Monday 28th August 2023.                         Southern League, Premier Division South.

Walton & Hersham 5    Bracknell Town 2.

For their third home match out of three this season Swans went in at the break a goal behind, only to put on another storming second-half performance to turn the game around. Those three games have seen them score a total of fifteen goals, with the five in this match making it twelve having come in the second-half. With a total of 21 goals scored, there has certainly been no lack of entertainment for those coming through the turnstiles at The Hub, with a crowd of 750 plus turning out for the August Bank Holiday fixture. Swans’ unbeaten record has also now been stretched to 26 matches.

The Berkshire visitors had started the Bank Holiday weekend with a 5-0 home win over Swindon Supermarine, so arrived full of confidence, while Swans were aiming to bounce back from the disappointment of having a two goal lead pulled back at Gosport Borough. Although the Robins took a one goal lead into the break, Swans had shown enough in the first-half to indicate another comeback was on the cards.

Two changes were made to the starting line-up from the previous Saturday, Ollie Allen making his full debut, and Jake Frailing joining him in midfield, with Arsen Ujkaj and Stefan Ilic dropping to the bench.

Swans went close to taking an early lead after five minutes following a corner on the right, Mitchal Gough meeting Stan Flaherty’s kick just inside the box with a terrific right foot volley that brought a good tip-over save from Bracknell goalkeeper Michael Eacott. Eddie Simon then got down the left before playing Frailing into the box, and he appeared to be tripped, but looked unfortunate to be shown a yellow card for simulation.

The Robins had a half chance following a build-up on the right, Joe Grant putting a half-volley over from close to the penalty-spot.

Following a free-kick out on the left touchline taken by Stan Flaherty, the ball came to John Gilbert 25 yards out, and he struck a half-volley that flew wide. Swans again went close when Gilbert crossed from the left, and under pressure from Simon at the near-post Bracknell’s Darryl Harrison sent the ball looping off his back and onto the top of the crossbar.

The visitors then had a good spell of pressure, and a cross from out on the right touchline was met with a diving header from Grant at the far-post, but he could not find the target and the ball flew wide.

Swans built up a couple of good attacks, twice forcing corners, and with half an hour played a foul on Flaherty by Ashley Lodge gave them a free-kick out on the right. Flaherty swung the ball in, and when Eacott took it on the edge of his 6 yard-box, Gough came in to make contact with the keeper and was shown a yellow card.

Bracknell took the lead after 33 minutes following determined play by Nana Owusu. He found Esprit in the right of the box, and he slipped the ball into the bottom, right corner past Swans’ keeper Liam Allen.

In the final minute of normal play of the half the visitors had another chance when a pass from deep found Esprit in clear space on the left, and after cutting inside across the edge of the box he drove in a low shot, but Allen saved down at his right post.

Swans made a lively start to the second-half, and Gilbert laid the ball in from the right to Flaherty, who cut in to have a shot deflected wide of the near-post. Following the corner taken short on the right Flaherty had another shot blocked.

Allen had to take the ball at his near-post when Bracknell’s Kameron English did well on the right before driving in a cross, but Swans soon equalised with a superb goal after 53 minutes. Some clever play by Trae Cook-Appiah in the right of the box led to a scramble and the ball being cleared, but determined play by Gilbert led to him dispossessing English out on the left touchline. The Swans’ midfielder cut inside across the edge of the box, and after getting into the ‘D’ he swivelled to send a stunning right foot shot inside the left post.

Bracknell went close to regaining the lead almost immediately. Owusu crossed from the right to the far-post, where Harry Mills hooked the ball away. Lodge followed in to strike the ball on the volley, but Allen made a tremendous save to deflect it onto the crossbar and behind. Zidan Akers had just come on for the visitors when he was found on the left edge of the box to send a shot just wide of the far-post.

A run by Cook-Appiah was ended close to the centre-circle with a foul by Lodge, but it was Owusu who was shown a yellow card for dissent. Flaherty’s free-kick into the box found the head of Joe Hicks, but the ball ran through to Eacott.

Just before the hour Swans took the lead for the first time with another superb goal. A build-up on the right led to Frailing finding Flaherty, and he drove the ball first-time and low to the near-post, where Cook-Appiah met it brilliantly to sweep it past Eacott.

Just two minutes later Gough won the ball deep on the right, and Flaherty played it down the line to pick out the run of Cook-Appiah, who tricked his way past Olukayode Osu and drove into the box. He was trailed by three Bracknell players, but it was Massimo Giamattei who sent him tumbling with a push in the back. A penalty was awarded, and things got worse for the visitors when Giamattei was shown a straight red card. Mills converted his fourth spot-kick in five matches, placing the ball into the right corner, and in the space of just nine minutes Swans had turned a one goal deficit into a two goal lead.

Midway through the half it was close to being 4-1. Gough played a great ball from the edge of his own box to find Cook-Appiah on the left, and he laid inside to find Simon just outside the ‘D’. Simon made room before curling a right foot shot just wide of the right post.

Swans continued to pressurise the Robins’ goal, and they made it 4-1 after 73 minutes. Ujkaj had come on for Frailing, and he found Flaherty on the right. Flaherty cut inside into the corner of the box before curling a terrific left foot shot into the far corner.

Bracknell had a free-kick outside the edge of the box on the left, and when Owusu delivered to the far-post Ollie Allen blocked a shot. Allen was then shown a yellow card for a foul, giving the visitors another free-kick on the left edge of the box, and this led to Swans’ lead being cut. Stefan Ilic, who had come on for Gilbert, blocked the shot, but as he fell over the ball struck his left arm and a penalty was awarded. Esprit found the bottom left corner with the spot-kick.

Anis Nuur had come on for Cook-Appiah, and he was soon instrumental in restoring Swans’ three goal lead. Flaherty found him in the right of the box, and he held the ball up well before finding Simon to his left. Simon shrugged off a challenge before drilling a right foot shot into the left corner.

In the final minute of normal-time it should have been 6-2 to Swans. Some great play by Mills led to him finding Flaherty on the right, and he cut into the corner of the box past Osu before drilling in a low, right foot shot. The ball clearly went inside the far-post and over the line before rebounding back into play off the metal stanchion of the goal, but it was not picked up by the officials. A corner resulted on the left however, and following the kick, Hicks turned in the box to bring a good save from Eacott.

Swans continued to look for a sixth goal in stoppage-time, before the final whistle ended another scintillating home display.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Mills, Sam Tutt, Ollie Allen, Mitchal Gough, Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty, Jake Frailing (Arsen Ujkaj 68’), Eddie Simon, John Gilbert (Stefan Ilic 76’), Trae Cook-Appiah (Anis Nuur 79’). Subs. not used: Harry Pointing, Jordan Adeyemi. Scorers: Gilbert (53’), Cook-Appiah (59’), Mills, penalty (62’), Flaherty (73’), Simon (83’). Cautions: Frailing, simulation (7’), Hicks, foul (18’), Gough, foul (30’), O. Allen, foul (79’), Flaherty, dissent (90+1’).

Bracknell Town Team: Eacott, Burden, Giamattei, Harrison, Osu, Franklin (Jackson 76’), Grant (Akers 54’), Lodge, Esprit, Owusu, English (Tack 65’). Subs. not used: Harry, Gurteen.  Scorer: Esprit (33’ & 79’ [pen.]). Cautions: Franklin, dissent (17’), Lodge, foul (40’). Owusu, dissent (58’). Dismissal: Giamattei, denied goal-scoring opportunity (61’).