Saturday 23rd September 2023.                     Southern League, Premier Division South.

Basingstoke Town 3    Walton & Hersham 3.

Having gone behind for the first time seven minutes into added-on time at the end of a pulsating and remarkable game, Swans deservedly came away unbeaten when Harry Mills equalised from the penalty-spot three minutes later, ending the home side’s run of five league wins on the spin. The 1,115 present had witnessed a terrific game between two fine teams with a keen recent rivalry. Basingstoke were keen to avenge the 5-1 beating they experienced at The Hub last season, and the double Swans secured over them, but a fine record against the Hampshire side over the years continued. Swans were certainly the better team in the first-half, and deservedly twice led to go in at the break ahead. The home side came strong in the second-half, and having equalised for the second-time after 68 minutes, seemed to have secured the three points with that late goal, but Stan Flaherty was then fouled in the box, and Mills was his usual clinical self from the spot.

Alex Kelly had still not fully recovered from his ankle problem and missed the game along with the unavailable Eddie Simon, but Mills returned after missing three matches through injury.

Liam Allen was brought into early action when Basingstoke took a free-kick quickly and got in on the right byline, the Swans’ goalkeeper blocking at his near-post.

Swans had a free-kick deep on the left touchline following a foul on Joe Pratley-Jones, but they could not work am opening when the kick was played short.

Bradley Wilson was found on the left for Basingstoke and cut inside to get in a shot, but Allen took the ball comfortably on his line. A loose ball out from the back could have caused a problem for Swans, but Joe Hicks did well to get across and tidy up.

Trae Cook-Appiah was immediately fouled 40 yards out on the left giving Swans a free-kick in a promising position, but again nothing resulted when it was played short. With ten minutes played, clever play by Cook-Appiah on the right led to a corner, and following Flaherty’s kick Pratley-Jones had an opportunity to use his long throw from the left. When he launched the ball in it glanced off a defender to reach Flaherty close-in at the far-post, but he could not get a clean touch and his effort cleared the bar. An excellent build-up led to John Gilbert getting the ball over from the right, and it was headed behind by a defender to just deny Anis Nuur. When Flaherty took the corner from the left Basingstoke’s Billy Upton could only head it out to Pratley-Jones on the right edge of the box, and he struck a first-time, left foot volley just wide of the far-post. Gilbert cut in from the left across the edge of the box following another fine build-up, but drove his shot over, and Cook-Appiah almost got in when Upton sent a weak header back to his keeper Paul Strudley, but was just denied. Swans should have taken the lead with just over half an hour played when Strudley rolled the ball out to Nathan Smart in the right corner of the box and Gilbert nipped in to rob the Basingstoke central defender. Gilbert cut inside to the penalty-spot to open up a chance, but his shot was just blocked by the leg of Upton. Gilbert followed up with a header, but it was straight at the keeper. Jake Frailing and Cook-Appiah combined to force a corner on the right, and a defender headed behind from Flaherty’s kick. Gilbert took the second corner from the left, and Frailing got to the near-post to send a header glancing just over. A fine run by Frailing down the left led to him playing the ball inside to Cook-Appiah in the corner of the box, and he cut past Upton to send a low shot just wide of the left post.

Swans had been dominant, and they took the lead after 36 minutes with a fine goal. Mills was found wide on the left, and he laid the ball in to Anis Nuur by the corner of the box, and he turned to strike a terrific shot into the top, left corner to score his first goal for Swans.

Basingstoke almost got in on the right, but Allen was quickly out to gather, before they equalised with two minutes of normal-time left of the half. Ashleigh Artwell sent Wilson into the left of the box, and he sidestepped a couple of Swans’ defenders before getting in a shot that Allen blocked at his near-post. The ball ran to Ben Cook on the right edge of the box, and he met it on the half-volley to send a fine shot into the top, right corner.

Swans responded with another excellent build-up that won a corner on the right, before they took the lead for the second time two minutes into stoppage-time. Mills got forward from the front edge of the centre-circle before finding Gilbert, who got to the edge of the box to strike a shot that took a big deflection off Upton and beat Strudley.

