Saturday 19th August 2023.                        Southern League, Premier Division South.

Walton & Hersham 6   Dorchester Town 3.

Swans are certainly making the opening to their first season in the Southern League an entertaining one as they made it 14 goals scored in their first three matches, with six conceded. For the second home game running they had to come back from trailing at the break, another storming second-half performance seeing them through to their third win in three. They conceded three goals at home for the first time since the 11th of December 2021 when they drew 3-3 in the Combined Counties League with Badshot Lea, but still had enough firepower to seal the win. Both their unbeaten record, that now stretches to 24 matches, and their unbeaten home run that has lasted since Boxing Day 2022, looked under threat as they went in at half-time 3-2 down, but this Swans’ side can never be written off, and they scored another four goals without reply in a scintillating second-half.

For their first meeting with the Dorset club two changes were made to the starting line-up from the 4-1 win at Harrow Borough. Joe Pratley-Jones had picked up an ankle injury in that match and was only fit enough for the bench,  with Sam Tutt coming in for his debut. The knee injury Jacob Munting also sustained in that match is unfortunately much more serious, and could see him side-lined for a lengthy period. Stefan Ilic was his replacement in midfield.

Dorchester had a blustery wind in their favour for the first-half, and they soon took advantage, taking the lead after just seven minutes. They forced a corner on the left, and from Jordan Barnett’s kick Jack Wright was on the edge of the 6 yard-box at the far-post to get in a strong, downward header, and the ball squeezed through the legs of goalkeeper Liam Allen and over the line.

It could have got worse for Swans with a quarter of an hour played. A Swans’ attack was snuffed out, and a long ball down the pitch picked out the run of Shaquille Gwengwe, who got past Joe Hicks, but after getting clear to the left corner of the 6 yard-box he placed his shot just wide of the far-post.

Swans soon went close to equalising when Ilic sent Stan Flaherty away on the right. Flaherty got to the byline to get the ball across, and Eddie Simon was by the penalty-spot to acrobatically hook it over the bar. Swans had settled, and they again almost levelled with what would have been a terrific goal. Ilic sent Trae Cook-Appiah through to the right corner of the box, and he twisted his way past Louie Slough to open up a shot, but he sent the ball inches wide of the far-post. Mitchal Gough’s fine pass down the left again found Cook-Appiah by the corner of the box, and more tricky play enabled him to lay the ball across to John Gilbert on the edge, and his shot brought a good tip-over save from the Magpies’ keeper Lloyd Thomas.

Swans’ pressure paid odd after 24 minutes when Gilbert was fouled out by the left touchline. Flaherty sent the free-kick in to the edge of the 6 yard box, where Simon just managed to get control and poke the ball to the left post and find the head of Joe Hicks, who nodded in to notch his second goal of the week.

With half an hour played Swans had taken the lead. Hicks’ pass down the right sent Cook-Appiah through to byline, where he just managed to keep the ball in play and lay it back to Gilbert, whose shot took a slight deflection off the leg of Wright before going inside the near-post.

That should have been the platform for Swans to go on for the win, but the lead was to last just four minutes. A stray pass on Swans’ left led to Gwengwe being played into the right of the box, and he evaded Hicks’ tackle to shoot low across Allen and into the far corner.

Five minutes later Swans found themselves behind for the second time. A free-kick was awarded to the visitors in the centre-circle just inside their own half, and when it was delivered into the right of the box Wright sent a powerful header into the far-corner for his second goal of the afternoon.

Gough tested keeper Thomas with a good strike from 25 yards early in the second-half as Swans came out firing. Terrific, determined play by Harry Mills got him forward to send Flaherty down the right and drive a low ball in to the near-post. Simon was there to make contact, but Thomas did superbly to just keep the ball out.

The equaliser came with just under ten minutes played of the half. Determined play by Arsen Ujkaj and Ilic allowed Cook-Appiah to pick the ball up in the centre-circle and drive forward to the right corner of the box before Flaherty took over. Flaherty laid the ball across to Simon on the edge of the 6 yard box at the near-post, and he side-footed home.

Gilbert was fouled by Wright out on the left touchline and Ilic sent the free-kick dipping just over. Gilbert was having another exceptional game, and he was again fouled, this time by Lewis Waterfield out by the left corner-flag. Gilbert took the free-kick himself, but it was struck too long and went behind. More excellent play by Cook-Appiah in the left of the box led to him crossing to Flaherty on the right, and he sent a shot dipping just over.

Midway through the half Swans took the lead for the second time. Gough played a superb ball over the top and down the middle to pick out the run of Gilbert, who got to the edge of the box before sending a terrific lob over the advancing Thomas and into the goal.

Swans made a couple of substitutions, with Jake Frailing replacing cramp victim Cook-Appiah, and Pratley-Jones coming on for Tutt.

With ten minutes of normal-time remaining Ilic played a clever one-two with Simon in the right of the box, before driving in a shot that Thomas saved well at his get the ball behind.

As the match entered the final five minutes Gilbert made a good run forward before finding Ilic on the left, and he cut inside past several defenders to get in a shot that Thomas got a glove on to put wide of the left post. Flaherty took the corner from the left, and Gough was on the corner of the 6 yard box at the far-post to thump a terrific header into the far corner and make it 5-3.

Jordan Adeyemi came on for Ilic, and it took him just a minute to make it 6-3. Pratley-Jones sent a long throw down the left to Gilbert, and when he got to the byline to lay the ball across to the near-post, Adeyemi was there to tuck home.

In stoppage-time Dorchester got in on the left byline, but Gough came across to tidy up.

There was still time for Jordan Ngalo to cynically foul Frailing, earning the visiting defender a booking, and leaving the midfielder added to Swans’ injury list with a bruised Achilles.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Mills, Sam Tutt (Joe Pratley-Jones 78’), Arsen Ujkaj, Mitchal Gough, Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty, Stefan Ilic (Jordan Adeyemi 89’), Eddie Simon, John Gilbert, Trae Cook-Appiah (Jake Frailing 71’). Subs. not used: Anis Nuur, Ollie Allen. Scorers: Hicks (24’), Gilbert (30’ & 68’), Simon (54’), Gough (88’), Adeyemi (90’). Caution: Tutt, foul (27’).

Dorchester Town Team: Thomas, Foot, Sa (Waterfield 52’), Wright, Ngalo, Slough, Barnett, Moyse, Mwaruwari, Gwengwe, Bertrand (Graziano 86’). Subs. not used: Hosking, Turner.  Scorers: Wright (5’ & 39’), Gwengwe (34’). Cautions: Wright, Ngalo.