Saturday 27th November 2021. Cherry Red Combined Counties League Premier Division South.
Walton & Hersham 2 Farnham Town 1.
Swans had to wait until the 77th minute to score the goal that finally gave them a deserved win and another three points that kept them top of the table. It had begun to look as if they would be frustrated by opponents whose plan from the first whistle was to get men behind the ball, with the occasional break or dead-ball situation possibly giving them an opening. One of those rare opportunities had born fruit in the final minute of the first-half when they equalised straight from the restart after Swans had finally made a hard-won breakthrough. Swans had been caught sleeping, leaving them with it all to do again in the second-half to break down the disciplined visitors’ defence and secure the win.
Joe Pratley-Jones was suspended following his late red card at Tunbridge Wells, but captain Joe Hicks was free to return after serving his one match ban. New striker Eddie Simon’s awaited home debut was put on hold through his unavailability, but Dominic Ogun came in for his first start after missing ten games. Reece Brewster also returned after missing the Tunbridge Wells FA Vase tie.
On a bitterly cold afternoon conditions were made more difficult by a blustery wind, the aftermath of Storm Arwen that had hit the north of the country overnight. The visitors immediately sat back in their own half, with a back-line of five supported by three midfielders, allowing Swans to pass the ball around, probing for an opening. One almost came when Harry Mills’ forward run almost resulted in him getting Ogun through on goal. Jacob Munting then played Ogun into the right of the box, and he cut the ball back onto his left foot to drive a shot just over. Max Hustwick played an excellent long ball to find Louis Collins on the left, and he sent over a fine, first-time cross that was just too high to pick out Ogun in the box. A good move on the right then led to Ogun laying the ball back to Alex Kelly on the edge of the box, but his shot was straight at Farnham goalkeeper Harry Birchnall on his line.
Apart from the odd occasion when the ball was played forward to former Swan Josh Ogunseye, Farnham had not ventured into the home half until 25 minutes had been played, and their first serious attack, with players getting forward, saw them go close when Steven Lee got free on the right to drive a dangerous ball across the goal-face.
With the half hour approaching Swans looked to have a reasonable claim for a penalty rejected. Munting’s through pass sent Collins into the left of the box, and he went down under a challenge from keeper Birchnall, who appeared to make no contact with the ball.
Another rare attack by the visitors resulted in Ogunseye forcing a corner on the left, and the kick swung in by another former Swan, Parish Muirhead, had to be headed away from the line. Farnham then forced Liam Allen into his first piece of action. Ogunseye was played into space in the right of the box, and the Swans’ keeper had to turn his shot round the near-post. Muirhead’s resultant corner-kick was confidently cut-out by Allen.
Palace Francis was fouled by Lee out by the left touchline giving Swans a free-kick. Following Collins’ delivery into the box the ball fell to Francis, but he miskicked in attempting a shot.
Farnham soon had a free-kick of their own when Collins fouled Ogunseye out on the right touchline, an offence that earned the Swans’ left-back the game’s first booking. Tom Smith’s delivery was safely headed away by Brewster, who was soon being fouled by Kye Nash, who then became the recipient of the visitors’ first yellow card.
Hustwick’s long pass found Kelly on the right for Swans, but keeper Birchnall was quickly across to the edge of his area to claim the ball. Collins was picked out on the left by another fine diagonal ball from Hustwick, and his cross into the box had to be hacked away from the goal-line.
For all their possession and dominance Swans had failed to open up the packed Farnham defence to create a clear opening, but with the last five minutes of the half being played they were given the opportunity to take the lead from the penalty-spot. Munting got away down the right before playing the ball in to Ogun in the box, and his clever play resulted in him being brought down by Ashley Lloyd, and this time the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Swan’s recent poor record with penalties loomed over the taking of the kick, but Francis, who had recently failed from the spot himself, confidently struck the ball into the right corner, with Birchnall going the other way.
It had been a struggle for Swans to make the breakthrough and take the lead, so it was all the more disappointing that they surrendered it immediately with a really soft goal. Straight from the kick-off they were caught unaware of Lee breaking on the right, and when he was picked out he got forward to the corner of the box before rolling the ball past the advancing Allen, and it crept over the line before it could be cleared. Swans now had it all to do again in the second-half to break through the visitors’ packed defence.
The same pattern of play continued after the resumption, Swans soon forcing a corner when Francis found Collins on the left. Francis was then brought down by Lee just outside the left edge of the box, giving Swans a free-kick in a dangerous position. Mills whipped the ball in and Nhoj Witter just managed to head it away from under the crossbar and away for a corner on the right. Mills’ kick was knocked back at the far-post for Kelly to loop a header wide. Twenty minutes into the half Munting and Mills combined on the edge of the box, enabling Ogun to make a neat turn and strike a terrific shot just wide of the left post.
Swans had forced a number of corners, and after 77 minutes one on the right led to them regaining the lead. Following Mills’ kick Francis made a typical tricky run into the right of the box that took him in on the byline, and when he laid the ball across Ogun was there to stab it over the line.
Swans looked determined to add to their lead and not surrender it this time. Farnham’s main hopes continued to be from dead-ball situations, and in the final minute of normal-time they had a free-kick just outside the left corner of the box, but the flag went up for offside when Muirhead delivered to the far-post. Allen then made a good take when Smith sent in another free-kick from the right touchline.
The referee seemed determined to add on a lengthy period of stoppage-time, in the fifth minute of which Farnham’s Smith was booked for a reckless tackle on Swans’ substitute Onur Bakici, who had taken the ball over to the right corner flag.
Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Pointing, Louis Collins, Reece Brewster, Max Hustwick, Joe Hicks, Harry Mills (Will Kouadio 87’), Jacob Munting, Dominic Ogun (Onur Bakici 81’), Alex Kelly, Palace Francis. Subs. not used: Darren Simpson, Youcef Azzouz, Billy Rowley. Scorers: Francis, penalty (43’), Ogun (77’). Cautions: Collins, foul (34’), Francis, foul (90+3’).
Farnham Team: Birchnall, Lee (Ryman 84’), T. Smith, Lloyd, Atkinson, Witter, Ogunseye, Muirhead, Nash (Mwatsiya 70’), Henry (Pilbeam 63’), Bauchop. Subs. not used: W. May, Kasibante. Scorer: Lee (44’). Cautions: Nash, foul (35’), Pilbeam, foul (84’), Bauchop, foul (90+5’).