Saturday 11th November 2023.              Southern League, Premier Division South.

Walton & Hersham 1    Plymouth Parkway 2.

Swans had not lost a league match at home since Boxing Day last year, but that run came to an end with the visitors’ stoppage-time winner. They looked to have preserved that unbeaten sequence when Trae Cook-Appiah equalised in the final minute of normal-time, to add to their record of last ditch turnarounds, but this time it was not to be. The result gave the Devon side their first away win of the season, and their overall performance certainly belied their low standing in the table. They looked to be a well-disciplined and organised side that battled throughout.

Swans were missing two players that have performed superbly in midfield since coming into the side this season. Anis Nuur was unavailable, while Jake Frailing, who was the Swans’ Player of the Month for October, is suffering from a knee injury. Arsen Ujkaj came in for Frailing, while Alex Kelly continued his comeback, replacing Nuur.

The visitors won an early free-kick on the right, but Ryan Lane sent the ball dipping over.

Cook-Appiah almost got through for Swans when Joe Hicks sent a long ball down the middle, but Parkway goalkeeper Adam Parkes was quickly out to gather.

Hicks was then penalised for a high foot, conceding another free-kick 35 yards out and central, but Rio Garside drove the ball well over when the kick was played short.

Swans went close to taking the lead after ten minutes when Eddie Simon laid the ball inside from the left touchline to Mitchal Gough, and he got forward to 25 yards out to drive in a low shot that Parkes did well to push round his right post.

The visitors had mainly sat back, but just past the quarter of an hour they got forward and Lane drove the ball low into the 6 yard-box from the left for Gough to block at the near-post. Michael Williams got possession to have a shot blocked by keeper Tyla Dickinson, and Joe Pratley-Jones was finally able to clear following a scramble. Garside hooked the ball back into the left of the box, where Dickinson caught it while being challenged by Jack Crago. The Swans’ keeper reacted by barging Crago over, and the Parkway player went down theatrically clutching his face and rolling on the pitch, when Dickinson had clearly shouldered him in the chest. The referee deemed it was worthy of a penalty and a yellow card for Dickinson.Shane White drove the spot-kick low into the bottom, left corner to put Parkway in the lead.

Dickinson was again brought into action when he had to make a block at his near-post when Crago got in on the right byline to drive the ball low in.

Simon then got Harry Mills down the left for Swans, but no-one was able to get onto his low cross. Swans went close to equalising after 24 minutes when Mills played the ball down the line to send Stan Flaherty on a run. Flaherty squared the ball low across to pick out Simon just inside the box, and he struck a fine, first-time shot just over. Another good move saw Mills find Flaherty on the left, and he cut inside to send a low, left foot shot wide of the near-post.

Parkway’s Garside got the ball on the front edge of the centre-circle and tried to catch Dickinson out with a lob, but the Swans’ keeper was aware and got back to take comfortably.

Pratley-Jones had an opportunity to use his long throw for Swans, and the second of two in succession from the left forced a corner, but the ball was headed away from John Gilbert’s kick.

The visitors broke and this led to Lane sending a shot just over from the edge of the box.

Swans went desperately close to equalising after 37 minutes. Cook-Appiah did well on the right before laying the ball back to Mills, who crossed to the left edge of the box. Gilbert was there to send a terrific shot dipping against the far-post.

Swans continued to press for the equaliser, and with five minutes left of the half Gilbert forced a corner on the left. Gilbert took the kick, laying the ball back to Flaherty in space on the edge of the box, but he  clipped a left-foot shot just wide of the left post. Mills got down the right, but his cross was too long, and Kelly did well on the left before getting the ball over, but again the cross was too deep and just failed to find a teammate’s head at the far-post.

