Saturday 13th April 2024.                          Southern League, Premier Division South.

Walton & Hersham 1    Sholing 0.

Following the departure of manager Scott Harris, and as a result that of several regular squad members, Swans regrouped for the visit of a Sholing side battling to stay out of the relegation places. The Hampshire side were playing their fourth match in the space of eight days, but they made light of that as they showed stern resistance, and it took an excellent individual, first goal for the club by Josh Tobin in the 77th minute to give Swans the win. That repeated the 1-0 win by Swans in the away game and completed a third double of their maiden season in the Southern League. Swans dominated much of the play without creating too many clear openings, and although the visitors can point to several missed opportunities, these in the main came as a result of slack play by the home side.

Cameron Thompson made his first start, while Jake Frailing came in for John Gilbert, who had not fully recovered from the ankle injury picked up at Hendon. Aundé Todd was recalled to the squad, and he was joined on the bench by another teenager in Joe Garcia.

Swans had an escape as early as the fourth minute when Caelan Avenell’s pass inside from the right touchline failed to reach Mitchal Gough, and was intercepted on the front edge of the centre-circle by Sholing’s Billy Stedman. Lee Wort was able to break clear to the edge of the box, but Tobin made a great, last-ditch tackle. The ball broke to Stedman, but goalkeeper Tyla Dickinson went down to make a terrific, left-handed block to deny him.

Swans quickly responded with Stan Flaherty making a fine run in on the right byline and into the box, but his lofted cross just failed to pick out the heads of teammates on the edge of the 6 yard-box. A through ball was handled right on the edge of the box by Sholing’s Luka Chalwell to give Swans a free-kick in a great position. Nana Owusu and Flaherty were the candidates to take the kick, but it was left to Owusu, and he will feel disappointed to drive the ball into the wall. The ball came back to Owusu on the edge of the box, and his left foot shot took a slight deflection to go over and behind for a corner. Eoin Bolger’s kick from the right was met by the head of Gough at the far-post, and Avenell was able to follow in with a header from the edge of the 6 yard-box that was hooked off the line at the right-post by Owen Roundell-Prince.

With ten minutes played Sholing pressure won them the ball five yards outside the box and Dan Mason was centrally placed 30 yards out to drive in a shot that Dickinson went down to his right to push away. Sholing were allowed to regain possession on the left and Chalwell laid the ball inside to Charlie Davis, whose shot was saved down at his right post by Dickinson.

Johl Powell was played in on the right for Swans, but was closed out amid claims for a penalty, and Owusu got in a shot from outside the box that took a deflection, the ball looping over for a corner on the right. From Bolger’s kick Avenell was at the far-post, but the ball was just taken off his head for another corner on the left.

The visitors continued to look dangerous on the break and Wort was found in yards of space on the right, but his low shot passed just wide of the far-post.

Sholing’s Dan Miller cleared the ball down the pitch from deep on the left in his own half, but Gough collected on the back edge of the centre-circle to send a terrific pass over the top to pick out Owusu’s run down the middle. Owusu took one touch to bring the ball down and get into the box, but former Swans’ keeper Bert White did really well to swiftly come out and take the ball off his feet. Tobin’s ball down the right to Flaherty led to a neat one-two between him and Powell that got Flaherty to the corner of the box, and his shot took a big deflection off Miller to go just wide of the near-post for a corner. From Bolger’s right-side kick the ball was headed away from the line.

Sholing had an opportunity to deliver the ball into the box with a free-kick deep on the right, but it was hit too long and went behind at the far-post.

Swans soon had a free-kick of their own when Keane Anderson fouled Powell deep on the right, the Sholing player picking up the first booking of the afternoon. Flaherty delivered the kick to the far-post, where Gough just failed to make contact.

Swans forced another corner when Powell got forward before finding Flaherty on the right, but as the half entered the final five minutes the visitors drove the ball in from wide right and it went past the far-post. Sholing soon had another good chance to take the lead, and again it came as a result of some slack play by Swans. Gough’s pass out from deep on his left was cut out by Anderson, and he sent Wort clear into the right of the box, but Dickinson was again the saviour, coming out to the corner of his 6 yard-box to claim the ball at the Sholing striker’s feet.

