Raynes Park Vale 0 Swans 1

Tuesday 14th September 2021.   Cherry Red Combined Counties League Premier Division South.

Raynes Park Vale 0    Walton & Hersham 1.

Swans had to dig deep in the second-half to defend the deserved lead they took into the break, but came away with another three points gained against strong opposition. The home side had the better of the second 45 minutes, and would feel they should have got something from the game, but Swans did well to prevent them from doing so. Although their opponents did the bulk of the attacking in that second-half, Swans still created chances to settle the match, and only a highly debateable offside decision denied them a second goal.

The strength of the squad was again tested, with further players added to the list of those unavailable for various reasons. Stuart Baldwin’s damaged ankle sustained in the previous match meant he joined Harry Mills and Dominic Ogun on the injury list, while Reece Brewster was serving his one-match ban, and both captain Joe Hicks and Darren Simpson were unavailable.

On an excellent playing surface, vastly different than those previously encountered by them at Grand Drive, Swans started-off kicking down the pronounced slope, and both sides enjoyed some early possession. The home side posed the first threat after ten minutes when they won a free-kick deep on the left. Nez Bellikli’s delivery into the box was headed away at the near-post, and this allowed Swans to break, with Tom Cursons getting to the other end and having a shot blocked.

Cursons soon had a fine chance to give Swans an early lead. A misdirected pass in midfield by The Vale went straight to Brandon Barzey, and he got forward before setting-up Cursons in space on the right, but his low shot from the corner of the box went wide of the far-post. Barzey made a good block at the other end when the home side got in on the left, before he went close to putting Swans ahead with a quarter of an hour played. Palace Francis played him in on the right, and he drove in a strong shot that home goalkeeper Billy Bishop did well to tip over his crossbar.

Bellikli sent in another free-kick for The Vale from a similar position on the left as previously, and this time Eoin Fraser was in the right of the box to get his head to the ball, but Liam Allen in Swans’ goal made a comfortable take. Bellikli then got into the 6 yard-box to meet a low ball in from the left, but he scuffed his shot, and Allen again saved easily on his line. The same player was then found on the left, and when he tried to get the ball over, Allen did well to get a hand to the ball and claw it away.

Swans were playing well however, causing problems for the home defence. Jordayne Henry made a good run forward before being fouled ten yards outside the box on the left, but Jacob Munting’s free-kick went straight through to keeper Bishop.

Louie Downey glanced a close-in header wide for the home side when Bellikli crossed from the right, but it was Swans who took the lead just before the half hour with a superbly worked goal. Darryl Siaw got Alex Kelly away down the right, and he did well to shrug off a challenge before laying the ball low across the edge of the box. Cursons was in a good position to get in a shot, but he cleverly allowed the ball to run to Francis on his left, and he drove a fine shot into the top of the net.

As the half entered the final five minutes Allen’s clearance kick was met by Fraser forty yards out, and his first-time knock forward found Jordan Gallagher, who put the ball well over the bar from the edge of the box. Although they had given their opponents a few half-chances, it was Swans who had looked the better of the two sides, and they went in at half-time with a deserved lead.

They almost extended that lead straight after the resumption when Barzey sent Cursons clear on the right, but with both Kelly and Francis well-placed in the box, his low cross was just cleared away.

The home side had a chance when Gallagher crossed from the left, but a far-post header was put wide. Gallagher was then played through, but put a low shot wide of the right post.

The ball was cleared when Barzey and Cursons built-up a move in the right of the box for Swans, who were then dealt a blow when the excellent Munting had to retire just before the hour, to be replaced by Will Kouadio. Siaw’s long ball found Cursons, who forced a corner on the right, and from the kick there was a scramble at the far-post, with the ball being cleared off the line and Swans’ players claiming there had been a handball.

The Vale had begun to dominate possession however, and Gallagher broke forward, but shot well over from 30 yards. A header from just inside the box was again well-wide when a free-kick was taken from deep on the right, and Gallagher had a chance on the left, but shot straight at Allen. Francis was booked for committing a foul outside the corner of the box on the left, giving the home side a free-kick opportunity, but when the ball was sent in there was an offside at the far-post.

With just over a quarter of an hour remaining Swans looked to have doubled their lead when a terrific through ball sent Cursons clear to get into the box, round the keeper and score, but the referee’s assistant flagged for offside, although the striker clearly had the ball before he went past the last defender.

Allen went down to save a low shot from Downey, and was off his line when Bellikli sent a free-kick into the box and a shot was deflected behind for a corner on the right, Bellikli’s kick being headed way. The home side continued to press for an equaliser, and Allen made a fine punch clear when Fraser sent in a free-kick from close to halfway on the left.

In the final minute of normal-time Allen had to put the ball behind for a corner when it was clipped into the box, but Swans defended that, and in stoppage-time could have increased their lead. Kouadio got the ball to Francis on the right, and he sent in a low shot that Bishop got to on his line. Francis then drove the ball low into the box from the right, and when a home player deflected it towards his own goal, Bishop was just in the right place on the goal-line to keep it out.

Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Darryl Siaw, Jordayne Henry, Jacob Munting (Will Kouadio 58’), Max Hustwick, Harry Pointing, Brandon Barzey, Zach Dainkeh (Louis Collins 85’), Tom Cursons, Alex Kelly, Palace Francis. Subs. not used: Alec Fiddes, Max Lohmeier, Onur Bakici. Scorer: Francis (29’). Cautions: Cursons, kicked ball away (35’), Francis, foul (70’), Dainkeh, foul (85’), Kelly, time-wasting (90+2’), Collins.

Raynes Park Vale Team: Bishop, A. Harland-Goddard, Beveridge, Lewis, Hope, Fraser, Downey, Cockle, Bellikli, Jordan Gallagher, Ano. Subs: Dowdeswell, Davies, Umeh, Josh Gallagher, Lampard. Cautions: Downey, foul (22’), Beveridge, foul (90+1’).