Tuesday 28th November 2023.                               Southern League, Premier Division South.

Winchester City 2    Walton & Hersham 1.

Swans could not arrest their losing run, that now stretches to six games, as they returned to Winchester to replay their abandoned opening day fixture. Unlike that earlier game, when they trailed 2-0 at half-time just before a halt was called, they took the lead and had a good opening quarter. The home side however, with their direct brand of football, then took control, and after   equalising before the break always looked the likely winners.

With Harry Mills and Joe Pratley-Jones both out injured, and Sam Tutt having left the club, there were no specialist full-backs in the Swans’ squad. With John Gilbert serving a one-match ban, selection was limited, just three substitutes being named.

Swans had a chance to go ahead inside the first minute when Ibrahim Olutade’s clever ball sent Trae Cook-Appiah down the right and into the box, but with Eddie Simon unmarked at the far-post he shot across goal and wide as the ball took a bad bounce.

The home side then went close when Dan Jones found Trevor Caborn in the right of the box, and his cross-come-shot grazed the crossbar.

Swans responded with Alex Kelly playing the ball through to Stan Flaherty on the edge of the box, but his low shot was wide of the right post.

City had a free-kick deep on the left, and when Jamie Barron delivered to the far-post Swans’ goalkeeper Liam Allen was put under pressure, but the ball went behind for a goal-kick. Barron then sent in a speculative effort from 35 yards, and the ball bobbled straight through to Allen on his line.

Swans had looked good going forward, and they took the lead after twelve minutes. Olutade found Flaherty on the front edge of the centre-circle, and he slid a fine ball through to Cook-Appiah, who burst into the box. City keeper Luke Cairney came out to block, but Olutade was just inside the box to follow up and guide the ball into the net for his first goal for Swans.

Mitchal Gough was soon playing Flaherty through to the edge of the box, and his low shot was pushed away by Cairney down by his left post. Harry Pointing had to clear in front of goal when Winchester got free on the right to play the ball across, but Flaherty was soon making a run forward for Swans with Cook-Appiah free to his left, and the home side cleared behind for a corner. Another attack was built up on the left edge of the box, leading to Pointing driving a shot over.

With half an hour played the tricky Caborn did well on the right for City, and when he laid the ball across Jones shot just over from the edge of the box. After a good start Swans were now under pressure, with dangerous balls continuing to be played into their box, and when Caborn had a shot blocked Simba Mlambo was left with a great chance from ten yards, but he shot straight at Allen.

The home side’s pressure paid off after 36 minutes as they equalised. Indecision between Joe Hicks and Pointing allowed the ball to run through to Caborn, who then appeared to foul Hicks on the right byeline, but he was allowed to find Max Smith by the penalty-spot, and he drove a shot past Allen.

As the half entered the final five minutes Mlambo got free into the left of the box and Gough came across to make a terrific tackle, with claims for a penalty from the home side. The ball was recycled to the right, and Caborn drove a shot wide of the near-post. In stoppage-time Hicks was shown a yellow card for a foul out on the right touchline. Barron then drove a low shot wide of the right post from the edge of the box.

Swans were left feeling somewhat aggrieved when Cook-Appiah was found on the right with a free run in front of him, but the referee blew up for half-time.

A foul by Flaherty gave Winchester a free-kick deep on the right eight minutes into the second-half, Barron’s ball in being punched away by Allen. Arsen Ujkaj made a good run forward for Swans, but the home side were able to break and force a corner on the right, and when the ball came to the left of the box a cross went just over.

With an hour played Pointing’s throw in on the left sent Flaherty to the corner to cross into the box. Cook-Appiah got in a downward header, but it was straight at keeper Cairney. A clearing header by Winchester went to Olly Allen, and he got forward to send a shot dipping over from 35 yards.

The home side again went close when Pointing’s header away led to Caborn getting forward on the right to send the ball flashing across the goal-face.

Swans’ attacks were sporadic, but Kelly made a run forward to almost play Cook-Appiah in.

Anis Nuur came on for Simon, but City took the lead after 78 minutes. A ball out of defence by Swans was intercepted in the centre-circle and immediately played through to Tom Wright 15 yards outside the box, and he drove in on the right to drive a fine shot inside the near-post.

Rylee Wright immediately came on for Cook-Appiah.

It was almost 3-1 when Winchester won the ball on the halfway line on the right and Mlambo was played clear into the box, but Allen made a fine blocking save. Ujkaj hooked the loose ball away, but Jones followed up to bring another terrific save from the Swans’ keeper before Nuur was able to complete the clearance. The danger was still not over, and Josh McCormick followed up on the right to send a cross over the goal.

Jake Frailing then came on for Olly Allen to complete Swans’ substitutions. With five minutes of normal-time remaining Wright almost got through, but Cairney just got to the ball. Frailing was fouled 40 yards out, but Flaherty sent the free-kick disappointingly straight through to keeper Cairney. McCormick became the third home player to be booked in the space of six minutes when he fouled Wright deep on the left, bur Cairney punched away Nuur’s free-kick into the box. Swans continued to press for an equaliser, and in stoppage-time Olutade took a throw-in quickly on the left to Wright, who had looked lively after coming on, and he got into the box to make space and get in a shot that took a deflection to go just over the far, top corner.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Arsen Ujkaj, Harry Pointing, Olly Allen (Jake Frailing 84’), Mitchal Gough, Joe Hicks, Trae Cook-Appiah (Rylee Wright 78’), Alex Kelly, Ibrahim Olutade, Stan Flaherty, Eddie Simon (Anis Nuur 71’). Scorer: Olutade (12’). Cautions: Olutade, kicked ball away (24’), Simon, kicked ball away (26’), Hicks, foul (45+2’).

Winchester Team: Cairney, McCormick, King, Jones, Jamison, Mott, Smith, Barron (Griggs 76’), Wright (Lynch 84’), Mlambo, Caborn (Balmer 71’). Subs. not used: Hill, Bentley. Scorers: Smith (36’), Wright (78’). Cautions: Griggs, foul (83’), Mlambo, foul (88’), McCormick, foul (89’).