Tuesday 6th February 2024.                       Southern League, Premier Division South.

Sholing 0    Walton & Hersham 1.

Swans returned to Sholing and repeated the score-line of the match that was abandoned due to floodlight failure in December. It gave them a much needed win and clean sheet, and the result was fully deserved as they put on a battling, hard-working performance in awful conditions of wind and rain. Justice was effectively done as Swans had been well on course to winning that earlier encounter when the lights went out early in the second-half.

With Josh Tobin injured, Arsen Ujkaj returned to the starting line-up along with Eddie Simon, and both put in a tremendous shift.

Trae Cook-Appiah had given Swans the lead after just six minutes in the abandoned match, and he had the opportunity to do so again in just half that time. Goalkeeper Tyla Dickinson sent a clearing kick down the middle to pick out the run of Cook-Appiah, and he burst clear past Owen Roundell-Prince, but home keeper Ryan Gosney came out to the edge of his area to block. Cook-Appiah then forced Gosney to concede a corner on the right, and from Stan Flaherty’s kick Mitchal Gough got to the near-post to glance a header wide. Flaherty made a good run on the right to get the ball over, but it was headed clear.

Dickinson saw his first action, getting behind a shot, but Swans continued their good start. Nana Owusu got forward to put Cook-Appiah down the left, and Johl Powell was just muscled out of it at the far-post as the cross came across the 6 yard-box. Midway through the first-half another good move led to Powell crossing from the right and Gosney just getting to the ball to deny Cook-Appiah in the middle.

The home side created their best opportunity when a clearing kick by keeper Gosney led to Mathias Tepe crossing high from the right to the far-post for Dan Mason to get in a downward header that Dickinson went down to save. Sholing were then awarded a free-kick five yards outside the left edge of the box, and Charlie Davis drove the ball to the right of the defensive wall, but Dickinson made a superb save down to his left to push it wide.

Swans took a deserved lead after 33 minutes. Simon found Eoin Bolger on the left, and his attempt to cross sent the ball deflecting off Roundell-Prince and through to the byline.

Gosney came across, but knocked the ball just out of his area, where he then handled it before collecting it inside. A free-kick was awarded to Swans on the left byline just inches outside the box. Owusu laid the ball back to Flaherty on the edge of the box, and he drove in a left foot shot that struck Cook-Appiah, stationed on the edge of the 6 yard-box, and the ball deflected off his right thigh and inside the left post.

Sholing soon went close when Tepe crossed from the right to the near-post, where Alex MacAllister got in a header that brought another fine save from Dickinson. The ball was put behind for a corner on the right, and following Davis’s kick the ball came back to him. Davis crossed back in to the far-post, where a header came in that Dickinson superbly tipped over his top, right corner. Swans had to clear behind from the corner, and from the third kick in succession Dickinson tipped the ball away from under his crossbar.

Sholing continued to press as the half came to an end. In the final minute of normal-time Roundell-Prince delivered a long throw from the left, and when the ball came back to him his cross had to be put behind for a corner. Then in stoppage-time Cook-Appiah was shown a yellow card for a foul 35 yards out on the right, and when Davis sent the free-kick into the box Dickinson just got to the ball on his line.

Ten minutes after the resumption Simon forced a corner on the left, with the home side’s Byron Mason shown a yellow card for a rash challenge leading up to it. Owusu’s kick was put behind at the near-post for another corner.

Sholing responded with Bradley Targett getting in on the right to drive the ball low across the 6 yard-box, the same player then forcing a corner off Bolger on the right.

Roundell-Prince then became the second home player to be booked in a matter of minutes by fouling Cook-Appiah out on the right touchline. Just past the hour Simon’s fine through ball got Cook-Appiah clear on the left for Swans, but Gosney blocked at his near-post. The Sholing keeper was soon having to make a fine save, diving to his left to keep out Flaherty’s strong, left-foot drive from the right edge of the box. Another fine pass by Simon almost got Powell in, and when the ball ran to Owusu in the box he couldn’t quite sort his feet out to get in a shot. Swans continued to create openings, and midway through the half more excellent, determined play by Simon won him the ball on the left, and Owusu took over to play him into the box, but the angle became too tight and he could only find the side-netting.

John Gilbert immediately came on to replace Cook-Appiah. Owusu was fouled on the left touchline earning a free-kick and Sholing’s George Milner-Smith a yellow card. Gilbert’s first involvement was to send the free-kick into the box, where Ujkaj had a near-post header tipped over by Gosney, but the flag went up for offside. Swans continued to probe for a second goal, and Gilbert set up Powell on the edge of the box for a left foot shot that Gosney saved on his line.

The chance to get that second goal came after 77 minutes. Battling play by Gilbert won him the ball back, and this led to Joe Pratley-Jones finding Flaherty on the right, and he swung over an excellent cross to find Gilbert , who had got into the left of the box. Gilbert’s instant control took him past Milner-Smith, who dragged him down. A penalty was awarded and the Sholing No.5 shown a red card, seemingly for denying a goal-scoring opportunity rather than for a second caution. Simon took the spot-kick, but smashed the ball against the crossbar. Flaherty then came off to be replaced by Anis Nuur.

Dickinson had to clear at his near-post when Davis sent a free-kick down the line from deep to get Lee Wort in on the right. With the match entering the final five minutes Sholing played the ball in low from the right to find Wort by the penalty-spot, and he turned to get in a left foot shot that was blocked by Gough and behind for a corner on the right. Following the kick Targett got down the right to cross into the box, and when the ball came to Roundell-Prince at the far-post he drove in a shot that was blocked away by Pratley-Jones.

That proved to be the last threat, as Swans were able to keep the ball mainly at the other end of the pitch. There were a minimum of six minutes of added-on time to be played, and it was over that when Simon and Owusu combined to get Gilbert in on the left, but he was denied at the near-post.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Joe Pratley-Jones, Eoin Bolger, Alex Kelly, Mitchal Gough, Arsen Ujkaj, Stan Flaherty (Anis Nuur 80’), Johl Powell, Nana Owusu, Eddie Simon, Trae Cook-Appiah (John Gilbert 68’). Subs. not used: Maliq Morris, Jake Frailing. Scorer: Cook-Appiah (33’). Cautions: Gough, Bolger, Cook-Appiah.

Sholing Team: Gosney, Targett, Tepe (McLean 46’), Roundell-Prince, Milner-Smith, B. Mason, Davis, Wagstaffe (Du Port 74’), D. Mason, Chalwell, MacAllister (Wort 46’). Subs. not used: Prestel, Miller. Cautions: B. Mason, Roundell-Prince, Milner-Smith, Targett, Wort. Dismissal: Milner-Smith.