Tuesday 15th August 2023.                         Southern League, Premier Division South.

Harrow Borough 1    Walton & Hersham 4.

Swans made it two wins out of two in their Southern League Premier Division South debut season, seeing off a determined comeback by the home side in an excellent match at Earlsmead. They could have settled the match inside the opening quarter of an hour as they cut through the home defence with some superb football, creating several fine chances. It took until the late stages of the first-half however before they deservedly made the breakthrough, and then doubled the lead. It then took a superb save from goalkeeper Liam Allen to preserve that 2-0 lead as Borough were awarded a soft penalty in first-half stoppage-time. Allen then had to be at his best in the second-half as Swans lost their composure foe a spell and the home side began to dominate. The win looked to be in doubt as the deficit was halved with a quarter of an hour remaining, but Swans settled again and came strong at the end, scoring two more late goals.

Two changes were made to the previous starting line-up, Eddie Simon returning and Jacob Munting coming into midfield, with Jordan Adeyemi and Jake Frailing dropping to the bench.

Swans had a chance straight from the kick-off following some clever play by Trae Cook-Appiah in the right of the box. He laid the ball back to Stan Flaherty, whose cross to the far-post just failed to find the head of Simon. Flaherty was then fouled just outside the right of the box, and his free-kick was punched away by home keeper Tyler Tobin. Flaherty followed up outside the box to send a low shot just wide of the right post.

Joe Hicks picked up a yellow card after just five minutes as he fouled Harrow’s Reece Mitchell, who had broken down the left, but the free-kick into the box was headed safely away.

Swans should have taken the lead when a terrific piece of play led to Cook-Appiah cleverly putting John Gilbert free into the right of the box. Gilbert’s low shot was pushed away by Tobin, leaving Simon faced with an open goal, but he rolled the ball wide of the left post. Another fine chance immediately followed as Flaherty and Gilbert combined to send Cook-Appiah clear into the right of the box, but he could only find the side-netting.

Swans were soon almost punished for their missed chances as the home side were awarded a free-kick on the right.  Mack Miskin swung the ball in to the far-post, and when Allen could not hold on a shot was blocked, and a follow-up was cleared off the line by Arsen Ujkaj. Excellence Muhemba was in the right of the 6 yard-box, but poked the ball wide.

Swans continued to create openings however, and Gilbert drove in a low shot from outside the box that Tobin dived to push away. Flaherty followed in on the right to have a shot deflected wide of the near-post. Harrow tried to work an opening from a free-kick, but Flaherty won the ball deep on Swans’ right and delivered a long pass to the centre-circle to pick out Cook-Appiah. He made a tremendous burst forward, leaving four home defenders trailing in his wake as he drove into the box, but Tobin made a fine block from his shot. More good play by Flaherty on the right byline ended with a cross to beyond the far-post, where Gilbert had a shot blocked for a corner.

With half an hour played Borough’s David Nyarko got through on the right, but Ujkaj was at the near-post to turn the ball behind as it was driven in.

Swans forced a couple of corners of their own, the first coming from a Joe Pratley-Jones’ long throw from the right, the second when a Harrow defender’s misplaced header back beat keeper Tobin and the ball ran just wide of the right post. An excellent move opened up another chance for Swans. Mitchal Gough broke up a home attack and drove forward before Munting took over and found Simon on the left. Simon ‘nutmegged’ Barsa Mirtahmasebi to play a superb one-two with Cook-Appiah, who found his teammate with a clever back-heel. Simon drove in a shot from the edge of the box that Tobin beat down on his line.

It was Simon who gave Swans a deserved lead after 38 minutes, opening his goal account on his first appearance of the season. Pratley-Jones won a corner on the left, and from Gilbert’s kick Hicks was at the near-post to force another as the ball was headed behind. This time Simon was in the 6 yard-box to firmly head home from Gilbert’s kick.

Three minutes later it was 2-0. Pratley-Jones took a long throw from the right, and Cook-Appiah was at the near-post to chest down to Hicks, who drove the ball in through a crowd of players. It was ironic that for all Swans’ excellent build-up play both goals had come from set-pieces.

A clearance from Gough was collected by Cook-Appiah on halfway, and he drove forward to force another corner.

The home side had a chance to get back into the game in first-half stoppage-time when they were awarded a soft penalty. The ball was won in midfield to set up a run down the left, and when the cross came in Hicks clearly won the ball as he tackled Reece Mitchell, who went down. Lonit Talla took the spot-kick, but Allen dived to his right to make a terrific save.

