Saturday 7th October 2023.                                        FA Trophy, 3rd Qualifying Round.

Walton & Hersham 3    Canvey Island 1.

A penalty shoot-out was looking a distinct possibility as this FA Trophy tie entered the final ten minutes with the scores level at 1-1, when Swans’ Trae Cook-Appiah got to the near-post to score his second goal of the match from Sam Tutt’s cross from the left. The ball had rebounded off the near-post, and it took the assistant referee to confirm it had just gone over the line. Eddie Simon then headed the third goal in the final minute of normal-time to confirm Swans’ passage into the 1st Round. Just prior to Cook-Appiah scoring what proved to be the winner the visitors had a ‘goal’ ruled out for offside, and debutant goalkeeper Tyla Dickinson then made a fine save to preserve the lead. Swans however fully deserved their place in the next round.

With Liam Allen awaiting a medical procedure the opportunity was taken to give new signing Dickinson his first start, and the former Queens Park Rangers and Wycombe Wanderers keeper responded with an assured performance. John Gilbert was unavailable, so Harry Mills moved further forward, while Tutt and Ollie Allen came into the starting line-up, with Simon and Arsen Ujkaj dropping to the bench.

Cook-Appiah could have given his side the lead after just two minutes when Anis Nuur got down the left before sending him clear and into the box, but indecision allowed Canvey’s Mason Hall to get back and tackle, and keeper Sam Jackson was able to collect. Cook-Appiah and Mills combined to get Stan Flaherty on a run down the right, but his low ball in was blocked away.

Just five minutes into his debut Dickinson had to make a crucial block. Mitchal Gough seemed to take his eye off the ball, and Canvey’s Bradley Sach was allowed to break clear, but Dickinson was quickly out to the edge of his area to save with his legs. Gough got back to put the ball out for a throw on the left, and this led to Evans Kouassi getting possession on the right, but his cross went behind.

Swans then took the lead after nine minutes. Dickinson rolled the ball out to Joe Hicks, and the Swans’ skipper dwelt on the ball for a few seconds before sending a great pass over the top to pick out the run of Cook-Appiah, who got clear of the Canvey back line. This time Cook-Appiah showed more composure as he took the ball to the right of Jackson before slotting into the far corner.

The visitors’ Sach got through to the edge of the box to have a shot blocked behind for a corner on the left, and this led to three more successive kicks before Swans were finally able to clear. Jamie Salmon then sent the ball into the box following clever play by Kouassi on the left, and Sach got in a backwards header, but the ball looped into the gloves of Dickinson. Canvey continued to have a good spell, Kouassi sending a shot just over from the edge of the box, and Joe Paxman getting in a dangerous cross from the right that Joe Pratley-Jones headed away at the far-post.

Pratley-Jones was soon getting to the other end, finishing off a build-up by Swans on the right with a cross that dipped just over the far, top corner.

Kouassi had looked Canvey’s main threat, getting in another shot that deflected off Pratley-Jones for a corner, but just past the half hour, after lengthy treatment for an injury, he had to be replaced. Just minutes later his captain Rob Girdlestone also picked up an injury and had to be substituted.

Allen did well for Swans on the right before playing the ball in to the near-post, where Cook-Appiah turned to have a shot blocked. Flaherty immediately got free on the right to drive the ball across the 6 yard-box, where Jackson did well to push it away to deny Cook-Appiah, both the Canvey keeper and the Swans’ striker then needing treatment after colliding. Flaherty sent over another dangerous cross from the right to the far-post, where Mills was just denied and the ball was put behind for a corner. With the final minute of normal-time of the first-half being played Pratley-Jones and Allen combined with Flaherty on the right, and he cut inside across the edge of the box to drive in a left foot shot that Jackson kept out with a fine save, diving low to his right.

Dickinson had to be quickly out to kick clear when Sach threatened to get clear, but Swans were finishing the first-half well as it went into stoppage-time. Cook-Appiah’s clever flick sent Flaherty away on the right, and he drove into the box to send a left foot shot just wide of the far-post when a return pass to Cook-Appiah looked a better option. Gough then sent Mills on a run forward on the left to set up Nuur on the edge of the box, but he shot low wide of the left post.

