Saturday 1st April 2023.                             Isthmian League, South-Central Division.

Walton & Hersham 5    Basingstoke Town 1.

Swans went top of the table for the first time this season on another record breaking and emotional day as they comprehensively defeated the previous leaders. Their fourteenth straight win beat the record set by Alan Dowson’s promotion winning side of 2004-05, and it should be noted that the current run is comprised of all League games, whereas there were five cup ties in Dowson’s run. The attendance record for The Sports Hub was also broken for the second time this season as a remarkable crowd of 1,651 turned up on the day. This was their largest home attendance since the match against AFC Wimbledon at Stompond Lane in 2005-06, when the majority of the crowd were away supporters. Eddie Simon could not continue his record breaking sequence of hat-tricks, but he was the man on the spot again as he scored the crucial opening goal with a quarter of the game played. The lead was then doubled at the perfect psychological moment, just before the final whistle of the first-half. Basingstoke got themselves back into the game seven minutes into the second-half with a good goal, and for a while looked capable of getting something from the afternoon, only for Swans to restore their two goal lead with just under twenty minutes remaining. The visitors were immediately reduced to ten players when their central defender Billy Upton was shown his second yellow card of the afternoon, presumably for something said to the referee. Swans then looked like adding to their score at any time, and two late goals sealed a resounding win.

Swans were unchanged for the fifth match in succession, and like their opponents made a cagey start, but Harry Mills almost got Jordan Adeyemi through in the right of the box to finish off a fine move, only for the ball to run behind. The lead was almost taken after 18 minutes with what would have been a terrific goal. Some lovely play between John Gilbert and Alex Kelly got Simon away down the left, but with his route to goal shut off he laid the ball back to Teo Kurtaran 25 yards out, and he struck a tremendous shot that ‘Stoke goalkeeper Paul Strudley just deflected onto his crossbar and over with a fine save. From Kurtaran’s in-swinging, left-side corner Strudley just managed to deflect the ball away, high at his far-post.

Swans took the lead after 22 minutes, with Simon scoring his 22nd goal in 12 games. A great cross-field ball from right of the centre-circle by Mitchal Gough picked out Joe Pratley-Jones on the left, and he showed excellent control before beating Marcus Johnson-Schuster and crossing to the far-post. Kelly was there to meet the ball with a left-foot volley, and Simon followed in to send it into the top, right corner off the hands of Strudley.

Gough had to make a fine tackle to deny Basingstoke on the edge of the box, before Swans created another chance. Mills brought the ball forward from deep on the right before sending a fine pass down the line to send Adeyemi clear. Adeyemi laid the ball back from the byline to Kelly on the edge of the box, but he sent it well over the goal. Gilbert then got Adeyemi on a clever run in on the right byline, but his low ball in was cleared from the 6 yard-box.

The visitors spurned a good chance to equalise after 33 minutes when Ben Cook swung in a free-kick from out on the left touchline to the far-post. The ball was knocked back in to the edge of the 6 yard-box, where Paul Hodges volleyed over.

Swans soon went close to doubling their lead however. Kurtaran sent a lovely dink over the top from the centre-circle to pick out the run of Kelly, and send him clear into the left of the box. Strudley came out to close him down, but failed to get to the ball, leaving Kelly to get in a shot that Scott Armsworth blocked on the left corner of the 6 yard-box. Kelly got the ball back and Simon and Adeyemi neatly combined to lay back to Kurtaran on the edge of the box, and he drove in another terrific shot that Strudley kept out of his top, left corner with another fine save.

With just over five minutes left of the half Basingstoke’s Hodges looked to have fouled Mills to win the ball on Swans’ right, but he was allowed to set up Bradley Wilson 30 yards out. Wilson drove in a shot, but Swans’ keeper Liam Allen saved down at his right post.

With a minute of normal-time remaining Kelly made another forward run into the away box as another fine, long ball picked him out, forcing a defender to head behind for a corner. Pratley-Jones had the opportunity to utilise his long throw from the right, and when he launched the ball in it bounced up onto the underside of the bar at the far-post,    Jamie Clark tried to head clear, but Kurtaran followed up to drive in a shot from the left of the 6 yard-box that Clark just blocked behind for a corner. From Kurtaran’s kick from the left Gough was at the far-post to nod back and Gilbert to put a header over.

As the half entered stoppage-time Gilbert made a run into the right of the box to force another corner. Kurtaran took the kick from the right, and Gough was again at the far-post, but this time he planted a superb, downward header into the far corner to put Swans 2-0 up at the break.

The second-half started with terrific play by Gilbert forcing a corner on the right. Basingstoke’s captain Simon Dunn went down injured and had to receive lengthy treatment before being replaced by Brody Peart.

