Saturday 2nd September 2023.                                        FA Cup, 1st Qualifying Round.

Walton & Hersham 1    Chesham United 3.

Swans exited the FA Cup at the first hurdle as they came up against a strong, well-organised Chesham side, who had won all their opening five matches. The defeat also ended their long unbeaten record that had stretched to 26 games, and their unbeaten home record, both of which had lasted since Boxing Day 2022. Once again they trailed at the break, as they had done for every home match this season, but this time they were unable to mount a second-half comeback.

There was one change to the starting line-up, with Joe Pratley-Jones returning in place of Harry Mills, who had picked up an injury in the previous match.

Swans won an early corner that led to the ball being scrambled clear, but the visitors had a chance following a free-kick taken from the halfway line by Kieran Murphy, a shot being put over when the ball was crossed from the left. With a quarter of an hour played Trae Cook-Appiah won a corner on the left, and Joe Hicks put a header over from Stan Flaherty’s kick.

The opening half an hour continued to be a cagey affair, with few opportunities for either side, but Chesham’s Harry Rush got in a good strike from 30 yards that Swans’ goalkeeper Liam Allen got behind on his line.

A fine build-up by Swans led to some clever play by John Gilbert on the left touchline, and when he got Jake Frailing to the byline, his cross forced Chesham keeper Zaki Oualah to tip the ball over at the near-post.

The visitors put a header over at the far-post when Rush delivered a free-kick from 5 yards outside the box on the left, before they took the lead after 34 minutes. Mitchal Gough’s ball out of defence was cut out by Chesham on the right, and this led to a cross from the right corner of the box to Jordan Edwards unmarked by the penalty-spot, and he side-footed into the top, right corner.

Gilbert was fouled outside the box on the right, earning Rush a yellow card, and following the free-kick Frailing got to the right byline to pick out Cook-Appiah at the near-post, but his back-heel couldn’t find Eddie Simon behind him. Another yellow card quickly followed for Zak Joseph for fouling Frailing on the right, and Flaherty and Gilbert combined to send the ball into the box from the free-kick, but it was cleared away.

Swans went close to equalising after 38 minutes following a long throw taken by Pratley-Jones from the left. Simon, Frailing and Flaherty combined on the right, and when Flaherty swung the ball in, Pratley-Jones came diving in at the far-post to send a terrific header just over the near, top corner.

As the half entered the final five minutes of normal-time Chesham won a corner on the right, and from Rush’s kick Callum Adebiyi thumped a header against the bar from just outside the 6 yard-box. Just two minutes later however another corner was won, this time on the left, and Rush sent the kick to the far-post for Adebiyi to head into the bottom, right corner and make it 2-0 to Chesham.

Swans should have got back into the game in first-half stoppage-time when Gough got forward before finding Gilbert. Gilbert played an excellent ball to send Frailing clear to the edge of the 6 yard-box, but he failed to beat Oualah, who came out to block.

Swans made a change for the second-half with Aundé Todd coming on for his debut, replacing Sam Tutt, the 18 year-old having just been called up for the Bermudan international squad.

A repeat was needed of Swans’ recent second-half performances, but it was Chesham who started on the front foot, sending a shot just wide of the far-post from the left, and then winning a free-kick on the left edge of the box following a foul by Flaherty, who was booked.

Adebiyi couldn’t make contact with Rush’s delivery to the far-post.

Swans almost forced a goal ten minutes into the half when Gilbert closed down keeper Oualah’s attempted clearance, and the ball ran to Cook-Appiah just outside the box. Flaherty took over and drove in a low, left foot shot that Oualah saved on his line, with both Gilbert and Simon unmarked to his left. Flaherty made a good run on the right before sending Frailing clear down the line, but his cross into the box couldn’t pick out Cook-Appiah.

The visitors continued to pose a threat, and they forced Swans to concede a soft corner on the left. From Rush’s kick T’Shane Gallimore had a volley blocked by Pratley-Jones, and Joseph followed up with a cross from the right into the box for Lewis Rolfe to put another volley wide of the near-post. Chesham built up another attack around the box, and Joseph got in on the left to force a good block from Allen at his near-post.

Swans had another chance to reduce the deficit with just over an hour played when Frailing sent Cook-Appiah away on the right, and he tricked his way past Adebiyi to get into the corner of the box, but his low shot could only find the side-netting.

Allen was forced into another save in Swans’ goal, going down at his right post to keep out a good strike from 35 yards out by Joseph.

A good build-up by Swans ended with Todd crossing from the right, but the ball was hit too long, and some clever play by Frailing on the left got him in on the byline to send the ball across the goal-face. With a quarter of an hour remaining Flaherty was fouled outside the right corner of the box by Gallimore, who was shown a yellow card. Flaherty drove the free-kick in low, and Oualah just managed to keep the ball out on his line.

Swans were then caught on the break, and Edwards was almost set up in front of goal by a cross from the left. Edwards retained possession on the right and set up Avan Jones to cross, and Allen did well to get the ball round his far-post after it took a deflection off Pratley-Jones.

The tie was effectively won with seven minutes of normal-time remaining when slack play by Swans on their left led to Rush knocking the ball forward into the box to pick out Kaine Kennedy-Sinclair on the edge of the 6 yard-box, and he tucked it inside the right post to make it 3-0 to Chesham.

Swans pulled a goal back after 87 minutes when Gilbert found Flaherty on the right, and he sidestepped Lesley Duru to cut into the corner of the box and drive home a low, left foot shot for what is becoming a trademark goal for the winger.

It was too little too late however, and Chesham had the last chance, Allen making a good block at his near-post when the visitors got clear in on the left.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Joe Pratley-Jones, Sam Tutt (Aundé Todd 46’), Ollie Allen (Arsen Ujkaj 63’), Mitchal Gough, Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty, Jake Frailing, Eddie Simon, John Gilbert, Trae Cook-Appiah (Jordan Adeyemi 79’). Subs. not used: Stefan Ilic, Anis Nuur, Ryan Holt. Scorer: Flaherty (87’). Caution: Flaherty, foul (49’).

Chesham United Team: Oualah, Jones, Rolfe, Murphy, Casey (Duru 14’), Adebiyi, Gallimore, Rush, Edwards, Joseph (Hippolyte-Patrick 69’), Allen (Kennedy-Sinclair 77’). Subs. not used: Moore, Gibbons, German, Hearn. Scorers: Edwards (34’), Adebiyi (43’), Kennedy-Sinclair (83’). Cautions: Rush, foul (36’), Joseph, foul (37’), Jones, kicked ball away (68’), Gallimore, foul (75’).