Monday 1st January 2024.                         Southern League, Premier Division South.

Walton & Hersham 2 AFC Totton 2.

When Taurean Roberts, on his first appearance of the season, put a much-changed Swans’ side 2-0 up in the final minute of normal-time, it seemed he had secured a fine win to get the New Year off to a great start, only for the visitors to score twice in stoppage-time. The Southampton based club are having a fine first season in the Premier South after their promotion, and had looked threatening throughout the game, but Swans had defended well to keep them out until those final minutes.

Several of Swans’ changes were enforced, with Mitchal Gough starting a two match suspension, and Eoin Bolger serving a one match ban. Alex Kelly joined Trae Cook-Appiah on the injured list, while Stan Flaherty was completing his three match suspension. Although named on the substitutes’ bench, Anis Nuur was unlikely to be risked as he is also carrying an injury. As well as Roberts, who has been playing on dual-registration at AFC Whyteleafe, three others were making their first appearance of the season. Maliq Morris has re-signed after playing several games last season, while two 18 year-olds were making their debuts. Central-defender Bailey Lamb has signed on work experience from Colchester United, while Hugo Few is an AFC Wimbledon U18 midfielder. Joe Pratley-Jones started for the first time in eight games, and Harry Mills for the first time in six.

Swans soon had the opportunity of a free-kick when Roberts was fouled on the right. Following Morris’s kick Eddie Simon crossed from the left for Roberts to head back at the far-post, but the ball was cleared. An opening nearly came when John Gilbert, Simon and Few combined well on the edge of the box, but the ball ran through to Stags’ goalkeeper Lewis Noice.

The visitors caused problems with just over ten minutes played when they were awarded a free-kick deep on the right. Joe Hicks headed away following Leon Maloney’s delivery into the box, but Jordan Raguette was on the front edge of the centre-circle to lob the ball back, and when it bounced on the edge of the 6 yard-box Swans’ keeper Tyla Dickinson did well to tip it over his crossbar under pressure from Scott Rendell.

Few was played to the right byline for Swans, but his low cross was straight to keeper Noice.

Totton looked dangerous coming forward and they won a corner on the left, leading to a far-post downward header being cleared and a shot from outside the box going wide. Dickinson then had to take the ball at his near-post after the visitors got in on the right byline.

Swans created a chance when Simon won the ball in the Totton half and found Gilbert on the left, but after cutting inside and into the box he shot wide of the far-post.

The Stags were awarded a succession of three free-kicks, and the third, taken short on the left, led to Joe Turner being found in the right of the box, but he drove the ball over.

Swans had another opportunity when Mills nodded the ball through to Simon on the left, and he found Gilbert in the box, who had a shot deflected behind for a corner on the left.

The visitors had a great chance to take the lead after 26 minutes when they built up a fine move that led to Luke Bennett getting past Lamb and to be left with a one-on-one with Dickinson, but the Swans’ keeper made a fine save on the edge of the 6 yard-box. Another chance came to Totton when Rendell was found on the left, and he picked out Turner on the edge of the 6 yard-box, but he side-footed the ball well over.

Swans responded with an excellent move that started with some clever play by Pratley-Jones in his own box and Lamb making a fine run forward from deep in his own half.. Simon and Mills took over, and when the ball came to Few just outside the box, he was leaning back as he sent a shot well over.

With two minutes of normal-time remaining of the first-half Totton forced a corner on the left, and from the kick Sam Magri got above Harry Pointing at the far-post, but his header cleared the crossbar.

The Stags were soon threatening in the second-half when Raguette got down the left to send Matt Burrows, who had replaced Bennett after the break, to the byline, but after cutting inside he drove the ball into the side-netting.

Swans built up a good move that led to Simon finding Gilbert in the left of the box, but he shot over.

With just under ten minutes played of the half Jake Frailing came on to replace Few, and he was soon instrumental in Swans taking the lead with a tremendous goal. Morris found Frailing on the left, and he got to the byline to send the ball over. Magri’s clearing header only reached Pointing 30 yards out, and he took one touch before striking a half-volley with his weaker left foot that flew past Noice and inside his right post for the defender’s first Swans’ goal.

Totton had a free-kick outside the left corner of the box, but it was delivered too long, and they then got in on the right byline to have a shot deflected over for a corner.

Just past the hour Swans looked to have a good case for a penalty when Simon went sprawling after getting clear into the box, but the referee saw no offence.

Swans had to clear away from their goal-line when Totton sent a free-kick into their box, but they responded with a fine move that led to Gilbert driving the ball low across the 6 yard-box, but failing to find a team-mate. Roberts was then fouled 8 yards outside the box, but Mills sent the free-kick dipping over.

Swans made a couple of changes, with Arsen Ujkaj replacing Morris, and Ibrahim Olutade then coming on for Mills.

Swans’ narrow lead began to look vulnerable as the visitors continued to threaten their goal, but in the final minute of normal-time they made it 2-0 to seemingly win the match. Ujkaj’s clever lobbed pass sent Simon down the left to cross into the box. Olutade failed to make contact on the edge of the 6 yard-box, but Roberts was behind him, and he shifted the ball onto his left foot before driving it past keeper Noice.

The lead was halved two minutes into stoppage-time however. Persistent play by The Stags led to Raguette getting in on the left to force a corner after Dickinson had blocked at his near-post. The kick from the left was not cleared at the far-post, and Joe Oastler was on the edge of the 6 yard-box to get in a half-volley that went through a ruck of players and in.

Two minutes later the match was tied up at 2-2 as the visitors scored a fine second goal. A move starting in the centre-circle led to Benny Read finding Burrows on the right, and he drove into the box before sending a left-foot shot in-off the underside of the bar.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Harry Pointing, Joe Pratley-Jones, Maliq Morris (Arsen Ujkaj 75’), Bailey Lamb, Joe Hicks, Harry Mills (Ibrahim Olutade 83’), Hugo Few (Jake Frailing 54’), Eddie Simon, John Gilbert, Taurean Roberts. Subs. not used: Anis Nuur, Olly Allen. Scorers: Pointing (56’), Roberts (90’). Cautions: Gilbert (62’), Pratley-Jones (78’). 

AFC Totton Team: Noice, Read, Raguette, Hallett, Oastler, Tomasso (Chiedozie 72’), Rendell. Bennett (Burrows 46’), Magri, Maloney, Turner (Kennedy 72’). Subs. not used: Egan, Stanley. Scorers: Oastler (90+2’), Burrows (90+4’). Cautions: Magri (45’), Read (80’), Chiedozie (90’).