Canvey had the final opportunity of the half to create something with a free-kick deep on the right. Louis Arrowsmith delivered the ball into the box, and when it was headed away a shot came in that Dickinson got behind.

Swans had a great chance to double their lead straight after the resumption when Pratley-Jones sent a throw-in down the right to Nuur, whose clever clipped pass sent Cook-Appiah clear into the right of the box, but he put the ball well wide of the near-post as Jackson came out.

Canvey soon went close when Elliott Ronto headed down to Paxman 30 yards out, and he sent a shot just over the right, top corner.

They equalised just three minutes into the second-half however with a goal, which if intended was excellent. Ronto’s ball in from outside the right corner of the box looked to be a cross intended to pick out a teammate, but the ball dipped over Dickinson and into the far, top corner.

Jackson got to the ball in his 6 yard-box when Flaherty drove it in low after a run on the right, but the visitors replied with Arrowsmith getting in on the left byeline to send the ball across the goal-face.

Simon came on for Mills, and he soon had a chance to restore Swans’ lead. Cook-Appiah was fouled out on the right touchline by Hall, earning the Canvey central defender a booking. Flaherty swung the free-kick into the box for Simon to glance a header over from close to the penalty-spot. A high clearance was then headed down by Hicks to Simon 5 yards outside the box, and he turned to strike a terrific half-volley that Jackson did well to beat away. Pratley-Jones made a tremendous run forward that took him from deep in his own half to force a corner at the other end. Flaherty’s kick from the left was sent to the far-post, where Hicks came powering in for a header, the ball just deflecting off the head of Salmon to go narrowly over for another corner. With a quarter of an hour remaining Gough’s diagonal ball from deep on the right was headed on by Simon to send Tutt through to the left-corner flag to cross, and when the ball was headed away, Nuur cut across the edge of the box to drive a terrific shot just wide of the right post.

Minutes later Canvey thought they were on the way to winning the tie. Arrowsmith played Luke Deslandes through to the left byeline, and he cut back to drive in a shot and force a save from Dickinson at his near-post. The ball came back to the Canvey substitute, and he brought another save from the Swans’ keeper. Sach was in the 6 yard-box to tap home, but the flag went up for offside.

Flaherty was just denied as he made a fine run into the right of the box before Swans regained the lead with 8 minutes of normal-rime remaining. A patient build-up that started on the right led to Simon’s clever back-heel on the left edge of the box to Nuur, who then sent Tutt to the byeline. Tutt crossed low to the near-post, where Cook-Appiah seemed to get the touch that sent the ball against the inside of the post, from where it looked to have gone over the goal-line. Play continued, and Pratley-Jones drove in a shot from the edge of the box that was blocked on the line by Sam Mvemba, but the assistant referee’s flag was then signalling for a goal.

With the tie entering the final five minutes Swans were grateful to Dickinson for preserving their lead. Deslandes had looked dangerous for Canvey since coming on, and when Salmon found him on the edge of the box clever play opened up a chance, and he got in a shot that Dickinson dived to his left to keep out.

Swans needed another goal to seal the win, and it came in the final minute of normal-time. Jake Frailing linked up with Allen on the right touchline, and he delivered a great cross to the far-post, where Simon dived in to head home.

Swans continued to seek a fourth goal, and young substitute Rylee Wright made a clever run into the left of the box to force a corner. Gough was at the far-post to head across goal and wide from Flaherty’s kick, but the tie was already won.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Joe Pratley-Jones, Sam Tutt, Ollie Allen, Mitchal Gough, Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty, Jake Frailing, Trae Cook-Appiah (Rylee Wright 84’), Harry Mills (Eddie Simon 65’), Anis Nuur. Subs. not used: Arsen Ujkaj, Stefan Ilic, Joe Garcia, Liam Allen. Scorers: Cook-Appiah (9’ & 82’), Simon (90’). Caution: Gough (33’).

Canvey Island Team: Jackson, Crowhurst, Arrowsmith, Salmon, Hall, Girdlestone (Mvemba 35’), Edwards, Ronto, Sach, Paxman, Kouassi (Deslande 32’). Subs. not used: Tinubu, Albon, Hubble. Scorer: Ronto (48’). Cautions: Ronto (37’), Hall (67’).