Saturday 13th January 2024.                                 Southern League, Premier Division South.

Swindon Supermarine 2    Walton & Hersham 1.

Swans’ hopes of coming away from their first visit to the Wiltshire club with at least a deserved share of the spoils were dashed in the final minutes. The home side regained the lead with four minutes remaining of normal-time, and then their goalkeeper Conor Brann pulled off an outstanding save to keep out a goal-bound shot from Eddie Simon in the final minute.

As at Hayes & Yeading a week previously Swans had improved on a stuttering first-half performance to play well in the second. This time they had to come back from a goal down, and having equalised looked like they could come away with a win, but in the end they suffered another defeat. Their opponents however were able to continue with a fine sequence of results, putting their early season poor form well behind them as they rise up the table.

Swans made one change from the starting line-up at Hayes & Yeading, new signing from Dover Athletic, Johl Powell, replacing the injured Harry Mills and coming into midfield, with Alex Kelly dropping to right-back. After a quiet first-half the former Dulwich Hamlet and Maidstone United player impressed in the second.

Marine were soon getting in on the right, forcing Swans to clear at the near-post. Kelly was then harshly judged to have fouled Ryan Campbell deep on Swans’ right, allowing Jake Andrews to deliver a free-kick to the far-post, where a header was cleared.

Kelly was soon creating a chance for Swans with five minutes played, sending an over the top ball down the right to pick out the run of John Gilbert. Gilbert got past Campbell and clear, but Brann was quickly out to the corner of the box to block with his legs. Gilbert was soon getting clear on the right again, this time when being found by Jake Frailing, but after getting to the byline his low ball in was cut out by keeper Brann in the 6 yard-box. A clever through ball by Powell then got Nana Owusu to the right byline, but again the cross was cleared in the 6 yard-box.

After a promising opening Swans began to be put under pressure, and when a clearance only reached Andrew 35 yards out he got in a left foot shot that keeper Tyla Dickinson was able to watch clear his crossbar.

With 17 minutes played Marine’s pressure paid off with the opening goal. The move started with Brann’s long kick out, and James Edge’s cross from the left. The home side were then able to play the ball neatly around the edge of the box and Joe Tumelty to set up Dave Sims-Burgess on the right, and he beat Dickinson with a low shot into the far-corner.

It could soon have been 2-0 five minutes later as Henry Spalding crossed low from the left to find Shea Bennington-Mannings unmarked at the near-post, but he stabbed the ball against Joe Hicks and it ran straight to Dickinson on his line.

Swans forced a corner on the right, and from Owusu’s kick Powell looked to be fouled in the box, but the referee saw no offence. Hicks had to head away a dangerous cross from the right by Marine, but Swans responded with a fine build-up that led to Eoin Bolger crossing the ball from the left, but it was just too long for Powell at the far-post. Powell forced another corner, and this led to Owusu’s high ball into the 6 yard-box just being cut out by Brann. Swans had finished the first-half strongly, and in stoppage-time another fine build-up led to the ball coming to Maliq Morris five yards outside the box, but he drove his shot over.

Straight on the resumption of the second-half Gilbert again got clear on the right, this time after being found by Flaherty, but after he got into the box there was no-one there to get on the end of his low ball inside. A fine move then got Gilbert through to the left byline, but frustratingly there was again no-one in the box to capitalise on his low cross. Powell was fouled on the right touchline by Ioan Richards, but after Flaherty took the kick the home side were able to break, finally resulting in a corner on the right, and this led to a shot being blocked, but the referee spotted a foul in the box.

Marine built-up a neat, patient move around the edge of the box, but this broke down when Matt Liddiard played a slack pass back from the right, and this led to Swans going close to equalising. Powell intercepted on the halfway line and drove forward to the left corner of the 6 yard-box, but his shot brought a fine save from Brann at his near-post.

With just over ten minutes of the second-half played Gilbert almost got through, but was closed out and had to settle for a corner on the right. Before the kick could be taken Simon came on to replace Gilbert. Flaherty then played the corner short to Owusu, and after getting the ball back from a neat back-heel he swung it into the 6 yard-box, where it was headed away. Frailing was ten yards outside the box to hit a fine, first-time shot, but the ball was always rising and just cleared the crossbar.

With just over an hour played Swans got the equaliser they had been seeking. Owusu broke forward from the centre-circle before finding Flaherty to his right on the edge of the box. Flaherty cut inside, but after initially losing control the ball came back to him off the prostrate Owusu, and he drove a fine, low left foot shot just inside the right post.

Swans continued to press, and Kelly got Owusu into the right of the box to have a shot blocked for a corner. Hicks then popped up on the left to drive the ball low across, but it went across goal and just wide of the far-post. Another corner was forced when Simon was found on the left, and his low cross was put behind at the near-post. Owusu took the kick from the left, and Hicks got to the penalty-spot to power a header just wide of the far-post. Some clever play by Powell on the right led to him finding Flaherty on the corner of the box, and he got in a shot that brought a fine save from keeper Brann, diving full stretch to his right. Flaherty was left with another chance in front of goal, but his shot was blocked.

Marine had a chance following a cross from the left, but Brad Gray, who had just come on, could not get his shot away.

Swans continued to look most likely winners however, and Flaherty’s good ball down the right led to more fine play by Powell, but his low cross could not find a teammate.

They were almost punished however with just over a quarter of an hour remaining when a long ball down the left was allowed to run through to Sims-Burgess, who got clear to just inside the box, but Dickinson made a terrific block from a one-on-one.

Kelly then went down injured after stretching to try to keep the ball in on Swans’ right, and after treatment he was replaced by Joe Pratley-Jones.

Marine had begun to look dangerous again, and slack play by Swans led to Andrews getting in a shot from the right edge of the box, but Dickinson made a comfortable save on his line. Then, with just four minutes of normal-time remaining, a move was allowed to be built up, and this led to Liban Ibrahim playing the ball in low from the left to Tumelty at the near-post on the corner of the 6 yard-box, and he showed neat control before slipping the ball into the far-corner.

.Dickinson had to make another great block when Marine got clear, but in the 90th minute Swans went desperately close to equalising for the second time. Morris played a terrific chipped pass to find Simon on the left. Simon cut inside to the corner of the box to strike a trademark, right-foot shot that looked destined for the far, top corner, but Brann leapt high to his left to stick up a right hand and deflect the ball over his goal.

The home side were then able to frustrate Swans and see out the added-on time.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Alex Kelly (Joe Pratley-Jones 79’), Eoin Bolger, Maliq Morris, Josh Tobin, Joe Hicks, John Gilbert (Eddie Simon 56’), Johl Powell, Stan Flaherty, Jake Frailing, Nana Owusu. Subs. not used: Mitchal Gough, Anis Nuur, Ibrahim Olutade. Scorer: Flaherty (61’). Caution: Gilbert, foul (45+3’).

Swindon Supermarine Team: Brann, Turl, Campbell, Liddiard, Richards, Andrews, Bennington-Mannings (Gray 66’), Edge (Ibrahim 82’), Sims-Burgess (Irving 89’), Tumelty, H. Spalding. Subs. not used: Raison, Liston. Scorers: Sims-Burgess (17’), Tumelty (86’).