Saturday 6th January 2024.                       Southern League, Premier Division South.

Hayes & Yeading United 0    Walton & Hersham 0.

Neither side could find a breakthrough in a somewhat uneventful match at the SKYex Stadium, although Swans will feel disappointed their domination of the second-half did not produce a goal to take all three points. The home side have made several new signings to try to arrest their fall down the table, and looked determined to come away with something from the game.

Swans had also been busy in recruitment, with two new signings making their debuts. Experienced former Oxford City and Dulwich Hamlet midfielder Nana Owusu has joined from Bracknell Town, while at the other end of the experience scale Josh Tobin comes in after brief spells with both Cray Wanderers and Margate this season. 20 year-old Tobin has come through the development ranks at Chelsea, playing for their U18s, before a spell with Stoke City U21s. The defender was not scheduled to start, but came in after Harry Pointing was held up on route, and made an accomplished and composed debut. Owusu also impressed, and was unfortunate not to mark his first appearance with a goal. Both Eoin Bolger and Stan Flaherty had served their suspensions, and returned to the starting line-up, but Mitchal Gough had to sit out one more game.

Swans had a great chance after just eight minutes when Alex Kelly sent a terrific ball over the top and down the right to pick out the run of John Gilbert. Home goalkeeper Jacob Adams was stranded outside his area, but Gilbert’s attempt to lob him fell wide of the far-post. Gilbert was soon making another break down the right to the byline, but his low cross just failed to pick out Owusu on the edge of the box. Owusu was then fouled ten yards outside the left of the box, and his shot from the free-kick dipped over.

Swans had made a good start, but United came more into the game, and Michael Elias-Fernandes drove the ball across the box and wide of the far-post from the left. The same player then tried a speculative effort from well-out that cleared the goal by some distance. Midway through the half United had a free-kick outside the left of the box, and following Lewis Kinsella’s delivery Marvel Ekpiteta was in at the right post to put a header wide.

Home keeper Adams then made a good take when Gilbert crossed high from the right, but Swans’ attacks had become sporadic and United had another free-kick opportunity outside the left of the box, but Elias-Fernandes drove the ball well over. A good chance fell to the home side as the half entered the final five minutes. Cole Brown broke down the right to get in a cross, and Norman Wabo was on the edge of the box to set up Elias-Fernandes close in at the far-post, but Tobin did well to block and deflect the ball high and wide.

Swans soon had a chance when Owusu forced a corner on the left and quickly played the kick short to Jake Frailing, who set up Owusu on the corner of the box. Owusu drove in a shot that was blocked at the near-post by Paul Field, and Flaherty was there to get in a first-time, left foot shot, but could only find the side-netting.

Deep into stoppage-time the home side had an even better chance when Osanebi Okoh’s ball over the top found Elias-Fernandes on the left, and he got to the byline to drive the ball low across to the far-post, where Omar Rowe put a first-time shot over.

There was still time for Maliq Morris to find Frailing on the left, and after taking the return pass Morris drove in a low shot from fully 35 yards out that was wide of the left post.

Swans made a positive start to the second-half and Tobin set up Owusu and Frailing to combine well on the left. Owusu was able to get in the cross, and when Flaherty appeared to be pushed over the ball came to the far-post, where Gilbert was on the corner of the 6 yard-box, but the hgh bounce prevented him from striking the ball cleanly, and Kinsella blocked his shot on the line. Harry Mills was soon making a run on the right before crossing high to the left, where Owusu did well to pull the ball down just inside the box, but his low shot passed wide of the far-post. Keeper Adams then had to beat the ball down in his 6 yard-box when Kelly found Owusu on the left, and he got to the byline to drive in a cross.

Swans had dominated the opening ten minutes, but they were almost punished for giving the ball away and Wabo got free into the left of the box, but keeper Tyla Dickinson was out to make a fine block.

There was an immediate response from Swans when Gilbert crossed low in from the right and Owusu was just denied in front of goal. Some excellent, intricate play between Frailing, Kelly and Bolger on the left led to Frailing setting up Owusu on the edge of the box, but the new signing was again unfortunate as his shot just cleared the crossbar. With an hour played another fine build up on the left saw Kelly find Owusu, who got Frailing through to the byline, but after cutting back onto his right foot his shot could not beat Adams at the near-post. More clever play by Frailing on the left led to him crossing into the 6 yard-box, where both Gilbert and Flaherty just failed to get to the ball.

The home side had a chance when a long ball over the top from deep in their own half got Elias-Fernandes in front of both Bolger and Tobin, but Dickinson got a hand to his shot to the near-post to turn the ball wide with a fine save. That led to four corner-kicks in quick succession for United, all defended successfully by Swans.

A free-kick awarded out on the left touchline for a foul on Frailing gave Swans an opportunity, but Frailing’s delivery sent the ball disappointingly straight into the gloves of keeper Adams. Owusu then made a run forward, but finished with a low shot wide of the right post from 25 yards. Eddie Simon immediately came on for Flaherty with a quarter of an hour remaining.

United had a free-kick awarded out on the left touchline, and when the ball was crossed in Wabo got in a glancing header on the edge of the 6 yard-box, but Dickinson was well placed to save on his line.

Owusu was fouled, giving Swans a free-kick out by the left corner-flag, but Frailing again delivered the ball straight to Adams in the 6 yard-box. Owusu was again fouled out on the left, earning Brown a yellow card, and before the free-kick could be taken Anis Nuur came on for Frailing. Owusu took the free-kick himself, but the home side were able to clear in their box.

With the final minute of normal-time being played Kelly and Morris got in each other’s way as both went for the same ball by the centre-circle, and United were able to get forward and Okoh to have an opening just outside the box, but Dickinson again saved on his line as a low shot was driven in. The home side continued to push for a winner, forcing Swans into several failed attempts to clear, and Rowe was left with a chance in the left of the box, but Dickinson was again well placed at his near-post to save a clipped shot.

It was Swans however who had the final opportunity to win the game five minutes into stoppage-time when Gilbert broke through to the left byline, but after cutting back onto his right foot he shot just wide of the far-post.

United were able to pose one last threat when Mills was shown a yellow card for a foul deep on the left, conceding a free-kick, but Kinsella’s delivery was headed away in the box by Joe Hicks and the final whistle blew.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Harry Mills, Eoin Bolger, Maliq Morris, Josh Tobin, Joe Hicks, John Gilbert, Alex Kelly, Stan Flaherty (Eddie Simon 75’), Jake Frailing (Anis Nuur 83’), Nana Owusu. Subs. not used: Harry Pointing, Joe Pratley-Jones, Ibrahim Olutade. Caution: Mills, foul (90+7’).

Hayes & Yeading Team: Adams, Brown, Kinsella, Odelusi (Okoh 34’), Ekpiteta, Rowe, Gamblin (Nasha 77’), Faniyan (Wabo 17’), Field, Dunne, Elias-Fernandes. Subs. not used: James, Heath. Cautions: Rowe (37’), Ekpiteta (44’), Brown (83’), Kinsella (85’).