Swans made a change for the second-half, with Olly Allen replacing Ujkaj, and they immediately threatened with Flaherty playing a fine ball to get Gilbert to the left byeline, but his low cross was cut out by keeper Parkes on his line. Gilbert then forced a corner on the left, and from his kick the ball bounced off the back of Parkway’s White before being struck against the crossbar, an obscure offside decision then being given. Swans broke from a visitors’ attack with Simon sending Gilbert down the left, and he laid the ball back to Flaherty, but his cross was cut out by Parkes. An excellent piece of play then led to Mills crossing from the right and the ball being blocked for a corner. Swans continued to press, and another Mills’ cross from the right was struck just too long. Gilbert got Flaherty through to the left byeline, but he just failed to pick out Cook-Appiah in the 6 yard-box.

Swans had dominated the first ten minutes of the second-half, but a Parkway build-up on the left led to Reece Thomson having a clear chance inside the 6 yard-box, but Dickinson made a terrific point-blank save.

With an hour played Simon put Flaherty down the left, and Cook-Appiah just failed to get on the end of his cross into the 6 yard-box, the ball being put behind at the far-post for a corner. From Flaherty’s kick Gough glanced a header wide.

A free-kick was awarded to the visitors for a foul by Kelly on the left edge of Swans’ box, and Dickinson did well to just get hands on Garside’s driven kick, deflecting the ball wide of the far-post for a corner. From the kick a far-post header was put over.

A fine build-up by Swans, started by Hicks and Pratley-Jones in their own half, led to Flaherty cleverly getting Simon into the left of the box. Simon played the ball low into the 6 yard-box, where it was blocked out to Allen by the penalty-spot, and Parkes made a fine save from his low shot. The ball rebounded out to Mills on the right, and when his cross was headed away Gilbert was on the edge of the box, but after chesting the ball down he struck a half-volley just wide of the left post. With 20 minutes remaining fine determined play by Cook-Appiah on the left led to him laying the ball back to Gilbert, and his shot was well saved by Parkes at the far-post.

With ten minutes of normal-time left Swans brought on Stefan Ilic for Kelly, but Parkway immediately went close to doubling their lead. Crago got into the left of the box to drive in a shot that Dickinson again did well to tip away for a corner. From the right-side kick the ball was headed behind for another corner on the left. This time a far-post header went across goal, and the ball was just cleared away from the line.

The equaliser finally came for Swans with a minute of normal-time remaining. Pratley-Jones’ fine diagonal ball from the left picked out Mills on the right, and he sent Gilbert down the line. Gilbert’s cross into the box was met by Cook-Appiah on the edge of the 6 yard-box, and when his header was blocked and the ball ran loose, he followed in to bundle it over the line.

Swans then went desperately close to getting the winner. Pratley-Jones found Ilic on the right, and he cut the ball back onto his left-foot to swing it in to the far-post. Simon was there to direct a header into the far corner, but keeper Parkes made a tremendous point-blank save, diving to his left to push the ball away.

Instead of going 2-1 up however, Swans fell behind again Parkway made a double substitution as they were awarded a free-kick on the back edge of the centre-circle. The ball was delivered to the left corner of the box, where it was headed out to the touchline. It was then played into the box to Dylan Jones, one of the substitutes who had just come on, and he neatly tucked it into the far corner.

There was still time for Gough to deliver a long ball into the box and Flaherty to shoot just wide of the left post.  

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Harry Mills, Joe Pratley-Jones, Arsen Ujkaj (Olly Allen 46’), Mitchal Gough, Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty, Alex Kelly (Stefan Ilic 80’), Eddie Simon, John Gilbert, Trae Cook-Appiah. Subs. not used: Sam Tutt, Joe Garcia, Liam Allen. Scorer: Cook-Appiah (89’). Cautions: Dickinson, Gough.

Plymouth Parkway Team: Parkes, White, Lane, Hall, Rose, Down, Williams, Purrington, Thomson (Sangster 71’), Garside (Belsten 90+3’), Crago (Jones 90+3’). Sub. not used: Wright. Scorers: White, penalty (18’), Jones (90+3’). Cautions: Garside, Crago.