Harrow’s Miskin was shown a yellow card straight after the resumption for the second-half for blatantly pulling back Gilbert, but his side were soon getting in a shot from the left of the box that took a deflection to go behind for a corner. A soft free-kick was then given against Gough just outside the right corner of the box, but the ball was blocked away.

Swans then had a free-kick in a good position just outside the edge of the box on the right when Flaherty was fouled. Flaherty took the kick himself, but sent a left foot effort dipping over.

Allen again denied Harrow when Talla drove the ball in from the right, giving Reece Cameron an opening in the right of the box, but the Swans’ keeper came across to make a fine block. A slack back header then posed danger, but Allen was quickly out to deny the home side with another fine piece of keeping.

Gilbert sent an excellent ball into the box from the right for Swans to pick out Simon, who appeared to be fouled, but no penalty was given.

Harrow continued to have a good spell of pressure however, and Miskin got down the left to cross to the right of the box. Muhemba was in space to drive in a shot that was superbly tipped over his near-post by Allen.

The match continued to be very open, with openings coming at both ends of the pitch. Swans gradually made three changes, with Ollie Allen making his debut, replacing Ujkaj, and Adeyemi and Stefan Ilic coming on for Cook-Appiah and Munting.

Midway through the half Harrow should have pulled a goal back when a corner from the right picked out Prince Kandolo on the edge of the 6 yard-box, but he put a free header over.

At the other end Simon was just denied by keeper Tobin when Ilic played Flaherty in on the right byline to get the ball across. Adeyemi was pulled back on the right by Mirtahmasebi, earning the home right-back a yellow card. From Harry Mills’ free-kick into the box Gough headed on, but straight into the hands of Tobin. Swans had what looked a clear case for a penalty denied when Flaherty drove into the right of the box and was clearly tripped.

Gough was then booked for a foul, giving Harrow a free-kick on the left, but a far-post header was straight at Allen. The home side’s pressure paid off with just under a quarter of an hour remaining when they halved Swans’ lead. Cameron played Mitchell through into the left of the box, and he beat Allen at his near-post.

Pratley-Jones sent in a long throw from the right for Swans for Gilbert to have a shot blocked, and when the ball came out to Ilic, he drove a low shot wide of the left post from 25 yards. Ilic then couldn’t find a teammate in the box following some fine play by him on the right byline. As the match entered the final five minutes of normal-time Ilic played a fine ball to send Gilbert down the right, and he left Kandolo trailing as he cut in on the byline to drive in a shot that Mirtahmasebi defended well at the near-post to concede a corner.

Swans did not have to wait long however before restoring their two goal lead. Mills got just inside the box on the right and was cynically pulled down by Kandolo. Despite concerted efforts made to put Mills off, he drove the penalty unerringly into the bottom, right corner.

As the match entered stoppage-time Flaherty tried a shot from the centre-circle, but Tobin was alert and beat the ball down in his area. Tobin however threw the ball out to Kandolo, who passed it straight to Gilbert. Gilbert held the ball up before finding Flaherty by the right corner of the box. Flaherty sidestepped Kandolo before driving the ball in low, and Simon was on the edge of the 6 yard-box to score with an audacious flick behind his left leg.

Harrow had one last opportunity to reduce the deficit. Alison Ferreira sent a free-kick into the box, and when the ball was headed away Talla got in a shot that took a big deflection, and Allen made another fine take as the ball looped towards his top, left corner.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Mills, Joe Pratley-Jones, Arsen Ujkaj (Ollie Allen 59’), Mitchal Gough, Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty, Jacob Munting (Stefan Ilic 67’), Eddie Simon, John Gilbert, Trae Cook-Appiah (Jordan Adeyemi 63’). Subs. not used: Sam Tutt, Jake Frailing. Scorers: Simon (38’ & 90+2’), Hicks (41’), Mills, penalty (88’). Cautions: Mills, Hicks, Gough.

Harrow Borough Team: Tobin, Mirtahmasebi, Miskin (Ferreira 67’), Powell (Cameron 46’), Yorke, Vernal (Kandolo 46’), Muhemba, Ibrahim, Nyarko, Talla, R. Mitchell. Subs. not used: C. Mitchell, Mbele,. Scorer: R. Mitchell (76’). Cautions: Mirtahmasebi, Miskin, Ibrahim, Talla.