Tuesday 10th October 2023.                       Southern League, Premier Division South.

Walton & Hersham 4    Hungerford Town 1.

Swans put on a terrific display as they totally dominated their Berkshire opponents, who could well have gone away having suffered a more severe beating. Apart from scoring four superbly worked goals, they created numerous other opportunities. The performance was all the more creditable as they were missing two key defenders, Joe Pratley-Jones and Mitchal Gough, through suspension.

Harry Pointing, who has been on dual-registration at Redhill, and currently Merstham, this season, came in for his first appearance in a Swans’ shirt for 17 months to put on a faultless display in his first game at this level. With John Gilbert returning, Harry Mills dropped back again to right-back to fill the gap left by Pratley-Jones.

Swans went close to taking the lead after just three minutes when Gilbert made a run forward from the centre-circle before playing Trae Cook-Appiah into the right of the box to drive a shot against the near-post. Joe Hicks was soon playing a long ball to get Eddie Simon into the left of the box, and he made room, before getting in a shot that was beaten down by visiting goalkeeper Ryan Clarke. Simon then had another shot blocked for a corner on the right when the ball came to him on the edge of the box, and from Stan Flaherty’s kick another corner resulted on the left. This time Clarke punched away from Flaherty’s kick. Cook-Appiah’s burst through the middle was cynically stopped by Luke Cornell, earning the Crusader’s player the first yellow card of the evening.

Swans had totally dominated, and they took a deserved lead after 19 minutes. Keeper Tyla Dickinson played the ball out to Hicks, who found Jake Frailing by the centre-circle, and he threaded a terrific ball through to Anis Nuur. Nuur took the ball in his stride and got to the left edge of the box before stroking a left foot shot low into the bottom, right corner.

Swans doubled the lead just two minutes later with another superbly created goal. Mills cleverly twisted past a Hungerford player with a Cruyff-like turn deep in his own half before getting forward and clipping a great ball over the defence to pick out the run of Cook-Appiah into the right of the box, from where he drove a low shot in-off the far-post.

Cook-Appiah was soon bursting through again, but this time a poor final touch let the ball run away from him.

The visitors had a rare opportunity with a free-kick out on the right touchline, but the ball was driven in low for Dickinson to claim down at his near-post.

Another fine ball down the right by Mills threatened to get Cook-Appiah through again, but Hungerford were able to clear to the halfway line. Pointing immediately sent the ball high back into the visitors’ box, and when it bounced Cook-Appiah got his head to it, but Clarke just managed to prevent it going over him and in. Gilbert won the ball outside the left of the box before playing it across to Nuur, and he set up Flaherty in space on the right. Flaherty cut inside to send a left foot shot just wide of the far-post.

Hungerford had another free-kick on the right, but when it was delivered to the edge of the 6 yard-box Carnell’s downward header was straight at Dickinson.

Another fine move by Swans led to Flaherty playing the ball in low from the right to force a corner. From Flaherty’s right-side kick Hicks was at the far-post to have a header deflected over for another corner.

In the final minute of normal-time Dickinson had to make a good take at his near-post when Hungerford drove the ball over from the right corner-flag. That was a rare threat from the visitors, but they got back into the game as the half entered stoppage-time. Mills just failed to cut out a pass from the right, and Louie Paget was free on the left to get to the edge of the box and slip the ball through the legs of Dickinson and into the far corner.

There was still time left for Swans to go close to restoring their two goal lead. A fine build-up on the right that started from Pointing in his own half led to Gilbert breaking on the right and driving the ball across. Simon was on the edge of the 6 yard-box to make good contact, but Clarke made a terrific, instinctive save to deflect the ball on to his crossbar, before it was cleared for a corner.

That lead was restored however just five minutes into the second-half with a superb team goal. Gilbert had already made a run in on the right byeline to have a low cross cleared, when Mills sent a fine diagonal ball from deep on the right in his own- half to pick out Simon on the left. This led to a sequence of half a dozen first-time passes, with as many players involved, before Flaherty played the ball in to the edge of the 6 yard-box from the left for Cook-Appiah to slot home.

Six minutes later it was 4-1 to Swans as they scored another terrific goal. The move started with Dickinson rolling the ball out to Hicks on the left, and Sam Tutt to send Simon on a run that took him to the left edge of the box. Simon held the ball up to wait for Tutt to drive forward into the left of the box, and when it was laid in to him he sidestepped a defender before drilling a low, left foot shot into the far corner.

Olly Allen then came on to replace Mills. Gilbert nodded the ball through to Flaherty on the right, and he got into the corner of the box to send a shot into the side-netting. A move on the right then led to Gilbert cutting inside to shoot just wide of the far-post.

The visitors mounted a rare attack that led to them going close. A move that started in their own half led to Rhys Tyler laying the ball across the edge of the box from the right for Sam De St Croix to hook a shot just over.

Swans were almost gifted a bizarre fifth goal when Hungerford took a throw-in 30 yards out on their left for Jack Alexander to hook the ball back towards his own goal, and it passed just wide of the far-post with keeper Clarke desperately trying to get back. Alexander was one of three substitutes brought on in one go by the visitors, and he was again at fault when Gilbert stole the ball off him on the right and drove into the box to have a shot deflect off Matt Berry-Hargreaves and loop wide of the far-post. Kensley Maloney joined Rylee Wright in coming on for Swans, the recent signing from Uxbridge replacing Nuur to make his debut.

Hungerford had a chance when Tyler played Joe Shepherd in to the right corner of the 6 yard-box, but he dragged his shot wide of the far-post.

With just over ten minutes remaining Flaherty swung in a corner from the right, and Pointing got to the edge of the 6 yard-box to glance a header over, and will feel disappointed he did not register his first goal for Swans. As the match entered the final five minutes Allen was fouled by Shepherd five yards outside the right corner of the box, earning the Crusaders’ player a yellow card. Flaherty drove the free-kick in, and Clarke just got fingertips to the ball to deflect it onto his crossbar.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Harry Mills (Olly Allen 58’), Sam Tutt, Jake Frailing, Harry Pointing, Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty, Anis Nuur (Kensley Maloney 76’), Eddie Simon, John Gilbert, Trae Cook-Appiah (Rylee Wright 73’). Subs. not used: Arsen Ujkaj, Stefan Ilic. Scorers: Nuur (19’), Cook-Appiah (21’ & 50’), Tutt (56’).   

Hungerford Team: Clarke, Berry-Hargreaves, De St Croix, Davis (Alexander 60’), McDonagh (Softley 60’), Moore, Watts (Sambu 60’), Carnell, Paget, Shepherd, Tyler. Subs. not used. Hooper, Medford-Smith. Scorer: Paget (45+1′). Cautions: Cornell, foul (9’), Davis, foul (51’), Shepherd, foul (85’).