Saturday 27th January 2024.                                 Southern League, Premier Division South.

Chesham United 3    Walton & Hersham 0.

Swans first visit to The Meadow in 21 years never really looked like having a positive outcome after they went behind after just three minutes, and then conceded a second goal shortly before half-time. The Generals are beginning to establish a comfortable cushion at the top of the League, and are a strong, well-organised side that make it extremely difficult for their opponents to break them down, particularly after going ahead. Swans had already lost at home to them in the FA Cup, and had then mounted a remarkable stoppage-time comeback to draw 2-2 in the reverse league fixture, so they posed few surprises as regard to their capabilities. It was always going to be difficult to salvage any sort of result after conceding goals at each end of the opening half, although before the second goal came Swans had come back well, dominating periods of play.

After a brief appearance as a substitute in the previous match Trae Cook-Appiah made his first start in nine games, and he proved Swans’ main threat with his speedy runs on the left, particularly in the first-half. He got past his marker on numerous occasions to get crosses into the box, but no-one could capitalise.

It was essential Swans got off to a solid start, but they were caught cold almost immediately. A foul by Josh Tobin conceded a free-kick ten yards outside the box on the right, and when Bradley Clayton swung the ball in, Kieran Murphy was unmarked by the penalty-spot to get in a header that brought a fine tip-over save from Swans’ goalkeeper Tyla Dickinson. Swans were then victims of a well-executed routine as the corner on the right was driven low into the box by Clayton, and when Steve Brown let the ball run Zak Joseph was by the penalty-spot to get in a shot that brought another fine save from Dickinson. The ball rebounded off Chesham’s Ricardo German however and Lewis Rolfe poked it over the line.

Stan Flaherty made a run on the right for Swans, and when he got the ball back from Johl Powell he got in a cross, but it went over. Cook-Appiah took a long throw on the left, and when the ball came back to him he forced his way to the left corner of the box, but his low shot was wide of the near-post. Tobin then picked out the run of Cook-Appiah with a long ball down the middle, but home keeper Zaki Oualah was quickly out to gather. Swans had come well into the game and Cook-Appiah forced a corner on the left. From Nana Owusu’s kick the ball came to Joe Hicks just inside the box, but he hooked it well over the goal.

Chesham went close to doubling their lead with twenty minutes played. A clever move on the left led to neat interplay between Clayton and Joseph that got Clayton through to the byline, Dickinson just got a touch to the driven cross at the near-post, and Eoin Bolger had to clear the ball off the line. Another shot from inside the box was soon having to be blocked.

Swans continued to pose threats of their own however, and Owusu’s persistence won him the ball by the left corner of the box. Cook-Appiah took over, and a neat back-heel got Powell through to the corner of the 6 yard-box, but his shot was blocked by the feet of keeper Oualah at the near-post. Flaherty’s good run on the right forced a corner, but his own kick was headed away in the 6 yard-box. With half an hour played a handball 35 yards out gave Swans a free-kick, but again the home side’s big defenders had no trouble heading clear when Flaherty sent the ball into the box. Cook-Appiah made a clever run on the left, but his low ball in was again cleared away.

Neat interplay by Chesham on the left led to Joseph again getting Clayton in on the byline, but his low cut-back was cleared by Bolger on the penalty-spot. German followed up and seemed to play the ball with his arm to Alex Lafleur in the left of the box, and his low shot brought a fine save from Dickinson at the near-post. The tricky Clayton was immediately again doing well to get in on the left, and his low cross had to be cleared in the 6 yard-box.

At this stage, despite Chesham having chances, Swans were still well in the game, and fine play by Jake Frailing in the left of the box led to Bolger forcing a corner on the left. With five minutes left of the half another clever run by Cook-Appiah on the left led to him playing the ball low in, but again there was no-one in the box to capitalise. A good build-up then led to Powell laying the ball back from the edge of the box to Flaherty, but his left foot shot curled just over the top, left corner of the goal.