Swans were soon attacking in the second-half with a good run by Flaherty on the right, but after cutting in on the edge of the box he was denied by a fine tackle by Upton. Gilbert then got down the left before cutting across the edge of the box to the ‘D’, but his low shot lacked power and Strudley comfortably saved on his line. Flaherty was fouled on the right touchline, and when he played the free-kick short with Nuur he drove into the box, but his low cross was blocked.

Basingstoke immediately broke out, with Marcus Johnson-Schuster sending Artwell away down the right. Johnson-Schuster had powered forward to take the return pass, and he got into the right of the box to drive in a shot that brought a fine save from Allen at his near-post. The home side then won the ball on the left, and Dan Rowe turned by the corner of the box to send a strong shot just over.

Mitchal Gough almost got his head on the ball when Pratley-Jones took a long throw from the right, and Flaherty made a good run down the right before being fouled by Michael Atkinson, the Basingstoke player picking up a yellow card. Nuur’s free-kick to the far-post just failed to find the head of Pratley-Jones. Mills and Flaherty combined on the right, and Mills got in on the byline to force a corner. Following Flaherty’s kick Gilbert got the ball over from the right, and Strudley just got to it.

Pratley-Jones was harshly booked for handball, and the Basingstoke manager soon joined him in the referee’s notebook for continued dissent from the technical area.

The home side equalised for the second-time with a quarter of the game left with a well-worked goal. Paul Hodges’ excellent through pass sent Wilson down the left, and he played the ball low across the box to Rowe at the far-post. With Hicks going to ground Rowe was able to lay back to Artwell by the penalty-spot, and he clipped the ball into the top, left corner.

Swans responded with a terrific build-up just outside the box, and when Nuur found Flaherty by the ‘D’, he struck a low, left foot shot that brought a fine save from Strudley down to his left as he pushed the ball round the post. Upton had to head behind at the near-post from Flaherty’s right-side corner, and Flaherty’s second kick led to the ball being cleared away from the goal-line with Gough there to pounce.

With ten minutes remaining of normal-time slack play by Swans led to a corner on the right. From Wilson’s kick Hodges was close to the penalty-spot to get in a header that Allen saved on his line down by the right post. Rowe followed in and clearly kicked the ball out of the Swans’ keeper’s hands and into the net. The referee at first seemed to award a goal, but after discussion with his assistant a free-kick was awarded to Swans.

In the final minute of the ninety Gilbert won a corner on the right, and when Flaherty swung the ball in Strudley made a good catch close to his line. Ten minutes of added-on time was announced, and with four of those played Pratley-Jones sent in another long throw from close to the right corner flag, but Flaherty was penalised for a foul in the box.

Three minutes later Basingstoke’s Wilson drove the ball in from the left, and Allen made a terrific tip-over save. From Wilson’s right-side corner Upton was at the far-post to send a header against the bar, and Rowe followed in to nod home and put his side in the lead for the first time.

With ten minutes of added-on time having been played Gough was in the centre-circle to pick out Swans’ substitute Stefan Ilic on the left. Ilic, who had replaced Frailing, laid the ball across to Flaherty in the ‘D’, and when he drove into the box he was tripped by Smart. Mills stepped up for the penalty and made no mistake, finding the bottom, right corner, to end another terrific game between last season’s Isthmian League South-Central Division Champions and Runners-up.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Mills, Joe Pratley-Jones, Arsen Ujkaj, Mitchal Gough, Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty, Jake Frailing (Stefan Ilic 79’), Trae Cook-Appiah, John Gilbert, Anis Nuur. Subs. not used: Sam Tutt, Ollie Allen, Rylee Wright. Scorers: Nuur (36’), Gilbert (45+2’), Mills, penalty (90+10’). Cautions: Gilbert, kicked ball away (17’), Pratley-Jones, handball (64’).  

Basingstoke Team: Strudley, Johnson-Schuster, Winchcombe, Atkinson, Smart, Upton, Wilson, Cook (Brown 77’), Rowe, Artwell (Clark 85’), Hodges (Hashii 90+5’). Subs. not used: Hobbs, Argent. Scorers: Cook (43’), Artwell (68’), Rowe (90+7’). Cautions: Atkinson, foul (59’), Rowe, foul (79’).