Saturday 10th February 2024.                               Southern League, Premier Division South.

Hungerford Town 0    Walton & Hersham 1.

Swans made it two straight wins and clean sheets on the road with a hard-working, battling performance, the win completing a league double over Hungerford Town, as well as taking them above the Berkshire club in the table and into sixth spot. On a sloping pitch, made sticky by the recent heavy rain, the match was far from a classic, but it was lit up by a classic, late goal that deserved to win any game.

Swans made one change from the side that had won at Sholing, with Joe Hicks returning in place of the unavailable Mitchal Gough. With Josh Tobin still injured Arsen Ujkaj again played a central defensive role, and along with his teammates had to dig deep to withstand periods of strong pressure from the home side.

Swans started playing down the slope, but were almost undone straight from the kick-off. Hungerford’s Elis Watts was found on the right, and he cut inside Eoin Bolger to cross to the far-post, where Fabio Lopes came in, but he could not control the ball and it ran behind. Watts was soon getting down the right again to drive the ball over, and Swans’ goalkeeper Tyla Dickinson, playing against one of his former clubs, took it on his line.

Swans soon had their first opportunity when Joe Pratley-Jones launched a long throw from close to the left corner-flag into the box. The ball ran loose to Nana Owusu just outside the left of the 6 yard-box, but he scuffed his left foot shot, and home keeper Ryan Clarke went down to make a comfortable save. Stan Flaherty then crossed from the right, and Eddie Simon was denied at the near-post to force a corner. Flaherty swung in the kick from the right, and when the ball came back to him he crossed high to the edge of the box, where Pratley-Jones sent a header looping well over.

The home side again went close when Watts swung the ball out to Lopes on the left, and he laid it back to Ramarni Medford-Smith on the left corner of the box, for him to drive it low just wide of the far-post. Owusu made a fine run forward from halfway and into the home box to force a corner on the left, but Lopes was soon winning one on the left for Hungerford, with Swans clearing at the near-post when the kick was driven in low.

Johl Powell was fouled out on the right touchline, giving Swans a free-kick Flaherty swung the ball in, and it ran to Bolger tight to the byline on the left, and he drove in a left foot shot that Clarke blocked round his near-post.

Dickinson was then kept busy at the other end. The ball came off the head of Pratley-Jones to give Hungerford a corner on the left, and the Swans’ keeper was fouled on his line when punching the ball away. Dickinson then had to cut the ball out at his near-post when Lopes put Medford-Smith in on the left byline to drive it low in. He was then well-placed on his to gather a shot from Lopes from 30 yards out on the left. With ten minutes left of the half Hungerford’s Jack Alexander took a long throw from the right, and when the ball was nodded on Pratley-Jones headed clear at the far-post. The lively Watts made a clever run forward from the centre-circle before finding Lopes on the left, and when he laid the ball across the box Joe Shepherd had a shot that took a deflection off Simon to go over.

Owusu was fouled on the right touchline, giving Swans the opportunity of a free-kick, but Flaherty struck the ball too long.

The home side then had a free-kick on their right touchline when Alex Kelly fouled Watts, and Dickinson made a good take on his line when Watts sent the ball in. With the half coming to a close Swans conceded a needless corner on the left, and from the kick a far-post header looped over.

Swans made a change for the second-half, with John Gilbert coming on for Trae Cook-Appiah, and they were immediately awarded a free-kick on the right touchline. Flaherty delivered the ball to the far-post, where Simon headed a good chance over. A good move around the box then forced a corner on the right, and from Flaherty’s kick Ujkaj got a touch at the far-post and Clarke had to tip the ball over his crossbar. From the second right-side corner taken by Flaherty, Pratley-Jones was at the far-post to loop a header over.

Eight minutes into the half a long kick down the pitch by keeper Clarke led to Hungerford’s Conor McDonagh going down right on the edge of box under minimal contact by Ujkaj. A free-kick was harshly awarded in a dangerous position, and an even harsher yellow card shown to the Swans’ player. Watts struck the ball well, but Owusu just stuck out a leg on the right edge of the wall to deflect the ball wide of the right post and behind for a corner.

The home side continued to apply pressure, forcing a couple more corners, but with an hour played Swans created a good opening. Gilbert did well to win the ball in the centre-circle, and Flaherty was able to break forward before finding Gilbert, overlapping into space in the right of the box, but he could not find the target, shooting high and wide of the near-post.

Alexander took another long throw from the left for Hungerford, and when the ball came back to him his cross was well claimed by Dickinson on his line. There was a moment of controversy when the Swans’ keeper made a great take from a cross at his right post and was clattered by Shepherd. This led to a ruck, with players getting involved, and Shepherd and Pratley-Jones, for his reaction, both picking up yellow cards.

With just under ten minutes remaining Ujkaj played the ball down the right to Owusu, and he did well to beat his marker before playing Powell into the box on the byline. Powell went down under a challenge from Adulai Sambu, but the referee saw no offence and the ball went behind.

Ujkaj, Kelly and Gilbert combined to work the ball out to Bolger on the left, and when his ball in was cleared out to Gilbert on the edge of the box his shot took a deflection to go behind for a corner. Anis Nuur, who had come on for Flaherty, took the kick from the right, and when the ball was cleared Powell was fouled by Watts fully 35 yards out from goal. Owusu placed the ball for the free-kick, and then sent it arrowing into the top, left corner, giving keeper Clarke no chance for a truly astonishing goal.

Swans had seven minutes plus lengthy added-on time to hold out for their second away win of the week. In the final minute of normal-time Gilbert was judged to have handled the ball on the halfway line on the right. Matt Berry-Hargreaves delivered the free-kick into the box, but Pratley-Jones headed away superbly at the far-post.

In stoppage-time Owusu forced a corner on the right, allowing Swans to eat up some time. Hungerford however were awarded a soft free-kick with the allotted six minutes having been played, but the delivery into the box was able to be seen behind for a goal-kick. Play continued, and when Dickinson sent a goal-kick down the pitch the home side were able to get possession and break clear on the right, but the low cross was weak and the Swans’ keeper was able to gather down at his near-post, the final whistle then being blown by the referee.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Joe Pratley-Jones, Eoin Bolger, Alex Kelly, Arsen Ujkaj, Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty (Anis Nuur 71’), Johl Powell, Nana Owusu, Eddie Simon, Trae Cook-Appiah (John Gilbert 46’). Subs. not used: Maliq Morris, Jake Frailing. Scorer: Owusu (83’). Cautions: Ujkaj (53’), Simon (23’), Pratley-Jones (69’).

Hungerford Team: Clarke, Alexander (Evans 86’), Medford-Smith, Wright, Berry-Hargreaves, De St Croix, McDonagh, Lopes (Sambu 70’), Watts, Stanley, Shepherd (Gardiner-Smith 79’). Subs. not used. Jarra, Paget. Cautions: Shepherd (69’), Medford-Smith (90+3’).