Saturday 9th March 2024.                          Southern League, Premier Division South.

Poole Town 1    Walton & Hersham 3.

Swans got back to winning ways with an excellent performance in testing conditions on their first visit to the Dorset club. The Dolphins had struggled to get home games played, with this fixture having been postponed twice previously, and it was not difficult to understand why. The poor weather the area had suffered this season had done The Black Gold Stadium pitch no favours, leaving it sticky and bobbly, with a few areas only marginally playable. They were far from ideal conditions for Swans’ close passing game, but they adapted well, and came away with a deserved win from a game that turned feisty at times. The home side were rebooting under new team management, and had just ended a losing run with a fine win at Gosport Borough. Swans looked to be making light of a possible new manager bounce, as two fine goals had put them 2-0 up and in command at the break. It seemed they would carry on in the same manner as play resumed for the second-half, but after some slack play allowed the deficit to be halved, they had to withstand a period of intense pressure from a resurgent Poole, but a breakout goal with just over five minutes remaining effectively sealed the win.

Swans made three changes to the previous starting line-up, with Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty and Eoin Bolger coming in for Jake Frailing, Eddie Simon, and the suspended Joe Pratley-Jones.

Poole applied early pressure and soon had a free-kick in a dangerous position close to the left byline and just outside the edge of the box, but Swans were able to defend it unscathed.

Swans made their first break with John Gilbert sending Bolger away on the left, but his low ball in was straight to home goalkeeper Max Evans.

Swans soon came up against yet another long throw specialist in Poole’s Declan Rose, and when he delivered one into the box from the right Hicks was able to head clear.

Despite the early home pressure it was Swans who had the best chance to open the scoring. Josh Tobin made a fine run forward from the edge of his own box before finding Flaherty on the right. Flaherty seized on a slack attempt to pass back by Kaya Tshaka and drove into the corner of the box, but his low shot was saved by Evans down at his near-post with Gilbert unmarked in the middle.

Wes Fogden got in on the right for Poole to drive the ball low in, but Tobin cleared away.

Swans continued to threaten on the break, and Flaherty again cut in from the right to drive a shot over from outside the corner of the box.

Tyla Dickinson was forced into action for Swans, the keeper going down at his left post to keep out a low shot from ten yards outside the box by Billy Lowes. The ball ran loose, and Toby Holmes followed in on the right to get in a shot that Dickinson got behind at his near-post.

With just under twenty minutes played Flaherty was again put down the right for Swans, and both Nana Owusu and Gilbert just failed to get a head on his cross into the box.

The lead immediately followed however. Tobin was just inside his own half to find Bolger to his left, and he got forward to play a neat one-two with Gilbert and get to the byline. Bolger looked up to send a great cross to the far-post, where Alex Kelly came in to nod home from the edge of the 6 yard-box for his first goal of the season.

Johl Powell was soon making a terrific run forward from just inside his own half on the right that took him inside the Poole box, but he clipped his shot just over. The ball had taken a slight nick off a defender, and from Gilbert’s left-side corner Arsen Ujkaj got in a near-post header that again took a deflection to go behind for another kick. Swans had another great chance to double their lead with twenty minutes remaining of the half. Caelan Avenell and Flaherty combined on the right to send Powell on another surging run down the line past a defender and into the box before laying off to Owusu in space in the middle, but he clipped a first-time volley over the goal.

Bolger became the first of the afternoon to see yellow for pulling back Poole’s Rose out on the right, conceding a free-kick.

Swans continued to look dangerous breaking forward, and a good ball from Flaherty got Kelly to the right byline, and his cross forced another corner on the right.

Swans’ pressure paid off with their second goal with just under ten minutes of the half remaining, and it was excellently executed. Kelly and Owusu combined on halfway, leading to Tobin in the centre-circle clipping a terrific ball over to Flaherty on the right. Flaherty took the ball down superbly in one movement to beat Tshaka and drive into the box, before guiding a first-time shot across Evans and low into the far corner.

Poole had a free-kick in a dangerous position just outside the left edge of the box following a foul by Avenell, but the ball was cleared at the near-post when it was driven in low. The home side found the net when a ball from the left went into the far corner, but the referee had spotted a foul on Dickinson.

With the half entering the final five minutes Gilbert made a fine run on the left past Josh Staunton to play the ball in low, but it was cleared away, and Owusu was then just denied after getting into the box.

Poole began to apply some late pressure, and Avenell did well to head away when Rose sent a free-kick into the box from deep on the right. A corner on the left resulted, and when the kick was played short the ball was crossed in for Staunton to get to the near-post, but his header looped into the gloves of Dickinson. In stoppage-time Rose delivered another long throw from the right, and when the ball came out to Lowes just outside the box, he sliced a left foot shot well wide of the left post.