Swans made a change for the second-half, with Anis Nuur coming on for Frailing, and they immediately threatened when Powell made a great run down the right that took him from deep in his own half to the corner of the Sholing box. Powell went down under a tackle and Flaherty followed up to have a shot blocked away. Flaherty then crossed a fine ball from the right to the far-post, where Nuur was just denied in the 6 yard-box as the ball was put behind for a corner. Swans had made a really good start to the second-half, and Alex Kelly made a fine run forward before finding Owusu on the left, but after cutting inside he shot well wide of the near-post. Avenell then found Flaherty on the right, and he cut inside to send a left foot shot dipping just over. Kelly then worked the ball to Nuur on the left, and he passed inside to Thompson, who drove forward to the edge of the box, but his attempt to lob keeper White was both high and wide of the right post. Owusu was fouled out on the right touchline, and when Flaherty drove the free-kick in low, White just managed to get the ball round his near-post.

Sholing had withstood Swans’ early pressure, and twenty minutes into the half they had another chance of their own after winning a corner on the right. Stedman played the kick short to Davis, and when he crossed into the box the ball was headed back at the far-post, and Dan Mason was just outside the 6 yard-box to get in an overhead kick that sent it just wide of the right-post. The same player was soon getting in a half-volley on the edge of the box, but the ball went straight to Dickinson on his line.

Swans responded with more fine play by Flaherty on the right, and when he drove the ball in low it was fumbled round his near-post by White. Bolger played the right-side corner short to Owusu, and Flaherty was found in the box to have a shot blocked. With twenty minutes of normal-time remaining Nuur found Tobin on the left, and his neat back-heel got the ball back to his teammate, who cut inside to drive a right foot shot just over from the edge of the box. Swans then put together their best move of the match, with great one-touch interplay between Flaherty, Powell and Nuur on the right that led to Nuur just being denied as he got in on the byline, The ball came to Flaherty on the right corner of the 6 yard-box, and he sent it low just inches wide of the far-post.

Garcia then came on for Thompson to make his senior debut, before Swans broke the deadlock after 77 minutes with a splendid goal. A Sholing clearance could only find Tobin in the centre-circle, and he strode forward, getting past a marker with an outrageous drag-back, and after reaching 30 yards out stroking the ball with the inside of his right foot into the bottom, right corner to completely deceive keeper White.

The visitors tried to hit back, and Brad Targett cut in from the left to shoot wide of the near-post. They then delivered a free-kick into the box from out on the left, and a header was sent straight to Dickinson. Swans almost threw away their hard-fought lead with four minutes of normal-time left. Gough’s clearance could only find Stedman on the right corner of the box, and he showed neat footwork to get forward and open up the chance, but he clipped a left foot shot just over the goal. Targett then forced a corner on the left, and from Davis’s kick the six-foot plus Miller was on the edge of the 6 yard-box at the far-post to send a downward header bouncing just over the crossbar.

With the match into added-on time Swans relieved some of the pressure with Nuur finding Garcia on the left, and he drove in on the byline, but  his low ball in was cut out well by White. In the 6th and final of the minimum indicated extra minutes Kelly’s fine pass down the right sent Powell driving forward to the corner of the box, but his attempt to chip White was easily taken by the Sholing keeper.

The visitors’ last opportunity to create something came with a free-kick deep on the right following a foul by Flaherty, but it came to nothing.

Swans’ Team: Tyla Dickinson, Caelan Avenell, Eoin Bolger, Alex Kelly, Mitchal Gough, Josh Tobin, Stan Flaherty, Johl Powell, Cameron Thompson (Joe Garcia 73’), Jake Frailing (Anis Nuur 46’), Nana Owusu. Subs. not used: Aundé Todd, John Gilbert. Scorer: Tobin (77’). Cautions: Owusu (45+2’), Avenell (61’).

Sholing Team: White, Flannigan (Targett 48’), Roundell-Prince, Anderson, Miller, B. Mason, Davis, Chalwell (MacAllister 70’), D. Mason, Wort (Baker 54’), Stedman. Subs. not used: Du Port, Milner-Smith. Caution: Anderson (30’).