Swans’ hopes of going in at the break just a goal down were immediately dashed however. Keeper Oualah’s long goal-kick was nodded on in the centre-circle to find German 35 yards out, and he played the ball through to Joseph unmarked in the left of the box, and he slipped it low past Dickinson and into the far corner.

Soon after the resumption for the second-half a long ball by Chesham almost got German through, but Dickinson was out to kick clear.

Swans had an opportunity when Bolger was pulled back by Rolfe on the left touchline, conceding a free-kick in a promising position, but Frailing’s ball into the box was headed away. Cook-Appiah then made another good run past Brown to the left byline, but Powell was just denied from getting on the end of his low cross into the 6 yard-box. German picked up a yellow card for fouling Tobin deep on the right, and Chesham had to head over their own bar when Flaherty sent the free-kick into the box.

With an hour played it could have been 3-0 to the home side when Joseph got down the left to play the ball low into the 6 yard-box, but the unmarked German failed to get a touch.

Swans continued to press for a goal, and a patient build-up led to Tobin getting Owusu to the left edge of the box, and he drove in a low, left foot shot that Oualah saved down to his right at the near-post. Harry Mills then came on, with Bolger going off. Good play by Tobin led to him finding Flaherty on the left, but his ball into the box was headed clear.

Swans then struggled to get the ball clear and it ran to German in the left of the box, and when he laid it to Clayton, who had run in to the penalty-spot, his first-time, left foot shot was superbly saved by Dickinson down on his line.

With 68 minutes played Joe Pratley-Jones sent a long throw from the right into the home box, but Chesham broke through Clayton down their right. Joseph then played the ball through to send German clear, and when he got into the box Dickinson came out to dive at his feet, but failed to make contact with the ball as the striker went tumbling. A penalty was awarded that German elected to take himself, but he sent the ball weakly straight at the Swans’ keeper.

Chesham did not have to wait long to make it 3-0 however with a really soft goal Pratley-Jones took a throw-in on Swans’ right, but Tobin was immediately robbed by Joseph, who played German clear to the left edge of the box, and he slotted the ball low into the far corner.

Eddie Simon immediately came on to replace Frailing.

It could have been 4-0 when the ball was lost and Joseph burst clear from the halfway line and into the right of the box, but Dickinson made another fine save from his shot. Clayton followed up to drive in a shot that was well blocked by Tobin on the edge of the 6 yard-box. The ball came to T’Sharne Gallimore on the edge of the box, and he drove a first-time shot just wide of the right post.

With just over ten minutes of normal-time remaining Cook-Appiah looked to be fouled by Lafleur just inside the right edge of the box, but a free-kick was given outside and the Chesham player shown a yellow card. Flaherty laid the ball back to Powell, and he drove in a shot that was deflected behind for a corner on the left.

The home side forced another couple of corners, but Swans had the last chance deep into added-on time. The ball broke to Simon 25 yards out, and he turned to get in a good strike that Oualah beat down on his line.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Joe Pratley-Jones, Eoin Bolger (Harry Mills 63’), Mitchal Gough, Josh Tobin (Arsen Ujkaj 80’), Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty, Johl Powell, Nana Owusu, Jake Frailing (Eddie Simon 74’), Trae Cook-Appiah. Subs. not used: Maliq Morris, Anis Nuur. Cautions: Pratley-Jones, foul (57’), Dickinson, foul (68’), Hicks, dissent (80’).

Chesham United Team: Oualah, Rolfe, Lafleur, Brown (Casey 82’), Murphy, Adebiyi, Collins, Gallimore (Jones 82’), German (Obi 75’), Clayton, Joseph. Subs. not used: Edwards, Connors. Scorers: Rolfe (3’), Joseph (42’), German (74’). Cautions: Clayton (36’), Brown (43’), German (54’), Lafleur (79’).