Swans started the second-half on the front foot, and a fine ball from Flaherty got Powell clear to the right byline, but his low ball in was cleared away in the 6 yard-box by Staunton. Gilbert was then found on the left, but after cutting inside he sent a shot dipping over the far, top corner.

Dickinson had to cut the ball out at his near-post when the ball was driven in low from out by the right corner-flag, before Swans let the home side back into the match after 57 minutes. Avenell tried to pass the ball down his right to Tobin, but Poole’s Jake Scrimshaw stuck out a foot to deflect it inside to Jordan Chiedozie in clear space on the edge of the ’D’. The Poole substitute had only been on the pitch for two minutes, and he drove in a low shot that found the bottom, left corner with Dickinson appearing to lose his footing in the muddy goalmouth.

Scrimshaw then went down at the near-post when the home side got in on the right, but claims for a penalty were waved away. The goal seemed to have unsettled Swans, and when the ball was delivered into their box Dickinson took it over the byline in catching it and a corner on the left resulted. From the kick a far-post header was cleared away from the line.

Swans forced a corner of their own when Owusu found Flaherty on the right, and from his kick Hicks got a foot to the ball at the far-post, but it dropped wide.

Poole continued to have a good spell, forcing Swans to defend deep, and following a corner on the right the ball was driven back in and was blocked away. The ball came to Harry Hutchinson 25 yards out, and he had time to set himself, but his left foot shot cleared the crossbar.

Home keeper Evans had to be quickly out to claim when Gilbert almost got in on the left, but Swans’ attacks were now few and far between.

Midway through the half Poole broke forward, and the lively Chiedozie set up Scrimshaw on the left edge of the box, and he cut inside to drive in a low shot that Dickinson saved well in the mud down at his right post. As the Swans’ keeper got up he was needlessly tripped by Holmes, who was duly shown a yellow card.

Simon immediately came on to replace Flaherty. Owusu forced a corner on the left to relieve some of the pressure on Swans, before Gilbert was shown a yellow card for a foul and was soon replaced by Anis Nuur.

Holmes glanced a header wide for Poole as a cross came in from the right, and more pressure led to Fogden getting to the byline on the left to force a corner. When the kick came in Jamie Whisken was left with a free header at the far-post, but he put the ball wide.

Swans needed a third goal to make the game safe, and with eight minutes of normal-time remaining they should have got it. Dickinson sent a goal-kick down the middle, and Owusu nodded on to send Simon clear and into the box with just keeper Evans to beat. Simon made the decision to take the ball to the right of the keeper, but the angle became too tight and his shot went across the goal-line and wide of the far-post.

Poole immediately forced a corner on the right, and this led to a scramble at the far-post and Staunton having a shot deflected behind by Ujkaj for another kick on the left. Following the kick the ball was crossed back in from the right for Dickinson to make a good catch.

Swans got the goal they needed when Dickinson made a terrific throw out to find Powell on the halfway line. Powell saw off the challenge of Fogden to drive to the edge of the box, showing excellent control as the ball bobbled alarmingly. The Swans’ midfielder finally laid the ball off to Nuur in the left of the box, and he dummied Hutchinson before sending a terrific left foot shot low into the far corner.

With nine minutes of added-on time announced Swans brought on Mitchal Gough for Owusu, and he was soon heading away as Poole sent the ball into the box, a half-volley coming in from the edge that Dickinson got well behind. Staunton delivered another long ball into Swans’ box, and Harvey Slade was on the edge to have a shot deflected wide.

As Dickinson went to pick the ball up behind the goal he was barged into the barrier by Holmes, who having been shown an earlier yellow card was sent-off. Before the corner could be taken there was a lengthy holdup as the referee had a discussion with both team managements for a reason that was not clear. With added-on time then extending to a quarter of an hour the referee finally blew the whistle on a fine Swans’ win.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Caelan Avenell, Eoin Bolger, Alex Kelly, Arsen Ujkaj, Joe Hicks, Stan Flaherty (Eddie Simon 67’), Johl Powell, Nana Owusu (Mitchal Gough 85’), Josh Tobin, John Gilbert (Anis Nuur 72’). Subs. not used: Cameron Thompson, Jake Frailing. Scorers: Kelly (19’), Flaherty (36’), Nuur (84’). Cautions: Bolger (31’), Gilbert (70’), Hicks (87’), Dickinson (90+7’), Ujkaj (90+14’).

Poole Town Team: Evans, Rose, Staunton, Whisken, Wright (Chiedozie 55’)), Tshaka (Hutchinson 46’), Scrimshaw, Holmes, Murray, Lowes (Slade 82’), Fogden. Subs. not used: Nippard, Thomas. Scorer: Chiedozie (57’). Caution: Rose (86’). Dismissal: Holmes, 2 cautions (67’ & 90+6’).