swans’ side unchanged for the eighth match in a row went close to going ahead after just two minutes. A super flick by Gilbert sent Simon down the left, and he got into the box to sidestep a couple of defenders and cut back onto his right foot, but he drove the ball just over the far, top corner.

Southall’s Jaden Thompson-Brissett got down the right to the byline before driving the ball low across, but Swans’ goalkeeper Liam Allen went down to collect. Another build-up by the visitors led to Frankie Taylor crossing from the left, but he couldn’t pick out Thompson-Brissett at the far-post.

Swans responded with Mills making a fine run down the right to cut in on the byline, but he just failed to find Simon in the middle. Joe Pratley-Jones was able to use his long throw from the right, leading to Jordan Adeyemi crossing the ball back in from the left, but keeper Michael Edegbe was able to gather with Joe Hicks looking to be pushed. Adeyemi forced a corner on the right, but Edegbe just got to Teo Kurtaran’s kick at the far-post. Edegbe then saved a low shot from Mills, after a good build-up had led to the ball being laid back to him in the left corner of the box.

Swans made the breakthrough after 21 minutes with a terrific goal. Gilbert found Mills in the right of the box, and he made several attempts get past Taylor, who then appeared to tap the ankles of the Swans’ player. Mills however laid the ball back to Gilbert on the right edge of the box, and he moved it on to his weaker left foot, before curling a tremendous shot into the far, top corner, with Edegbe getting a glove on the ball but being powerless to stop it.

Southall had an opportunity to pose a threat with a free-kick awarded deep on the right, but Louis Stead delivered the ball straight into the gloves of Allen.

Swans should have doubled their lead after 27 minutes. Alex Kelly played a great ball through for Adeyemi to beat the Southall back line and get clear into the box, but faced with a one-on-one with Edegbe, his shot failed to beat the keeper’s left hand. Gilbert followed in, but was closed out, and when the ball came out to Mills on the edge of the box, he made room before driving a shot just over. Hicks was soon being played clear, but Edegbe was quickly out to the edge of his area to kick clear and deny him. With half an hour played Pratley-Jones sent in another long throw, this time from the left, but Mitchal Gough headed wide at the near-post.

Arsen Ujkaj conceded a free-kick deep on Southall’s right, and this led to a passage of play by the visitors, but after Carl Pearce found space on the left his cross was struck too long.

Swans continued to dominate however, and in the final minute of normal-time at the end of the half had another chance to make it 2-0. Gilbert stole the ball off Pearce to force a corner on the left. Gilbert played the kick short to Kurtaran, who swung a terrific ball over to the far-post,to pick out Gough unmarked on the edge of the 6 yard-box, but he headed wide. There was still time for Gough’s fine ball to get Mills in on the right, but his low cross was cleared.

With a minute played of the second-half Adeyemi found Simon on the left, and he combined with Gilbert, who set up Adeyemi on the edge of the box. Adeyemi worked the ball onto his left foot to sidestep Taylor, but he dragged a low shot wide of the far-post.

Southall soon made a double substitution to try to change things.

Mills did well on the right before playing a clever ball to get Gilbert into the right of the box and open up a chance, but his low drive passed just inches wide of the far-post. Another good chance came and went when Mills won the ball in his own half before finding Gilbert, who played Adeyemi through on the right. Adeyemi played the ball inside to Kelly by the penalty-spot, but he stabbed a left foot shot wide of the right post.

With just over an hour played Swans went desperately close to extending their lead. Gilbert forced a corner on the left, and following Kurtaran’s kick Pratley-Jones crossed the ball in from the right. Alex Nolan could only head out to Simon on the edge of the 6 yard-box, and his stabbed shot brought a great save from Edegbe on his line. In the scramble the ball came to Hicks, and when he set up Mills to his right his shot was kicked off the line by Taylor.

Southall’s Ryan Hope won the ball in midfield and found Thompson-Brissett, who turned on the left edge of the box to strike a good shot that brought a save from Allen diving to his right.

Another fine build-up by Swans led to Mills on the right setting up Adeyemi to send the ball across the box, but there was no-one there to capitalise. Southall however had seen a fair amount of the ball, with Swans needing a second goal to kill the game off, and it almost came with a quarter of an hour remaining. Pratley-Jones’ throw-in on the left found Simon, and he set up Gilbert for a clever run into the left of the box. Gilbert sidestepped Pearce to send a low shot towards the far corner, but Edegbe just got across to fingertip the ball inches wide.

An even better chance came immediately when Gough played a great ball over the top to pick out the run of Kurtaran into the right of the box. The Swans’ midfielder switched the ball onto his left foot, and with his marker Taylor going to ground the goal opened up, but Kurtaran cleared the crossbar with his shot. Pratley-Jones tried another long throw from the left, but the keeper was equal to it, making a clean catch.

The second goal finally came with twelve minutes left. Ujkaj sent an excellent diagonal ball from the left to pick out Mills on the right touchline. Mills took two paces forward before drilling the ball low across the edge of the 6 yard-box for Simon to tuck home at the far-post.

Southall’s Hope got to the right byline to drive the ball low across, but Allen took it well on his line.

Swans made a double substitution, with Taurean Roberts and Jacob Munting coming on for Adeyemi and Kelly. A third change soon followed, with Darryl Siaw replacing Simon, and he had only been on a matter of minutes when Gough and Mills combined to send him into the right edge of the box. Azeez Alabi came across and stuck out a leg to bring Siaw down, the referee immediately pointing to the penalty-spot. Mills had the opportunity of scoring Swans’ 100th League goal of the season in the final minute of normal-time, and he did so with his usual aplomb, finding the bottom, left corner.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Mills, Joe Pratley-Jones, Arsen Ujkaj, Mitchal Gough, Joe Hicks, Teo Kurtaran, Alex Kelly (Jacob Munting 82’), Eddie Simon (Darryl Siaw 87’), John Gilbert, Jordan Adeyemi (Taurean Roberts 82’),. Subs. not used: Dominic Ogun, Ollie Twum. Scorers: Gilbert (21’), Simon (78’), Mills, penalty (90’).

Southall Team: Edegbe, Nolan, Alabi, Stead (Frailing 53’), Pearce, Diomande (Hope 53’), Bryan, Roper, O’Connor, Thompson-Brissett (Cassidy 72’), Taylor. Subs. not used: McCluskey, Sartorius.