The visitors got themselves back into the game seven minutes into the second-half with a good goal after winning the ball on the left. Wilson laid the ball back across, and George Reid played a neat one-two with Clark, before passing the ball into the far corner from the right of the box. Upton immediately picked up his first caution for saying something to the referee.

Swans responded with fine play between Simon and Gilbert on the left that got Simon into the box, but he was just closed out and Strudley was able to gather.

The visitors continued to pose a threat however, and Wilson drove a shot over from the left of the box.

Swans soon went close again as Mills and Adeyemi combined on the right, and Mills drove to the corner of the box before Gilbert took over, and drove a low shot just wide of the far-post.

Basingstoke forced successive corners on the left, and when the second was played short, the ball was swung over and Reid glanced a header over from the edge of the 6 yard-box.

Just past the hour Allen sent a clever throw out to Mills on the right, and he picked out another central run forward by Kelly, who then found Simon on the left. Simon cut back inside to the corner of the box to open up his favourite opportunity, but his attempt to find the far, top corner dipped just over. Although Adeyemi’s run down the right was halted by Wilson bringing him down, he was able to get Gilbert in on the byline to drive the ball low across, but there was no one there to capitalise. Wilson was shown a retrospective yellow card.

Basingstoke continued to look threatening, and they again forced successive corners, but the danger was cleared.

Swans built up another fine move, and Simon drove in a low shot from 30 yards, but it lacked the power to trouble keeper Strudley.

Basingstoke’s Wilson then went down after getting into the left of the box, but the referee showed no interest in the penalty claims.

Swans restored their two goal lead with just under twenty minutes remaining. Gilbert was bundled over by Armsworth inside his own half on the right, and took the free-kick quickly to play a short one-two with Adeyemi, before playing a terrific ball through to Kelly. Kelly drove to just inside the right corner of the box, and although a goal did not look on, he drilled a great low shot in-off the far-post.

Upton immediately picked up his second caution, and was duly dismissed.

The visitors’ Cook won the ball in Swans’ half to set up Reid for a run inside from the right, but his low, left foot shot from 25 yards was wide of the right post.

More super play by Swans on the right got Gilbert in on the byline, and his cross reached Simon on the other wing. Simon did well to keep the ball in play, but the angle was tight and he drove his shot over. Swans continued to be totally dominant, and more fine play led to Pratley-Jones getting in on the left byline, but again the angle was tight, and his shot was straight at Strudley.

The lead was increased with just under ten minutes remaining. Joe Hicks found Simon on the left touchline, and he sent Gilbert on a clever run into the left of the box. Gilbert played the ball inside to Simon, who was immediately brought down by Armsworth and the referee pointed to the spot. Mills was his usually reliable self with the penalty, stroking the ball into the bottom, right corner.

Swans went close to making it 5-1 with five minutes remaining when keeper Strudley tried to pass the ball out to Armsworth, who was caught unawares looking the other way. Kelly nipped in and played the ball inside to Gilbert by the penalty-spot, and Strudley made up for his error by making a terrific save from the midfielder’s low shot. Swans recycled the ball on the right, and Arsen Ujkaj cleverly played Adeyemi into the box, but Strudley made another fine save down at his near-post from Adeyemi’s shot.

More fine play by Kelly forced a corner on the right, and from Kurtaran’s kick Pratley-Jones got to the edge of the 6 yard-box to strike the ball on the volley, and it was just blocked on the goal-line. Hicks got possession and found Gilbert in the right corner of the box, and he clipped the ball beautifully to the far-post for Adeyemi to tuck it home on the volley and make it 5-1.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Mills (Darryl Siaw 90+1’), Joe Pratley-Jones, Arsen Ujkaj (Dominic Ogun 88’), Mitchal Gough, Joe Hicks, Teo Kurtaran, Alex Kelly, Eddie Simon (Taurean Roberts 83’), John Gilbert, Jordan Adeyemi. Subs. not used: Jacob Munting, Oliie Twum. Scorers: Simon (22’), Gough (45+1’), Kelly (71’), Mills, penalty (82’), Adeyemi (86’). Cautions: Ujkaj (37’), Pratley-Jones (46’), Simon (84’).

Basingstoke Team: Strudley, Johnson-Schuster, Winchcombe, Clark, Upton, Armsworth, Wilson, Dunn (Peart 51’), Hodges (Brown 73’), Cook, Reid (Smart 86’). Subs. not used: Scott, Argent. Scorer: Reid (53’). Caution: Wilson (64’). Dismissal: Upton, 2 cautions (53’ & 73’).